Fans of The Walking Dead had cause for alarm when showrunner Frank Darabont(The Shawshank Redemption) left the series before the second season premiere after budget disputes with network AMC. The first few episodes of season 2 may have done little to assuage those concerns when the series seemed to have replaced action and suspense with an abundance of dialogue and melodrama. Thankfully, the second season picked up momentum by its midpoint and the second half of the season is as good as, or perhaps even better than, anything that came before, whetting the appetites of viewers (and "walkers") for the upcoming premiere of season 3 on October 14, 2012, on AMC-TV.
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 9 hours, 38 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Release Date: August 28, 2012
The Walking Dead follows survivors of a zombie apocalypse who fight for their lives in the outlying areas of Georgia. Competing leaders of this group are Sheriff Rick Grimes(Andrew Lincoln) and his partner Shane Walsh(Jon Bernthal). Rick’s wife Lori(Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl(Chandler Riggs) are also among the survivors. Unknown to Rick, his wife Lori and his partner Shane were lovers during the period when Rick was believed to be dead. Dale(Jeffrey DeMunn) is a retired widower whose classic Winnebago becomes a refuge of sorts for the group.
The survivors have taken refuge on a farm occupied by Herschel (Scott Wilson) and his family at the beginning of this season. Pizza deliveryman Glenn(Steven Yeun) finds himself attracted to the farmer’s daughter, Maggie(Lauren Cohan), with potential conflict to ensue with her father. Shane begins competing with Rick for leadership of the group, and Andrea(Laurie Holden) seems to be in Shane’s corner. Meanwhile, Daryl(Norman Reedus) also emerges as a potential leader and protector of the group as they use Herschel’s farm as a base to search for Sophia(Madison Lintz), the missing 8-year old daughter of Carol(Melissa McBride).
The Walking Dead is based on the Eisner Award-winning comic book series written by Robert Kirkman. The TV series premiered on the AMC Network in 2010 to stellar ratings and great acclaim. The series is produced by Gale Ann Hurd(Aliens, The Terminator) and was run during its first season by Frank Darabont. Writer and producer Glen Mazzara succeeded Darabont during production of season 2.
The series seemed to fall into a formula during the first half of this season in which dialogue and character development had replaced the action and suspense that brought viewers in droves to season 1. Darabont had clashed publicly with the network before his departure over budget cutbacks forced on the production in the wake of its very successful first season. The apparent lack of "walking dead" raised concerns that special effects were the primary victim of budget cuts, leaving viewers to ask where the "walkers" had gone. The answer was that they were all locked up in Herschel’s barn, along with the infected Sophia. The series became more interesting again after the subplot of Sophia’s disappearance was resolved and the survivors found themselves once again under attack by an undead onslaught and on the run for their lives. The plodding pace of the first half of this season seems to be more tolerable on second viewing, perhaps because one can watch one episode after another on disc, as opposed to waiting a week between episodes during its first-run airing. As stated earlier, the second half of this season is as good as anything that came before, and makes one anticipate the premiere of season 3, particularly with the tease of characters and events that came in the final episode of this season. Those viewers who read the source material have a better idea of what to expect, since the television show’s storylines loosely follow the comic book series.
All 13 episodes from the second season are included in this 4-disc set. The first three discs have 4 episodes to each disc with disc 4 having the final episode and all of the special features. The episodes are as follows:
What Lies Ahead(1:02:48)
Save The Last One(43:16)
Pretty Much Dead Already(42:48)
18 Miles Out(42:35)
Judge, Jury, Executioner(42:57)
Beside The Dying Fire(42:58)
The Walking Dead appears on Blu-Ray in 1080p in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio as originally filmed. The series is created on Super 16 mm film and then printed up to 35 mm. This process results in a very film-like grain structure that preserves a high level of contrast and detail and lends itself well overall to the horror subject matter. This second season Blu-ray set continues the sublime video presentation of the first season set. Colors and skin tones are deliberately pale and muted as an artistic choice in setting the tone. This set presents an excellent video presentation of the series that exceeds the quality of broadcast presentation on AMC-HD.
The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio offers the ultimate in immersion, making the audio on these discs, like the video presentation, leaps and bounds above the quality of what we may have experienced in this season’s original TV broadcasts. Directional audio continues to be used to great effect for the ambient sounds of insects and wildlife in the outdoor scenes, and the Foley effects for everything from groans and footsteps to gunfire have been combined into an exceptional sound mix. Composer Bear McCreary(Battlestar Galactica) has returned for this season, and it could be easy to underestimate the contribution of his score, which is sometimes most effective in creating mood when it is least noticed by the viewer, unless you are looking for it, and the sound mix uses McCreary’s music to optimal effect without overwhelming dialogue or sound effects.
