Walking Dead return draws 10.9 million fans, sets cable drama record while showcasing innocence lost
It seemed producers of AMC's The Walking Dead could not have outdone themselves with the end of Season Two earlier this year, in which kind-hearted zombie apocalypse survivor Dale got his guts torn out, the hero's best friend was shot, turned into a zombie and shot again, while hordes of zombies ate two people alive and tore down a bucolic farm.
But Sunday's returns of the Walking Dead managed to up the ante, as survivor Rick Grimes (an amazingly Southern-sounding Brit Andrew Lincoln), his family and friends laid waste to a prison yard filled with zombies, only to be forced into amputating a leg from one of their own after he was bitten.
The gore didn't seem to put off fans; AMC announced today that 10.9 million viewers showed for Sunday's 9 p.m. telecast, with 15-million turning up for its three airings over the night. The channel touted that as a record audience for a basic cable drama.
It also highlighted some important stuff for me, a longtime fan who had already seen Sunday's episode and the one coming next week (don't worry; I'll try not to drop major spoilers).
Much as fans complained about the slow pace of last season's episodes, it's obvious now that Season Two was a story of innocence slowly lost. Our hardy band of survivors -- Grimes, his wife, son, best friend Shane and a collection of other folks -- rushed to a farm after Grimes' son Carl was accidentally shot by a deer hunter who lived there. And that's where the losses began.
Shane shot the hunter when both were struggling to bring medical supplies from a zombie-infested area, just so he could get away while the zombies feasted. Then, the group discovered a lost young girl they had been searching for was actually a zombie secretly penned up in the farm's barn; Grimes was forced to kill two humans who seemed dangerous; the group's conscience, Dale, was gutted by a zombie and their bucolic farm was ripped apart by a horde of "walkers."
Sunday's episode only continued the loss as Hershel, the last remaining man of conscience among the crew, saw his leg chopped off by Grimes after he was bitten by a zombie to keep the infection from turning him. (this is a guy who lost his farm, his faith and now a leg; a metaphor for what life in a zombie apocalypse can do to someone who insists on seeing life the way it was before the dead came to life.)
Among them all, only tween youth Carl seems to have immediately adapted to his new life, ready to scarf dog food to stay alive and seemingly able to make the brutal choices necessary for survival in an instant.
A friend tweeted that it seemed the show finally realized it was about zombies. But that's misleading: Walking Dead has never been about the zombies, and always been about the humans. It's why we still don't know why this all happened in the first place.
So its more like the humans have suddenly been reminded, brutally, they're living in a zombified world.
Next episode, we'll see just how far that loss of innocence is going to go. (that's not a spoiler, is it?)
Check out the full episode from Sunday below, for a limited amount of time: