I love zombie flicks. They scare the bejeezus outta me. Earlier this year, I wrote about Season One of the Frank Darabont developed AMC show THE WALKING DEAD in a post I called THE WALKING DEAD: DEAD ON ARRIVAL. Despite my love of zombies, I found the show to be obvious and rather poorly written. The zombies weren’t scary to me; they felt like extras in makeup. The characters and their story lines felt more suited to BAYWATCH or MANIMAL than to a contemporary zombie drama. Sure, there were moments, but the over all effect was to me, despite its popularity, run of the mill. It seemed like a great idea that barely made good.
For reasons that have been speculated about across the web (I don’t know which tale to believe), it was announced that the Season One writing team would not return for Season Two.
This gave me hope.
After the dreadful Season One finale, I feared the Second Season would be more of the same. I thought my fears had been realized as I watched the Season Two premiere which began with one of the worst-written monologues I’ve heard in a while. My heart sank. But then something happened. It started to get better. And then… it started to get good. REALLY good. Now don’t misunderstand me, THE WALKING DEAD is not THE WIRE or THE SOPRANOS or DEADWOOD. The writing is simply NOT of that caliber. But I have now found myself engaged where before I hadn’t been. And I’m now left wanting more at the end of each episode. Which is a good thing. I find myself excited for the next. And while words like “brilliant” and “masterful” will never find themselves (appropriately) applied to this series, “damn entertaining” and “engrossing” are terms I’m more than comfortable using. And sure, I still have a couple of issues from Season One that weren’t completely addressed in Season Two, but with the boosted quality of writing and acting the show is now exhibiting, I find myself far more forgiving of what I may see as “imperfections.”
Interestingly, somewhere during the early days of shooting the Second Season, show runner Frank Darabont was let go. It’s not unheard of for the creator of a show to be let go, but one of Darabont’s stature? This sent out shock waves.
Now I can’t tell you if the first half of the Second Season is more a reflection of Darabont or new show runner Glen Mazzara (who had been Darabont’s no. 2), but I can tell you it’s night and day compared to Season One. Anyone interested in the future of this series is holding his/her breath for the second half of Season Two to see if the show will continue on as the very intense, well-written show it has been for the past 7 episodes, or fall flat on its own rotted face. I will say this, the mid-season finale was, to put it bluntly, fucking amazing. Is it possible that the show may actually benefit from Darabont’s departure, as has been suggested by some?
Many reports I’ve read seem to hold AMC responsible for mismanaging this show and the behind-the-scenes circus that has developed. I’m not an insider, so I don’t know where the blame lies. All I know is I’m hoping like hell the series continues with this level of quality and doesn’t sink back down to the depths of ridiculousness it found itself mired in for much of the first season. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that AMC doesn’t find a way to consume its own show until there’s nothing left worth my attention. And let’s hope Glen Mazzara’s influence will continue to be a plus. I’m certainly rooting for him. And for the show.