The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 1
“What Lies Ahead”
Writers: Ardeth Bey [aka Frank Darabont], Robert Kirkman
DIR: Ernest R. Dickerson, Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Blurb (imdb): The group's plan to head for Fort Benning is put on hold when Sophia goes missing.
My Blurb: Naturally, spoiler warning applies but also, this one has a few grue-caps.
Scene 01: We open on scenes of the emptiness throughout Atlanta, in the wake of the group’s finding that the CDC wasn’t the safe haven of hope. Around the city lie the bodies of the unanimated dead and stray dogs picking at the corpses.
And the animated dead stumbling around. Rick is in voiceover, presumably talking to Morgan, though he could just as easily be talking to God. He reports that he’s struggling to have even a small amount of hope, anymore.
Scene 02: We cut to Rick kneeling on a rooftop and talking into his walkie-talkie and we see that yes, he’s transmitting to Morgan again. He’s dejected over his trying to keep everyone safe, only to lose their camp, Jim and Jacqui.
As Rick is trying to update Morgan about the debacle they’ve suffered some short time before [in S1’s finale], we see more of the dead wandering the city. We find out that the CDC implosion happened two days ago.
More shots of the dead, and one dog who has gotten eaten, rather than being the eater. Rick goes on talking about Jenner and almost spills whatever Edwin whispered into Rick’s ear… but stops himself. He reports that with Atlanta lost, they’re heading for Fort Benning.
Scene 03: Over shots of our gang siphoning fuel and packing up to head out on another journey, we see Andrea -- still apparently in a deep funk over not staying and facing the same end as Jacqui chose.
Meanwhile, Shane is throwing meaningful looks at Lori and sharing a moment with Rick.
Rick continues in voiceover that he is trying to maintain hope because he feel responsible for keeping everyone else going and striving forward.
Commentary: So, first thing is Rick’s voiceover goes on a bit long and I’m not really convinced of Andrew’s acting in his monologue. But, I like that we’re getting the sense that whatever revelation Edwin shared, it’s weighing heavily on Rick’s mind. I had guessed what this will turn out to be, so I’ll not talk about it here because I think it’s a bit too obvious and logical and so easily spoiled.
I’m going to like how the revelation plays out later, so we’ll just get to it then.
Scene 04: Everyone heads down the road in their makeshift caravan, Daryl looking particularly awkward on his motorcycle. In the car with Rick, Lori, Carl, Sophia and Carol - Lori suddenly smiles and tells her husband she was just thinking about the trip they took to the Grand Canyon with their son; Carl says he doesn’t remember any such trip.
That is because he was a baby, they never made it, and he’d gotten so sick that all they’d done on that trip was deal with him vomit and take him to the doctor. Lori grins that it was a good trip, anyway.
They discuss making the trip again sometime, this time including Carol and Sophia in their daydreams.
Commentary: I don’t mind these sorts of scenes, really… the quiet domestic scenes in between fighting for their lives and being in danger. It’s nice, if not particularly compelling but I wish we’d get more conversation revolving around practical things as well, like vehicle maintenance, gasoline, fresh water, food… things that should be upper most in their mind - especially for Rick and Shane - all of the time.
It feels like the show’s writers forget that just because the zombies aren’t an immediate threat, doesn’t mean that everyone is on a feel-good road trip. They still can’t just stop at every gas station along the way for snacks and fuel.
Scene 05: In the RV, Shane is cleaning his pistol under Andrea’s interested watch. They have a moment of bonding over the gun that her father passed her just before Andrea and her sister left on their road trip.
They’re interrupted by Dale’s utterance of worry over whatever he sees ahead of them.
Scene 06: This turns out to be a pile up on both sides of the highway. Daryl offers to go ahead and lead them around the worst of the cars strewn about. Glenn wants to go back to the highway bypass road, but Dale states that fuel is a concern.
As they carefully thread their way through, the RV’s old hosing chooses now to break forcing them to stop and scrounge a replacement.
Scene 07: Everyone starts discussing going through the vehicles to take supplies that were left by the fleeing or dead. Lori reminds them that they’re basically raiding a graveyard. She’s feeling ambivalent about raiding others’ things in these circumstances.
Everyone gives a moment of pause, but practicality wins the day. They at least need Dale’s radiator hose, and it’s foolish not to grab food, water and fuel.
Scene 08: Everyone separates to see what is left that is usable. Several of the vehicles still have fly-blown bodies.
Dale walks Glenn through repairing the RV.
Commentary: I really like the sense here of everyone sharing and learning new skills as they struggle to survive as a group: first Shane offering to show Andrea how to keep their guns in working order, and now Dale doing the same with Glenn and their transport. It’d be important for everyone to know how to do as much as possible, and I wish we’d see more of this kind of thing as well.
Scene 09: Andrea has wandered away from the others and the aftermath of something horrible that drove everyone to abandon the freeway or die is only adding to her misery and depression over being pressured to leave the clean exit at the CDC.
