It’s Baaaaack: Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 1 Recap and Review
Posted by Alan Edwards
As I’ve said before, I was giddy with anticipation for the return of the world’s least capable crew of survivors. That was sarcasm, because apparently we’re saying that now. To be honest, I was terrified to see this show coming back, and it had nothing to do with jump-scares and zombie gore. No, I was terrified for another season of Carl being an idiot, Rick being indecisive, Shane being dead, T-Dog being background filler, and Lori being Lori. Well, although some things never change (cough LORI YOU USELESS HUSK OF A HUMAN BEING cough), other things have, even pleasantly so. Overall, and being totally honest here, I didn’t hate this episode. I know, right? What’s next, a sudden burgeoning love for musical theater, soccer, fried okra, flip-flops, and country music?
So anyway, the episode opens with some of the Old Group busting into a house SWAT-style. Rick, Darryl, Glenn, and T-Dogg (1 g or two? Can’t remember. I’ll randomly add G’s to be correct at least once) are commando-raiding a typical suburban place, and – wait – who is that? IT’S CARL! IN THE HOUSE! PEOPLE KNOW WHERE HE IS! HE’S DOING WHAT HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE DOING! It’s mind-blowing. So they’re going through the house with what appears to be homemade silencers, and like all great movie silencers, they reduce the sound of a firearm to approximately that of a blowgun, which is very nearly almost exactly the opposite of their effectiveness, but that’s OK. The crew moves through with a precision completely lacking in any previous show, dispatching the inhabitants of the house (it’s cool, they’re already dead). Of course, that doesn’t prevent Rick and Darryl from almost killing each other during a dramatic door-opening, but that makes for good TV or something.
The house secured, everyone goes looking for food while the rest of the group huddles in the kitchen. We’re given our second clue that some time has passed – the first being that the group manages to do something without having to stop for philosophical debates or macho posturing or moral quandaries - when Lori shows up all swollen and hugely pregnant. A slow shot of everyone waiting while Carl opens the two cans of dog food they found displays the thin sunken faces and hollow eyes of a group of seriously hungry people. Of course, Rick, being the stoic leader that he is, knowing how desperate their situation, picks up the can of dog food and hurls it away angrily and full of pathos, demonstrating his impotent anger at the horrible circumstances the group is forced to live under. Meanwhile, everyone looks at him like, Dude, what the fuck, I’m pretty fucking hungry and would really like a share of that Alpo, so have your fucking temper tantrum elsewhere and let us enjoy our marrowbone jelly in peace. Rick doesn’t give a fuck, because he’s got some jaw-clenchin’ to do.
After that, it’s Exposition Time. The group looks at a map and explains that the winter was tough, their attempts to go various directions were cut off by herds (I think T-Doggg said something about 150 people being in one. This is a group that is in motor vehicles unable to get past a pretty small amount of zombies. I hope they realize that everywhere else is going to be worse and to man the fuck up. Anyway.), and that they have managed, over the course of autumn and a long winter, to end up exactly where they left off before, only this time they come across the prison they were half a mile away from at the end of last season. Ahh, Rick. He’s like the Christopher Columbus of the apocalypse, only much, much worse in every way.
