Indeed, the story introduced no new characters, which was fine, because there's a lot more to be told about the characters we know. Most of the action centered around trying to find Sophia - Carol's young daughter - who walks off near a stream in a forest while Rick dispatches two menacing walkers. This happens after a tip-top scene in which our band of survivors fend off and mostly elude a huge group of marchers aka walkers, as our group is one its way to Ft. Benning after the disappointment at the CDC in Atlanta.
But the most gut-wrenching moment comes at the very end, when Rick's son Carl gently approaches a buck with beautiful antlers, alive and almost shimmering in the forest. It's a magical moment, showing Rick and Shane that there's still beautiful life in this world- suddenly shattered by a rifle shot (likely from a human hunter) that goes through the deer and fells Carl. The coming attractions indicate he's still alive, but this is the kind of moment, the awful juxtaposition of life and death, that makes The Walking Dead so powerful.
The other persuasive quality comes from the depth of the characters and the human relationships in this hell of a world. The insane triangle - insane by normal standards - of Rick, Shane, and Lori is still very much in play, though there could be something good starting up between Shane and Andrea. She's furious at Dale for forcing her to save her life as the price for saving his last season, and her fury is a good call on the part of the writers.
Looking again at the coming attractions, there are vehicles overhead somewhere down the road in this season, which spells some kind of ultimate hope for our people, and explains exactly why I'll keep watching. The key to The Walking Dead's success, I've thought from the beginning, is life is putting up a good struggle indeed.
See also The Walking Dead 1.1-3: Gone with the Wind, Zombie Style ... The Walking Dead Ends First Season
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The Plot to Save Socrates
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