As Daryl and T-Dog take to siphoning fuel, Dale gets on top of the RV to watch for anything else moving in their direction.
Meanwhile, Carol is raiding somebody’s clothes but feels self-conscious about it to Lori's look. She explains that Ed never let her wear nice things. She offers that they will need clothes.
Lori doesn’t reply except to remind Carl to stay within eyesight [HAH, future!Harsens exclaims]. Carol tosses in for Sophia to do the same.
Scene 10: While they’re all scrounging, Glenn gets busy on replacing the hose. Andrea has an attack of nausea. She retreats back inside the RV.
Scene 11: Inside the RV, Andrea focuses on putting back together Shane’s gun.
Scene 12: Meanwhile, Shane discovers the motherload - in water. A water delivery truck is filled with bottles of potable refreshment. He immediately celebrates this sign of good fortune by wasting it all over his head.
Scene 13: Dale watches this for a moment before turning to scan the horizon behind them. He tenses, with Rick noticing his change in demeanor. When Rick takes a look through his gun scope, he sees a single walker weaving between the vehicles in their general direction.
He’s about to head-shoot her, when he and Dale both see a hoard of undead wandering behind her, all moving in their direction!
Commentary: The only thing that is annoying -- really - is how close the hoard actually is when they pull back from the binocular view. The fact that this undead army could get this close without being noticed is ridiculous.
That being said, I like the implications that a hoard of the undead is always present as a danger, even when you can’t see them immediately. No matter what our characters are doing, they’re always in the vulnerable position and need to keep one eye open every single moment.
You can more easily see how this would wear on the group, helping to explain the short tempers we’ll see as well as Andrea’s continued struggle with feelings of despair and anger at Dale for pressuring her into living for what seems like no real reason.
Scene 14: Rick dashes off, staying low to warn Lori, Carol and the kids to get under the cars. In the meantime, Dale lies flat on the RV roof.
A moment later and Shane has grabbed Glenn and they get under the water truck.
The hoard continues wandering past the RV, where Andrea suddenly sees their heads out of her window. She dives to the floor with a look of terror.
Scene 15: Elsewhere, T-Dog is ducking down near a wrecked car. His attention is focused on the hoard and he doesn’t see that he’s leaning against a wreck. As he ducks down, his arm scrapes on something sharp, slicing down his arm, leaving a spurting gash.
Scene 16: Meanwhile, Rick looks wildly around from under his car and tries to get especially the kids and Carol to stay quiet and still as the zombies continue plodding by within touching distance.
Commentary: And this scene is really well handled. I can even forgive the clumsiness of the ninja hoard getting so close, because this scene was completely worth that silly set up. This whole thing is wonderfully tense as we see our group separated from one another by dozens of undead on every side with the dubious safety of being under the vehicles, or ducked down with very few places to go. It’s tense and exciting, and since we’ve already lost two of our gang in short order recently, it isn’t hard to imagine that any of our characters could die here, except Rick, Lori, Carl or Shane.
Scene 17: In the RV, a walker wanders in as Andrea is left to silently, but urgently scramble back into the little bathroom with its cheaply flimsy door. She’s left to try not to scream as the walker shuffles against the folding door between her and it.
She did have the presence of mind to grab up the hand towel with Shane’s disassembled gun parts on it.
Scene 18: Under the vehicles, we’re waiting for Carol to blow everyone’s hiding place by screaming for her daughter as Lori has a death-clamp hand around her mouth.
Scene 19: In the RV bathroom, Andrea struggles to remember how to put the pieces of Shane’s gun back into the proper place to be of any good. The walker finds nothing of interest and is heading back out, when Andrea manages to drop a part onto the floor -- knowing immediately that she just made a possible, fatal mistake.
Scene 20: In the open, T-Dog continues staggering among the wreckage with his arm sliced open, leaving a bloody trail behind him.
Scene 21: Back with Andrea, the walker comes back to find the source of the noise that grabbed a hold of its attention. It starts banging at the folding door, while Andrea fights desperately to keep it closed with her feet.
Dale stares down through the roof vent, and uses a screwdriver to tear through the screen. He drops down the screwdriver into Andrea’s hand, while she glares at him and then fights with the door to keep the walker from her.
Scene 22: Meanwhile, T-Dog falls against a car and watches in horror as a walker stumbles hungrily toward him. Daryl appears behind the walker. He shoves another screwdriver through the thing’s head.
Scene 23: With cries of revulsion and terror, Andrea opens the bathroom door and tackles the walker, driving the screwdriver over and over into its eye and getting covered in brain-blood. She falls back in panicked sobs.
Scene 24: Meanwhile, Daryl warns Theodore to stay quiet. He drags him into a lying position onto the pavement and tosses his would-be attacker on top of him. Next, he yanks a driver corpse from another car on top of himself and lies still as the more of the hoard pass by.
