“Holy shit!” — Axel
[some spoilers within]
It’s been a year since the cliffhanger which ended Season 2 of AMC’s widely popular The Walking Dead. We found Rick and his group escaping from the herd of zombies which swarmed into and over Hershel’s farm. The group lost two more to the walkers in the form of hapless Jimmy and Patricia. Andrea has gotten separated from the main group with most of the guns. It’s only through the timely intervention of a hooded stranger dragging along two incapacitated walkers that Andrea even gets to make it to this new season. It’s this hooded stranger and the last image we see of a darkened prison complex in the distance that has brought a new sense of optimism for the show which had been up and down through most of it’s sophomore season.
The second season had been rife with struggles not just for the characters in the show but also behind-the-scenes as original showrunner and executive producer Frank Darabont was unceremoniously fired from the very show he helped bring off the ground. Fans of the show and of Darabont saw this as a bad decision, but as the season unfolded there seemed to be a major consensus that Darabont might have been the problem to why the first half of the second season moved along even slower than the walkers. The second half saw new showrunner Glen Mazzara taking over and even though some of the same problems in terms of characterization and dialogue still remained the show in the second half seemed to move with a better sense of urgency which culminated in two of the series’ best episodes to date to close off the season.
Season 3 now begins with the episode titled “Seed” (directed by veteran series director Ernest Dickerson) and we get a major timeskip from the end of last season to tonight’s premiere. Rick and his group look to still be on the move with no safe haven in sight. In what looks like a hint of good things to come in terms of pacing and dialogue the show starts off gangbusters as Rick and his group raid a country home, dispatching the walkers within with ruthless efficiency and searching the place for supplies and other useful things real fast. There wasn’t any time for standing around or even going off into long expositional scenes to try and convey what had happened between the end of last season to tonight’s start.
Glen Mazzara, the show’s new showrunner had promised that the show would be taking on a new direction when he took over halfway through season 2, but we’re finally able to see his experience as a TV show producer and writer bear strong fruit with tonight’s premiere. We get to see Rick and his crew acting with more of a sense of urgency in just the first twnety minutes of the show than they had in the first two seasons. We’re finally seeing everyone realizing that they’re now stuck in a world with new rules that doesn’t make room for personal quirks and emotional issues (though we still get hints that they’re still but set aside for the greater good of the group) that just saps the energy from everyone. This group looks more like the sort of team that Shane would’ve thrived in and it looks like Rick has taken on the role of leader much more forcefully. It hasn’t mended the rift between him and Lori for what had transpired over two seasons of interpersonal conflicts that got more than just his best friend killed but others as well.
Tonight’s episode does a great job of explaining through their actions and behavior just how much time has passed between the seasons and how that intervening time has tested the groups mettle and made them harder and more capable in holding their own against the walkers. Even useless characters like Beth, Carol and Carl have become more adept in protecting themselves. It’s surprising to see Carl actually becoming the character he was in the comic book. I’m sure some parent groups will not be approving of Carl actually handling his gun with expertise but this is that kind of show and just because one is a kind doesn’t mean they have to be helpless.
If there were complaints about Darabont’s handling of the show during his short tenure it was that he was too much into creating a very slow burn that culminated into a huge climactic finish. It was fine for a truncated first season, but it showed just how ill-conceiveda narrative style it was for a tv series over a full season. I don’t sense that same feeling with tonight’s episode. One could tell that Mazzara was now fully in charge and not working on whatever Darabont had come up with for season 2. It’s a great start to the new season which has a good chance in reversing some of the ill-will last season’s very slow burns and wheel-spinning had created with a segment of the fan-base.
It also helps that we didn’t have to wait too long to see the official appearance of Danai Gurari in the role of fan-favorite Michonne with her zombie pets and katana. It wasn’t an episode spent directly introducing us to her but enough time was spent away from the group in the prison. Michonne as a character could become too much a caricature of the badass comic book female character, but for tonight it was just refreshing to see a female character on this show as capable and clear-headed as her. There’s even a hint of the sort of friendship that seemed to have grown between Michonne and Andrea since the end of season 2. Shane may have been a bad influence (though helpful in getting Andrea out of her suicidal rut) in season 2, but here’s to hoping that Michonne will be the sort of influence that Andrea will be needing to get her to become the badass characteron the show that her character is in the comic book.
One thing that tonight’s episode also did great that we only saw hints of with the first two seasons was the action such a series could have when given a chance. This is a series about the zombie apocalypse and those trying to survive in it. While I don’t expect each episode to be as action-packed as tonight’s premiere it was an encouraging start to what looks to be the real beginning of the Glen Mazzara era of The Walking Dead.
Now onto episode 2. With tonight’s cliffhanger ending (one that really got me by surprise) it’s going to be interesting to see how Rick and the new group in the end will get along or will they. Just as long as it doesn’t take the show all of the first half of the season to do it then I am all for intergroup conflict until the walkers become a more pressing problem.
- I’m quite surprised how quickly the show got the group to the prison. So, unlike season 2 which would’ve have the group wandering around in circles for 2-3 more episodes before finding their way to the complex.
- It looks like Rick has gotten tired of what must’ve been Lori’s incessant harping during the months the show timeskipped between season 2 and the premiere of season 3 tonight.
- Carl still hasn’t found a way to get himself lost thus get someone else killed which could be a nice change of pace for the character.
- On a good note, Carl looks to be growing up and taking a handle on becoming a useful member of the group. He even does his share of some coldblooded killing of walkers in the episode’s intro.
- In fact Carol becomes quite useful as well with Rick even commenting out of hand how much she grown to become a good shot with the AK-47 she was wielding.
- All the talk of ‘shipping Daryl and Carol will get even louder as the two spent a brief moment flirting with each other after the group had taken over the prison courtyard.
- Lori…Lori…Lori still looks to be the emotional weak point of the group and show, but this time around everyone in the group is either tuning her out or just trying to keep her focus and attention on keeping her unborn child safe. Even Hershel makes a point to remind her that this wasn’t about her anymore and that she should stop her complaining. It’s all about the baby and that’s all he and she should care about.
- Beth and Carl…too cute.
- Way to cockblock our boy Carl, Hershel…
- Armored zombies, ’nuff said.
- Some great work by Greg Nicotero and his team over at KNB EFX. A special note would be on the gas mask walker who got it’s face unceremoniously ripped off when Rick pulled off the gas mask. As a hardcore gorehound even I had to wince at that scene. It was great!
- In what could be a way to reconcile the character of Dale in the comics who lasted longer than in the show the writers may be substituting Hershel in that role. The next couple episodes will tell if that’s the case.
- I think whoever is the prop guy for this show has read Max Brook’s zombie novel World War Z if the makeshift “Lobo” Glenn was wielding is any indication.
- Zombie Kill Count for tonight’s episode: I stopped counting after 30.