Zombies, the infected, “walkers,” what-have-you. Their run, or more accurately, their haphazard shuffle, hit a popularity peak back in 2009. It’s hard to hate something that might start happily eating some flesh at any moment, but even that gets old after a while. So how has AMC been able to keep our interest alive and pumping in the midst of a zombie apocalypse with their series “The Walking Dead?”

The Walking Dead

Midseason
Sundays at 9 p.m.
AMC


Though we’re in the middle of the second season of the acclaimed drama, there’s no room for any “been there, done that” grousing. “Dead” keeps us firmly grounded in our seats with some truly hair-raising moments, not the least of which came during the midseason finale back in November. The finale left us with a shock-inducing final scene in which Rick (Andrew Lincoln) makes the paramount decision to shoot Sophia (Madison Lintz), the zombified daughter of fellow survivor Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) — a shot-heard-round-the-world moment that left viewers frantically wondering what was going to happen next.

Naturally, the midseason return picks up where the finale left off, and there is a lot of emotion to muddle through at first. Carol is stricken with grief at the loss of Sophia, and the beginning of the episode is shrouded with a pall of depression. This seems necessary, however, and manages to remain realistic as well as emotional. There are the inevitable, ugly tasks that must be tended to — burning the bodies foremost among them — and these scenes bring in the needed amount of plot progression.

There is certainly plenty of action besides mourning, as characters are hit with the “where-do-we-go-from-here?” dilemma. Now that the search for Sophia is over — and as Glenn (Steven Yeun) accurately reflects, we’re all a little glad that the mystery is finally cleared up, even with the not-so-kosher conclusion — Rick and the team have some decisions ahead of them.

The episode seems closely tied to Rick, as he’s running the emotional gamut, from guilt at his helplessness at protecting Sophia to the resistance he faces from the group on his every decision. Yet Rick’s judgment is top-notch in his assessment of the three foreboding strangers who make a sketchy appearance during the episode. Their shadiness brings about some tense moments and drives home the fact that in this post-apocalyptic world, no one is trustworthy, not even the other humans.

This sense of foreboding, which stews throughout the hour-long episode, sets in motion the next couple of episodes leading up to the season finale. They are sure to be action-packed, with the remaining survivors facing threats from all sides.

The return of “Dead” certainly had its gripping moments, and pulled in an astonishing number of viewers for its efforts. The episode aired to about 10 million viewers, even with some stiff competition — namely, the Grammys — bumping this episode of “Dead” to the fifth most viewed episode in basic-cable history.

The numbers only offer further proof that AMC’s “The Walking Dead” isn’t one to be missed, especially now that action is brewing and future episodes look to be absolutely fierce with conflict. Bring on the “walkers,” the twists and the mayhem. We can’t wait to see what’s next in store for Rick and his gang of survivors.

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