The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 2 – “Sick”

I felt pretty good about last week’s post on the premiere episode of season 3 of The Walking Dead, so I decided I’d try another one to see if it would take. Here goes.

Just to get this out of the way, this episode does not feature Andrea or Michonne, so it has about 3 fewer minutes of those two characters than last week’s episode. Also, for as lukewarm as I was on certain parts of last week’s premiere, I really enjoyed this episode. There were some odd moments of head scratching, but after my initial viewing, I felt like this was actually one of the series’ best hours. Hopefully it’s a good sign of the wonderful, dark things to come.

When we last left the gang, Herschel was minus a leg below the knee and a group of prisoners had appeared. No time has passed since then and really, not much happens beyond the gang loading up Herschel and running straight back to the “safe” cell block. Oh, a riot zombie returns, but T-Dog passes the test this time, remembering that a knife (or fireplace poker, or whatever) can’t penetrate a helmet. The crew gets back to the cell block, but the prisoners follow. Rick takes them all out in the yard to chat things over.

Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school…

It turns out, the gang released these guys when they broke into the cafeteria. Apparently they had no idea that the zombie apocalypse was upon them, or at least, they didn’t know the extent of it. Now that they’ve been freed, they want their cell block back from Rick and the gang. Rick cuts them a deal: he, T-Dog and Daryl will help them clear a new cell block in return for half of the food in the cafeteria. When Rick mentions that they must have a bunch of food for five men to survive for ten months, the greasy, long-haired leader (apparently his name is Tomas) of the group gives a shifty look. At first I thought that these guys were eating other prisoners, but later we see that they do have a bunch of food, so there’s something else going on. The prisoners take the deal.

“Actually, we’re getting our food fr–, I mean, yeah, we’ve only got a little bit of food left. I’m not trying to hide anything. Or maybe the writers just don’t know what they’re doing. Or maybe I’m a bad actor. What’s the over/under on minutes til I die?”

Back in the cell block, everyone is concerned about Herschel. How will he keep up with all of the running the gang usually does? Who will deliver Lori’s baby? Will he look good in cutoffs? Someone mentions the need to find the infirmary, not realizing they should just ask Lori because she knows all about prison medical care. Rick pulls Glenn aside and tells him that he (Glenn) needs to be there if Herschel dies. I must admit, I didn’t get it at first, thinking that Glenn just needed to be there for Maggie’s sake. Actually, it’s a really nice little moment of Rick telling Glenn that he needs to blow away Maggie’s dad should he zombify. After all, a Herschel Walker is notoriously hard to tackle (there it is). Glenn later handcuffs Herschel to the bed as a precaution.

Lori and Rick share a couple of nice moments in this episode. Lori pulls Rick aside to talk to him about them and about what he plans to do with the five prisoners they’ve set free. She brings up their relationship problems, noting that she’s not going win any mother of the year awards. At this point, I’m sure the majority of long-time Walking Dead viewers loudly vocalized their agreement. The first step is admitting that you have a problem, Lori. When she asks about the prisoners, Rick basically says that they’ll probably have to kill them. Lori backs him up, saying that she knows he has no malice in him and that he’s not a killer, therefore, he should feel free to kill anyone he wants without feeling guilty. Yikes.

In a really nice scene that doesn’t feel as forced as the song in the last episode, Maggie takes a moment to talk to her unconscious father. She tells him that if he needs to let go, he should. She just wants him to be at peace. Shortly after, Carl shows up with a bag of supplies from the infirmary. What an episode for great revelations! Carl finally does something that is not only helpful and logical, but it also isn’t entirely stupid. Of course, Lori immediately goes off on him, yelling at him as she usually does instead of praising his self-motivation.

Then something weird happens. Carol takes Glenn away from Herschel’s bedside and out into the yard. Suddenly she has decided that it’s time for her to practice her medical skills since it will likely fall to her to deliver Lori’s baby. She wants to try to perform a Cesarean section on a dead (re-dead?) female walker. Glenn doesn’t ask the obvious question, why are we doing this now when we’ve got a man dying/zombifying inside the prison? Instead, he helps her retrieve a cadaver. It all seems a little nonsensical, but then again, it’s Carol, and I should probably know better. I guess this is just setup so we can get a POV shot of someone (something?) watching Carol from the woods outside of the prison.

And here we have the last living example of the Carolus Nonsensicalus.

Back to the newly expanded cell-block-clearing party. Rick takes a moment to explain to the prisoners how important it is that they attack only the head when fighting walkers. Apparently seeing no reason to trust that Rick knows what he’s talking about, the prisoners proceed to charge into the first wave of walkers, stabbing, punching and kicking them everywhere but their heads. Rick, Daryl and T-Dog look on in disbelief. The prisoners finally get the hang of it and the walkers start falling. My favorite zombie moment occurs when a handcuffed zombie decides it’s time to break loose, ripping the handcuff off of one hand and taking all of his fingers along with it. Fun stuff. The guy I hoped was Tone Lōc in last week’s episode (his name is actually Big Tiny), gets scratched by a walker. As everyone debates on whether to quarantine him, Tomas smashes his head in. So much for Tone Lōc.

