A new season of “The Walking Dead” returns just in season for Halloween, as usual. There’s always a veil of eeriness on the premiere episodes. However, this premiere seemed more quiet than usual. The elements of horror were slow and stewed over time, never flagrant or blatant. (Yes, even for a show with massive artistic design around the zombies, we’re so used to that now that I feel we have to look for the new horrors amidst the living dead) We get hints of what’s to come, and massive introductions to a new world the gang has built for themselves in the prison.
Since there are too many people to keep track of, I’ll forego the usual grouping of character plotlines for this time around. Let’s get right into it.
With the saved community from Woodbury merging with the prison camp, we have a mini Woodbury re-built into the prison – a fairly self-sufficient society behind re-fortified gates. There’s farmland, livestock, and even a council. With more kids around, there’s regulated activity for the kids. We have regular supply runs, and a communal eating grounds. And apparently there’s also revived mp3 players, like the one Rick listened to as he dug up the gun he has stopped using. So far, so good, right?
Carl seems a little calmer now, a little bit more sensible, although he’s back to being one of the kids that Rick wants hanging back and not going out on runs and such. Of course, to growing Carl’s chagrin. They still have a good father-son moment examining livestock they’ve raised for food. One of their pigs, who Carl named Violet, is lying sick in the mud. Totally a metaphor for something lurking, latent, waiting to disrupt the peace and order that they’ve established. Rick urges Carl to refrain from naming the livestock that they’ll eventually eat. You know, just keeping the humanity and anthropomorphizing at check amidst their crazy new universe. Anyway, this sick pig lingers with Rick, especially since he finds a sick boar in the woods during a routine walk in the woods. But let’s get back to that in a bit.
Apparently, with more people for the choosing, everyone’s all hooked up now. Tyreese found himself a lover in former Woodbury citizen, who now mans the gates to kill off the ever growing number of walkers. Beth also got herself a young boo in Zach, who volunteers to go out in the next supply run with Glenn, Michonne (fresh off a hunt for the still-missing Governor), Daryl, and Sasha. It was an easy plot move to introduce a boyfriend Beth confidently wouldn’t say goodbye to before the run… And we have Bob, a former Army medic newcomer who decides to join in on the run.
Then comes the crazy. First, Rick finds a dirty, crazed helpless woman about to kill a sick, dying boar in the woods. Rick stops her, and she starts begging him for help since she and her husband haven’t eaten for days. We can immediately see we’re about to go on some wacko journey from the crazed look in her eyes. We can see Rick calculate what to do in this situation. We’ve seen Rick turn to immediate distrust. This time around, though, he concedes, though with tons of precaution, stating that the woman and her husband would have to answer 3 essential questions before integrating into his camp. He follows the woman, asking how she survived all this time, and she leads Rick to her husband. By the end of the journey, he finds her survival tent, and only sees a blanket with something moving underneath. He easily deflects the woman turning on him with a knife, and finds her crazed desperation to try to stay with her undead husband. She turns the knife on herself, and Rick asks, at her dying request, the three questions. As she barely finishes her answer to the third, Rick walks away.
At the supply run at a Big Spot department store, it seems to be a great haven of supplies… but a helicopter crashed on the roof and tons of walkers are just roaming above. (Red flags for me here: 1) How long ago did that helicopter land? 2) How the eff did those walkers get UP there?) The foundation of the building is apparently insanely weak, and after Bob finds himself trapped under a shelf after examining the booze situation, the ceiling crumbles upon them and walkers fall from the sky. Metaphor for the crumbling safety of their makeshift haven in the prison? Most likely. Especially considering the Governor is still out there (anyone paying attention knowing he’s still a cast member MUST know he is making a comeback and it’s gonna be good) The supply group is able to keep it together… except Beth’s man gets bitten and eaten alive. He’s left behind.
Back at the prison, Maggie is worried about being pregnant, and Carol holds “story time” for the kids. At first Carl rejects the story time, but an older boy whom Carl befriends suggests that it’s not so bad. So Carl checks it out … only to find that Carol really uses that time to teach the kids self defense (though one of the boys, feeling squeamish, bounces out). She deplores Carl to keep her secret.
Daryl decides to break the news to Beth, she acts surprisingly accepting. Perhaps even cold, recognizing that loss is such a natural thing. Rick returns from the woods, to discover the returning motif of the dying pig truly dead. Shaken by the whole thing, he confides in Hershel his fears of getting to the point that crazy woods lady got to. And oh look, Judith is still kicking it. AWESOME.
And then, what I find the truly horrifying thing of the episode happens: the sick boy who bows out of self defense training gets up in a sick fit in the middle of the night. His sweaty, perhaps bloody feet, leave prints on the cold prison floor and he heads to the shower, in an attempt to break the fever. He suddenly falls to the floor weak and sick, eyes pouring out with blood… he’s turned. The implications? Can people turn sick and just turn? How quickly can the turning happen? Is it impossible to keep the disease out, even with all the gates and contraptions and the precautions? Apparently. And it sounds like it will become increasingly impossible to protect everyone from the many dangers the post-apocalyptic world presents, even with an established order.
Overall, a decent episode that introduces a new theme for the gang. It felt soapy at times (I felt like I was counting off all the new “couples” in the show), but there’s some promise in some of the new characters, and potential in some new drama with our gang. A nice step back into it, but I’m hoping for a little more excitement next week.