AMC's "The Walking Dead" returns for its second season tonight, and the action is every bit as tense and gross as it was in Season 1.
It's true the show has experienced some well-publicized shakeups behind the camera (that whole Frank Darabont mess), and fans all hope and pray those rumblings won't affect the quality of the show. And at least in the first two episodes, you can't tell anything is much different.
I'm guessing if we do notice differences down the line, those are likely to be budget-related (that whole Matthew Weiner/"Mad Men" mess). But as Season 2 opens, the survivors are out of downtown Atlanta and away from the fake CDC set, spending their time on a jammed-up highway, in the woods, and at an old farm house. That's gotta be cheaper for AMC, but the setting fits the story just fine, so no complaints.
I will admit to being frustrated by some of the boneheaded behavior in the first episode, like when the characters seem to forget that if they whoop and holler, zombies might hear them and come a-shufflin'; or, if they let people wander off by themselves, zombies might eat them. But what's a good horror show without a few boneheads?
And I was also a little put-off by the way British actor Andrew Lincoln, playing Georgia deputy Rick Grimes, said "scien-TIST" in the opening like some kind of Jethro Bodine. But I forgave it all a few minutes later when I was physically shrinking from the TV while holding my breath, and later still when wondering if I'd be able to keep down that night's dinner.
Remember that gross scene last season where they had to "wear" some dead people to fool the zombies' sense of smell? Yeah, well, that's nothing. There's a scene ... I wanted to look away, but could not. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.
But it's not all guts and gore. There's plenty of old-fashioned suspense, and the second episode almost makes you forget this show is even about zombies.
"The Walking Dead" premieres Sunday night at 10 pm on AMC. Tonight's episode is 90 minutes long.