The special features are divided into 3 categories: Featurettes, Webisodes, and Deleted Scenes. In addition, there are audio commentaries on 2 episodes. The special features are all in 1080p high definition and include all of the following:
All The Guts Inside(5:34): This highlights the special effects used to create the walkers’ destruction.
Live Or Let Die(6:51): Producers talk about story decisions regarding changes from the comic book series regarding the ultimate fate of a specific character.
The Meat Of The Music(7:54): This highlights the excellent work by composer Bear McCreary.
Fire On Set(6:10): This highlights the set of Herschel’s farm and the efforts by production to create (and destroy) his barn on the property.
The Ink Is Alive(9:06): Writer/creator Robert Kirkman talks about the decisions made to make the TV series adhere to or diverge from the comic book series.
The Sound Of The Effects(4:32): This highlights the Foley artists’ contributions to the series.
In The Dead Water(5:05): This is a behind-the-scenes look at the memorable "water well" scene in this season.
You Could Make A Killing(6:20): Producer/director Greg Nicotero is showcased with his invaluable contributions to the special effects of the walkers.
She Will Fight(5:40): Laurie Holden’s character Andrea is highlighted here.
The Cast On Season 2(4:50): Actors talk about season 2 in this featurette that aired originally on the AMC-TV website. The AMC-TV website logo is unfortunately superimposed on the lower right hand side of the entirety of this featurette and the following one.
Extras Wardrobe(2:48): This featurette was originally titled "Wardrobe Of The Walking Dead" when it appeared originally on the AMC-TV website.
These webisodes directed by Greg Nicotero adopt a concept originated by Frank Darabont and execute the concept in a different way. Darabont created a story treatment for an episode that was originally intended as the first episode of season 2. The episode would have been a flashback highlighting the fate of a soldier played by Sam Witwer whose squad of Army Ranger is dropped by helicopter into Atlanta as chaos reigns. The soldier would cross paths briefly with Dale, Andrea, and her sister Amy before crawling into a tank to die at the end of the episode. The final minutes of the episode would flash forward to the point when Rick drops into the tank and blows away the soldier’s head in the first episode of the series. Witwer was cast in this non-speaking role in the first episode with this endgame in mind but the episode was never produced as the result of Darabont’s budget battles with the network and his subsequent departure from the series.
These 6 connected episodes use the same idea for a different "walker" (or "crawler" if you more aptly prefer) that appears in one of the regular episodes and tells her back story about her doomed battle for survival. These 6 webisodes may be viewed separately or with a "Play All" option (recommended) and include an optional commentary by Greg Nicotero, writer and director of these webisodes. These appeared originally on the AMC-TV website and, unfortunately, have a static image of the website logo superimposed on the lower right portion of the screen for the entire length of the webisodes.
Deleted scenes(29:18): May be viewed separately or with a "Play All" option, and include optional commentary by showrunner Glen Mazzara.
What Lies Ahead: The first episode of season 2 has an excellent audio commentary by Executive Producers Glen Mazzara, Gale Ann Hurd, David Alpert, and series creator Robert W. Kirkman.
Judge, Jury, Executioner: This pivotal episode includes an optional audio commentary by Executive Producer Glen Mazzara, director Greg Nicotero, writer Angela Kang, and actress Laurie Holden.
Disc 1 also includes the following trailers prior to the main menu:
The Walking Dead (1:03): Trailer for The Walking Dead Season 3 on AMC-TV.
The Walking Dead videogame (1:08): This videogame will portray brother Merle and Daryl Dixon before they arrive as characters in the TV series.
Breaking Bad (0:33): Trailer for Breaking Bad Season 5 on AMC-TV.
Resident Evil 6 (1:03): Trailer for another "undead" videogame.
The Walking Dead Season 2 on Blu-ray is a great collection of the second season. The payoff in the plot is worth the price of the apparent snail’s pace of the first half of the season and the resolution of the mystery of Sophia’s disappearance; indeed, the pace of those episodes is greatly improved when you do not have to wait a full week between installments of the serial. The video and audio presentation are excellent and the set is crammed with special features, all in high definition, for fans of the series. The only caveat is the AMC website logo superimposed on the lower right portion of the (otherwise excellent) webisodes and 2 of the featurettes. The Walking Dead Season 2 on Blu-ray comes highly recommended to fans of this series, or merely of this genre.