Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Walking Dead 3.1: "Seed"

Yup. It’s that time again… time for Josh Winstead and myself to recap The Walking Dead for y’all! This week marked the return of our favourite zombie show, and since it’s been a while since I’ve watched a show that truly made me squirm in my seat and punch myself in the leg repeatedly while looking down and moaning, “No… no… no… so wrong…” it’s probably time for a quick recap.

Where we left our survivors in S2 (you can read our recap here):

  • Lori showed her true colours: all season long she’d been pushing Shane to take out Rick, and Rick to take out Shane. I believed she truly loved Rick, but when Rick stepped out and killed Shane, she reacted with true revulsion, freaking out that she couldn’t believe Rick would do that. And that’s when you could tell he realized it was Shane she wanted to survive that battle.
  • Carl killed a walker. The little annoying kid who never stayed in the house even though they constantly told him to STAY IN THE DAMN HOUSE finally stepped up and killed a walker. Oh, and Lori’s pretty pissed about that, too.
  • T-Bone disappeared for most of the season and came back at the end and somehow didn’t die.
  • Hershel took out a ton of zombies before vacating his farm because his shotgun happens to carry TWO THOUSAND ROUNDS at once. Amazing.
  • Maggie and Glenn got it on.
  • Fans wished Carol and Daryl would get it on.
  • Hershel did not get it on.
  • Dale died.
  • Hershel’s other daughter, Beth (the suicidal one), also made it off the farm.
  • Andrea split off from the rest of the group and fought off a ton of forest zombies, only to be met by what I referred to in my final recap as “Dark McScary and his two faithful creepazoids,” showing I really had no clue who this person is. For, as we now all know if you’ve followed entertainment news at all this year, Dark McScary is actually a SHE named Michonne.
  • Jack Shephard Sawyer Rick told the gang that there’s a new sheriff in town, and he is it, and secondly, they’re all infected with the zombie virus, and if they die they will reanimate as a walker. They’re pretty ticked off that he had kept this news from them. (Our main discussion post-episode was whether or not this was information he should have shared.)

And that’s where we’re at. So before I bring Josh on board for his opening comments, I’ll just say I really enjoyed this opening episode, especially because for the first time things have been pushed far into the future. We’re now several months later (and even though we saw the prison in the distance, they are only finding it now) and Lori is very, very pregnant, and somehow they still have all their numbers intact. The episode opened with an incredible shot that looks almost like the inside of a seashell, then it pulls back and we realize we were inside a zombie’s eyeball, and it’s as lifeless on the inside as it is on the outside. What an extraordinary shot.

From there we watch our gang move into a house by first killing all the walkers, then going through the cupboards for food, and Carl finds some dog food. He pries it open and Rick sees what he’s doing and, in front of everyone, picks it up and hurls it to the other side of the room. There’s tension you could cut with a knife, and when they see another group of walkers coming they all hop in their cars (Daryl prefers his bike) and leave.

There isn’t a single word uttered in this opening, but the silence is heavy with meaning. Rick and Lori don’t even look at each other, the people aren’t happy with Rick’s leadership, Carl has grown up, Glenn and Maggie are still together, and it is tense. The perfect way to open the season.

What were your initial thoughts on the opening of the episode, Josh?

Joshua: Opening on the close-up of an eye like this seems... familiar somehow. I can't shake the feeling that I've seen it somewhere before. Help me out here, TV Scholar. :)

Well, we're back on This Island Earth, and Jack whoever this eye belongs to has seen better days. So has this kitchen. And whoa, that may be the most desiccated corpse I've ever seen on this show. In fact, everything appears to have continued its steady decline into post-apocalyptic miasma and ruin except our band of merry misfits, who instead have grown lean, cool and ruthlessly efficient in the interim. Or maybe they're just really frickin' hungry.

I too loved the way the lack of dialogue in this sequence further communicated how well the group has adapted to the day-to-day operational demands of their situation, requiring no more than hand signals between them to carry out their search and destroy mission. And, of course, it also served as a poignant reminder of how golden silence has become in a world wherein the noisier you are, the more attention you attract from your ravenous adversaries, a fact further telegraphed by the large handmade-looking silencers on their guns.

All in all, we are given the impression that during the six or seven months' time that has passed since the end of last season, everyone has moved well past the kind of growing pains we previously experienced ad nauseam and have fully accepted their new lot in life, if not exactly embraced it. Even Carl appears quite capable, and now that I think of it, that's a great way to keep up with him – put him on point!

Within the first few minutes after the new credit sequence, Rick has found the prison we saw in the distance at the end of last year's finale, and everyone's quickly delegated to clear the yard for some well-protected campground. The whole group seems much tighter, more like a real team than a loose aggregation borne out of necessity, and I found myself really enjoying their banter for the first time in as long as I can remember – Carol's playful flirting with Daryl, the tenderness between Maggie and Glenn, Hershel urging Beth to sing. Their choice of 'The Parting Glass,' an old traditional farewell song from the British Isles, was a poignant one, and the lyrics in this context gave me chills:

But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.

