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Monday, October 15, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 1 – ‘Seed’ Review




Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

Well, after a long wait, everyone who has been waiting for The Walking Dead to return (with the exception of Dish subscribers, of course) was able to sit down and tune in to the third season premiere episode this past Sunday night and boy did it deliver.  This is the kind of episode that the show has delivered on in the past, but has not been able to match up to on a consistent level.  Seed managed to set the scene, reestablish the characters, and provide plenty of zombie-slaying action.  It may have left us with a fairly abrupt closing, given the cliffhanger ending, but it certainly has us clamoring, like hungry zombies, for more.


The season begins with what could be the best cold open the show has ever done.  Played completely dialogue-free, we are given all of the information we need to know about where these characters are now and what tone the show is currently trying to achieve.  It comes as no real surprise that The Walking Dead made the best decision possible by moving the time frame of the series forward a few months, given that the biggest worry, realistically, is the aging of Chandler Riggs in real life and with that, we see that Carl is now older and wielding a pistol w/silencer no less.  The episode literally begins with Rick, Daryl, T-Dog, and Carl being bad asses, as they clear out a house full of walkers.  As everyone else enters, we see that Lori is very pregnant, others are very tired, and Herschel is very bearded.  Whatever has gone on in between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3, we at least know that no one else has died, but they certainly have not been enjoying themselves.  Instead, everyone has been on the run and Rick seems near the end of his rope, as he continues to try and be the Ricktator the people deserve.

So it becomes plenty fortunate that the tease from the very last moment of the previous season now becomes a reality for Rick and his crew.  After finally spotting the prison, Rick decides this place could be perfect, which leads us to watching the whole group work together to clear things out in stages, becoming what drives of the rest of the episode.  It is a game of Zombie Red Light, Green Light, as the group kills zombies and moves forward, stops and rests, then kills more zombies and moves forward again, closer and closer to getting more and more secure.  What makes this kind of plotting all the more effective is how the writer of the episode, Glenn Mazzara, has worked hard to inject effective character moments AND different sorts of zombie-slaying sequences.  

Getting through the first wave of prison zombies, we see the group working together, watching each other’s backs and smartly killing zombies by utilizing the barrier created by fences to poke holes into zombies that come too close, without putting group members in serious danger.  This allows Rick to run through an open field of walkers and close off the big gate, which can allow the group to sleep safely in an open field for the first night.  This whole action sequence leads to a proper character building scene, where we learn more about where some of the characters are at.  


There are two sets of characters I mainly want to point out here.  The first is Carol and Daryl.  While Carol may not have the deepest personality to work with, getting to check in with where she and Daryl (who, yes Vixens, is always a capable bad ass) are is a nice moment.  This interplay between them almost seems self-aware of the nature of their relationship, as it leads to some fun, flirty dialogue, sure to appease viewers at home who want these crazy kids to get together.  The other set of characters are Rick and Lori.  We did not leave the previous season looking fondly on Lori (well I certainly didn’t), but this episode was able to have me disregard how these characters got to where they are in their relationship and simply please me by showing that it’s not in a good place, as Lori is clearly afraid for a lot of reasons and Rick is frustrated for a lot of reasons.  The fact that a baby will possibly be born in a very short period of time is a key reason for both characters to be acting the way that they are.  With that, it leads to some blunt dialogue from Rick to Lori and suitable reactions from both.  Are they a happy couple?  No, Rick hardly even wants to talk to Lori, but it is clear to me where they are at and I am happy to not be annoyed by it.

Pushing further, as the light turns green again, we get to the next big action sequence in the episode as Rick Grimes and the Furious Four (Daryl, T-Dog, Glenn, and Maggie) take on a lot more zombies as they clear out more room in the prison.  This is well done and smartly played, as the team stays together, in a formation that keeps them all safe, even as they encounter zombies with riot gear on, making the kills a bit more of a chore to accomplish.  Upon finishing up more walkers in the area, the Grimes Gang is able to head inside of one cell block and find shelter that was even more comfortable than the open field from the previous night (basically, they have beds this time, despite the blood on the walls).   

