I will spare you the saga of how this news was uncovered — except to properly credit CraveOnline and Ain’t It Cool News for needling it out of Frank Darabont — but I will say this: If it had followed Frank Darabont’s original plan (before he was fired), the first episode of season two of “The Walking Dead” could’ve been amazing, better than any other episode this season.
In a letter to AICN, Darabont revealed those plans for the opening episode, and it would’ve been epic.
The opener allegedly flashbacks to the early days of the zombie apocalypse. The entire episode would have tracked a squad of Army Rangers dropping into Atlanta. They get trapped in a zombie outbreak. “All they have to do is travel maybe a dozen blocks, a simple journey, but what starts as a no-brainer scenario goes from ‘the city is being secured’ to ‘holy sh*t, we’ve lost control, the world is ending,’” Darabont describes in a letter to AICN. So, yeah — Black Hawk Down with zombies.
Along the way, the soldiers encounter some familiar faces from the show. “Picture our squad arriving at a manned barricade where some civilians are being held back from leaving the city on shoot-to-kill orders to stop the spread of contagion, it’s a panicked high-intensity scene, and in this crowd of desperate people we find Andrea and Amy. The barricade gunners panic, the civilians start to get mowed down by machine-gun fire, and in this melee the girls get pulled to safety by some old guy they don’t even know. It’s Dale. He’s nobody to them, just some guy who saw the opportunity to do the right thing and reacted in the moment.”
The end of the episode concludes with the last surviving member of the squad, now infected and dying, hiding in a tank. A very familiar tank …
And here is the awesome kicker: At the very end of the episode, after the soldier had died, they would’ve jumped to the first episode of the first season and recreated it: “Rick comes scrambling into the tank to escape the horde … blows that zombie soldier’s brains out … now Rick’s trapped … fade out … the end. ”
That would’ve been mindhole blowing. Not only would it have added an entire back story about the zombie outbreak in Atlanta, but it would’ve humanized one of the zombies, reminding us that the rabid, infected hordes were once real human beings. It might have also added a heavier sense of ache and sympathy in subsequent episodes, when we find out that Hershel is keeping zombies in his barn because he thinks they’re real people, capable of being cured.
What we got, instead, were six episodes of mostly unlikable, unsympathetic characters (save for Glen) walking around in the woods searching for a minor character with whom viewers had little attachment.
AMC is not commenting on the story, though it’s obvious why they scrapped the episode: Because it would’ve been expensive, and instead of financially supporting the show’s biggest ratings-getter, those cheap bastards stuck to filming in the forest. Thanks for nothing, AMC.