Editor’s Note: While we might be a little late to the game on this one, we’re happy to announce that our own Caitlin Hughes will be blogging The Walking Dead on a weekly basis, starting right now. These blog entries are meant to be a discussion of the most current episode, so we recommend you watch said episode before reading to avoid spoilers. Keep your eyes peeled for them every Monday morning from now on.
Where we left off with our ragtag team of survivors: Rick killed Shane, who “turned” without being bitten, the group left Hershel’s farm to after being overrun by “walkers,” and a separated Andrea was rescued by alpha female Michonne (who has a pair of armless, jawless walkers on a leash). Rick has also declared himself the leader of their new Ricktatorship (“this isn’t a democracy anymore!”) As the group ventured off into unknown territory, a huge prison loomed in the distance, setting us up for this current season.
Season three’s opening sequence already prefaces this seasons as being an improvement over last because something is happening that should happen in any zombie-related form of media: hoards of zombies are getting killed! Rick, T-Dog, and Carl burst into an abandoned hose and kick off the carnage with gruesome kills within the first seconds. Heck, Daryl even kills an unsuspecting owl. As soon as they start to take an exhausted breather, T-Dog looks out the window to see another zombie hoard coming at them – the process begins again.
Life on the road has apparently not been kind to our group, which can only benefit us because they will have to work harder to survive – and that makes for much more interesting television than a group of people just sitting around some farm. As the group has no resorted to a migratory life to combing over abandoned houses for food there has been a time lapse – Laurie is significantly more pregnant and Carl is more pubescent – which is another good choice, in that it seems to get this season moving. The rest are all skinnier and dirtier than in last season (there was probably cast slimdown in the works). Also, without sharing any dialogue, it’s also easy to see that Rick and Laurie are not exactly on the best of terms. After all, the baby rapidly growing inside of her might be Shane’s.
Separated from the others are Michonne and Andrea – Andrea has apparently fallen ill and Michonne refuses to leave her behind. Since their newfound sisterhood doesn’t exactly make for compelling viewing, one would have to assume that the will eventually find their way to the prison to join the others. Hopefully.
Once again on the run from zombies, the big question swirling around is how is Laurie supposed to rest, with that rapidly growing fetus inside of her? The answer? The prison! Rick finally spies it in the distance and the action of the episode quickly turns into something akin to an awesome zombie-killing videogame as the group has to massacre the zombies that separate them with the prison. The prison setting of this season does hold a lot of promise. Unlike Hershel’s farm, the prison is massive and looming – it holds many levels and secret corridors, so every episode has the promise of carrying with it a certain level of surprise.
Night falls, and the group sits around a fire talking while Rick patrols the periphery. Hershel’s other daughter Beth (the one who isn’t Maggie) tells Laurie, “This will be a good place to have the baby – safe.” Foreshadowing, perhaps? A bit further away from the group, disturbingly enough, Daryl and Carol seem to be downright flirty. Daryl massages her shoulder furtively. She jokingly says, “pretty romantic…wanna screw around?” Let’s hope they don’t have sex – because that would be tremendously awkward. Rick rejoins the group and espouses the potential benefits that the prison has in store for them – it likely has ammo, food, medicine – though it’s doubtful that it’s going to be all that easy. Also, they are probably not the only group of survivors to have seen the prison and realized this. The prison setting also brings to mind The Stanford Prison Experiment, when half the students assumed the roles of prison guards and the other half, the prisoners (an episode of Veronica Mars even tackled this one). Bound within the prison walls, authority is bound to become skewed, further complicating the already-complicated situation of the zombie apocalypse.
Morning comes, and with it, perhaps one of the most visually impressive zombie killings yet. Now closer to the prison building, the group finds lots of zombie prison guards and zombie prisoners. They all die in gruesome ways – mostly by violent stabs to the head. By far the best kill here is when Rick gets one Hazmat suit-wearing zombie guard down to the ground and rips off its mask, and it’s face peels off with it. It’s also a great harbinger for this season that the kills are getting more creative.
Besides the high volume of zombie carnage in this episode, the other standout is Sarah Wayne Callie’s monologue as Laurie voices her fears about her baby to Hershel. Often relegated to a fairly static role as the woman who tore apart besties Rick and Shane, Laurie is now given realistic fears about the future – she is terrified that her baby will be stillborn (natch, a zombie) or she will die in childbirth and potentially endanger her family. This marks one of the few times that a The Walking Dead character actually pauses to meditate on their slim chances for survival.
The episode’s conclusion is somewhat of a mixed bag, however – as predicted, as they enter the dark recesses of the prison, they find other survivors disguised in prison blues staring back at them. This development, of course, is promising because it will lead to various different plot twists that will thankfully take us outside of the core group of characters. However, when being stampeded by zombies, Hershel is bitten in the leg and Rick immediately takes of his belt and starts to make a tourniquet – and hacks away at Hershel’s leg with a cleaver. This just seems somewhat unnecessary at this point, and also a bad decision on Rick’s part, in that it’s probably difficult to heal an amputation wound without being in a hospital. Though technically it’s a good thing that main characters are already getting picked off in the first episode since that adds an extra layer of dread.
The Upside: This season opener was actually brimming with zombie carnage, something that past episodes had been sorely lacking. Also, the prison setting brings forth many more possibilities than Hershel’s boring, zombie-free farmhouse ever could have. With Laurie’s pregnancy also looms terror, which actress Sarah Wayne Callies does a great job in her scene with Hershel about conveying her fears.
The Downside: Yes, their names rhyme, but PLEASE don’t let Daryl and Carol have an affair. This would be extremely gross. Also, the Hershel amputation may or may not be unnecessary.
On the Side: Daryl’s hair is a lot darker since we saw him last season. Given their shared affinity for the crossbow, perhaps he wanted to serve up some brunette Katniss Everdeen realness.