AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead returned on Sunday with an hour-and-a-half long kick off that’s definitely still not suitable for the squeamish or weak-stomached.
Picking up right on the heels of the CDC debacle, it all starts with Rick recounting the events of last season and the group’s decision to leave Atlanta for Fort Benning during one of his walkie-talkie updates to Morgan and Duane, the father and son duo from the first season’s “Days Gone Bye" episode.
After this touching blast from the past, the group embarks on their long journey to the army base, though they immediately experience technical difficulties in the form of Dale’s RV breaking down in the middle of a mess of abandoned cars on the highway. And despite Lori’s eerie warning that they should move on because “this is a graveyard,” the group continues to scavenge what they can from the cars while Dale and Glenn attempt to the repair the RV, though Lori’s intuition soon proves to be right after a huge herd of walkers appears out of nowhere, forcing the group to scramble for hiding places underneath cars.
Some of the group isn’t so lucky though. Like Andrea, who, while cleaning her dad’s old gun in the RV, doesn’t notice the approaching zombies until one stray walkers climbs into the RV, effectively trapping her. Though in a moment of complete badassery, she manages to stab him in the eye with a screwdriver for one of the most flinch-worthy scenes of the episode.
T-Dog also is in a sticky situation when he cuts himself badly while scrambling for a hiding place. This makes for a heartwarming show of group solidarity though, as he’s saved by the former racist Daryl, who stabs the attacking zombie and shields the both of them underneath zombie corpses until the walkers pass.
But just when they think it’s all over, little Sophia moves and is subsequently chased by two walkers through the forest, and Rick, ever the hero, runs after them in an attempt to save her. Finally catching up to them, he manages to hide Sophia in some river reeds, instructing her to head back to the highway while he leads the zombies away.
Successful in not becoming fresh meat for the wandering walkers, Rick soon after returns to camp only to find out that Sophia never came back, which kicks off a massive manhunt and a show of crazed hysterics from Carol.
Though after a few futile hours of search, there’s still no Sophia. The group does manage to obtain more weapons from stumbling upon a forest suicide and an arsenal of axes as well as perform an on-screen dissection of a hippie/preacher walker to see if he ate Sophia, since it wouldn’t be a true episode of The Walking Dead without oozy visuals of zombie guts everywhere. Eugh.
Fast-forward a few more futile hours of search, and the group finds a church, which results in another zombie wedding massacre scene that would probably even make the cast of Kill Bill a little queasy. After clearing the church and ensuring that it’s completely creeper-free, the group seeks shelter there with Carol tearfully praying for Sophia’s safe return. Even more drama ensues in the form of Shane planning to run away and Andrea begging to join him.
The biggest surprise comes right at the end though, when Carl, who is hunting deer with Rick and Shane, gets shot in the stomach by an unseen aggressor, which we’ll find out more about next week.
Overall after watching tonight’s episode, you realize that this season will be even more focused on group dynamics than the first. Tensions are still incredibly high due to the sticky CDC situation (as well as Shane’s sleazy attempts to make moves on Lori from last season) and Amy’s death, which created a rift between a grieving Andrea and an overly concerned Dale. Hopes are high for the rest of the season though, as this episode was hands down one of the best of the series so far and already has viewers looking toward Rick to step up even more this season to keep the group together and the walkers away.
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