Hungry for Brains Once More

Courtesy of AMC

Society has completely collapsed. Government is no longer functional, and any sense of law and order gone. Food is hard to come by. Survival is determined not by ethics, but what one is willing to do, no matter how severe and traumatic the consequences. Swarming the landscape is a relentless and uncompromising force: the undead. This isn’t hell, but for the characters in “The Walking Dead,” it’s close enough.

I was in the eighth grade when I stumbled upon the first volume of Robert Kirkman’s black-and-white graphic novel series at my local library. Initially repulsed and terrified by the images of zombies disemboweling a horse as well as a single one ripping out a woman’s throat, I placed it back on the shelf. The next time I was at the library, I read the entire volume and impatiently sought out the others.

Almost seven years have passed, and I’m currently up to date with the series, which recently released its 90th issue. That being said, you’re right on the money if you guess that I’m watching the television series as religiously as I read its source material.

With its first season having premiered nearly a year ago, “The Walking Dead” is now three episodes into its second season. Since I’ve somewhat come to terms with the issues I’ve had with the previous season, I’m currently hooked onto the second season, which is slowly but effectively building up the tension.

Starting not long after the closing events of last season, the new season continues to follow sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his ragtag group of survivors as they struggle to find meaning of this post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world. Having learned that there is no cure for the undead, their hope is completely sapped and morale low.

The group decides to head to Fort Benning, a U.S. Army post that is over 100 miles away. Of course, given their situation, it’s far from being smooth sailing.

Shane (Jon Bernthal), Rick’s former partner from the Sheriff’s department, had an affair with Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) before Rick returned, and — since Rick’s reappearance — feels that he doesn’t belong in the group. Also having the same thoughts of leaving are Andrea (Laurie Holden) and T-Dog (IronE Singleton).

Complicating matters even further is that Sophia (Madison Lintz), Carol’s (Melissa McBride) daughter, has gone missing when they attempt to evade a horde of zombies, and Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs) has accidently been shot. The bullet, which is lodged in his abdominal area, can only be removed with certain medical and surgical materials, which Shane ventures off to find and succeeds in bringing back, though done shockingly so.

I admit that, upon finishing the first season, I was rather reluctant in embracing “The Walking Dead.” Ideally, I wanted the show to be a very faithful adaptation of the graphic novel series, so I was taken aback and to some extent miffed by the creative liberties that were taken, like how zombies apparently have the ability to twist doorknobs and open doors.

However, after watching what’s aired of the second season so far, I began to notice and even appreciate how the show tries to distance itself from its source and be independent. What results from this is a show that not only preserves the best aspects of the original series and expands minor and new characters, but is also relatively unpredictable even for faithful readers of Kirkman’s acclaimed work.

After the fairly unrealistic finale of last season, it’s relieving to see that the second season is focusing on fleshing out the characters and their relationships and less on their plights. As a result, it becomes easier for us to understand their ideologies and motives, so when their actions are driven by such, they become much more compelling.

Two predominant themes in the graphic novels are how no one is safe and how the humans pose a greater threat than the zombies do towards the survivors. While we certainly saw glimpses of the latter last season, the former has been apparently absent. Hopefully, we’ll see the development of both as the season continues, and due to the nature of the former, we can expect to witness the death — or even zombification — of a major character.

Considering that the first season consisted of six episodes and was essentially an adaptation of the first volume of the graphic novel series, I have a feeling that the second season will portray volume two with its first seven episodes and volume three with its final six, which will air beginning on February 12 next year. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that not every event in the graphic novels will be portrayed on screen.

Since “The Walking Dead” features an ensemble cast, we truly get to see whether each actor and actress steps up to the challenge and awes us. So far, the cast has been impressive, as they really communicate how all the shit they’re experiencing has a toll mentally and physically.

Although the show is the first to make zombies an integral part of its story arc, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed by how the look of the world and the zombies in the graphic novels transitions to the television series. Artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard assuredly emphasized the details in both the environment and the zombies (think flies buzzing around decaying flesh and intestines hanging out), and what’s portrayed onscreen is nothing compared to their illustrations. However, I’ll give credit to where it’s due, since the crew who brings Kirkman’s world to life does a great job overall.

Being one of the more unique television shows around, “The Walking Dead” begs for your undivided attention. With an eclectic cast and a nail-biting story that features zombies, the suspense never ceases to mount. It’s time for you to tune in to the unsettling world where the undead scour the land.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5