I thought Emily Kinney's rendition was lovely. She has a singing career on the side, and it shows. (As a side note, I understand the version available on iTunes is orchestrated, not a cappella; I'll try to check it out before next week.)

And then there's Rick, who has certainly made good on his promise of leadership but comes across as haunted and hollow in a way the others don't. We are shown that his relationship with Lori is more strained than ever, despite (or perhaps because of) her growing belly. What do you make of this, Nikki? Is Shane still coming between then, even from beyond the grave?

Nikki: I didn’t actually rewatch the end of season 2 before season 3 began, and it could have been why I was perplexed about his behavior towards Lori in this episode at first, but when I reread our recap of that S2 finale, I was reminded of her hostile reaction to him reassuring her that he did away with Shane and Shane won’t be botherin’ them no more. Rick clearly saw through her in that moment and realized that she wanted to be with Shane over him. Now, several months later (hard to tell since she was a month or two into her pregnancy at the end of S2 and now she’s near the end, so maybe 7 months later?) she’s come to terms with Shane being gone, and knows Rick is her only hope of a relationship, and obviously she still has feelings for him. But he’s decided to bury his feelings (again like a certain doctor we’re both very familiar with) and has hardened himself to the group. He’s more of an army commander out of necessity, and can’t let Lori cloud his judgment by getting in his way, so he just nudges her aside.

However, watch how instantly concerned he is when Carol comes out and asks for Hershel in the jail cell.

The jailbreak scene (er… what do you call it when someone is breaking INTO a jail?) was gruesome and horrific, and made me groan with disgust and look away more than once. As you say, these people are no longer a haphazard group of survivors throwing rocks and shrieking as they run away: they are killing machines, and they’re REALLY good at it. They move swiftly and efficiently, doing away with the zombies usually with a single stab. Though I’ll admit, my husband and I couldn’t figure out why they’d throw open the gates and go right in there, when clearly the zombies are stupid enough to walk right up to the fence and you could take them all out, one by one, without ever risking anything. That said, they did move pretty quickly to do the job on this one. And it wouldn’t have been as entertaining for us as an audience to watch them jabbing people through a fence for half an hour.

Two moments of fan service I loved in this one:
  • Carol propositioning Daryl: something we’ve wanted all along (though she was joking).
  • Rick saying, “Carl? Stay behind.” HAHA! Both my husband and I simultaneously through our arms up in the air and made noises of disgust. And then… he stayed. Turns out, the only thing that’ll keep Ranger Carl rooted to one spot is a super-cute girl.

So what did you make of the Andrea/Michonne situation? You probably know something about Andrea’s illness via the books, but I’m thinking it could just be a flu. Something small could bring a person down and spell death in this new world.

Joshua: Actually, I don't recall Andrea's illness being part of the comic's narrative. If memory serves, Michonne appears outside the walls of the prison one day, saves Otis' life (who was around a while longer in the books) and is assimilated into the group. The show obviously has other designs for her. But flu (with maybe a bacterial complication like pneumonia) is what I thought, too, and you're absolutely right in that it could easily be deadly without a source of medication or even a place to rest. Their storyline was only grazed in this episode, but we did get a nice implication of the closeness that has developed between them with their brief exchange in the cooler. I am more curious about the ambiguity of Andrea's statement that “They're coming,” which almost gave the impression they're being pursued. It could certainly have been referring only to walkers in general, but I like the idea that there might be more going on than meets the eye. At any rate, I assume the two of them will get more focus in Sunday's outing.

Since you discussed the jailbreak, I want to make special mention of the zombies in riot gear, which I thought was a great way of turning the situation on its ear by introducing a simple, logical element that complicated their raid in a truly novel way and worked wonders ratcheting up the tension in an already tense scene. It also gave Maggie a perfect moment to shine when she figures out how to foil the helmet by stabbing up through the chin, a technique that everyone else immediately adopts to expert result.

Also, face-off = awesome.

Once they get inside the prison, we get another great sequence of social moments – the  second of the episode – with Glenn checking Maggie for scratches, and Carl in Beth's cell, with Hershel appearing at the perfect moment to foil his play for top bunk, and Rick moving off by himself. I love the balance they struck this week, with these intermediary personal scenes to offset the violence and horror, and I think it bodes well for the season as a whole if they look to maintain a similar tone throughout. I loved the use of your Canadian compatriot Patrick Watson's beautiful song 'Quiet Sunday' too, which is my favorite from his recent album and was perfect accompaniment for their moments of repose.

But, of course, the quiet never lasts long on 'The Walking Dead.' Rick, knowing Lori could give birth any day and desperate to provide the group with a safe haven after months of being on the run, has them press on into the interior of the compound, to predictably horrific results. How's that for a cliffhanger? Yikes.

Nikki: Not only that, but looks like Lori may be out of luck for a delivery doctor. Eep. I was so happy to see that Hershel was still with the gang after all these months, and so sad to see that he might be the first major casualty of the season. But mostly, as I said aloud to my husband, what the hell will Lori do if the doc isn’t there to deliver the baby? (Poor Hershel, reduced to his occupation…) I guess we’re going back to the basics: she wouldn’t be the first woman to deliver a baby on her own. At least she’s surrounded by other people who are survivalists.