So they find the prison, and Rick’s stoked, because a prison will have medical supplies, kitchens, armories, walls, all kinds of shit. They’re gonna take this motherfucker over. A group unable to drive through a group of zombies is going to systematically clean an entire prison out with hand weapons (they’re getting low on ammo). Sounds reasonable. They start with the outer yard, running along the chain link fence dispatching zombies as they come wandering over to the fence. Apparently, all that’s needed to kill a zombie is a good abrasion of the skin on their head, because thrusting a a blunt lead pipe 4 inches into one’s face is enough to kill it forever and ever. Seriously, one of their weapons didn’t even have a point on it. I’m not sure a living person would have gotten a bruise from the blow, but the undead drop like stones. That aside, the group again actually shows good tactics and doesn’t do anything dramatic or stupid. That’s why I’m nitpicking, because a) it’s fun, and b) so far there hasn’t been a lot to bitch about. Anyway, they go along, go into the inner yard, and clear it out using their usual uncanny ability to make headshots on the run, at long distances, behind their backs, eyes closed, whatever. They carve a safe spot outside before their big push tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in a convenience store or gas station or something, a door opens. A bell tings. A zombie hears it and shuffles around slowly as a shadow darts across the aisle behind it. Like a ninja. Sigh. Here we go. There’s three zombies. The lead one – thwack – head gone. Because it’s a vorpal katana, obvs, like every slightly curved single-edged blade ever made. Just wave it at a neck and heads pop off. The other two zombies are lined up front to back, and jesus christ I can barely even type it without shaking my head at how fucking lame this is, so they’re in an aisle, right, not like a grocery store aisle but a shitty gas station aisle, ok, like kinda narrow and shit, when suddenly ZING the magical force of awesomeness that can only be a MOTHERFUCKING KATANA BECAUSE MOTHERFUCKING KATANAS ARE THE SHIT, RIGHT, LIKE A FUCKING FORCE OF FUCKING NATURE, anyway, the blade swings in this narrow-ass aisle and cuts off both of the zombies’ heads simultaneously.
Look, I get it. They’re trying to show that this character is a bad-ass, capable of feats beyond the human ken, a survivor, someone not to be trifled with, but the double-decap is really, really, really fucking stupid. If I was 8, it would’ve been great. I’m not. It’s physically fucking impossible to do that. I can buy the dead walking. I can’t buy the complete rewriting of physics. Maybe next episode the magical katana wielder will leap in the air and hang there for several seconds in defiance of gravity while she builds up her fucking chi power to do a dragon kick that sends 50 zombies through a stone wall and her hair stands straight up and turns blonde and all these lines of force come out of her and WHY THE FUCK DOES THERE HAVE TO BE A MAGICAL FUCKING SWORD THIS ISN’T THUNDARR THE FUCKING BARBARIAN OR HE-MAN OR SOME FUCKING SHIT FUCK FUCK FUCK GODDAMNIT I HATE THE MAGICAL KATANA RULE.
Whew, OK, I feel better now.
Now, as much as I hate the sword bullshit, the actual talking scenes with Michionne and Andrea, who’s sick and weak and clearly not doing too well, was good. I like the actress who plays Michionne, and she does a great job when they aren’t asking her to be Silver Samurai. They don’t actually have much going on other than to indicate that they need to move, but there wasn’t any bickering, moralizing, moping, or otherwise Season Two-esque dialogue, so it was a good scene. I like Michonne. I hope her sword snaps in half.
Back to the other group, and my least-favorite scene of the whole show. Yes, worse than the two-for-one special earlier. So the group is sitting there, in the inner yard of a prison, eating some nasty food. Herschel, watching Rick walk around the fence, has apparently become Rick’s PR agent over the winter as he intones that Rick will never stop walking and checking that fence, looking for weak spots, because he’s awesome and deserves a contract extension and a huge signing bonus. Then he turns to the blonde chick from last year, the one that wanted to off herself, and asks her to sing. To fucking sing. In the middle of a prison while they’re starving to death. She’s all like, No, I can’t, but you can tell she really wants to be begged to do it and that she’s gonna do it anyway, so Herschel suggests a different song and she’s all like OK and starts singing. So we’re forced to watch her sing, and Maggie joins her later as they do a duet, and she’s got a nice voice and all, but what the fuck is up with the fucking singing, I hate pointless singing, argghhh, whatever, fine, if it’s either this or extolling the virtues of the Hyundai or Toyota or whatever they fuck car they show (and yes, it’s still sparkly clean and dent-free, BUY ONE TODAY!) I’d rather gouge my earballs out, but whatever. Rumor has it that she’s got some kind of record deal with the network, so her singing is product placement. Yay. Her voice is nice, she’s pretty, I get it, but please, for the love of all that is holy, leave out the singing next time.
