I am so excited that The Walking Dead is back. After an admittedly lackluster season two, “Seed” sets the stage for what looks like an exciting season three. The season premiere is set months after the events of the season two finale,“Beside the Dying Fire.” The group seems to have been working out fairly well over the winter: the opening scene shows that everyone is well versed in scavenging houses for supplies and shelter and can move on quickly when necessary.
I have a feeling this control system Rick established at the end of last season can’t last forever, though. I bet by season’s end we see a major breakdown in the group dynamic, probably brought on by some horrible tragedy because that’s just how this show works. In the here and now of the show though, Lori is very far along in her pregnancy and the group is searching for shelter a bit more permanent than overnight squats in abandoned houses.
While we’re on the subject of Lori’s pregnancy: you’d think the special effects team who brings you gory zombie violence on a regular basis could manage to pull off a realistic false pregnant belly for Sarah Wayne Callies. Of course, I will take this criticism back if her odd belly shape turns out to be because of a walker baby or some equally horrifying concept.
While the group examines their marked-up map of the area, Daryl and Rick break off to hunt and discover the setting for the rest of the season: the prison. The yard is crawling with walkers, but Rick thinks it’s a good idea to bust in there and take over, and what he says goes. The plan is to shut the gate to the rest of the prison and then pick off the walkers in the field from the guard towers so they can make camp.
Unlike other plans they’ve tried in the past (and the future bright idea that closes out the episode), this one actually goes pretty well. Rick volunteers instead of Glenn to sprint across the yard and close the gate. I don’t know if this scene was supposed to be suspenseful, but if it was, it failed. Despite the walkers roaming the yard, I didn’t feel like there was any risk to Rick. They were all so well organized, with Hershel and Carl shooting from one tower, Carol and Daryl shooting from the other, and the rest of the group killing walkers through the fence. Even Lori’s a pretty good shot now. Clearly they’ve had plenty of practice over the offscreen winter. Thankfully the episode still managed to ramp up the tension for real later on; otherwise a whole hour of fish in a barrel walker hunting could have been just as bad as the interminable time spent on the farm last season.
After picking off all the walkers in the yard, the group makes camp in the wide open space, happy to be secure. Rick, ever the tortured leader, paces the perimeter several times while the others talk around the campfire about the potential to grow food and dig canals for water in the yard should they stay. Daryl still prefers to keep to himself, and it’s nice to see that the bond between him and Carol has carried over from last season. Daryl’s a tough nut to crack, and it’s refreshing to get moments where he cares for someone else outright, like when he massages Carol’s shoulder after she complains of the rifle kickback taking its toll. I know there are fans who are desperate for these two to get together romantically, but I for one am glad their relationship is platonic. It’s nice to see real friendship reflected in a show that’s bleak for so much of the time.
Beth and Maggie sing “Parting Glass” around the campfire for everyone, and Beth has quite the lovely singing voice. If Post-Apocalyptic Idol ever comes around, she’ll win easily. The relaxing scene is obviously not going to last; Rick announces his plan to take on part of the prison tomorrow. Considering the walkers they saw were all in prison uniforms of some sort, it’s likely this place fell early and could be secure. Plus, there’s bound to be food, medicine, and weapons inside.
With their lack of ammunition, they’ll have to take the place in hand-to-hand combat, which absolutely no one is looking forward to. Lori tries to get him to let them have a few victory days in the yard, but Rick is adamant about his plan. She also wants to talk about “things,” which I figured was “we should talk about the fact that this baby might be Shane’s and we have to deal with that because it’ll be born soon,” but they never actually have a discussion. Obviously, emotions need to be handled between the two of them, but I’m glad “Seed” doesn’t delve into that just yet.
It’s at this point we get our first glimpse of Michonne in action sans cloak, and she is just so utterly awesome. She wields that katana sword like nobody’s business, making quick work of three walkers in a general store somewhere before it cuts back to the group at the prison. More Michonne, please, I’ve been dying to find out about her since the season finale!
In their first assault on the prison, Rick, Daryl, Maggie, Glenn, and T-Dog team up in a rough circle, covering all angles and watching each other’s backs. A+ on practicing strategy over the season break, characters. It is a bloodbath, and they make relatively quick work of the walkers in the first courtyard. The second courtyard is more of a problem, however, as they’re met with not only walkers wearing what looks like SWAT gear, but also a mob of them in the next courtyard over. Thankfully they get the fence closed and only have to deal with the protected walkers.
