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The Walking Dead Returns to Plant a Seed of Hope for Future Episodes
The Walking Dead, for me at least, has been the pinnacle of achievement in the zombie genre of horror. No movie has ever been able to capture the human struggle as well as this series precisely because it is a series. It has the advantage of time to tell its story as it needs to. You can do so much more with a group of characters over 13 hours than two. And it is because The Walking Dead has that time that I’m so disappointed by the show’s decision to skip forward several months, bypassing what I was most looking forward to: seeing our group of survivors struggle through those harsh winter months. Those extra cold months were given their due diligence in the comic book, so I guess I just assumed that particular obstacle would be explored, but that was not the case. We come into “Seed” and the group has been on the road all winter, Lori is now eight and a half months pregnant and everyone is very much alive. I can’t be the only who though a great opportunity for storytelling was glossed over with barely a mention, right?
But in the overall scheme of things, the skipping of winter is a small complaint compared to how much “Seed” managed to get right. The cold open, which demonstrated how efficient the group has become in searching through abandoned houses and clearing out zombies, plays out eerily thanks to the complete lack of dialogue. The Walking Dead has a history of shaky storytelling, showing the downside of being a serialized drama: sometimes stories don’t always spread out well. A particularly frustrating storyline from last season was Lori and her affair with Shane. While Shane always delivered the absolute best in pure entertainment value, Lori came off as unhinged in her decision making, which is saying a lot considering Shane was the insane one. But over the last few unseen months, Lori has seemed to have removed whatever stick was up her butt and gotten over herself, thanks in part to seeing how badly Rick has been affected by her flip flopping. Last season she practically begged Rick to kill Shane and then she became enraged when Rick actually went through with it. Talk about women not knowing what they want right (please don’t kill me lady readers!)? But now she seems genuinely interested in fixing things with Rick. Too bad he seems all but done with her nonsense, whether sincere or otherwise. He has no idea if that baby is his, so it makes sense he would distance himself, instead focusing on the well-being of Carl and the rest of the group.
Which brings us to the season’s big change of scenery. After glimpsing it in Season 2’s finale, we finally get up close and personal with the prison, which will serve as the new base camp for Rick and the rest. After spending so much time on the farm last season, I can understand why some might be hesitant to once again have a single setting where the group will be spending the majority of their time. But unlike the farm, the prison has a personality of its own. It’s large and mostly unexplored, even by the end of the episode. There is a lot of potential to use it as a living space, but the dangers are still very present. And with the introduction of the prisoners at the very end of the episode, we’ll likely find a good amount of external conflict for the group as they attempt to either befriend or fight this new batch of characters.
And that’s really what will separate the prison from the farm in the end. The farm itself didn’t cause any problems for the group. Sure, they argued with Hershel over whether or not they could stay on it, but ultimately that was a conflict within the group, and that’s all Season 2 was. If zombies weren’t the problem then it was Shane or Rick or Hershel or Lori. Now we have the chance to have the prison affect the group as if it were its own character. It can be a place to run to and seek comfort in, but it can also put someone in a false sense of security before a walker walks out of the shadows and takes a fatal bite.
Rick has really come into his own as a leader and he sees this prison as a sort of haven, ironic considering it is a prison. His leadership skills have evolved in the time between seasons, and you can see it reflected in how the others accept his orders unquestioningly. But he hasn’t become am unruly tyrant, taking T-Dog’s suggestion to fetch some water before they take off again with the same grace you would have expected from Rick early the show’s run. I’m assuming the way he leads the group will be an important part of Season 3, especially once we meet the Governor in the coming episodes. I’m hoping we’ll see him put into some really tough positions that force him to make questionable judgment calls. We’ve already seen a hint of that idea with Hershel, who, rather stupidly, is bitten by a dormant walker. After dragging him to temporary safety, Rick doesn’t hesitate to pick up a hatchet and hack off Hershel’s bitten leg, hoping it will safe him from death. It makes sense; it’s not the bite that kills you, it’s the fever.
Peppered through out the premiere are little character moments just to remind us where everyone is. Maggie and Glenn are still like a young couple going through everything like it’s brand new. Carol’s crush on Daryl continues with a boosted confidence. Carol is now blatantly hitting on Daryl and his discomfort is quite amusing. As odd a couple as they initially were, I’m more intrigued by their relationship than any other, though Carl’s kid crush on Beth could quickly catch up just for how unexpectedly cute it was. Limited to only a couple of scenes, we got to see things have not been going well for Andrea, who has spent the winter with Michonne, the katana wielding stranger who found her in the woods last season. It seems they have become quite chummy with each other, but Andrea has gotten sick and might die if she doesn’t move and get some kind of help. I wish we could have spent more time with them to explore their friendship, but there’s only so much time in the hour and the prison material was much more important.
“Seed” was a strong way to start Season 3 and I have high hopes for where things will go from here. It doesn’t feel as sloppily structured as most of Season 2 did, but I also don’t want to get my hopes up too high based on this lone episode. I do, however, believe the gore factor will never disappoint. It’s hard to go wrong with killing a bunch of zombies, something I don’t think this show knows how to do wrong. The characters and story could be absolute rubbish and I’d still tune in just for the guts and brains.