It may be short-lived, but the first two episodes of The Walking Dead‘s third season have shown a focus and direction the previous two seasons lacked. It may never be able to shake some of the broadness in character and emotion (although it arguably doesn’t need to), but so far, the season is playing to its strengths, making ‘Sick’ one of the best episodes of the series so far.
Even though the prison represents a safe haven (of sorts) for the survivors, things aren’t settling as quickly as they did when arriving on the farm last season. Some of this is attributed to the dead still swarming in parts of the building or outside the gates, but as always, the human elements of danger are proving to be a lot more deadly than the flesh-eaters. This is easy drama to write, especially with the new group of prisoners being introduced to Rick and the rest of the crew – but what makes the predictable standoffs between Rick and Mr. Thin ‘Stache interesting is this underhanded idea of perception being explored (and being done so almost silently, through some terrific editing).
Rick is still the ‘leader’ of the group, and he’s finally seized the idea of power – but in a world where there ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ have become completely relative, Rick is mistaking moral ambiguity for emotional freedom, something that is bound to cost him down the line. There’s no hesitation in his actions anymore: when one of the prisoners screams “No!” when Rick kills another (Mr. ‘Stache, the biggest perceived threat in the group), he chases him into a zombie-infested area and locks him out. I do think the motivations for his new attitude are a little thin – Lori basically gives him permission to do what he wants to keep them safe in the episode’s only painful scene – but his actions are important, speaking to the internal transformation going on within Rick, and how much he’s starting to lose his grip on his moral compass.
And this is bleeding over into his personal life: his conversations with Lori are really starting to show his disconnected nature with his old self, and the old world. Like Lori said, it’s not like they’re going to hire some lawyers and talk out a divorce, so what does it really matter anymore? But even as she says it, she doesn’t believe it (just like when she was saying Herschel would live, her eyes and tone deceive her), and Rick doesn’t even bother to acknowledge it, thanking her instead for giving Herschel CPR (“We all appreciate what you did today”). Killing Shane robbed Rick of a piece of humanity he’ll never get back (no matter how necessary of a move it was), and his moral decline is an essential component to the show’s overall arc in this third season.
With 14 episodes to come in the season, the show’s wisely avoided any big plot points so far, merely hinting at things to come. Lots of pregnancy talk again this episode, which leads to an interesting shot while Carol practices performing a c-section on a dead walker. A long shot of Carol is shown behind the perspective of some leaves in the surrounding woods, reminding us all that the survivors still have some unknown dangers lying outside of its walls to deal with later in the season. But ‘Sick’ sticks to the themes of the premiere episode pretty faithfully, and because of that, makes ‘Seed’ and last night’s episode the strongest back-to-back offerings The Walking Dead‘s had thus far.
– when Big Tiny became the first of the group with a name and story, we all knew he was going to go, right? However, I was surprised to see the group thinned out so quickly (something I think would’ve been dragged out a bit last season). But there is a lot to get to this season, so intertwining Rick’s crumbling humanity into their introduction worked really well.
– Maggie and Glenn still aren’t a very strong, believable couple on the show, and the emotional range of the actors may play into this a bit. Note Maggie’s scene with Glenn outside her father’s cell: Lauren Cohen (Maggie) and Steven Yeun (Glenn) are both trying to exhibit a single emotion, but Maggie’s sadness has a lot more depth than whatever Glenn’s trying to express through raised eyebrows. It robs the scene of its effectiveness, and doesn’t give us a good insight into the dynamic of their relationship, outside of ‘Boy consoles girl, kind of’.
– why is T-Dog the only one in armor?
– Carl is another important character to watch this season. He’s lost all respect for his mother, and it’s unclear how he views his father after the events of last season. Seeing his reactions and behavior through the season will be a great reflection into what’s happened to the Grimes family, and how much both Rick and Lori are emotionally separated from their son, and themselves.
– some of Daryl’s reactions to Rick’s decisions are interesting: as his right hand man, Daryl’s loyalties are going to be tested at some point this season. And he might bang Carol.
– I intentionally do not talk about next week’s previews, but one note on The Walking Dead‘s: they are almost too spoiler-y, as if the editors aren’t confident in their ability to bring an audience back next week. There are not one, but two major character reveals in the episode tag, and hints towards a number of others that I think will rob the viewers of some mystery and intrigue once they’ve been introduced.
What did you think of ‘Sick’? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!