My pre-season wishlist for season 3 included: Daryl continuing to be awesome; Lori doing something sensible with her hair; T-Bone having a meaningful storyline that involves more than disposing of zombie bodies; and the female characters doing something besides cooking and laundry. Three out of four of my wishes were fulfilled tonight, so I have high hopes for T-Bone.
We open with the gang breaking into a house, several months after the events of the season 2 finale, since Lori is now visibly very pregnant and everyone else is much dirtier and has longer hair. (Everyone except Daryl who has managed to stay the exact same level of dirty throughout the show’s run. Remember back in season 1 when they got to the CDC and there was a montage of everyone except Daryl taking a shower?)
In addition to cultivating the zombie chic look, the gang have also apparently become much better fighters; they take out the in-house zombies quickly and silently. Daryl finds an adorable, sleepy owl, kills it, and starts plucking it for dinner. Meanwhile, there’s nothing else left to eat in the house except two cans of dog food that Carl fishes out from under the sink.
When he brings them to his father, Rick looks at the heavily pregnant Lori and throws the dog food away. Everyone else looks longingly at the cans, because, let’s face it, that owl is tiny and if you squint, dog food isn’t that different from Spam. They race off to their cars (and Daryl’s motorcyle!) having done little besides kill some zombies and score a couple of blankets and an axe. It looks like they’ve survived the winter by foraging amidst the deserted houses of greater Georgia. Unfortunately, it appears that they’re about to be trapped by different zombie herds, and Lori can’t keep running due to the imminent arrival of the spawn of Rick (or possibly Shane).
Faced with this conundrum, Daryl invites Rick to go hunting. Instead, they find a prison, which Rick decides will be the perfect place for Lori to be eaten. Or give birth. The gang demonstrates its fighting abilities again and takes over the prison yard without undue difficulty. It’s quite a contrast from the bungling ineptitude they demonstrated last season, but it’s also a little sad because it seems like the last vestiges of everyone’s pre-apocalypse selves have been erased.
After capturing the prison yard, the gang has a cookout around their campfire. Rick and Daryl are both patrolling the perimeter, and Carol takes the opportunity to bring Daryl a thimbleful of owl stew. He makes a sarcastic comment about the appetite and parentage of Lori’s unborn child as Carol maneuvers her way into a backrub from Daryl. I’m not sure whether they are joke-flirting or really flirting with each other, but it needs to stop immediately. First, because their names rhyme, and second, because Carol used to be sort of motherly towards Daryl and it all feels weird and Oedipal.
Back at the campfire, Herschel asks Beth to sing them all a song, which she does. This sequence goes on for much too long, but eventually Rick throws ice-water on the proceedings by telling them that they will need to go into the prison itself rather than hanging out in the fenced-in yard. Lori tries to talk to Rick about boosting morale; in season 2, we would have had a 20-minute whispered conversation in which nothing was resolved, but in the new, improved season 3, Rick curtly tells Lori to save her chitchat for Herschel. Poor Herschel!
Elsewhere, it’s daytime. A torn flag flaps above a deserted store, in which zombies are hanging out until someone opens the door. The zombies are momentarily excited by the sound of their dinner bell, but dinner turns out to be an awesome sword-wielding lady in dire need of aspirin. Sorry zombies, no dinner for you! But she does serve them up some beheading and dismembering.
Back at the prison, Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, and T-Dog advance across a courtyard full of zombies toward the main buildings of the prison. Unfortunately, some of the zombies are in full riot gear and one is in a gas mask, making it much harder to kill them by knocking out what is left of their brains. Maggie cleverly figures out how to do this, and there are some truly spectacularly gross kills.
Rick finds the keys on the person of a zombified guard, and Rick & Co. move into a cellblock, which is littered with dead bodies and other detritus. Aside from the aesthetics of the place, which do not scream “great place to deliver a newborn” to me, I’m wondering about the smell. Surely it’s fairly overpowering by now!
Everyone but Rick and Daryl settles into their cells for the night, perhaps a metaphor of how Rick and Daryl are the ones who are free, or else just a set-design issue. Carl has an extremely age-inappropriate crush on Beth, and Lori has Carol as her roommate, because Rick is apparently not on speaking terms with her any more.
