I find myself a bit sick today. Not quite zombie virus sick, but still somewhat out of sorts. So since I spent the better part of the afternoon drinking copious amounts of tea and revisiting the second season (Episodes 1-7) of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I thought I’d share some of thoughts on where I think this chapter in the show went wrong.

Poor management from AMC

Say what we will about AMC firing Frank Darabont, their decision to cut the show’s budget, that is to take a tax credit the show got for shooting in Georgia and funnel it into the AMC coffers rather than leaving it as part of The Walking Dead’s production budget, is reflected in the final cut.

Granted, the walkers still look fantastic, but we see a lot less of them compared to the first season. These budget cuts also hobble the series’ perpetual tension. Herschel’s farm and its outbuildings do not lend themselves to the “terror around every corner” atmosphere that comes with post-apocalyptic Atlanta. To maintain some sense of dread, the writers resort to dropping a walker into the odd scene and yelling “boogie boogie boogie” at the audience, ludicrous gibs to follow. Of course anybody who knows anything about horror can see gimmick coming from a mile away.

Continuity

This isn’t a big thing, per se, but it’s enough to piss me off. Episode five’s preamble begins with a flashback of Shane, Laurie, and Carl stuck in traffic. Helicopters fly overhead and we smash cut to Atlanta being bombed by the military. Shane then says something along the lines of “My god, they’re dropping napalm.”

Maybe I’m off base with this, but I don’t really remember Atlanta looking like a fire blasted hellscape in the first season. Abandoned and ransacked, yes. This leaves me to assume one of four things:

1) Shane’s an idiot.

2) The writer’s are retconing season one.

3) There’s some wibbly wobbly timey wimey business afoot.

4) I’m high on codeine and not remembering things properly.

Carl

Carl doesn’t become meme worthy until the second half of the season. But even in the first seven episodes he’s little more than a talking prop. After surviving a bullet to the gut, two days of internal hemorrhaging, and field surgery from a veterinarian, Carl bounces back with no real physical or emotional hang-ups.

Mr. Scott, we need maximum power to suspension of disbelief.

Yet it’s his dialogue that sets my teeth to grinding. Carl can’t be more than twelve years old, yet his lines are on par with anything said by Rick or Laurie. He defiantly stands up to Shane, saying that leaving without Sophia is bullshit. I’ll concede events have grown him up. However, nothing Carl says ever lands as genuine. Where’s the petulance? Where’s the innocence driven outrage at perceived hypocrisy? Rick lies to Carl about Sophia’s disappearance and the kid is fine with it. Is this The Walking Dead or The Waltons?

Glenn and Maggie

When Glenn meets Maggie, and her almost perpetual come hither look, it is obvious they are going to end up in bed together. But who expected the actors behind the characters would have so little chemistry? I mean Kirk and Uhura sold it better in the sixties than these two do on a show that can get away with side boob.

Pacing

It takes until the sixth episode before the story gets to the thesis of the season. Do the survivors treat the walkers as people or monsters; if the latter, who are the real monsters? This question should have been asked, at the very latest, during the second episode. Instead we spend nearly three full episodes looking for Sophia. Meanwhile, Daryl has a pointless Dr. Franklin moment (Babylon 5 Season 3 Episode 21) when he defies science and manages to impale himself on a quarrel even though his crossbow isn’t loaded. Unless the “kill Rick” hallucination of Merle is a very slow played Chekhov’s Gun, what was the point?

Meanwhile, when the gang isn’t in pursuit of futility Sophia, they are waxing poetic about their feelings and inner struggles. Though I’m a fan of character depth, I’d rather come across it through conflict and ordeal, not exposition. Ultimately I have to ask if there’s anything in episodes three, four, and five that is essential in getting us to the shootout in episode seven? Much like the second season of Lost, it seems like a lot of material in The Walking Dead’s front nine should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Tune in Wednesday when I’ll throw together some thoughts on the rest of the season.