If there was one thing I was hoping for here in the summer of 2012, it was that I get to review the hotly anticipated second season of AMC’s smash zombie hit, The Walking Dead. The show snuck up on me last year like an embarrassing pimple on your nose does during the middle of the workday. Boom! All the sudden it was part of my normal Sunday night routine. I’m so glad I did not give up on it during the first season when I wasn’t feeling it half way through. Thank you for the positive encouragement Susan to keep on going or I would have never known what I would have missed out on in this blissful gospel I’m about to preach. Ladies, gentlemen and the undead…I give you The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season…the Blu-ray review!
If there’s one thing you can be damn sure of it’s that Anchor Bay Entertainment delivers here when they bring back the dead on Blu-ray. We’ll get into it in more detail below, but from one zombie lover to another, this set looks and sounds absolutely frigging phenomenal. If that did not give you a proverbial zombie hard on, listen to this. The Complete Second Season gets released in two different Blu-ray versions, the one we are reviewing here and a set that comes packaged in a limited edition zombie head case created and designed by McFarlane Toys. Any way you slice it, you’re getting a lot for your money here so let’s let the dead rise as we talk all things The Walking Dead and the glorious 13 blood curdling episodes that await you on August 28th.
Anyone that needs a quick recap or refresher of the what the show is all about may feel free to peruse my Season One review here because we have a lot of ground to cover below and if it’s okay with you, I’d rather just get started with everything that’s relevant and pertains to Season Two. The second season picks up exactly where we just left off in Season One as the gang narrowly escapes, albeit not everyone, from the burning CDC building. Optimism is bleak, to say the least. And like the first season, it’s the living in Season Two that represent the biggest threat, ironically not the zombies. And once I grew to appreciate it, I truly believe that’s one of the shows greatest assets…its character studies.
The second season is still based on the hugely successful comic book, written by Robert Kirkman, and stars Andrew Lincoln (Officer Rick Grimes), Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh) and Sarah Wayne Callies (Rick’s wife). Series regulars, whether they live through the second season or not, include Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey DeMunn, Chandler Riggs, Iron E. Singleton and Melissa McBride. Season Two guest stars include Laurie Cohan, Scott Wilson and Pruitt Taylor Vince.
AMC renewed The Walking Dead for a third season on October 25th last year after the Season Two premiere broke cable ratings records in the 18-49 demographic. Unlike Season Two, it was announced that Season Three will deliver fans a total of 16 episodes. Not bad for a show many said, including myself, would never stand a chance of surviving past the pilot episode, huh?
So as I mentioned briefly above, Season Two starts out with Rick leading what’s left of his tribe away from the burning CDC building. They decide Fort Benning sounds like a great place to head. Along the way, they come across a traffic jam of abandoned vehicles on the highway. While looking through the cars, a group of pesky walkers come by and temporarily split the group. Everyone makes it back except little miss Sophia. Of course, like usual, everyone blames Rick. Poor guy! I told ya…this is a character drama! Probably my only nitpick of the season is multiple episodes are spent on the search for Sophia, but it all pays off in the end. You’ll see. However, one just has to be logical about this. A little girl goes missing during a zombie attack. Yep! She be dead. Move on! Come on! Seriously. I’m just kidding. I really do have a heart, a heart of gold!
Also during the search for Sophia, Rick’s boy, Carl, gets accidentally shot instead of a deer. Tragic I know, but man do I hate hunting. But I understand, this is a post-apocalyptic show after all. This is also the catalyst that propels the second season forward as we are introduced to Hershel and his family, and most importantly, HIS BARN. All in good time. LOL. So it’s here on the farm, no not Bob Evans, where the bulk of Season Two is spent and things really get interesting for the group. The search for Sophia, of course, wages on, but new friendships and alliances are formed, familiar faces sadly meet their makers, couples copulate, others reproduce and ALL HELL BREAKS LOSE in the fiery conclusion. So as you can see, a lot happens on this farm. And rest assured, the season finale is one you’ll be talking about for weeks, if you haven’t seen it already. It’s like a P-E-R-F-E-C-T bookend to the very firs episode of the season. Not only does everything go up in flames and the group is forced to endure yet again AND Rick is blamed for everything again (Gawd…I feel bad for the guy), but also Season Three is foreshadowed and we get the answers to what really lies ahead for the group as far as their lives are concerned (I’m talking the cure here), as well as what’s over the trees…literally. And oh yeah…who the heck is this Michonne? All I know is I love her pets. Err…I mean slaves. And yes…I still feel very sorry for Rick. He’s done everything and no one shows him a bit of gratitude. Bravo writers. Bravo! And yes…that’s where the show shines…the writers!
