‘THE WALKING DEAD’ RECAP – 3.01 “SEED”
[Attention: Spoiler Alert! Spoilers!!! I mean it- THERE ARE SPOILERS. Spoilery spoilery spoilers. Your viewing experience will be spoiled if you haven't seen this episode but few this first. So, in other words...spoilers. You've been warned.]
Two words: SWAT zombies.
About halfway through the opening episode of season 3 of “The Walking Dead”, the gang have found refuge at a prison seemingly devoid of all life, but with plenty of undead milling about outside its walls. After spending the night camping out in its gated outer lawn, the group’s five central Badasses – Rick, Darryl, Glen, Maggie and T-Dog (given more to do in this one episode then in all of season two)- push on into the prison, engaging in some pretty brutal and surprisingly violent hand to hand combat with zombified prisoners along the way…
Before the walkers in riot gear show up. With Darryl’s arrows useless against face masks, the group must get down and dirty and up close and personal, resulting in a veritable orgy of zombie bloodshed- a few close calls are met with knives shoved up through jaws, heads are decapitated and one walker literally loses face when Rick removes its helmet.
That one scene shows – or at least promises – season three to be a far more vicious, action packed “Walking Dead” then what we saw in the sometimes interminable second season. (“Where’s Sophia!?”) And that’s not the only scene – the cold open efficiently shows exactly what the survivors have been up to since fleeing the zombie attack at Hershel’s farm: scuttling from house to house, setting up temporary camp until walkers descend and they scuttle away to find a new safe haven.
The increased action still makes room for the character moments season two was meant to highlight, which are (so far) more deftly woven into the store without overwhelming it. Rick’s gone hard, while Lori desperately tries to get back in his good graces. There’s still some flirtation going on between Darryl and Carol. And there’s a hauntingly poetic moment when Hershel’s daughters sing a hymn around a campfire, a touch of beauty in a show filled wall to wall with gruesome.
We get our first real glimpse of the sword-wielding warrioress Michonne in action as she slices and dices and makes julienne fries out of some zombies in a market. The scares are still there; in an era when zombies have been mass-marketed into cuddly plush toy versions of their former self, it’s nice to see something like “The Walking Dead” treat them as the frightening menace they are – especially in a gutwrenchingly claustrophobic prison exploration sequence. And it’s nice that the show still pulls no punches in how it treats its main characters, when anyone can bite it anytime (pun not intended.) Just witness the fate of poor Hershell who gets bit and gets his lower leg unhesitatingly lopped off by Rick in an attempt to save him.
If there’s any weakness in the third season premiere it’s a minor one; the way our cast find the prison comes off as a bit rushed and contrived, a deus ex machina designed to push the plot into place. But that’s a minor quibble in a straight up ferocious debut that promises good things to come. Well, good for the viewer, if not the characters, at least.