AMC has had a tough year.

AMC has had a tough year.

There was a very public contract dispute with "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner that pushed Season 5 back six months. Reports also surfaced that "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan was having similar contract issues that threatened to end the series' tenure at AMC.

Then Frank Darabont mysteriously stepped down as showrunner of "The Walking Dead."

Not good. (Speaking of not good, "The Killing.")

The only bright spot AMC has enjoyed this year was another incredible season of "Breaking Bad" that left everyone floored. [Spoiler Alert] Hasta luego, Chicken Man.

But enough about [spoiler alert] Gustavo Fring's half-blown-off face. This is a review on the new season of "The Walking Dead." (Although, Gus' face did look zombie-riffic.)

The biggest question for "The Walking Dead" is whether it will rebound from Season 1's subpar finish without Darabont, the man who directed the amazing pilot and was obviously key to the show's achievements.

Surprisingly, the first two episodes are actually quite good, better than anything from the back half of last season.

After the CDC debacle, our gang of survivors hits the road. Some badly timed car trouble results in hiding from a hoard of flesh-eaters. It's a tense sequence. The series has always been skilled at creating those claustrophobic, zombies-are-closing-in moments.

"The Walking Dead" has veered heavily from the comics that inspired it, but the season premiere ends with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) looking for help at Hershel's farm - a place familiar to fans of the source material.

While "The Walking Dead" doesn't boast the nuanced storytelling and acting of "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men," it succeeds in other areas.

It immerses the audience in a harrowing world ravaged by disaster. There's tension, fear and also fun in these episodes. Yes, the acting could use improvement, but I care about these characters anyway. And sometimes there are credible performances, specifically by Norman Reedus as Daryl and Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale.

Basically, I'm willing to forgive "The Walking Dead" for its shortcomings - it's a zombie show, for goodness' sake - because it remains true to itself while carrying enough emotional weight to go with the wonderful, wonderful gore.

Viewing Party

If you're looking to get an early start on Halloween and watch "The Walking Dead" in style, Ten Pin Alley will be hosting a viewing party for the premiere with a zombie costume contests, games, trivia, live music and free bowling all night.

Tom Sullivan, make-up and visual effects master from "The Evil Dead," will also be on hand with a traveling museum of props and pieces from his films. This guy is the real deal - he created the "The Book of the Dead" and Deadite make-up.