The TV Box: The Walking Dead, S3E1: Seed

T-Dog smells something bad... damn Rick!

I generally like doing reviews for The Walking Dead after the season has completed, or at least after the mid-season break.  After 7 months of waiting and begin promised that the third season would be more action packed and have a faster pace than the second season, certainly the first half of the second season, I have been cautiously optimistic that my favorite comic could still become my favorite television show.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved AMC’s The Walking Dead a great deal… but its’ problems have been many and those problems have stood in the way of this show becoming what it could potentially be… some of the best television available.  As it stood, it was a fantastic show for many reasons, but greatness has been eluding it… Seed, the first episode of the third season shows that the potential may be realized.

I try to choose pictures for my posts that will do the best job of encapsulating the feel of something overall… this episode was hard for me to choose which photo to use.  The pic above does a great job of highlighting exactly what was highlighted in the first five minutes of the cold open… our fractured group has become a team.  Unfortunately, this episode was chock full of so many great themes and images that I will have to add a few more pics throughout to highlight some of the greater moments.

That cold open was spectacular.  No dialogue, just the remnants of our group; Rick, Lori, Carl, T-Dog, Carol, Daryl, Glenn, and the lovely Maggie going house to house as a well oiled undead-killing machine and living day by day with whatever they can scavenge and/or hunt… whether it is owl or dog food, the pickings have become slimmer and slimmer.

Six or seven months have passed as evidenced by Lori’s enlarging belly, Hershel’s Santa beard and ponytail, and Carl’s straight up badassery and his lengthening hair (pic below)… that and someone outright saying how long they have been wandering homeless and hungry.  When we last saw our intrepid heroes, Rick was outlining the death of democracy and the rise of the Ricktatorship as the camera panned back to show us the prison one hill away.  Although they tried to say that they have been going in circles due to roaming herds of walkers pushing them this way and that, it is somewhat preposterous to imagine them not finding that prison sooner… especially once you realize that Hershel’s farm wasn’t that far from the prison… wouldn’t he have known it was there?

Don't mess with the Carl

Eventually, they do find the prison, and they begin working their way into it, clearing out the zombies one section at a time… methodical, intelligent, and brutal in their execution.  What was once a broken group has now formed into a working crew.  If people were complaining about a lack of zombies in previous episodes, their blood-lust must have been satiated.  One after the other we see every permutation of zed-death imaginable… gun shots, loped of heads, heads cut in half, pointy objects thrust into heads, and best of all… the peeling away of a face when removing gas mask… ugh.  Fans of the comic were also treated to a great visual… zombies in riot gear!  (pic below)  I will go into a spoilery comic section after this main post…

Riot Grrls?  Not quite...

Although there were moments when this onslaught of death and dismemberment felt like a video game, it should serve as a reminder of why we are here and why we are invested in this series, whether it is on TV or on the page; yes there are spectacular gory moments that all zombie stories should have, but there is also the human element that catapults a fun horror tale into a great one.  The Walking Dead as a franchise has always been about character development, and as the tag line for season three states… fight the dead, fear the living… and in these scenes, we see exactly what fighting the dead looks like, and our group has that down to a science.

After a nice little camp fire sing-a-long, a bit of sexual innuendo between Carol and Daryl, and some more zed-whacking, they finally get inside the prison.  For fans of the comic this was an early Christmas present.  Even the simple visual of cell block C sent my geekometer through the roof.  The prison itself was an amazing foil to the bright and sunny beauty of the farm.  Dark, dank, blood splattered, and terrifying… these are the words I would use to described this horror house of a prison.  As they all set about finding their cells, an interesting juxtaposition of what “freedom” means in the zombie apocalypse, there are a number of wonderful scenes between Glenn and Maggie and little Carl and Beth.  How could you possibly wind down after the sort of day they had?

Cell block C

Another great character that made her debut in the final moments of the season 2 season finale is the still non-introduced Michonne, the katana wielding badass that saved Andrea’s life.  We don’t see hide nor hair of either of them until well into the episode.  In another great scene with zero dialogue we finally see Michonne in action in a convenience store getting some aspirin.  Aspirin?  Well, apparently, the living dead are not the only scary thing in this world… you can still get a cold or flu, which is what is laying Andrea up and leading to Michonne having to care for her.  We get another scene of Andrea not giving a rat’s ass about her own life and someone other than Dale (RIP) having to stick their necks out in order to keep this pain in the ass alive.  Although Andrea is one of my favorite characters in the books, her character on the show thus far has been nothing but trouble.

Although we don’t yet know Michonne’s story, or her name for that matter, we see enough of her to know that she is kind, caring, and wicked with a sword.  We also get a good look at her “pets”… the two chained zombies sans jaws and arms.  Although not yet explained in the show, they are her boyfriend and boyfriend’s best friend… they keep other zeds away which is part of how she was able to live on her own for so long… that and her awesome swordsmanship… and her poncho.  Have I mentioned how much I love Michonne?

Michonne taking zero shit

In the final scenes of this episode, which seemed to pack a whole fuck load of action and plot progression into one very short hour, tragedy strikes… Hershel is bitten just above his ankle.  Now that we know that they are all infected, is it the infection that kills or the bite?

This is where I have to talk about what I’m calling the “Mazzara effect”.  At the mid season break in season 2, Frank Darabont was fired and/or quit as the showrunner and Glen Mazzara was brought in as his replacement.  There was much hand wringing over this decision until the second half aired and every fan let out a collective sigh of relief that Mazzara seemed to understand where this show could and should go.  He began to, slowly, over the course of six episodes, bring the show closer to the feel of the comic without sacrificing the feel the show had already established.  The final two episodes of season 2 were fantastic… second only to the pilot, and now Seed.  This merging of the comic and the show, in addition to bringing in better writers as well as being the person who wrote this episode, is what I am now referring to the “Mazzara effect”.  Feel free to use that phrase for anything brought back from the brink of ineptitude back into the realm of awesome (I’m looking at you mid-season 3 of LOST).

