AMC launched the second season of its ratings juggernaut, The Walking Dead, Sunday night, continuing its steady rotation of critically-acclaimed dramas (Mad Men, Breaking Bad). Though its first season was limited to just six episodes, Dead, a Lord of the Flies-like account of a band of survivors weathering a zombie apocalypse, became a water-cooler staple thanks to its riveting attack sequences, boundary-pushing gore, and insights into human nature. Ten months after the last episode of Walking Dead aired, season two picks up right where the action left off. The caravan of survivors is fleeing zombie-ridden Atlanta for safety at Fort Benning, and the action, critics say, is "simple, poignant, and gory." Will the show's sophomore season further raise expectations?
Yes. The show is better than ever: This season is just as addicting, says Hank Steuver at The Washington Post, and yet "somehow sleeker and better paced." The characters are more developed, making the show "less predictable and more frightening." A highway-side zombie attack in the premiere is "thrillingly scary," and a sequence during which a child goes missing is "murder on your stress level." The end result is a series that has found "the right mix of believable terror and goopy gross-out" — making for a fantastic evening of television.
"The Walking Dead comes back to life for second season on AMC"
Actually, it's looking a little lifeless: It's hard to shake the feeling that The Walking Dead, AMC's biggest ratings hit, is getting a free pass when it comes to quality, says Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly. Sure, the "gross-out scenes continue to be impressive," and the episode's final moment was haunting. But the series lacks the "depth of character, twists of plot, and narrative momentum that gives Breaking Bad and Mad Men both their gravity and their spark." With double the number of episodes this season, however, there's hope for more character and dramatic growth to come.
"The Walking Dead season premiere review: Running away from/killing zombies. Is that all there is?"
It needs to tap its full potential: The Walking Dead continues to suffer from an identity crisis, says Scott Meslow at The Atlantic. Is it a "sharply-written character drama" or a show that's content to coast on "an hour of generically gory thrills each week"? While the writing department struggles with this dilemma, the show's production values remain unparalleled. The season two premiere was a "fantastic-looking, stylishly-directed episode," and truly thrilling. There's potential for greatness here, but, in the meantime, the show's "virtues are plentiful enough to suffer through its vices."
"The Walking Dead still has an identity crisis"