My best effort to capture the zombie ripping his own hand off. Don’t worry, there’s better gore below.

Rick is a bit wary of Tomas now and Daryl tells Rick “just give me a signal” if Rick wants him to put Tomas down. Another wave of walkers is unleashed and Tomas decides to throw one right at Rick. Daryl comes to the rescue and after the mayhem dies down, Rick decides that the best way to deal with Tomas is to plant a machete between his eyes. It’s a wonderfully dark surprise and reminds me of the time Michael Raymond-James took a detour from hanging out with Donal Logue in Ocean Beach to antagonize Rick in a bar in season 2. It didn’t end well for him either. Apparently there was a plan to kill Rick. Axel, one of the three remaining prisoners claims that he had nothing to do with it. Oscar, another prisoner tells him to “stop talking.” That makes me think there’s something more going on that we’re not aware of. The third prisoner, Andrew, takes off running and Rick chases him down. Andrew finds himself in a courtyard full of walkers and Rick locks Andrew outside, leaving him to make new friends. Stone cold, man.

Danny Trejo would be proud

Rick and the boys release Axel and Oscar into a new cell block that appears to be populated only by handcuffed corpses who were executed on the floor outside their cells. We never see them close enough to figure out if they were walkers when they were shot. We get another great-looking shot of the new cell block. I’m continuing to enjoy the camerawork on these master shots, both interior and exterior.

We get a short scene of Herschel dying with Maggie by his side. She starts yelling for help and, presumably because Glenn and Carol are still on their nonsensical cadaver hunt, Lori comes in and starts doing mouth-to-soon-to-possibly-be-undead-mouth. We get a scare as Herschel reaches his arm around Lori. Turns out he just hasn’t had a good kiss in a while and he was just trying to put the moves on Lori à la Squints. He slides back into unconsciousness until Rick arrives, then he wakes up and reaches out for Rick. Rick takes Herschel’s hand and gives him a look as if to say: “I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.” Clearly, everything is going to be okay…

I still have dibs on his suspenders

…except if you’re Rick and Lori. They meet on a catwalk to talk. Rick tells Lori that she saved Herschel’s life by giving him mouth-to-mouth. Lori tells Rick that he saved Herschel by cutting his future shoe expenses in half. She then says “I thought maybe you were coming out here to talk about us. Maybe there’s nothing to talk about anymore.” Rick replies by awkwardly putting a hand on her shoulder and telling her “we’re awful grateful for what you did.” Then he leaves. For better or worse indeed! The best part about this scene is that Rick never once looks at his wife. Maybe he won’t, or maybe he can’t. Whatever it is, it’s a really nice touch and a depressing way to end a pretty dark episode of the show.

Next week on The Walking Dead: Carl makes friends with Herschel’s severed leg.

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 1 – “Seed”

The Walking Dead is back! Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is, of course, up to the viewer. I’m inclined to think it’s a decent thing, but I also don’t think it’s as amazing as the shows ratings would have you believe. I’m going to nitpick the first episode of the third season here. Obviously, I have no authority to pick any nits, but I feel like I’ve earned it a little bit since I’ve watched the show since the beginning. And hey, at least it gets me writing. The Walking Dead has aired 20 episodes to date and I think that maybe 3 of those episodes are high quality television. The rest are all over the map, but I’d say the show on the whole is slightly above average. I won’t compare it to other AMC shows, because that just seems unfair. On to the episode.

Some time has passed since the end of season 2. Herschel’s sporting a beard that is well on it’s way to “mountain man” status. Carl’s hair has grown longer and he’s looking a bit older. Beth (is that her name), in contrast, seems a little bit younger, no doubt so the writers could provide us with the Carl/Beth romance (I hesitate to say “sexual tension”) that nobody was asking for. Also, Lori is way more pregnant. So pregnant, in fact, that she has difficulty keeping her fake belly from sliding around like a detached kneecap. Oh, we also get a brand new credit sequence, which is nice.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the prison just on the horizon at the end of season two? Has our merry band really been “going in circles” all winter without ever stumbling up on the prison? It seems unlikely, but maybe I’m misremembering. Anyway, they find the prison and an odd walker-slaying-fest ensues. Here’s my first big nitpick. I’m not a gun expert by any stretch, but the effects used for muzzle flashes and gunshots look just terrible. Of course, maybe they’re more realistic and I’m just used to the more dazzling weapon effects that have become my standard based on a steady diet of film and television. I’m guessing it’s some kind of budget issue, where they couldn’t afford to spring for guns that actually moved, fired blanks and ejected shell casings. Also, they probably didn’t want to pay a gun safety supervisor to be on set or train everyone, or something. I don’t remember the gun effects being this bad in previous seasons, but maybe they were. Whatever the reason, the muzzle flashes look like someone just used the “spray paint” mode in MS Paint to give a little flash of yellow over the end of the barrels.

