By Jay Krieger
Let me state for the record that most of Season 2 of “The Walking Dead” was garbage. The first six episodes of the season were bogged down by melodramatic occurrences on the Farm. Every other scene had worst mother of the year, Lori, frantically screaming at everyone about where her son was or focused on the survivors performing farm chores. The first half of the second season was more of a soap-opera than anything else, and it didn’t pick up until the last handful of episodes.
Regardless, the Season 2 finale was fantastic and really set the tone for things to come for our, now, only handful of survivors. Season 2 ended with our survivors’ “sanctuary,” the Farm, being overrun by a zombie horde and them having to flee and take to the road once again.
But the biggest revelation for this season was that everyone carries the zombie virus, and it’s not a matter of how they die, it’s when they die. While fans of the graphic novel certainly have had more gripes with the plot direction deviating from the source material, everyone was pleased by the reveal at the end of the second season that the next story arc would feature the discovery of the Prison.
Season 3 picks up with our band of survivors, besides a still-missing Andrea, still on the hunt for supplies and the dispatching of several walkers. From the first scene, it’s apparent that the group has gotten over their past quarrels and have learned to work together as they effortlessly clear a house of walkers, which just last season would have been a frightful feat for them. A considerable amount of time has passed, as Lori’s pregnancy is more prominent, and Hershel and Rick have grown a considerable amount of facial hair. Another character mentions that they’ve survived an entire winter season, which would explain why Carl grows excited when finding a can of dog food, as they barely were able to survive a summer.
We all knew that the group’s next salvation would take the form of the Prison and the episode wastes no time introducing it. Rick is hopeful that it will become their permanent home, as the roads have clearly not been kind on our weary band of travelers. Through the turmoil they have encountered on the road, they’ve grown closer as a group and become more efficient at surviving the zombie Apocalypse. Characters seem to be able to handle themselves in squad-like formations and even Carl and Beth are allowed to indulge in zombie take downs, instead of crying and complaining. Every character was utilized in this episode, as there was no down time and overall the episode had more energy than most of Season 2. That high level of energy is apparent in the scenes where Rick takes a group and clears a portion of the prison yard, as well as venturing into the tight and dark quarters inside the prison. These scenes feature little gun play and focus more on grisly, close-quarter melee kills and plenty of “did you see that!” moments as decayed flesh is stripped with ease from zombies’ faces, heads are lopped off and stab wounds bleed profusely.
On the slightly more graceful side of the zombie-killing spectrum, we briefly see our mysterious katana-wielding Michonne, and apparently she and Andrea have teamed up. Besides a brief example of zombie decapitation, there was no real development with her character or to why she has two chained-up zombies that follow her around. This is a character that has a huge part in the comics and I can’t wait for those unfamiliar with the comics to see what she is capable of.
I won’t discuss every aspect of the premiere, but this was a fantastic episode and of a caliber that the show hasn’t hit in a while. The writers and directors (despite several staff changes) always seem to nail the season premieres thus far, as they provide viewers with a satisfying combination of zombie kills, discovery about the world, and answer questions about the plot (if only to raise two or three more). While comic readers have a bit more insight into events that will unfold this season (though as was evident in the past two seasons, the writers often deviate from the comics), the initial energy and promise of the Prison story arc and foreboding shadow of The Governor being unleashed upon not only our survivors but viewers as well, gives me high hopes for this season of “The Walking Dead.”