Previously on The Walking Dead, bad shit happened, as it does.
During the last really, really long three minutes of “Seed” – you know, with the shrieking and the axing – my wife snapped this picture of me:
Objectively speaking, if a TV show about zombies prompts that sort of reaction from me, it must be pretty good, at least gore-wise. And if The Walking Dead‘s season 3 opener is any indication of how the rest of the season is going to play out, we’re in for a very bloody and very dark ride.*
Here’s the thing: if a prison filled with corpses – both half-eaten and mobile – looks like the frigging Waldorf Astoria, your life pretty much sucks like a Dyson. In the completely awesome cold open to Season 3, we’re brought up to speed quickly, quietly, efficiently, and brutally. (Was I the only one who yelled “JACK SHEPHARD’S ZOMBIE EYE!” when that first image hit the screen?) Rick’s band – for there’s no doubt that our mopey sheriff is in charge – has gotten pretty damn good at staying alive in Zombieland. The group moves through an abandoned (by live people, anyway) house with military precision. Rick and Carl are using silencers, so as not to attract undue undead attention; there’s not a lot of chit-chat or Lori screaming as they clear the house; Glenn apparently read World War Z and got himself a LOBO. We also learn a couple of other things: time has passed, as Lori is now very pregnant, zombie owls are not a threat, and Daryl would’ve flunked the Voight-Kampff empathy test in Blade Runner. And life has gotten considerably harder – the zombie herds are growing, and the gang has been on the move for months trying to avoid them. They’re low on ammo and food. (“Alpo or owl? Guess we’re having owl.”) And Rick is starting to look a bit frazzled.
But a prison! With high walls and fences! Guns and ammo! Food! Maybe a washer and dryer because Jesus, shirts crusted with dried zombie juice must really start to smell after a couple of months! That might just be the cure for what ails the gang. Only problem: the inmates and many of the guards are still hanging around. And clearing them out isn’t going to be as simple as clearing out a farmhouse. First, the yard – Rick and the gang break into the prison (raise your head if like me you were whistling the theme from The Great Escape while watching them clip through the chainlinks) and kill every walker inside the fence line. This they do with precision – zombie-killin’s their business, and brother, business is boomin’ – and when the sun finally sets and everyone’s tuckered out from all that hacking and shooting, Rick grimly tells them that tomorrow the real work begins. And then the blond girl – Beth, I think – starts to sing a pretty song and I’m not too concerned that I don’t know her name because Horror Trope #243 tells us that the sweet pretty innocent girls who sing church hymns are usually among the first to die. The next day, the gang methodically moves into the prison – we see what months on the road fighting walkers has done for them, as they move in perfect formation and smash/chop/slice/remove many a zombie head and aren’t even phased when the Riot Gear Zombie Cops show up. (How DO you kill a zombie wearing a helmet, anyway? Here’s Rick to show you! A tip: Careful when removing Riot Gear Zombie Cops’ helmets, as you might get zombie face on you!)
Now, let’s leave the prison for a moment because:
This is Michonne. You recall her from the end of the season 2 finale: along with her badass katana, she has a couple of…pet walkers. They seem nice. Though a game of Fetch is pretty much out of the question. Michonne doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, just enough to establish that a) she’s got mad ninja skillz and b) she’s taking care of an ailing Andrea, and in fact seems to have struck up a friendship with her. MichonDrea are also in the same boat as the rest of the gang, wandering from town to town, scavenging, eschewing any and all forms of personal hygiene. (Really, these people are gross. When Glenn started making out with Maggie in the cell I sprayed Lysol in my eyes.)
Back at the prison, the gang has settled into their new cells. (Sorry, Crazy Carl: no Beth for you, young man.) Rick being Rick, he’s not content to just chill out and check the toilets for any leftover Prison Wine. Time’s a wastin’ – Lori’s baby could arrive any day, and she’s understandably anxious, as she tells Hershel. Do they paint the cell blue, pink, or Zombie Mold Green in case the kid is born a Walker and comes out eating his own placenta? Rick, T-Dog, Glenn, Daryl and Maggie suit up in some riot gear (speaking of which, if you don’t think that the Riot Gear Zombie Cops weren’t the greatest thing to happen to this show yet, we need to part ways) and head off into an unlighted labyrinth of hallways, and we know how this particular movie ends. Walkers show up, from all directions, Maggie and Glenn duck into a closet to hide and have stinky zombie juice-slathered “We’re Gonna Die” sex. Fortunately for all of us, the gang finds them. Unfortunately for Hershel, he’s kind of a dumbass (safety tip: before stepping over a Walker, smash his head in just to be sure he’s dead-dead) and gets a big stringy chunk bitten out of his leg. Another Fun Fact: you know how zombie heads come off pretty easily? That’s probably because they’re dead and rotting. Live human limbs are a bit harder to chop through, as we find out during the seemingly endless amputation scene. Fortunately for Hershel, he passes out about ten minutes into the procedure.
And so we come to the end of a cracking good season opener, one that hopefully bodes well for the next 12 episodes. It’s clearly a stage-setter for the remainder of the season, as not a whole lot happened, plot-wise. But “Seed” masterfully shows how far these survivors have come – no longer jumping at their own shadows, Rick and his band are battle-hardened zombie killers who appear to be up to the task of living in a world that’s gone to hell. Those skills might come in handy, given that they’re not the only living people in the prison. And in this world, the living ain’t too fond of sharing.
*SPOILERISH: If you’ve read the comics, you know that, yes, things are going to get worse before they get better.