It’s finally here: the season three premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC (but not on Dish…I promise that’s the last time I’ll say that). The last season found our survivors of the zombie apocalypse holed up at the Greene family barn for the duration, until a host of walkers (and some dramatic deaths) drove them from the land. Tonight’s opener showed us that the long winter has hardened the team into a well-oiled machine, but they’re in dire need of shelter for a very pregnant Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Hit the jump to check out our recap and review, plus bonus items like body counts, best kill, best zombie/effect and number of casualties in the season three premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Let’s get to it dead-heads! I’ll start off each article with a brief review of the episode before we get into critical specifics. Tonight’s premiere opens with a five-minute sequence devoid of dialogue, other than the hoot of an owl (which quickly became dinner) or Rick’s whistle signaling the “all clear.” The gang clears Walkers out of an abandoned home and finds little in the way of supplies (nice find on the dog food, Carl!). As Walkers swarm the area, it’s clear that this home is not a fitting shelter and the gang moves on. Luckily, they happen upon a prison (that was fast!) and set to clearing it of the undead. It’s the gang’s first victory of sorts in a long time, but Rick pushes them harder to clear the whole prison out and make sure it’s safe. All’s well until an ill-timed raid puts the crew in danger as they get caught between two packs of Walkers in an unlit and unmapped section of the prison. One of their number is wounded and they find that the undead are not the only things that walk the prison.
But how about that opening? Five minutes straight with no dialogue as the tactical team of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and a rapidly-growing-up Carl (Chandler Riggs) clear out the abandoned house, signaling for Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to come in to help finish off the stragglers. Once clear, they’re joined by Lori, Carol (Melissa McBride), Beth (Emily Kinney) and Hershel (Scott Wilson). Where’s Andrea (Laurie Holden), you ask? More on that in a moment. After what’s clearly been a long, hard winter, Lori is super pregnant and the whole crew is hard up for food. Carl happens upon two cans of dog food and sets to prepare them, but Rick’s pride still won’t allow it. As the resurgent Walkers chase them from the house, it’s easy to see that Rick has whipped them into a well-trained unit that operates with precision and without question.
I’m digging the credit sequence for this season, one that shows images of abandoned homes and storefronts and finally settles on the prison, in what’s sure to be the structural focal point going forward. And wouldn’t you know, as the crew just happens to stop to reconnoiter, Daryl and Rick happen upon the prison. For anyone who’s complained about the lack of zombie kills in the past, you got your money’s worth in this episode. Kills abound from both a long distance and up-close-and-personal as the survivors clear the prison yard of the shambling dead. Like shooting fish in a barrel (and I’ll be damned if every single one of them isn’t an expert marksman now). Regarding plot, the takeaway from this scene is that no one questions Rick any more and they all appear the better for it. Less hesitation, less time bickering, more time killing to survive.
There’s a sweet scene that unfolds here as the gang settles in around a campfire in their new home. They start to talk about plans for the yard, bringing in water and planting crops. It’s a nod to the fact that they still hold out for hope of a normal life in this harsh new existence. Daryl and Carol continue to show signs of a reluctant romance, although Carol is a bit more forward and actually lightens up quite a bit! The “Innocence Award” goes to Beth Greene for her rendition of “The Parting Glass” sung around the campfire. Things were almost back to normal until Skulking Rick comes back his perimeter patrol to tell them all to rest up for another recon mission in the morning.
It’s here that an interesting discussion takes place between Lori and Rick. After the complicated and messy end of Shane (Jon Bernthal) last season, things were left…well, complicated and messy. With Lori’s reaction to Rick’s confession fresh in my mind, I expected this heart-to-heart to be Rick still trying to win Lori over. Boy was I wrong! Lori’s character is the most likable I’ve ever seen her in the series; she’s patient with Rick and only wants what’s best for her baby. Rick ain’t havin’ it!