I am going to go out on limb here and assume you don’t have Alzheimer’s. Remember me talking about that explosive Season Two finale above? Well it beat numerous records for a cable series, including receiving 9 million viewers for its finale to become the most-watched basic cable drama telecast in history. The only thing I cannot get into is the comic book series of the same name. And I tried. I really did. I know I am going to anger a lot of people by saying this, but if the show was purely based off the comic books. I would not be a fan at all. Thankfully, events that go down early in the comic series DO NOT in the television show and I couldn’t be happier. But I’m sure; I’m a minority in my thoughts here. Eh?
So there you have it. All the rules of zombie lore apply here, that’s no secret, and without giving away any spoilers to the six people left in the world that have not seen Season Two of The Walking Dead, I think I managed to cover just about everything in a fun, sexy (and I know it), upbeat and conversational manner. If you are still reading this, congratulations…you survived. And now the reason we are all here reading about this show on a Blu-ray website…the…(drum roll please)…A/V vitals.
Now comes the hard part. This is a hard one to judge and critique. There are two trains of thoughts here. Do you praise the grainy transfer on the merits that it’s artist intent or do you walk the path of the Blu-ray righteous and say although it looks great, it’s not going to be something you are going to want to use as visual demo material to show off to your family and friends? Being an enthusiast and champion of the Blu-ray format for six plus years now because of its superior quality, I’m going to walk the latter path while paying homage to the first. The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season unleashes its Blu-ray carnage on us with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer, presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. That means it fills your screens, folks! So far that’s all good, but here’s where I’m going to kick you in the stomach. Hard! Remember Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later? Remember the visual quality that one tried to convey? Well, Walking Dead is nowhere near that bad, but it’s of artist intent to make this show look as bleak as possible, and rightfully so…zombies have taken over the world. These are grim times. And it shows in the transfer. Colors seem muted. Black levels sway. But the single most important thing to consider here are the grain levels that smother the canvas. Like it or not, grain swirls all around and you have no choice but to shut up and deal with it. However, that should be a no-brainer. Are you a fan of the show, the writing, the acting, the action sequences or are you just a Blu-ray snob who will balk at the first sign of visual ugliness? I think I know who you are if you are still reading this, but what I am trying to say is watch this one for the show, and let the grain fall where it may. With inherit heavy grain comes the usual flaws such as softness, lack of detail and whatnot. Now do you see my conundrum in grading this one? So here’s the deal. I respect the artist’s intent. It’s all brilliantly captured here. BUT…this is one you show to your grandma with cataracts for Blu-ray demo material, not the friends you are trying to impress. Capiche?
Here’s where The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray is truly stunning. THE AUDIO. And wow, I cannot say enough good things about this powerful and immersive Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack. I got goose bumps re-watching the very first episode on Blu-ray. From that haunting score to the dynamic effects transpiring all around you, this is what Blu-ray television dreams are made of. It exceeds everything about the cable broadcast I first experienced some ten months ago. I keep using this word “immersive,” but I can’t help it. This soundtrack totally immerses you in the viewing experience. Zombies grovel at you from behind. Bullets zing by your ears. Fires crackle in the rears. Booms bless your subs. Screams and disparity hit you like a ten-ton hammer. Heck! Even the dialog! Halleluiah! It’s loud, clear and distinct throughout. I think this is one of the finest Blu-ray audio presentations I have ever heard from a television show. You’re in for a treat here. Enjoy it and most importantly…if you can (depending upon your living situation), by all means RAISE THE DEAD. Results may vary.
All 13 episodes of the second season are spread amongst four Blu-ray discs held securely in place within a Blu-ray keep case that contains two swing arms. Wish they would have done the Star Wars sets like this, but I digress. Also included inside is a booklet of Walking Dead product advertisements and other AMC announcements. The video game, coming in 2013, does look pretty cool. It’s kind of too bad they couldn’t have included an episode guide in here, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? All of the special features are on the fourth Blu-ray disc (except for the audio commentaries). I have to say, for not being a fan of special features the way most people enjoy them, these short featurettes below are quite engrossing. So without further ado, let’s dive into dissecting these.