Note: Upon re-watching, some of the guns appear to move and drop shells, others don’t. Rick’s rifle has absolutely no kick, which seems odd, but again, I’m no expert.

It’s kind of fun to watch the actors try to sell that their firing real, moving weapons, especially when what’s her name (Carol, the woman with the short hair who has done nothing but lose her daughter so far in the series) is complaining about her shoulder hurting because the kickback of the rifle. Also, was it just me, or was Rick’s pistol equipped with a homemade silencer fashioned out of a flashlight? I guess they didn’t want to worry about adding a couple of extra muzzle flashes when he is picking off zombies.

There it is.

Before they enter the prison, the merry band spends a night in the prison yard they’ve conquered and Beth and Maggie sing “The Parting Glass” in a scene that’s supposed to be touching and poignant, showing us a bit of humanity left in this awful world. Unfortunately, while the scene kind of works, it plays more like the writers saying “Hey! Here’s a scene that’s supposed to be touching and poignant, showing you a bit of humanity left in this awful world.” The band decides to enter the prison, but from here out they conserve ammo (and muzzle flash animation), using only hand-to-bony-decaying-hand weapons.

Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie and T-Dog fight their way through a bunch of walkers to get into the prison. Here’s where we get something really fun resulting in something kind of stupid. The posse is attacked mostly by prisoner zombies, but as they reach the walls of the prison, out stumble some prison guards zombies in full riot gear! It’s a great visual and really, it’s something I hadn’t considered. Now the stupid part. The posse acts as if they have no idea how riot gear works. Daryl fires a crossbow bolt straight into the protective visor of one riot zombie. It bounces off harmlessly. Others grapple with the zombies trying to stab then through the armor and face plates, to no avail. Finally, Maggie stabs a zombie to (second) death under the chin, then proceeds to act like she’s made the best discovery since the writers decided to shoot Carl in season 2.

“Guys! Guys! They have a Cheesecake Factory here!”

Everyone else catches on and begins to stab the riot zombies under their helmets and in their necks. Thank goodness someone realized that the armor was not actually their skin, but instead a protective layer that can be pushed aside in order to land a killing blow! We do get one pretty great moment when rick rips a gas mask off of one undead guard and the walker’s face proceeds to peel off along with the mask. Probably the best zombie moment of the episode.

Gently peel away for refreshing exfoliation

With all that said and done, the merry band gets into the prison and sets up camp in a walker-free cell block. Rick and Lori are clearly far from marital bliss. Carl and Beth are inching closer to marital bliss, over Herschel’s dead body (and we’ll have to wait until next week to see whether this statement if figurative or literal). Glenn and Maggie set up together in a cell. We do get one nice moment near the end of the episode where Lori talks to Herschel about the possibility that her baby, which she hasn’t felt moving recently, might already be dead inside her and might try to claw its way out. It’s a legitimately scary prospect and I’m actually interested to find out exactly what happens with Lori and the baby. Sarah Wayne Callies sells the scene pretty well.

Another great thing about the episode is how the some of the prison interiors are framed. Most of the master shots to open and close scenes are just gorgeous. I think the camerawork is one of the show’s strengths. I wonder how much if it has to do with the show working off of the graphic novel, or at least the producers considering the graphic novel roots of the series. Whatever it is, the prison has a really great atmosphere.

Before dealing with the “shocker” ending, I feel I should mention Andrea and Michonne (who has yet to be named, as far as I could tell). Apparently Andrea is sick and Michonne is taking care of her, hunting down Aspirin and decapitating walkers. Andrea convinces Michonne that it’s time to leave their hideout, so they do. And that’s really all we get. It seems strange just go give Andrea the flu for no reason, so I’ve got to assume something will come of her illness. Maybe Laurie Holden wants to quit the show? However it turns out, they don’t do a great job of setting this pair up for us. Maybe they want to maintain the mystery.

Now for the shocker. Everyone but Carl, Beth and Lori go exploring in the prison. A bunch of inmate walkers attack and Herschel gets an ankle bite! Oh no, who is going to deliver the zombaby? The gang drags Herschel to “safety” and Rick proceeds to amputate Herschel’s leg with a tiny hatchet. There’s no “tell us how to fix you, Herschel” moment, Rick just starts hacking away and it’s pretty gruesome, especially considering the lack of anesthetic. I’m dubious as to weather the amputation will work to stop zombification. My guess is I’ll finally have a chance to use the “Herschel Walker” jokes I’ve been saving up since season 2. During the amputation, another group of inmates appears in a window in the room. Notice I didn’t say inmate “walkers,” as these guys are living, breathing human beings. Yay?

Please tell me that guy on the left is Tone Lōc

Next week on The Walking Dead: Don’t drop the soap.