So the next day the Alpha Team (Rick, Maggie, T-Dog, Glenn, probably someone else, whatever) starts going through the next series of fences to get into the prison proper. All hand weapons, stabby stabby machete machete poke poke, oh look, zombies in riot gear, no biggie, chin up stabby stabby, we’re in! It was a good action scene, although I’m not sure a crossbow bolt fired at close range into a riot helmet’s visor would just flutter pathetically to the ground without at least making the dude’s head snap back, but whatever. The group gets in and takes over a cell block. The non-coms come in and get cozy in cells. Carl, who now looks like 7 inches taller and less like Beaver Cleaver compared to last year, looks like he’s gonna try to mack on Singin’ Chick but Herschel chases him off. Carl was a pleasant surprise for me so far. He’s not an annoying little shit.
Then comes my favorite scene. Herschel gets called to see Lori, Rick asks why, and Singin’ Chick is like, “Stuff, you know,” because secrets and not telling people what’s going on is cool. The old veterinarian shows up and Lori just babbles like Lori always does, my kid, life is dangerous, I don’t know what’s going to happen, while both my and Herchel’s eyes glaze over because he probably has to hear this shit every night and I can’t fucking stand her. So (and this is what makes it my favorite scene) Lori then goes into this long speech about how if she comes back as a walker or her kid does or anything then Herschel has to promise, promise, to put her down. Meanwhile, Herschel’s just looking at her and probably thinking, If you come back as a walker? Fuck, I’m barely able to stop myself from killing you right now you stupid whiny asshat, I could just reach forward and squeeze your chicken neck and stop the incessant stream of trombone noises you make at all hours of the fucking day and night, you never shut the fuck up, believe me you manipulative harpy I can end you at any point without breaking a sweat or feeling the slightest bit of remorse. You can see all of those thoughts in his eyes. Or maybe it’s just me.
So later on, the Alpha Team plus Herschel, because he’s old and doesn’t move well and is the only medically trained person in the group and therefore a perfect addition to the strike team, moves deeper into the prison looking for shit. Glenn’s painting arrows to show the way back, they’re in full-on commando mode again, when they run into a group of zombies. They react like the Scooby Gang and go running back, only now there are a billion zombies coming out since they apparently passed a shitload of hallways without checking them out or something, Maggie and Glenn get split and hide in a closet or something while the others are chased into a different one. The rest of the group looks at each other, says, “Where are Maggie and Glenn?!” and open the door, but luckily all the zombies have already gone away and the groups just walk back to each other. I swear it all happens that fast. Run run run, hurry into closet, wait 10 seconds, coast is clear. OK.
So they’re walking back, and there is a corpse sitting against the wall in the hallway. Since the world is overrun by the reanimated dead, it makes perfect sense for Herschel to not skirt the body or for anyone to poke it or whatever because, I mean, what are the odds that a corpse is going to attack you in the zombie apocalypse anyway, so Herschel steps over it and it sits up and is all like CHOMP that is one tasty looking Achilles tendon do you mind if I just sink in and tear that out in a big bloody chunk, thanks, don’t mind if I do. So everyone’s freaking out and they drag Herschel back to the group and everyone is all WTF and panicky and they see a group come up to a window and they’re like WTF zombies but then the person on the other side of the glass is all like WTF people and everyone realizes the two groups are alive and that’s it episode ends.
All in all, it was a good episode. I mean, sure, there are unrealistic bits and dumb bits and boring conversations, but the group is finally being portrayed as being at least semi-competent. Sometimes. Anyway, there was a minimum of hand-wringing and brow furrowing and jaw clenching, especially compared to last season. Darryl is still the best thing ever, Carl is actually no longer a walking plot device, Rick looks like he’s gonna go full-on Colonel Kurtz at any point, and T-Dogg actually got some lines of dialogue. I shit you not. It was leaps and bounds better than any episode last season and hearkened back to the Atlanta episodes of Season 1 as action bits. I actually have some hope for the show.
It’s a weird feeling.