Why the choice was made to have Daryl attempt to shoot a walker right in the face shield is beyond me, but the group finally realizes they have to remove the helmets to kill the walkers. I haven’t commented on them enough yet, and I realize everyone does, but the special effects and makeup on this show continue to astound me. That walker with the gas mask that has part of its face come off with the gas mask? Genius, in the goriest of ways.
After they clear the path into the prison, they make their way into the C block, which is relatively secure. The guard has already been shot, though in what context it’s hard to say, and Rick grabs his keys. There were still a couple walkers in their cells (waiting for their Cell Block Tango cues?) but Rick and Daryl make quick work of them so everyone can file in and find a bunk to sleep in. In what could either be an amusing or grating storyline –it’s too early to tell – Carl seems to be getting his flirt on with Beth. It’s awkward and kind of sweet, but Hershel shuts his hopes of bunking with Beth down pretty quickly.
Daryl predictably refuses to sleep “in a cage,” as he puts it, and Rick spends the night alone too, on watch against the wall. Is it just guard duty, or another dose of visual symbolism? I’m predicting further isolation from the group for Rick, especially on an emotional level.
Finally, more than halfway through the episode, we see Andrea again. Michonne returns to her camp in an old meat locker and brings Andrea medicine from the store she was in earlier. Andrea isn’t walker-sick; just regular-sick, something with a fever and a hacking cough. Michonne wants to stay a few days until she’s better, but Andrea won’t have her doing anything stupid (like getting eaten by the incoming herd of walkers) on her behalf, so they set off with Michonne’s pet walkers in tow. I’m sure I could know this just by reading the comics, but I’m intrigued by the arm-and jaw-less walkers she keeps on chains with her. Why does she have them around? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough; at least, if the show gives these two more than five minutes an episode for story development.
Back in the prison, Lori talks to Hershel about the baby, and she brings up all the walker-related concerns I had as soon as we learned everyone was already infected with the virus: what if her baby is dead inside her and then rips its way out of her as a walker? What if it/she dies in childbirth and turns? Hershel reassures her that everything is going to be fine, but honestly, I’d be shocked if both she and the baby make it out of this alive and intact.
Lori is also concerned about her family that already exists; she says that both Carl and Rick hate her. Hershel tries to tell her that Rick will come around, but she’s not so sure. Rick was sounding pretty fanatical at the end of last season, so I’m thinking Lori may be right on this one. Like I said, I think he’ll continue to distance himself from the rest of the group, but I’m interested to see when fireside “this is not a democracy”/” I killed my best friend for you people” Rick rears his head again.
After the obligatory foreshadowing for the Lori’s Baby plotline, we move into the eventual failure of a plan that is the end of the episode. Everyone but Lori, Beth, Carol, and Carl strap on some protective gear taken from the SWAT walkers and heads out to investigate more of the prison and find supplies. Everything about this is tense and spooky: the music, the swinging flashlights in the shadows, the trail of bodies littering the hallways. It just screams bad idea, but the group bravely presses on, marking their way back with white spraypaint on the walls. I won’t question where they found spraypaint because everything that follows is what the show does best.
After sufficiently ramping up the tension in the hallway, the group happens upon a gang of prisoner walkers and has to run for it. Amidst the confusion of running for their lives, Maggie and Glenn get separated from the rest of the group. The rest decide to go back for them once they’ve gotten out of walker danger. The camera focuses on Hershel calling for his daughter, and he steps right over a body that doesn’t look so dead without thinking when – bam! The walker takes him down and takes a nasty bite out of his ankle (Seriously, the tendon dangling from its teeth? I shuddered). Glenn and Maggie find them then, drawn by Hershel’s shouts of agony, which draw walkers as well.
Rick and the others pick Hershel up and drag him into the nearby cafeteria. They block the door from walkers as Maggie tries to calm her father, whose wound is pretty terrible. Rick rips off his belt as he half-shouts calming things to Hershel, and wraps the homemade tourniquet around Hershel’s leg. I am not ashamed to admit this part was the most difficult for me to watch: Rick hacking off Hershel’s lower leg with an ax is something I never really need to see again.
But that’s not the bit that has me wishing they aired two new episodes in a row. After the hard-to-watch “surgery” is done with, the camera pans up on the window of the cafeteria, where there’s a group of prisoners watching. Real, live, fully human prisoners. “Holy shit,” one of them exclaims, and I’m sure thousands of viewers echoed the same sentiment.
From my understanding, these guys are featured in the comics as well, but as I have yet to read them, I have no idea what kind of role they might play as the season goes on. Clearly, it will be interesting to see the two groups of survivors interact, and to find out what these inmates already know about the walkers in the prison. All in all, this was definitely a successful start to season three; I just hope we get to see more from Michonne and Andrea as time goes on.