Back in the small town, Fearless Sword Lady (whom I trust will soon be given a name so I can stop calling her that!) walks into something called the “Sportsman’s Deer Cooler.” At first, not being a hunter, I assumed this was some clever name for a bar, but it is, in fact, a meat locker. Inside are two armless, defanged and chained zombies, and my suspicion that Fearless Sword Lady is Andrea’s mysterious hooded rescuer from the season 2 finale is confirmed. Apparently, the aspirin was for Andrea, who looks like death warmed over. Fearless Sword Lady (FSL for short) has also brought Andrea some refrigerated bottled water! She’s only said four words so far, and I already like her almost as much as I like Daryl.
Andrea’s admonition to FSL to leave her behind is interrupted by a horrible hacking cough. I assume she has pneumonia or something rather than a zombie bite. But of course, since she wasn’t with Rick when he dropped the bombshell (that everyone is infected so even if you die of other causes, you will come back as a zombie), she actually doesn’t know that her severe illness is actually endangering her friend more than she suspects. Eventually, FSL gives into Andrea’s pleas not to die in the meat locker, and they set out, chained zombies in tow.
Back at the prison, Rick & Co. have assembled a fair bit of weaponry, including the riot gear formerly worn by zombie guards. As Daryl opines that he has no intention of wearing things that are dripping with undead fluids, Herschel has to go have a consult with Lori, who says she hasn’t felt the baby move in a while. She’s worried that the baby is already dead, and will turn and kill her, and/or that she will die in childbirth and turn on the group. She asks Herschel to put her down without hesitation in that case. I second that motion. (Though, to be fair, Lori has been a lot less annoying in this one episode than she was for most of the second season.)
Lori also bemoans the fact that Carl and Rick both hate her. Despite Herschel saying that Rick will come around, Lori says that it was her fault that Rick killed Shane, because she set them at odds against each other. Or it could be that Shane was a psycho who lured his best friend out to kill him and Rick acted in self-defense. “You know who doesn’t give a shit about that?” Herschel asks. Everyone in the audience? Oh, no, Herschel means the baby.
Just as I’m worried this is going to degenerate into one of the endless “soul-searching” conversations of last season, everyone except Beth, Carol, Carl, and Lori goes off to conquer other parts of the prison. Here are the incompetents I know and love from last season: I know Herschel is a veterinary rather than a human doctor, but still, he’s the only one with any medical training whatsoever. So of course the gang takes him along on a dangerous mission rather than making sure his specialized, non-transferrable skills are safeguarded.
The other parts of the prison are laid out like a maze, which would seem to be counterproductive for a prison, but what do I know? It’s very dark, and there are gnawed, decomposing bodies, dripping water, and all the usual potential for confusion and accidentally killing your non-zombie companions, which almost happens to Maggie and Glenn. (Also, the smell must be horrible, but no one mentions it at all. Maybe they’re all just used to living in these conditions.)
The maze-like corridors and darkness mean that when the gang inevitably runs into a group of hungry zombies, they get separated. Herschel goes off to look for Maggie and Glenn, and a somnolent zombie who didn’t get the memo about sticking with the herd grabs Herschel’s leg and has a good nibble. Remember how I mentioned that the only person with any kind of a medical degree should perhaps be safeguarded?
Rick & Co. manage to drag Herschel off into the cafeteria to asses the situation. Yup, it’s a zombie bite low on Herschel’s calf; Rick decides that the only way to prevent Herschel from dying of the zombie infection from his bite is to hack off the leg with a dirty fire axe. That way Herschel can die of shock, blood-loss and/or septicemia.
Meanwhile, as Daryl shines his torch around into the area overlooking the cafeteria, a group of real live people—who are all dressed in convict blues—pop up. Well, this just got even more interesting!!
All snarking aside, this was a great opener to what looks like it should be a far more interesting season than last year. I’m extremely intrigued by Andrea and her companion, and I think the presence of other humans in the prison is only going to make Team Rick’s moral dilemmas that much more interesting. Also, I really hope Herschel survives his encounters with the zombie and the fire axe!
Want more hints about season 3? See (and hear for yourself) what we learned at The Walking Dead panel discussion from New York Comic Con last weekend!
And catch up on the rest of our Walking Dead coverage!
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.