Another aspect of the “Mazzara effect” is simply the difference of vision and purpose for a television show vs. a film.  Darabont is a fantastic film-maker, who brought a very film-like approach to The Walking Dead… but he attempted to make a twelve hour movie as opposed to Mazzara’s approach of creating twelve or thirteen individual movies with distinct beginnings, middles, and ends.  Yes the payoff at the end of the first half of the second season was awesome… seeing Sophia come out of that barn was gut-wrenching and a fantastic moment of entertainment… but each episode from that point on has had their own great payoffs and helped moved the story and the excitement up a notch that was previously missing… enough about the “Mazzara effect” for now…

As for that bite on Hershel’s leg… without an explanation… and seemingly without much thought… Rick takes a very clean hatchet from Hershel’s medical bag (assuming it was in there for this express purpose and I assume they all previously discussed this scenario and what to do since no one objected) and in nine gruesome hacks lops off the bitten portion of Hershel’s leg.  I don’t squirm easy… but damn if I wasn’t squirming in my seat something fierce… and if you hear the thwacks and gooey noises separate from the visuals (which is precisely how Jason and Karen open their The Walking Dead’Cast episode this week), it’s even worse.  Holy shit what a tension filled moment… only to look up and see five people who were trapped inside the cafeteria of the prison looking on!

Tyrese... is that you??  Dexter?  Axel?

Again… comic book readers will know what’s up with them… I wonder how show viewers are seeing this turn of events?  I don’t have that insight… I almost wish I did… then again… I love the books.

Overall… I could not be happier with this episode.  It is currently doing battle with the pilot for my favorite episode so far.  I feel confident with the direction Glen Mazzara is going with it and I know that we have just scratched the surface of what’s to come.  We haven’t even met the Governor yet!  If anything, this episode has reinvigorated my love of The Walking Dead and has given me a much needed boost in my excitement over this show.  Like I said, I wasn’t going to review this episode until at least the mid-season break… but perhaps if each episode kicks this much ass I will have to make this a regular feature.  Stay tuned… the next episode will be titled “Sick“, probably a reference to Andrea.  See the trailer below.

Also, do yourself a favor and listen to The Walking Dead’Cast with Jason and Karen.  I can’t imagine not having their insights and feelings about The Walking Dead as a companion throughout the series.  Join in on their community of great listeners and become one of their undead-heads (a phrase they have seemingly stopped using, much to my chagrin).

I will discuss the comic book after the trailer… spoilers will be ahead… be warned.

RIP Hershel’s leg,
Cornelius J. Blahg

Comic vs. Show

OK… final warning.  Unless you are current in reading the comic, stop reading now.  I will spoil.  You have been warned.

So… comic fans… how happy are we now?  Very I would think.  Of course, we are a fickle bunch who enjoy nit-picking and seeing how many “incorrect” things we can find… but overall, holy crap what a difference a showrunner can make!

Let’s look at some of the differences… Carl isn’t nearly as competent and steely-eyed at this point in the book, Rick isn’t really harboring all this animosity towards Lori… at least not outwardly, Dale should still be there, as should Andrea… and still no Tyrese… and who is this Daryl and T-Dog?  I wonder if Carol will start wanting to marry Rick and Lori or will she just stick to trying to bone Daryl?

What did they get bang-on?  Rick seeing the prison and saying that it’s perfect, clearing out the prison then having to clear it out, cell block C, Hershel has now become either the Dale cypher or the Allen cypher… won’t know until we find out whether he lives or dies.  That scene in particular stands out for me in a big way… the fact that Hershel had that clean hatchet in his medical bag tells me that they had all discussed this possibility.  In the book when Rick first suggests lopping off Allen’s leg, everyone freaks out.  Allen dies because of it, but that was only because of a loss of blood and/or infection.  When Rick chops off Dale’s leg, he survives because they were in the hospital infirmary, yet it was still much much later after the bite than was Allen’s.  Now, getting into the actual physiology of zombie infections, bites, and rate of infection seems a bit silly… we are talking about fictional monsters… but it is these details that make a geek a geek, so if you can’t suspend disbelief, you are watching the wrong show.

How about that riot gear?  How excited did you get when you saw those?  I’m sure many non-comic readers thought that was a nod to video gaming… we knew better.

Of course, there are the prisoners.  I am itching for next weeks episode with the hope that we will finally find out who exactly those five “gentlemen” are.  The scene was so quick and the credits rolled too fast for me to identify the names… but I did see the name of “Andrew”, which would be the former junkie who was shacked up with Dexter.  Was the dude who got the close-up and the dialogue meant to be Axel?  Plus, there were five in the show, four in the book… taking a closer look at the pic above, I notice one burly individual with a hammer… we all know who used a hammer exclusively… Tyrese!  Is the fellow to his left Dexter?  Will Beth be the victim of a Thomas-like character in lieu of the non-existent twins?  Will they have the meatloaf?  Will Carl have a similar relationship with Beth that he had with Sophia?  The age difference is only four years between the two.  So many questions…

This has already gone on much longer than I anticipated, so I will end this soon… and my apologies for this being more of a recap than a review.  My review is simply, “fucking awesome… I want more”… but that  doesn’t quite make as much of an impact.  If I continue with weekly posts, maybe I will improve on my reviewing for a weekly show… maybe not.

Can’t wait for “Sick” next week… should be fun.

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