TWD_201_0608_4665rt.jpgFunny how fate — or, in this case, a kick-butt writers’ room — has a way of changing the game on us when we least expect it. Because, that’s exactly what happened in the 90-minute season 2 opener of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Seriously, Glen Mazzara and Robert Kirkman (and even you, too, Frank Darabont) — you open the season with a cliffhanger episode in which a kid gets shot in the chest? Wow — that takes guts. And we don’t mean the kind required to satisfy a zombie’s appetite.

Which is why the title of the season premiere — “What Lies Ahead” — couldn’t be more fitting. Because everyone — from our scrappy band of zombie-pocalypse survivors to those of us on this side of the television — are literally asking what could possibly come next after a tour-de-force season opener like that. And to think we sat down to watch wondering if we would find out more about what happened at the Centers for Disease Control or if they would make it to Ft. Benning, the next supposed hopeful destination.

In the first five minutes of the show (after the Rick Grimes walkie-talkie review), the tone for the season is set: Things are more complicated than they appear. Zombies are a threat, yes, but so are people — not only because of their actions, but because the decisions they make can have life or death repercussions for everyone.

Some things we think worth noting:

1. Alliances are being formed: Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of the crew have pretty much nailed how to take down zombies. They move slow and they’re stupid, so a well-placed piercing blow to the brain can deliver one from danger pretty quickly. (Except in the case of herds, see below.) So, since things seem to be straight-forward, competing interests are starting to fracture the group. Shane (Jon Bernthal) wants to take off and now Andrea (Laurie Holden) wants to join him.

2. Sophia’s disappearance: We’re guessing the producers wouldn’t be cold enough to have something brutal happen to two children in one episode, so we’re going to go ahead and guess that Sophia (Madison Lintz) is alive and well and — as yet — untouched by zombies. But again, her decision to take off instead of waiting for Rick, as instructed, has landed the whole group in a dangerous place. Sure, she’s a kid — but kids need to grow up quick when there are zombies wandering the earth.

3. Rick is looking for a miracle: This episode introduced the idea of faith and, for the first time, Rick — a guy who always seems to have an unwavering belief in himself, is reaching out to a higher power. Does this mean the show is going to go in some kind of “Lost” good vs. evil overarching theme direction that ends with everyone (including Ian Somerhalder, just for kicks) reuniting in a church before passing into the great beyond? We doubt it. Robert Kirkman’s source material doesn’t put too much stock in the idea of divine intervention, so we’re going to assume this is just Rick having a human moment and seeking help any where he can find it.

4. Zombies can move in herds: Okay, this is new. We had been kind of accustomed to lurkers (zombies that just hang around waiting for fresh meat to wander by) and roamers (zombies who themselves wander — slowly — in search of the next meal). At a September screening of the season premiere, producer Gale Anne Hurd talked about the new herd behavior and said to think of it not so much as an organized effort, so much as the braindead leading the braindead. One walked in a particular direction and others followed.

5. We’re about to meet someone else: As upsetting as that final scene was, we’re pretty sure the bullet that took down Carl (Chandler Riggs) — and that deer — didn’t come from anyone in Rick’s crew. Only a few people have access to guns and none of them were in a position to fire that shot. So, that leaves only a few alternatives — the most likely being that someone accidentally shot Carl while out hunting up some dinner. Could this be our introduction to the folks at the farm?

Did you watch, zappers? Share your reactions to the season opener below.

Posted by:Liz Kelly Nelson