Hey! Welcome to Season Two of The Walking Dead. Last night was the 90-minute premier of the first half of season two—we’re going to get six episodes now and seven next year. Let’s get to it!
Season Two begins shortly after we last saw our tiny band of survivors. Things weren’t looking good for them in the Season One finale: their mountaintop encampment was overrun by zombies; the last remaining scientist at the Center for Disease Control had no idea what was causing the zombie epidemic; and then the CDC itself blew up. The survivors have been forced to abandon Atlanta entirely and head for Fort Benning, Georgia, where there may or may not be an army relief camp. Will Rick rise to the challenge and be a good leader? And will his wife Laurie and partner Shane move on from the relationship they started when they thought Rick was dead?
We open on Rick, alone on a rooftop in Atlanta. He’s making a radio transmission to Morgan, the guy who along with his son first helped him after he came out of his coma back in the pilot. Rick is summing up his group’s status, but as he knows Morgan likely isn’t alive to hear it, the message is half to himself. In short, Rick says, he and his little tribe are beginning a long, difficult journey with a slim chance of success. All they have is each other.
And then the journey begins. Daryl leads their three-vehicle convoy on his motorcycle, followed by Dale’s rickety Winnebago and Rick’s station wagon. The road is empty. Rick and Laurie even indulge in a reminiscence of a road trip they’ve taken before. And sure enough, that’s when the problems start. They come upon an overturned 18-wheeler that’s blocking the entire highway, and beyond that are thousands of cars with their dead drivers still inside. And THEN the Winnebago blows a radiator hose. So they’re stuck until Dale can fix it. It’s not totally terrible, though, as they can kill time by scavenging the cars for anything useable.
And they can’t even make lemons out of lemonade, because just when they start to get excited about finding lots of useful gear among the cars, sure enough the zombies show up. (Notice a pattern?) There’s a herd of them, over 100. It’s way more than the group can fight, so instead they’ll have to hide. Everyone scrambles to find a car to slide under. Unfortunately, T-Dog gets caught out in the open and slices his forearm on a sharp car door, opening a huge gash. And Andrea, who was hanging out inside the Winnebago when the zombies showed up, has to hide in the bathroom while a zombie shambles in. Soon the zombie realizes she’s inside. It has her trapped and unarmed, and Dale barely manages to drop a screwdriver through the sunroof to her before it busts the door down. She stabs it through both eyes, putting it down. At least none of the other zombies noticed, and the herd passes.
Or not. Carol’s daughter Sophia climbs out of her hiding spot too early, and a couple zombie stragglers spot her and chase her off the road and into the woods. Rick immediately follows. He manages to catch up to her before the zombies do, but he realizes he and Sophia can’t outrun them together, so he has to come up with a plan. Rick finds a creek nearby and tells Sophia to hide under a tree root while he draws the zombies away. She’s terrified of being left alone, but it’s their only chance to survive. Rick leaves her alone. (Fateful Decision #1). He ambushes both zombies, killing them with a rock, and then rushes back to the creek, but Sophia is gone.
Uh-oh. Rick retrieves Daryl from the Winnebago and the two of them set out after her, with Daryl using his hunting skills to follow her trail. Back at the road, Carl wanders off into the sea of cars, and for once that doesn’t have a horrible result, as he discovers a parcel full of deadly, very useful weapons—hatchets, machetes, etc. He tries to impress Shane with his find, but Shane shuts the kid out. Later, when Laurie confronts him for being a dick to her son, Shane explains why: he’s planning on leaving the group the first chance he gets. This is part of the distancing process.
In the woods, Rick and Daryl are following Sophia’s trail when they find something unsettling: a lone zombie where Sophia recently was. They kill it and inspect for any sign it might have found Sophia before they did…and they find skin in its teeth. But luckily, when they cut the zombie open, they learn the skin is from a woodchuck and not a human girl.
Back at the Winnebago, Andrea tries to comfort Carol about the Sophia situation, but then she realizes Dale has taken her gun away. She confronts him about it, and he explains he just doesn’t feel comfortable with her packing, not after she tried to commit suicide in the CDC explosion just a few days ago. She stomps off in a huff. Then Rick and Daryl return from their hunt, without Sophia. The day is nearly gone and they can’t search at night. They’ll have to pick up the hunt in the morning. A small fight breaks out between Carol and Rick over losing Sophia, but Shane prevents it from getting out of hand. Rick feels guilty enough anyway.
The next morning the group gets ready to set out to find Sophia. Everyone is going except Dale, the injured T-Dog, and Carl, but Carl pleads with his parents to allow him to tag along, and Rick reluctantly agrees. (Fateful Decision #2). But before they can get started, Andrea resumes her fight with Dale from earlier. She thinks he’s denying her a gun because he’s afraid she might kill herself. She’s still upset he dragged her out of the CDC and didn’t allow her the choice to end her life relatively easily. Dale looks shattered. He can’t think of anything to say.
Now that that’s out of the way, the group can start to look for Sophia again. They find an abandoned tent out in the woods and carefully open it to see if she’s inside, but all they find is a decaying corpse with a .38 in its hand—likely a sign that he made the choice Andrea wasn’t allowed to. She’s not happy with the reminder. But then, they hear church bells off in the distance. They run to investigate.
A short distance away they find a church in the woods, but it doesn’t have a steeple, so it might not be the right one. They make their way inside and dispatch a few zombies, and then hear the bells again. The bells are electronic and played on a timer. Sophia isn’t anywhere. It’s a dead end.
As everyone takes a moment to rest and collect their bearings, Laurie takes Shane aside to ask if he’s reconsidered his decision to leave the group. He hasn’t. To him, it’s the only way to really resolve their baggage. Laurie thinks otherwise. To her, Shane is selfishly fleeing a tough situation and taking his combat and survival skills away from the group. He sticks to his guns and Laurie leaves him…but Andrea accidentally overheard all of that. Andrea sees an opportunity and approaches. Will Shane take her with him? She too feels like the odd man out of the group, and she too wants a fresh start. He doesn’t like the idea, but for now they have to table it to find Sophia.
It’s getting dark again. After the dead end at the church, everyone’s losing hope that they’ll find the girl. Shane even urges Rick to turn back, but the finality of calling the search off is too much for Rick. So they decide to split up—Rick and Shane will search the area a little longer as everyone else heads back to the Winnebago. Once again, Carl asks if he can tag along with his dad, and once again, Rick agrees. (Fateful Decision #3).
As the group makes their way back, Carol and Andrea stop and voice their separate complaints. Carol is bitter at Rick for losing her daughter, while Andrea doesn’t even want to be alive any more, much less dealing with a group of relative strangers. And finally, Laurie speaks up. Carol has to stop blaming Rick because it’s hurting everyone. And Andrea just needs to shut the hell up—and to underscore the point, she gives Andrea the .38 they took off the dead guy, to prove that nobody cares if she has a gun or not.
Meanwhile, Rick, Shane, and Carl are wrapping up their search when they hear a noise nearby. Is it Sophia? A zombie? A hundred zombies? No. It’s a buck. They’re taken aback at the sight of nature NOT gone horribly wrong. Shane raises his shotgun to kill it but Rick stops him so his son can get a closer look. Carl approaches the buck with reverence. For once, things are peaceful. Maybe things won’t be so bad after all…
…and then a shot rings out, ripping through the deer and hitting Carl in the chest.
Wow! A lot of us worried about the quality of the show after Frank Darabont left in the offseason, but taking down TWO kids in the season premier? TWD isn’t dicking around. Full recap Tuesday–including a Season One refresher and potential Season Two storylines!