And the face-off scene may have topped the zombie body breaking in half as they pulled it out of the well. Geeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh…..

Next week, I’m looking forward to seeing if Carl will continue to stand still, if Hershel can survive having his leg amputated (good GOD that scene was horrible to watch; in fact, I’ll confess now that I covered my eyes) and what the deal is with Andrea and Michonne. But mostly, finding out who the other human beings are inside the compound. The fact that they’re all in prisoner clothing doesn’t bode well (they aren’t exactly upstanding citizens by the looks of it) but Rick will have to swallow his morality and team up with them if he wants to survive, methinks.

One note, however: I’m wondering if Carl can possibly survive this season? I worry he’s going to suffer from Lost’s Walt Syndrome: they have a young actor who is noticeably aging every year, and they can’t keep zipping us ahead 7 months every time we start a new season. Will they off him just to keep the storyline consistent?

Any final thoughts, Josh?

Joshua: Scott Wilson has done such a terrific job with his portrayal of Hershel, and he was breaking my heart as he weathered the agony of those moments post-chomp. Rick was fast on the hatchet, though, so maybe he'll pull through. Sheriff's hats off to Andrew Lincoln for his performance in that scene, as well; I was so captivated by the two of them that I have no recollection of what anyone else in the room was doing at the time, Maggie included.

Speaking of anyone else in the room, I think you're correct that the dirty new faces in prison jumpsuits are reason for concern. But it has been many months since the fall of the world; maybe they're all simply former guards who raided the laundry for clean clothes. Right? Let's be positive here. I'm sure none of them are institutionalized lunatics driven further toward frenzied psychosis by the dawn of the zombie apocalypse. They're probably all perfectly nice boys, just in desperate need of a bath. In fact, I hereby predict that next episode will be all about making fire, for the shared purposes of ghastly hatchet wound cauterization and warming bath water.

Bits & Bobs:

  Daryl's new Man-With-No-Name poncho gets a big thumbs up from me.
  Still no substance to T-Dog's character at all. I hope they figure out what to do with him soon, because it's gotten a bit ridiculous at this point.
  MICHONNE. Finally. (That delicious snarl, by the way? Never leaves her face.)
  Despite the addition of a samurai sword to the ever-broadening combat arsenal, this episode's pitchfork-and-clawhammer combo may be my new favorite.
  I neglected to mention so earlier, but the conversation between Lori and Hershel about the birth and its enormous potential for atrocity accomplished something I wasn't sure possible: it made me feel sympathetic toward Lori. Well-written, well-played. Nice work all around.

And that's it for this week, folks. Cinch up those tourniquets and elevate the injury; it's gonna seem like a long time until Sunday night.


Joel said...

There's an interesting interview on Collider with Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori) that touches on Rick's killing of Shane:

"What’s gone wrong between them is not that I told him to watch his back and he killed Shane. I think we were both very clearly on the same page that that had to happen. In some ways, that was a big success. I warned my husband that someone was going to try to kill him, he tried to kill him, and the right man came out of the fight. But then, he tells me that he wanted him dead and I recoil from him, instead of embracing him and making him feel safe. That’s one of the things I love about the way this marriage has been written. This is not a couple that’s pissed off because she had an affair and he killed the guy. That’s the obvious version. This is a couple that’s heartbroken because she’s afraid that he has turned into Shane by killing him."

The heart of their pain is what the show is really all about. What happens to our humanity when we strip away society? Lori wants/needs Rick to be a decent guy in an indecent world (with epic zombie kills).

Interview here:

Teebore said...

I thought this episode was pretty great, with that silent cold opening one of the best sequences in the show's history.

That said, Walking Dead always opens (and closes) strong, so I'm really hoping the prison doesn't turn into the Farm Redux we're left with a ton of narrative stagnation in the middle of the season again.

my husband and I couldn’t figure out why they’d throw open the gates and go right in there, when clearly the zombies are stupid enough to walk right up to the fence and you could take them all out, one by one, without ever risking anything.

On that same token, my wife and I thought it was dumb that everyone unloaded on the zombies in the yard after Rick closed the gate; ammo was said to be scarce, and it was clear the zombies would walk right up to the fence to get stabbed in the brain to death. And the ones that wouldn't could be easily taken out hand-to-hand since they were spread out enough. So why waste the ammo?

Also, why not stab the brain of every zombie you come across, even one that appears to be dead? If they had done that as they moved through the prison, Hershel never would have been bitten.

Page48 said...

"the little annoying kid...finally stepped up and killed a walker"

Mustn't forget that Carl was the little annoying kid who cowboyed up and ended the hopes and dreams of Shane Walker last season. You want a piece of Rick, you gotta go thru Carl first.

Forget the prison, these guys need to break in to a laundromat.

I was hoping Michonne would sound like Buffy's Kendra