For a show that prides itself on thrills, the second season of The Walking Dead spent a whole lot of time doing nothing while on Herschel’s farm – although things did speed up during the last few episodes of the season. But what brought me back to review The Walking Dead for a full season were two intriguing factoids: a 16-episode third season, and the introduction of the show’s best characters and setting (the latter of which we were introduced to tonight). For all intents and purposes, ‘Seed’ is a very clinical episode, but as a (former) reader of the comics, I’m excited for where the show is heading.
Along with the major pacing issues, part of TWD‘s problems in the second season came from the lack of external antagonists. For a brief time in season 1, there was Daryl’s brother and of course, the zombies, who were new to both us and the characters in the world at the time. But as the survivors (and audience) got used to the constant influx of the undead, the tensions of the show were being maintained by the presence of Unstable Shane and Missing Sophia. Getting back to the moral decay of Rick and the other survivors in the finale was a move the narrative direly needed – and introducing the prison and Michonne in one fell swoop at the end gave me hope for where the show was heading.
‘Seed’ opens with a lot of zombie killing, getting some necessary fanboy material out of the way as we catch up with the survivors a few months after the events of last season’s finale, which split Andrea from the group and gave us our first real glimpse at the darker side of Rick (with a season-ending speech that was the motivational equivalent of a middle finger). Lori’s pregnant as shit, and the only food people can find has pictures of happy puppies on the outside. But the sight of the prison’s big fences and thick walls is like the end of a bloody, gut-soaked rainbow, a place where the dreams of food, supplies, and a safe birthing place for Lori await.
The rest of the episode is dedicated to the methodical take down of the walkers wandering the prison, and smartly avoids the many “split second to react and live” situations that repeated over and over in earlier seasons, leading to boring plots like “Will T-Dog survive his cut?” and “Will Shane let some guy he doesn’t know die?”. Yes, Hershel gets bitten in the end – satisfying the ever-present need to have one character in a semi-dire situation – but the scene is more about how swift and brutal Rick’s decision making is. He’s not going to wait and look around for confirmation anymore: just as he was willing to look the other way when Andrea was stuck, he’s willing to make the tough decisions and deal with the dramatic bullshit later.
Much of ‘Seed’ is just checking in on characters, and literally planting a shit ton of seeds for the plots to play out over the next fifteen episodes. I’m not necessarily convinced the writers are going to find compelling ways to fill fifteen hour-long episodes with material (especially with the uneven quality of their 6 and 13 episode offerings in previous years), but if the arrival of the survivors at the prison represents a new beginning and direction for the show, it’s off to a pretty solid start.
– just a note: even though I generally know where the show is going, I won’t be dropping any big spoilers in reviews, so don’t worry. As always, I’m not assuming the writers will follow the story lines of the comic book, and never will (even in cases like tonight where I know a major plot arc isn’t hasn’t been introduced).
– in general, the less talking and pontificating the characters on the show do (Lori’s many painful monologues come to mind), the better it is. Case in point: the flashlit scene of the guys walking down the crowded prison hallway vs. Andrea telling Michonne repeatedly to leave her behind and let her die.
– the shadowy, grayed-out look of the prison deserves some credit. Not only does it strip the building of any comfort or humanity, but it recreates the dark, grimy setting from the comic series magnificently.
– Rick and Daryl open doors and find themselves face to face, weapons raised to each other. They laugh it off, but Daryl’s off-hand comments to Carol about Shane’s death might suggest that scene is a hint towards a power conflict later this season.
– While making his way into the jail, Carol nearly shoots Rick. As much as they’ve gotten practiced and methodical at taking out zombies together, it’s important to remember: these people are just as capable of hurting each other as they are helping… and sometimes the line between the two is a matter of inches.
– Rick and Lori’s marital problems have always been like visual molasses for TWD, and until Rick says something besides “I’m here, aren’t I?” hand in hand with dirty looks, it’s going to be. Get mad or get over it!
– I still think the show made a bad decision defining the disease, and revealing that everyone is infected. This is something the show shouldn’t try to have their characters wonder about. Whether Lori has a dead baby or an alive one, there’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s talk about things that matter.
– Daryl is full cowboy now, walking around in a poncho. So much for subtlety.
What did you think of the season premiere? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below, but readers of the comic: no spoilers please! I’m going to cover The Walking Dead as much as possible this season (save for the two weeks I’m moving across the country later this month), so look for reviews Sunday nights/Monday mornings.