There's nothing like quality television to sink your teeth into, especially TV of the flesh- chomping-zombie variety.
AMC's The Walking Dead returns Sunday with a second serving of white-knuckle drama and post-apocalyptic horror. Based on the comic book of the same name by former Lexingtonian Robert Kirkman, the TV series follows police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors as they outrun and outlast the undead, plus take on a few personal demons and monsters among the living, too.
And if you thought last season had its intense moments (zombie-gut camouflage, anyone?), prepare yourself for even more riveting blood, sweat and tears.
"As far as the zombie gore goes and pushing the boundaries of cable television, you definitely have not seen anything yet," says Kirkman, an executive producer on the TV series.
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Here are five reasons to watch The Walking Dead:
1. It's a hit. The Walking Dead debuted last year with only six episodes but made a lasting impression on fans and critics. It won the Saturn Award for best television presentation and nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for best television series-drama and a Writers Guild of America nod for best new series.
Even the cadaverous co-stars got some award love. Special-effects makeup artist Greg Nicotero won an Emmy for his grisly zombie makeup and prosthetics.
The Walking Dead likewise made a killing in the cable ratings. The show averaged 5.2 million viewers a week, including 6 million for the Season 1 finale. Compare that to AMC's Mad Men, which took in 2.4 million viewers for its closer last season.
2. There's more to love. The Walking Dead's new season promises more gory goodness with 13 episodes. After Sunday's 90-minute debut, expect six one-hour episodes, followed by a break to catch your breath and keep down your Christmas dinner. The final six episodes begin Feb. 12.
3. Questions answered?
Kirkman says the fractured love triangle among Rick, his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and Rick's frenemy Shane (Jon Bernthal) will play a huge part in Season 2. (In case you missed it, Rick doesn't know that Lori had a brief romance with Shane while she thought Rick was dead.) Kirkman also says we'll find out what the guy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whispered to Rick in last season's finale. My guess: Lori's pregnant.
As for the return of the ruthless (and handless) Merle (Michael Rooker), Kirkman can't say whether that'll happen this season or in a potential third season.
4. New (comic) characters. The Walking Dead's comic fans will see more familiar faces, including comic character Hershel (Scott Wilson) and his farm. Based on events in the comic, that means romance for Glenn (Steven Yeun) with the farmer's daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan). And some heart-wrenching tragedy.
"There might be a few other characters thrown into the mix before the end of the second season," Kirkman says. "Can't really say, so I'm going to have to be a little cagey with that."
The sinister Governor from the comics?
"Cagey," Kirkman says with a laugh.
And fan fave Michonne, the comic's noble she-devil with a katana sword?
"She will definitely make it into the show," Kirkman says. "Whether or not it will be this season or later, I just can't say."
5. Welcome to The Walking Dead A.D. — After Darabont. The Internet lit up with "dead man walking" comments when executive producer Frank Darabont showed up at Comic-Con International to promote The Walking Dead's second season, only to lose his show-runner position several days later. The story behind his departure is as mysterious as the cause of the Walking Dead's zombie outbreak, but Kirkman and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd emphasize that the previous season's foundation remains intact.
"It sucked losing Frank on this season," Kirkman says, adding that he understands fans' concerns. "But I'm happy to report that it is completely and utterly behind-the-scenes stuff. Nothing onscreen is going to be any different."