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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Walking Dead plants the "Seed" for another stellar season

AMC's The Walking Dead, one of cable television's most popular shows, deservedly so, returned for a third season this week to record-breaking numbers. The premiere, "Seed," picks up months after last season ends, the little band of survivors having made it through a tough winter, scrounging for supplies and avoiding the walker herd that is still circling. But light might be at the end of the tunnel when they come across an abandoned prison they decide to make their new home.

These characters have changed since we last saw them. Whereas before, they semi-panicked and scattered when faced with walkers, now they have a military-like precision in taking the undead out, and a unified escape plan for when more are coming. True, they aren't fighting nearly as many at once as they did on Hershel's farm, but they also seem more confident, tougher. They have become a group of fighters at last.

This can only help them to survive in the dangerous world. There is no way they would be able to make inroads to the prison, clearing the undead from a couple of sections, if they did not have the earlier practice. They may not always be working as one, but they are much better prepared than previously. This makes for a thrilling show to watch, and provides several adrenaline-fueling, action-packed sequences, including having to battle walkers in riot gear!

But as they become killing machines, how will that affect their humanity? Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is detached, keeping emotional distance from everyone, including his own wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), even while he makes it the group's mission to find a safe place for her to give birth. Their marriage is on the rocks, with Rick seemingly wanting little to do with her, even while focused on helping her. Is this what it takes to be a leader strong enough to keep the group alive? Or are their martial problems deeper than that?

Unfortunately, "Seed" picks up with Rick and Lori's spat already in progress, so we don't know the extent or cause of it for sure yet. At the end of last season, Lori is upset at Rick for killing Shane, and Rick has seemingly gotten over Lori sleeping with Shane when they justifiably believed that Rick was dead. But now it's Rick, not Lori, doing the pushing away. Is it because the baby is close, and Rick realizes that it could very well be Shane's kid? Or is there something else going on?

Rick isn't the only one who has changed. Carl (Chandler Riggs) is part of the advance team, taking out zombies as they move into a new house. After killing Walker Shane, Rick's son is leaving childhood behind, acting like a contributing adult member of the group. No one even follows him as they move through the house, with Carl left alone to take out a walker, which he does with ease. It's cool that he is no longer a liability, but I can't help but feel some innocence has been lost, and that's regrettable, even if it is necessary for survival. Though his little crush on Beth (Emily Kinney), and the way in which handles it, is cute and childlike, proving he hasn't completely turned. Also, the fact that Rick doesn't let Carl help clear the prison, where there are likely to be far more walkers than in a small house, is telling.

Others have softened rather than hardened. The flirting between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) has grown more open, with them possibly being involved sexually. Everyone needs a little solace in this tough time, and it's nice that they've found each other. It doesn't seem to prevent Daryl from being as effective as ever with the crossbow, and Carol has become a decent shot, so their happiness isn't hurting anyone else. Good for them!

We see a similar thing with Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), albeit without the sex. Both were alone, and they have found each other. Michonne is refusing to abandon Andrea, even as she becomes a sick burden. It's this loyalty and sticking together quality in the face of so much danger that inspires hope for the characters' continued survival, and optimism about the perseverance of the human race after this terrible epidemic.

One has to wonder if the prison will turn out to be the safe haven that they've hoped for. Already in "Seed," the group has found more walkers than they expected inside, had to cut off Hershel's (Scott Wilson) leg to possibly stop a walker bite from turning him, and encountered live people who are probably prisoners. None of these plots has time to be fully explored in "Seed," so it's uncertain what each will lead to. But for now, it certainly appears that, while the prison defenses may keep a herd at bay (at least for awhile), it is just as deadly, if not more so, inside than out.

Now, those who have read the comics might think that they already know what each of these threads has in store. In the book (SPOILER ALERT!), most of the prisoners turn out be relatively harmless, though one is murderous. The prison is a safe haven until the Governor attacks. Cutting off a limb works, though it is Dale, not Hershel, whom this happens to. And Lori gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl.

But I would caution that this may not be the case. The Walking Dead TV series has already strayed many times. Obviously, Dale being dead already is one of those things, Daryl isn't even in the books (as of issue 96, as far as I've read, though he is supposedly going to be added), and Carol tries to start a threesome with Rick and Lori, something that probably won't be necessary given her connection to Daryl. So anything could really happen. Maybe Lori is right, and she will have a stillborn child who will infect her and eat her alive. Maybe Hershel won't survive. The show takes place in a world filled with threats, and the writers have thrown enough surprises and twists in to teach us not to take anything for granted.

It's hard to make any huge generalizations about season three so far, just from "Seed." But it looks like the characters are tougher, ready to fight, and they are relatively stable for the time being. Plus, this premiere has a TON of walker slaughter, a favorite among many fans. So it's a satisfying return for a fantastic series.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. Talking Dead, a talk show hosted by The Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick, about the series, which is kind of neat, airs at 11 p.m. ET on AMC.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my website, JeromeWetzel.com! First posted on TheTVKing

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