Half-way through the show, we get to our first introduction to the new character, the katana-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira). She carves up Walkers in search of aspirin, which seems a risky venture. Turns out, “A” is for aspirin and it’s also for Andrea, who has partnered up with Michonne but is looking under the weather. As I haven’t kept up with the comics, I’m not 100% sure why Michonne has two armless, jawless Walkers chained up with her (please don’t ruin it for me or anyone else in the comments!), but it’s an interesting visual to say the least. After a brief pissing contest, Michonne and Andrea leave their shelter in search of greener pastures.
Back at the prison, Rick and the crew are pushing on, clearing out Walkers with hand-to-head combat. Sure, you’ve got your general prisoner zombies, some civilian zombies, but the best Walkers, hands down, goes to the Undead Riot Guards! What a great kill sequence and the Face-Peeler effects here were outstanding. You would think that once Rick secured a cell block and got considerably improved housing for his crew, he’d be happy, right? Wrong. Even after that victory, he turns a cold shoulder to a thankful Lori. This, in part, sets Lori off on a tirade of morbid thoughts that she confides to Hershel. Hershel does his best to assuage her fears of: a) an undead baby in her womb that may or may not attempt to crawl out, b) the fact that she may die in childbirth and c) may then team up with her undead baby to attack them all. I hear that all pregnant women have the same concerns.
Lori also happens to be concerned about Carl, who has fallen in lock-step with Rick (Carl even continues to wear Rick’s hat). I love Carl in this first episode and I think he’ll win over a lot of naysayers. The kid is growing up and has shown he can handle a bit of responsibility as well as his weapon. He’s also showing interest in Beth Greene. The awkward scene when Hershel good-naturedly chases him out of Beth’s prison cell was deftly done. But as grown up as he may be (or may be becoming), Rick still leaves him back in the protected cell block when he leads Daryl, T-Dog, Glenn, Maggie and…Hershel (?!) on an ill-fated mission to explore the rest of the prison.
The last sequence of the premiere was definitely the most tense: the gang, in the dark, exploring unfamiliar territory with only a can of spray paint to mark their way. Of course, once the panic sets in at being trapped between two groups of Walkers, you can forget about your damned bread crumbs! As Glenn and Maggie get separated from the others, it turns out that the poor unfortunate soul to be the first victim of the undead in season three is none other than Hershel Greene himself. As he searched for Maggie, a crafty little Walker playing dead (like real dead) chomped him in the calf. The only thing more surprising than Rick hacking Hershel’s leg off with a dull ax was the fact that the next room over housed more survivors dressed up like the living dead. Holy shit!
Rating: 7/10, because although it was a great premiere, I want to leave room for episodes that stand out both for the excellent and for the abysmal. If “Seed” is our benchmark, it’s going to be a helluva season!
- I love Crossbow Poncho Daryl! Collect ‘em all!
- Glenn and Maggie: you’re cute. Keep it up. One of you will probably die soon.
- Not sure how I feel about the Andrea/Michonne team up, but for right now it’s an interesting change of pace from the central group.
- Zombies in riot gear? Awesome! +2 DEF!
- Our survivors seem a lot smarter this season, but trying to shoot/stab a Walker through riot gear…c’mon. Also, Maggie, stop celebrating every kill or someone’s gonna bite you when you’re not looking, dummy.
- Also, WHY THE HELL DID YOU TAKE OLD MAN HERSHEL INTO THE ZOMBIE-INFESTED PRISON?!
- Holy shit…I lost track. I’ll try to do better on a second run-through.
- There were a lot, but this week’s best kill has to go to the cold-blooded one-shot from Carl in the show’s opening as he doesn’t hesitate to put a bullet in the head of a Walker. The kid is growing up fast.
- I loved the riot gear zombies, but the best one was the critter whose face peeled away when his riot helmet was removed! Great, great effects work all around in this episode with some “How’d they get that shot?” moments and kills.
- It looks like Hershel is the first victim to fall prey to the Walkers this season. As a Walker bite took a big chunk out of his calf, Rick took the rest of his leg below the knee without hesitation, though I think he could have sharpened that ax a little better.
Join us next week for another recap and review of The Walking Dead! Be sure to leave your comments and suggestions below.