This opens up time for another good character-based moment, which is surprisingly from Lori, who has concerns for her baby, which she believes may have died and provides us with the opportunity to see where her head is at.  In a unexpectedly horrific hypothetical scenario that I somehow never considered myself, Lori talks to Herschel about the possibility of a dead baby inside of her bringing her down from within.  This leads her to considering other ideas, especially about putting her down if need be, which establishes something notable about her character, as well as the others; these people are very aware of the situation they are in.  Regardless of if it took a burnt down barn to make it clear, things are different, darker, and very dire, and if need be, these people will need to go to extreme measure to fix deadly scenarios properly.


So this leads me to the end of this episode, as we follow Rick and the Z-Team (Daryl, T-Dog, Glenn, Maggie, and Herschel) deeper into the prison, only to find out that there are plenty of walkers lurking in the dark hallways.  This is all handled very well, with director Ernest R. Dickerson doing a damn good job of keeping up the tension and utilizing the darkness to achieve what is one of the scarier episodes of The Walking Dead.  Where it takes us though, is into the tense cliffhanger ending, as Herschel gets bitten and the only immediate solution to prevent ‘Walkeritis’ is for Rick to quickly chop off part of Herschel’s leg.  This is a gory and painful sequence to watch (a little distracting too, given the ease of hatchets and blades going through zombie necks like butter, seen throughout the episode (I guess I can chalk this up to rotting)), but regardless, Herschel may or may not be fine and there is also the question of what is the state of the still-living human prisoners that Rick and his people will now have to contend with.

Also occurring in this episode, we have what is the closest representation of what it would be like to see Thelma And Louis And Zombies, as we find out what has happened with Andrea and Michonne (newcomer Danai Gurira, who’s name we do not actually hear in the episode, even though comic fans know who she is and her name is in the end credits).  Similar to Rick and the gang, these gal pals have also managed to survive the winter, but barely, it seems, as Andrea is incredibly sick, while Michonne is using her sweet katana to hack through zombies in a search for medicine.  Despite insistence by Andrea to be left behind, the two remain together (along with Michonne’s pair of armless, jawless zombie buddies – Thing 1 and Thing 2) and head off into the wild.  I guess it helps that many people already know where these two will be ending up, but it is otherwise just a brief check-in with these two, which is played well enough for us to get how they play off each other.

 
So there was plenty going on in this episode, which was all really well handled and hopefully a sign of how effective things will play out during the rest of the season.  I previously wrote a primer for this season, expressing my thoughts on how the show can possibly be the best season yet and it feels like the show has addressed a lot of my concerns already.  Given my issue with the show’s previous problems involving dialogue and characters making ridiculous choices, I was rewarded with a completely dialogue-free opening and completely sensible choices made throughout.  Carl did not get lost and, instead, is now a bad ass zombie killer.  T-Dog had lots of lines and picked up a riot shield!  Lori worked throughout this episode.  And on the whole, Seed was not just really well-made direction and visual/makeup effects-wise, but fairly tense and scary as well.  The Walking Dead still certainly wants to play up the idea of being the bleakest show on television, but at least it accomplished everything it was going for quite well this week and serving as a proper representation of the material it is based on.  I am plenty excited to see where things go from here and will be happy to keep writing about the show as the season continues.

4 ½ out of 5 Busters (for those unfamiliar, 'Busters' is the official star rating scale, created by The Walking Dead TV Podcast)

Zombie Kill of the Week: Rick “Don’t Patronize Me” Grimes rips the mask off a riot gear zombie, which takes the face of the zombie with it, only to be followed by Rick stabbing the now faceless zombie in the head.

Love Connection: Carol flirts, Glenn checks for scratches, and Carl is playing it cool with Beth


Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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