The first half of The Walking Dead’s second season ended last night, and boy, has it been jam packed! Yep, stuffed to the gills …with a just-plain-folks veterinarian airing his “walkers are people too” views, some abortion debate, and a lot of talk about looking for Sophia. Zombies, however, seemed to be getting a lot of days off over the last seven episodes, which seemed odd in a show about a zombie apocalypse. (Though they did make a strong finish in last night’s mid-season finale.) But was their average absence perception or reality? Have zombies been getting less screen time this season than in last season, or did the stagnating story lines just make it feel that way?
To figure it out, we grabbed a stopwatch and went through both seasons to find out what percentage of each had hot zombie action. We started the timer whenever a zombie scene started up, and kept it going until the scene either ended or it started getting distracted by intra-refugee squabbling. And it turns out we weren’t imagining a net loss of undeaddery: There have been fewer zombies this year. In total, the six-episode season one had roughly 47 minutes total of zombie action in 292 minutes of episode run time, which means that they accounted for 16 percent of the season. Meanwhile, this first half of season two (seven episodes) had 40.5 zombie minutes in 319 minutes of run time, which is 12.7 percent.
However, it’s interesting to note that both seasons were equally lopsided, with their averages balanced by a couple of zombie-heavy episodes and a majority of dead zones. The first two episodes of season one lurched out of the gate with plenty of snarling attacks, while the last four episodes were only 8.75 percent zombie. Meanwhile, this season spent most of its makeup budget on the premiere (with its highway stampede) and the mid-season finale barn standoff. Remove those and the middle five episodes were only 9 percent zombie.
So while this season was indeed less zombie-infested than last, it did have a similar arc: brief bursts of walking viscera and then long periods of introspection. But why did their absence feel more palpable this year? Perhaps because Rick & Co. were on the move last season, darting into Atlanta and then caravaning off to the CDC, whereas this season they set up shop on Hershel’s farm and left only to get pharmaceuticals and condoms and yell “Sophia!” When the season picks up again next February, here’s hoping they either get a lot more zombies, or follow Hershel’s wishes and hit the road. Or at least call off any searches after one episode.