TV Review: The Walking Dead [SPOILERS]
The Walking Dead – “Seed”
Season 3, Episode 1
By skipping a summer, the series was able to establish an improved status quo and avoid Sarah Wayne Callies annoying me throughout Lori’s angst-ridden pregnancy. From the first sequence, clearing out a house while searching for a new home, we saw Carl (Chandler Riggs) much more active in the group. He grew up quicker than he would have in a pre-zombie world, whether he was helping clear out the house, or being infatuated with Hershel’s younger (but still incredibly inappropriate) daughter, Beth. So far, Riggs looked to be up to the challenge.
Andrew Lincoln remains terrific as Rick struggled to hold off his depression and worry in order to see some future for his group. In addition to removing an incredibly annoying character, killing off Shane left Rick as the sole source of leadership and direction for the group of survivors. Lincoln’s haunted expression and slouched demeanor carried that weight effectively throughout the opener. I loved seeing the conflicting horror and resolution on his face when Rick had to make the terrible split-second decision to remove Hershel’s infected leg in a desperate bid to save his friend.
Newcomer Danai Gurira was terrific as fan-favorite Michonne; her mere presence provided the show a much needed shot in the arm with inventive and cheer-worthy zombie slaughter. While even Daryl’s crossbow has lost some of its thrill, nothing beats a bad-ass with a ninja sword; that’s why Leonardo is the best ninja turtle. This latest addition to the cast played to the series’ strengths. Rather than repeat the naive idealism we got on Hershel’s farm, Michonne is utterly pragmatic and merciless and far-better equipped than Andrea to handle the mental challenges of the devastated world.
Thrilling the audience has never been a problem for The Walking Dead (both the series and the comic book). Throw in a ton of zombies and the writers could check that box off every week. But each season, the series stumbled to maintain its early dramatic momentum. The second season similarly started off with the thrilling loss and search for Sophia, but then dragged horribly trying to maintain the dramatic tension at the farm. When the characters don’t have the zombies and have to manage the dramatic tension on their own, things fall apart.
The claustrophobic horror house of the prison was a setting that lent itself much better to a more dynamic visual medium than it did the comic page. Every nook and cranny offered new potential for the unexpected and presented an incredible opportunity to hold off on the series’ main weakness as interpersonal conflicts took a back seat to an hour-long exploration of zombie destruction. Watching our heroes figure out how to creatively eliminate zombies in full riot gear was simultaneously exciting and humorous.
I was caught off guard when Hershel was bitten and lost his leg to a Rick and his axe. Fans of the comics remember that this fate was saved for Dale, and I honestly didn’t expect it after he was killed off last year. The Walking Dead managed to surprise me with a plot point I already knew by twisting the details a little. It’s these subtle differences from the source material (like the inclusion of numerous human prisoners) that keeps me on my toes. I was a bit concerned, thinking back on how five prisoners survived for around a year without draining the prison of all its supplies or making any progress in clearing it out, but these are details that can be addressed down the road.