Now I was one of the ones on the fence about this show after its way too short first season, and I know a lot of fans are worried about the series being in new hands since Frank Darabont passed the showrunning torch off to Glen Mazzara.
But after seeing the 90-minute premiere, I can safely say that we can all stop worrying. This is non-stop, edge-of-your-seat, pulse-pounding zombie action and suspense at its best. Now they just have to keep that up for the second season's full 13-episode order ... no biggie.
I caught up with Mazzara and fellow executive producers Gayle Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman and Dave Alpert to find out more about Season 2's drama, the introduction of new characters Herschel and Maggie, Andrea's eventual evolution and giving back to the fans. Keep reading for more ...
What was the decision like to combine the first and second episodes, which had already been shot, into one big 90-minute premiere episode?
Kirkman: "The first and second episodes were combined to make a 90-minute premiere, just because we wanted to open with more of an event feel like we did with the first season. We knew early enough in advance to work it in to the story, so when our break happens we'll have a nice big event story there that will hopefully keep you anticipating the return in February."
One of the biggest complaints about last season was that the pace was too slow. This premiere is so jam-packed -- is that a sign of the season to come?
Mazzara: "We've done a lot of work designing the arc for the entire season, all the way through, so every episode I think will land with this punch. Whether or not there's zombie gags or the action or we have the emotional pay-off ... right now we don't have a bad episode in the can. I'm very proud of this season."
Kirkman: "I think that season 2 is just jam-packed. It's a much bigger season than the first season ... there's a lot going on. I don't know that I'd necessarily agree with the criticism of the first season [being too slow], but I will say that this is definitely a bigger season."
Are you happy when the show strays a bit from the stories in the comic book?
Kirkman: "There's storylines that people want from the book, that they want to see more of. People are eager and excited to get there ... we're gonna give them some of those twists and turns that they've been looking for, but we're not gonna put it all out there too soon. If we were to follow the comic book exactly ... I think the comic book is very good, you know [laughs] ... but it would bore me to be watching this show as a fan and know exactly what's gonna happen. [With the premiere], even if you are a diehard fan of the comic book series, you're not expecting that."
With so many "event" episodes coming up, when will viewers get a quieter, calmer, less holy sh*t episode in Season 2?
Mazzara: "It's episode 4 ... you won't get a breather until episode 4."
Hurd: "It's pretty intense. It is reallyintense. And I think it's intense primarily because we're invested in the characters. Since you're connected with the characters, you connect with the jeopardy that they're experiencing. We want to know more about these people, we want to have more time with them, which was really hard to do when you spent two episodes getting Rick just to the camp [in Season 1]. Then we only had four [episodes] essentially ... and we have a really big cast!"
We're excited to meet Herschel and Maggie. What can you tease us about their interactions with Rick and the group?
Hurd: "They are such good actors! It reminds me of 'Lost Horizon,' Shangri-La, you know? What's gonna happen when outsiders come in?"
Mazzara: "You'll be happy -- it's good. There's a lot there. In the comic, I think there was only a few issues, but we're on the farm for a long time and Rick and his group is a plague hitting their farm. They really f*** things up! [Laughs]"
Andrea dealt with a lot of bullsh*t last season. Will she ever become the badass she is in the books?
Glen: "She will. She's on a slow burn. We're playing the long game -- it's not like 'We've gotta get it done this season,' and everything's gonna be bigger and gratuitous and all that. It's not that. We're trying to plot it out, make it methodical and intelligent and take our time and make it much, much deeper. ... She'll continue to have a tough season."
Hurd: "We will definitely get there. There are definitely sign posts you'll be seeing, sooner rather than later."
Kirkman: "I can't peg a number on it, but I can say it's definitely in the cards. That particular storyline from the books is definitely something that we'll start to see bits and pieces of moving forward in the television show."
Alpert: "Her 'bullshit' as you put it, it's some real stuff! You've got to get through that ... you've got to process that. But she will."
What one word would you use to describe this season?
Hurd: "More. More of everything. More character, more zombies and more time spent exploring this post-apocalyptic world, which we didn't have last year. And more episodes."
Kirkman: "Awesome is the word I use, but I use that word way too much. Intense. It's definitely an intense season, and this episode is a really good example of what's to come. It really is non-stop, just shocks and twists. It's gonna be a bit of a nail-biter, I think, all the way to the 13th episode."
Alpert: "Intense. It's why I love it -- it is the twists, it is the turns, it's also character. You've got some good action in here, and you've got great character moments, and it's all about the pressure we're putting on these people and the amount we're going to squeeze them. And we're going to squeeze them."
And how have you taken fan reaction to Season 1 to heart when diving in to Season 2?
Hurd: "We love our fans. We actually pay attention ... I mean, I literally read all the tweets, it's really pathetic. [Laughs] Because I'm a fan myself and I'm invested in things I care about, and we want to be kept honest."
Kirkman: "We have a very passionate and vocal fan base, and we hear from them all the time. I actually think that we've listened to a lot of what they had to say -- what they liked, what they didn't like, what they wanted to see -- and I have to say I think this season is going to be very rewarding. The fans will be very happy."
So what do you say: Are you excited for 'The Walking Dead' Season 2? And what stories from the comics do you want them to focus on?Sound off in the comments.