I have all of “The Walking Dead” trade paperbacks and I’ve been reading them for years. I was a fan before AMC ever announced they’d be adapting Robert Kirkman’s tale of the undead for the small screen. I say this because I’m one of the harshest critics of the ongoing series, now entering its third season. I’ve taken a lot of heat from you dear readers for holding the producers accountable, so much so that my partner in crime even slapped my hand. But the fact of the matter is, I expect way more from the cabler responsible for such classics as “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”.
“The Walking Dead” is the first major zombie series to hit TV, thus I understand where everyone is coming from. We want to be forgiving and give the show a pass. But as fans of horror you too should expect more. We’ve made it a record-breaking series, but it shouldn’t be rewarded for lazily limping by. They need to respect us and kick it up a notch. The ugly drama that went public last season was a sign that, whether you like it or not, there was something wrong with the show. And, as it turns out, AMC has worked diligently to fix it.
Last night AMC aired episode 03.01 “Seed“, the premiere episode that made me believe wholeheartedly that this is a new start. I am finally excited to see what comes each Sunday night. With that I want to reflect back on the season premiere and point out 6 things they did correctly that can take this show into a new era of awesome.
1: It opened with a bang! Guns were ablaze in the season premiere as the survivors slowly worked their way into a prison complex. When the bullets eventually wear thin, they use an arsenal of blades to stab the (un)living hell out of hundreds of walkers. There’s no shortage of blood and guts, and the FX team used plenty of practical effects that would make the great George A. Romero proud.
2: They quickly integrated character drama. The weirdest and most interesting moment was when Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) made intense sexual advances towards Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. It was also extremely important to create conflict between Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln), who have tension over Lori’s past relationship with the now dead Shane (Jon Bernthal), and for how last season ended (with Rick having to kill Shane). The most human moment was when Lori confided in Hershel Green (Scott Wilson) about her fears of having a stillborn baby (would it try and claw its way out? What if she dies during birth? Etc.)
3: Carl could be a badass! Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest mistake made in the series thus far (besides the casting of Chandler Riggs as the character in question) was having having not having Carl kill Shane (those duties went to Rick in the show) at the end of Season 2. He’s one of the best characters in the book – a young boy who is forced to grow up at an exponential rate. Carl murders Shane in the comic, which turns him into a gun-wielding and unstable child. It’s one of the most brilliant characters in the franchise as it truly dives into what it would be like to “grow up” in this environment.
I’m not sure if it’s the poor casting of Riggs or not, but the show seems intent on taking the blame off Carl’s shoulders (maybe they feared the audience wouldn’t like to see a young boy shoot someone?). Last night the writers took Carl in a new direction by showing him shooting walkers alongside the survivors. And later on he was given the command to protect the women in the prison (look into this moment anyway you wish). The point is, the characters within the show are now treating him with more like an adult, which is the direction he needs to go for this to have any suspense. I was happy to see a taste of this, but they need to take this a step further. I just don’t know if his character can ever hit the depths that it should/could have if they had him actually kill Shane.
4: They gave Michonne (Danai Gurira) a lot of screen time. It was a great decision to save the introduction of The Governor (David Morrissey) for another episode and instead opt to spend time developing Michonne’s character (who was already teased at the end of Season 2). While she’s depicted as a hardened, tough woman (she slaughters zombies with no regard and keeps two as pets), they inject her with loyalty and ethics. By pairing her with a dying Andrea she’s depicted as more than a brutal killer, she’s someone the viewers will care for.
5: There’s finally some unique zombies and even more exciting kills. “The Walking Dead” often suffers from “gunfight syndrome” – meaning, watching a gunfight for an hour and a half gets boring. The same can be said about killing zombies. Shooting 100 zombies in the head isn’t fun unless there are UNIQUE zombies and HERO zombies. Season 3 injects some originality with their SWAT zombies, and kick it up a notch with a series of sweet kills (everything from be-headings to one zombie losing his skin and having his face sliced in half).
6: They finally ended with a cliffhanger! One of my biggest gripes with the previous seasons was that the episodes rarely ended by leaving something unresolved. Good television leaves the viewer begging for more. “Seed” ended incredibly strong and cut off before anything can be resolved. What’s scarier than a bunch of zombies? How about a group of surviving prisoners? I feel like this is the first time I’ve said aloud “Next week can’t come soon enough!”
What say you?