- Audio Commentaries – There are five commentaries in total and can be found on episodes 1, 7, 8, 11 and 13. Executive producer Glen Mazzara pretty much keeps all these commentaries on track and superbly keeps them from entering any rambling territory. The participants in the audio commentaries are all listed as follows by their applicable show titles.
“What Lies Ahead:” Executive Producer Glen Mazzara, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer/Writer Robert Kirkman, and Executive Producer David Alpert.
“Pretty Much Dead Already:” Executive Producer Glen Mazzara, Producer Scott M. Glimple, Director Michelle Maclaren, and Editor Julius Ramsay.
“Nebraska:” Executive Producer Glen Mazzara, Co-Executive Producer Evan Riley, and Actors Scott Wilson and Steven Yeun.
“Judge, Jury, Executioner:” Executive Producer Glen Mazzara, Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero, Writer Angela Kang, and Actor Laurie Holden.
“Beside the Dying Fire:” Executive Producer/Writer Glen Mazzara, Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist Greg Nicotero, Executive Producer/Writer Robert Kirkman, and Actor Norman Reedus.
The following are all the featurettes you will find on the fourth disc, listed in order:
- All The Guts Inside (HD, 5:34) – Take a look at how you rip into a zombie’s stomach. A partial clip can actually be found on our site here.
- Live or Let Die (HD, 6:51) – Much of this one sees the cast and crew discussing why things are different between the show and the comic book series and most importantly…why some characters last longer.
- The Meat of the Music (HD, 7:54) – A behind-the-scenes look at the music of the show produced by Composer Bear McCreary.
- Fire On Set (HD, 6:10) – What happens on the farm, stays on the farm. Need I say more?
- The Ink is Alive (HD, 9:06) – I like this one because it explores not only similarities, but also the differences between the show and the comics. A partial clip of this featurette can be viewed here.
- The Sound of the Effects (HD, 4:32) – This one allows you to see how the foley artists come up with all the bone-chilling sound effects.
- In The Dead Water (HD, 5:05) – This one shows the giant 22-foot well constructed for the scene where Glenn is lowered down into a deep well complete with a humongous zombie down there.
- You Could Make A Killing (HD, 6:20) – This one focuses on the many hats Greg Nicotero wears from special effects and makeup to sitting in the director’s chair for an episode.
- She Will Fight (HD, 5:40) – A closer look at a scene where Andrea’s character evolves when she must confront a zombie attacker and take charge.
- The Cast on Season 2 (HD, 4:50) – Basically what we have here is a cast driven montage that tags one-liners about how they feel about Season Two. EPK heavy!
- Extras Wardrobe (HD, 2:48) – This short one discusses how Costume Designer Eulyn Womble dresses all the walkers.
- Webisodes (HD, 19:42 in total) – There are a total of six Internet shorts that each tells a tale of life following the initial zombie outbreak. These are obviously independent from the characters in the show. It’s a nice change of scenery. They are also available with optional commentary from Writer/Director and “Jack of All Trades,” Greg Nicotero.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 29:18 in total) – There are a total of 8 deleted scenes that transpire in the following episodes: “What Lies Ahead;” “Save the Last One;” “Secrets;” “Pretty Much Dead Already;” “Nebraska;” “Judge, Jury, Executioner;” “Better Angels;” and “Beside the Dying Fire.” They are also available with optional audio commentary with Executive Producer Glen Mazzara. Just an FYI, the first deleted scene is an alternate opening to Season Two that clocks in at a whopping 13-minutes long. Perhaps it’s worthy of a watch. Wink, wink.
Truly, I think I have given you more than enough reasons as to why this Blu-ray set warrants your hard earned cash and if you’re a rich individual it’s even better because clicking and buying from this pre-order link is basically like getting this set for free. It’s a steal! But seriously, what’s not to love? We all know how bada$$ The Walking Dead is and The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season takes it to a whole new level on August 28th with a faithful representation of the video source, an over-the-top audio surround track and a plethora of wealth and knowledge found within the beefy supplemental features package. If you don’t pre-order this now, then people might mistake you for a zombie and put you down. What are you going to do about that? You know the answer to that. Click buy it now on this pre-order link and help us enrich the lives of the zombie children of the world by giving them much needed food, medicine, clothing and shelter. Help a zombie child in need. And as always…thank you!