The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 1: “Seed”
Written by Glen Mazzara
Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
Almost to a comical degree, the five-minute cold open to The Walking Dead‘s third season opener seems to say: “Yes, we did in fact get the memo.” Our not-so-merry band of survivors (minus Andrea, who’s off elsewhere with Michonne) pick through a house in order to seek food and perhaps temporary shelter. They’re a well-oiled machine – even Carl seems to be quite the shot by now. Most notably of all, no one speaks a word. For a show often, and fairly, criticized for being far too chatty, this is a clear signal to expect a different approach this time around. Hallelujah.
The Walking Dead has never had trouble with beginnings, but “Seed” is hopefully an indicator of how Glen Mazzara and co. plan on pacing and structuring episodes this time out. While there’s a reasonable amount of downtime and “breather” sequences, “Seed” never lets us forget just how thoroughly transformed a hellscape our characters have found themselves in, making those brief moments of respite all the more precious. It strikes just the right balance between serenity and terror, with a heavy emphasis on the latter.
The interpersonal dynamics don’t seem to have changed radically, for the most part – Lori and Rick still have issues, Glenn and Maggie are still awfully fond of each other, and Carol and Daryl still have…whatever that is they’ve got going. One new dynamic, albeit one made a little odd by the apparent age difference, is the budding connection between Hershel’s kin Beth (Emily Kinney) and young Carl. With Hershel as a possible goner – that wound he’s left with by episode’s end doesn’t look like the healing sort – Beth seems likely to bite the dust at some nebulous point later on, if only to spur on Carl’s accelerated maturity. But that’s merely speculation.
Speaking of speculation, Lori speaks out loud some of the grimmest possible outcomes of her chilbirth, of the sort fans have pondered since last season, and it’s even more unsettling now that someone in the show’s universe has iterated them. With that said, unless AMC is prepared to deal with reams of evangelist hate-mail, absolutely none of those ghastly possibilities will ever happen. I think.
Reams of zombie killing, particularly great makeup (the skin peeling off of riot-walker’s helmet!), loads of tension, non-irritating characters beats: more of this, please.
In just a few minutes, the cold open to the season three premiere of The Walking Dead shows great improvement. We are offered much information without a word of dialogue: Carl is grown up and now fully capable of wielding a gun (with a silencer no less) – as is Carol – T-Dog actually gets something to do – Lori is significantly more pregnant, and she and Rick are having some serious marital problems. As it stands, much of Rick’s arc in this episode sees him shouting orders as appose to partaking in Dr. Phil-like conversations with the rest of the gang. His willpower and strength seem to be diminishing rapidly and Rick is no longer the man we once knew. In the comic, Rick would evolve into a darker character, and “Seed” hints that the series will follow through on his transformation.
The highlight of the episode sees Lori and Hershel discuss the ramifications if her child were stillborn, or worse, came out a baby-walker. It was the most horrific, chilling and certainly most compelling moment of “Seed”. This is the sort of dialogue we want.
Those who felt that the extended stay at Hershel’s farm was for the most part, lacking a sense of urgency, should be satisfied by the action that followed tonight. Rick and co. clear the grounds of the West Georgia Correctional Facility swarming with the undead. What followed was genuine ass-kicking and non-stop carnage. Everyone’s body language and teamwork indicated just how much they’ve improved, and the sequences within the prison’s labyrinthine corridors (lit only by their flashlights) was unbearably tense. “Seed” gets in plenty of grotesque kills, fantastic make-up and creature effects – including the multiple chops through Hershel’s leg. Although his bite was easily telegraphed, keeping him alive was unexpected. I wonder how many more dismemberments the living will suffer through? So far that makes two.
Michonne (Danai Gurira) has little to do, decapitating multiple zombies with one slash of her samurai sword, and uttering a handful of words. If “Seed” left us wanting more, it was more Michonne, please.
If The Walking Dead creators do one thing consistently right, its brainstorming creative new ways to take out the undead. How cool was the Riot Gear Zombies? And didn’t you love Maggie’s enthusiasm when she figured out how stop each one?
Like most episodes in The Walking Dead, “Seed” doesn’t have a clear standalone story, and ends with a cliffhanger. It would be interesting to see the creators be a bit more experimental. Perhaps give us a “bottle episode”?