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'The Walking Dead' Season 2: What the Critics Are Saying

The Walking Dead
AMC

Even though the AMC zombie drama is under a new boss, television critics are raving about the series, which returns Sunday at 9 p.m.

The Walking Dead returns for its second season this Sunday with a 90-minute premiere -- and the critics have been weighing in on the AMC drama's state.

After showrunner Frank Darabont had a stormy exit in between seasons (and just days after appearing at Comic-Con), The Shield veteran Glen Mazzara says he panicked after being upped to showrunner. "I panicked," he admitted to The Hollywood Reporter in September. "I've run some very tricky shows in the past with big personalities and what if it turns out that I'm the guy who f---s up The Walking Dead? I'm dead in Hollywood. I was really fearful of that."

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But as THR's chief television critic Tim Goodman puts it, "The Walking Dead hasn’t lost the most important ingredient in its strangely successful recipe: it's thrilling." The zombie drama -- AMC's highest-rated premiere ever with 5.3 million viewers -- Goodman says, doesn't miss a beat. "It’s 90 minutes of skill – bringing viewers back into the story without missing a beat, adding immediate depth to characters, ratcheting up suspense (if that was even possible), plus expanding the emotional palette of the series," Goodman writes.

HitFix's Alan Sepinwall held a similar opinion of the new season, saying the first two episodes "left me feeling more confident about the series than I actually did for most of the first season."

PHOTOS: 'The Walking Dead' Season 2 Preview

He began his review by tying in the symbolism between what was playing out onscreen and what ended up happening behind the cameras. "Rick and company hit the road, uncertain of what to do next, or even if the fight to stay alive was still worth it. Though the moment wasn't intended as a metaphor for the state of the series, it sure seemed like one during the long, strange hiatus between the end of season 1 and the season 2 premiere," he wrote.

The Washington Post's Hank Stuever wrote that "the show seems somehow sleeker and better paced. Characters may now be people first and archetypes second. This has the subtle but immediate effect of making The Walking Dead less predictable and more frightening."

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The New York Daily News' David Hinckley said that though The Walking Dead may be under a new boss with Mazzara, the hourlong has "kept its rhythm, moving easily between bursts of intense violence and long stretches of psychological sparring."

AMC is launching its companion talk series about The Walking Dead, conveniently called Talking Dead, this Sunday after the encore presentations.