Commentary: Yay, Daryl! I’m pretty sure on first watch, this is when I actually decided that Daryl wasn’t actually like Merle and that we’d be okay with this character hanging around. Of course, there was no guarantee -- I was afraid for both T-Dog and he here because it was still possible that we’d start the season with another death and either or both of these two would be obvious choices. But, yeah, this is the episode where I decided that I wasn’t ready to lose Daryl yet despite his rough start. As to T-Dog, I wanted to know him better, so wasn’t ready for him to just bleed out before we had a chance to see and hear more of him… especially since our group is so predominately white and I was really hoping to get more of a varied cast of regulars. Since we already lost Jacqui, I wanted to keep Theodore and Glenn as long as possible.
Scene 25: Finally the hoard passes by the RV, and those lying under the vehicles. Everyone starts to relax again after their close call, except for Andrea who is hyperventilating and gasping through tears for air.
Scene 26: Daryl rolls the corpse of him and checks on T-Dog, who is in pain and still bleeding. They wrap a rag around his wound.
Scene 27: In the meantime, Sophia prematurely crawls out from under her car as a straggler brings up the rear of the crowd of walkers. She makes more noise as she’s startled and this causes the walker to go after her.
It turns out that there are several stragglers. She takes off under the guard rail and down an embankment with the walkers on her trail and Rick crawling out from under his car to follow.
What follows is a race of Sophia followed by walkers followed by Rick through the forests off of the highway.
Commentary: And this part continues to bother me mightily. For being shamblers, the walkers are very suddenly moving with some pretty good speed through this underbrush and branches… staying right behind Sophia no matter how fast the kid runs. In addition, it feels ridiculous that Rick can’t catch up with them much easier than this.
And it’s just going to get more silly as we go through an extended “Sophia is missing” arc that we’re entering. But those are complaints for the episodes in front of us… Yes - Episodes. They REALLY milk the missing kid plot until it’s dust-dry.
Scene 28: Rick catches up with two walkers, but runs around them as Sophia continues a thoughtless mad dash farther and farther away from the road. He finally manages to intercept her and grabs her, trying to get her to shush.
Sophia grabs for Rick’s pistol, but he warns her that the noise would draw back the walkers on the road. He picks her up and dashes off [which maybe they’d not need to do, if the kid would shut up, duck low and keep still].
Rick, just as bad as Sophia, runs off deeper into the forest instead of turning back toward the road. They come to a shallow stream. He tucks Sophia into a hollow of a tree overhanging the stream bank, while he then makes plenty of noise to draw the walkers away from her, hoping to separate them enough to kill them one at a time - and without shooting them and drawing more of them on top of him or the group. He instructs Sophia on how to head back to the others in case they’re separated. When the walkers finally appear - there are two of them. Instead of immediately running with whoops and hollers to draw them away, he entices them into the creek with him only two feet from Sophia’s hiding place.
One of them follows Rick down into the water, while the other follows along the shore as Rick races upstream. Sophia waits a moment and then slips out of hiding to run downstream.
Commentary: I’ve got mixed feelings about this development. I can understand being in such a state of panic to protect the girl that you don’t really have a minute to take a breath and think through the options, but this just feels so complicated.
It doesn’t make sense to me that Rick wouldn’t have just crossed the stream, continued through the woods on the other side, while angling back toward the embankment where help is waiting with sharp implements with Sophia in his arms.
Why go through this hide and draw for what appears to be only two to four walkers, especially since Sophia has continually proven to have the survivor skills of a gnat when left on her own. Like I say, I can sort of understand Rick’s desire to tuck her away in the hollow and draw the things away from her… but at the same time, it just doesn’t feel like a couple of walkers are enough of a threat to make this a good plan, instead of getting lost in the forest on the other side of the creek and circling around -- especially since they’ve had more than enough time to discuss this entire plan of action. It’s not like the Zs are bloodhounds! It should be relatively easy to lose them, and angling back toward the highway would again lead back to help.
Scene 29: Rick hides behind a tree and waits for a walker, suddenly barely stumbling about, to catch up. He uses a rock to beat in its skull.
Commentary: This is a particularly nice shot by the director. I love the bright sky over Rick, I like the animal look on his face, and I love the effects work on the walker head, including seeing the bone under the skin. This whole tableau is gorgeous - in a gruesome way.
The second walker stumbles out of the woods and is angrily taken out also.
Scene 30: Sometime later, it’s late afternoon and they’re running short of daylight. Daryl is checking the hollow and asking Rick if he’s sure he’s in the right spot. Sophia obviously never made it back to the highway.
Rick explains the sequence of events with the walkers. Shane and Glenn are with them. Shane offers that Sophia was in a panic and whatever he told her may not have stuck, but Daryl confirms that her tracks say she headed back toward the highway through the forest the way they came.
They fan out to retrace her steps.