The Walking Dead: Seed Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 15, 2012
This is a very, very strong start for the third season of The Walking Dead. We see many wondrous things in this opening 46 minute shot- a new opening credits sequence, Carl wielding a hand cannon almost half his size, something very bad happening to someone we like very much, and quite possibly more gore and zombie kills than in the entire second season combined. Make no mistake- The Walking Dead came to play, with an expanded 16 episodes and the story entering territory loved by fans of the comic, this machine of a Television show may get bigger still. We're gonna dig into this thing, so consider yourself warned- there be massive spoilers below.
Before I tear into "Seed", let me quickly tell you where my head is at concerning the show, after all- we'll be surviving the hordes together for the rest of the season. I started reading the comic from the very first issue, and although I'm a little behind at the moment, I'm still years ahead of the show. I accepted early on that the show will differ from the comic, as the show runners have always said. Therefore, just because an episode deviates from the printed page, doesn't make it a negative in my eyes. I thought the CDC finale of season 1 was an interesting and welcome addition, and I think keeping Shane alive for as long as they did only strengthened the show. The showdown in the moonlight between the two best friends was worth every extra second. Is the show perfect? No, but the good far outweighs the bad, and it's easily one of the most exciting hours of television every week.
"Seed" starts rather brilliantly. The entire pre-credits sequence plays out without a single word of dialogue, yet we are told everything we need to know. This is obviously not the group's first home invasion, and it's clear this way of life has begun to take its toll. The desperation is palpable as Carl nearly succumbs to eating a can of dog food. Speaking of Carl, he's definitely gained some courage in the face of the undead. I love that this show, which grows in ratings and popularity with every new episode, still finds ways to stretch its artistic muscles, and composes a pitch perfect opening short to reintroduce us into their world.
And what a reintroduction it is- anyone complaining about The Walking Dead's pace should be humbled by the clip this episode runs at. As I said above- there's enough action here to please even the most stalwart fans of decapitation and evisceration. A season has passed since we last saw our ragged group of survivors, and they certainly used the winter months to practice their aim and bludgeoning abilities. Once they find the prison, they eliminate an entire yard of walkers with Swiss watch-like precision. This is a good thing, progress is felt, even if we all know the unpredictable undead can take away a tactical advantage in a heartbeat. If their skill with a firearm has improved, their ability to communicate has diminished, at least when it comes to Rick and Lori. Last season we watched Lori shrug Rick off with dagger eyes after she found out what he did to Shane, now it's Rick who is giving Lori short shrift every time she makes an advance. He's still doing everything he can to make sure their baby will be born in a safe and secure place, but he has no time for anything Lori has to say. In fact, they barely even look at each other anymore. Emotionally, Lori has been pretty much unpredictable for the entire show, but her current headspace makes sense given the situation. She is about to give birth, and she is essentially alone, particularly with her fears. They now know that everyone is infected with the disease, but how does that affect a baby that is being born? Could it come full term infected and tear its way out of Lori's womb? Thoughts like these keep Lori up at night, Rick not so much.
This episode is all about structure. From the wandering, nomadic existence the group lived for the past few months, comes fences, walls and towers. Instead of scattering outward, they are determinedly making their way inward. It's almost video game-like in the way things play out. They have to conquer a new area to move on to the next- first the outer fence, then the yard, then the cell block and finally comes the interior maze of hallways. Along the way the encounter upgraded walkers, well, sort of- we are introduced to riot gear zombies. It's a cool moment, as the armor clad zombies are impervious to traditional dispatching methods, even Daryl's ever-reliable crossbow bolts just bounce off harmlessly. Like a rebel snow speeder on Hoth, our group finds the AT-AT's weak spot, and watching them bring down the riot-walkers is good bloody fun. The structure also brings a bit of uneasy tension to everything- sure they clear out a cell block, but "safe" or not, the idea of sleeping in a cell in zombieland is absolutely terrifying.
Michonne is everything you hoped she would be. Danai Guira portrays her with a confident, matter-of-fact feel. There are walkers, she has a katana, the rest is bloody history. I have no doubt the special effects crew worked overtime in the off season making an endless amount of severed heads and limbs. Despite accepting the cruel world she now lives in, Michonne is actually quite caring. She mows down walkers for a small packet of asprin, which she then brings to a very sick Andrea. Her cold steel is replaced with a warm heart, as it's evident she's been caring for Andrea all this time, and refuses to leave her for (un)dead. When and how Michonne interacts with the rest of our cast is something I am very much looking forward to.
So, back to the dark maze at the heart of the prison. For all their calculated badassery, a horde of walkers in a confined space will take the acumen out of anyone, and our group is no exception. The dungeon crawling through the catacombs, lit only by flashlight, is a wonderfully tense scene to end the episode on. Things go to pot incredibly quick, and the claustrophobia will get the best of you. With so many walkers being offered up to the god of mayhem, it was only a matter of time until they took one back, or at least an Achilles tendon. In an interview I did with Andrew Lincoln this past weekend, he said there was a scene they shot that left him so wired and disturbed that he couldn't sleep for hours. The scene doesn't disappoint, and Lincoln plays it perfectly.
I think on its own, this is one of The Walking Dead's finest episodes, and a hell of a beginning to the new season. There's a lot of forward momentum, and very little treading water. I'm hooked all over again. Am I out of my mind? I'd love for you to let me know. Let the discussion begin...
Joel Rickenbach write's Mania's weekly Comicscape column, is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him on Twitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.
Mania Grade: A
Episode: Seed (season 3, episode 1)
Staring: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey and Sarah Wayne Callies
Written By: Frank Darabont (developer), Robert Kirkman (series of graphic novels), Glen Mazzara
Directed By: Ernest R. Dickerson