The Walking Dead is back with a vengeance for its third season and unlike the comatose second season of the Days of Our Zombie Lives style that was thrown our way – the new season – up until now at least – has been quintessential zombie apocalypse.
Instead of cluttering our from stupid TV shows already half dead brains with prime time soap opera junk - which was the entire second season – debating Lori’s rate of sexual intercourse and trying to find the answer to the number one question burning on everyone’s mind after the world has come to an end, namely who the father of Lori’s child is – the first two episodes of the third season (Episode 1 titled ”Seed‘), have finally picked up in speed and intensity taking the show away from the bore that was season 2.
This season starts off great by taking us back to all the things that originally made this show great: the chase, the herds, survival, thrill, making life and death decisions in the face of absolute dread. In a way it is great Shane is out of the question so that we can finally move away from the love triangle bullshit drama that was degrading this show into comatose depths.
The strength of The Walking Dead has always been the realism with which it portrayed the journey of its protagonists through the barren apocalypse of a world run over by the flesh eating undead. Whereas Season 2 had abandoned all those questions in favor of dealing with the domestic problems of Rick, Lori and Shane with zombies thrown in for show, this season starts off by once again placing the zombie apocalypse, its aftermath and the drive for pure survival at the forefront.
Flashback to season 2: the group had narrowly escaped Hershel’s farm after a massive herd had swept through there, killing half of Hershel’s family. Rick, who had been led into the woods by Shane to be killed, finally realized what was going on and shot Shane. Andrea got separated from the group. The others believe her dea and meet up at the freeway trying to figure out what to do.
Fast forward through the winter and it is summer again; it appears to be going by the lushness of the vegetation and the sweat everyone seems to be breaking. People look worn out and even though around 10 months have passed, Lori is still something like 7 months pregnant holding her belly like it was a bowling ball she was afraid might roll out from underneath her at any second. Don’t ask why, but we will get back to internal consistency later.
A transformation has taken place within Rick as well. Optimism has given way the shadow inhabiting all of us. Unlike Shane where this transformation seemed forced and became off-puttish, the change we see in Rick is subtle and more believable It makes sense. And it is also very revealing of the inner struggle he is facing; the inward battle to try to accept that the world as he knew it is over and with it every bit of morality that existed within that world.
At the beginning of their journey. Rick went back to save Merle from the roof of the mall after he had been handcuffed there for his threatening behavior. He risked himself and the group in order to do the right thing telling Lori “I don’t care what he [Merle] would do. I cannot let a man die like this.”
This past year seems to have taken a heavy toll on Rick’s ability to cope with the new order of things. In a world having fallen apart at the seams – where good and bad and morality and ethics no longer have the meaning they used to have pre apocalypse – Rick’s priorities as a leader - but also human being - have changed. And in a way, they have to.
In the absence of government and law enforcement or really any of kind of structure of governance in place and thus the things that keep society functioning as we know it, humans degrade to savagery, committing unspeakable crimes against one another. In such a world, holding on to grand principles established in a world with government and the rule of law would be futile.
As the leader of the group, Rick is facing a daunting challenge on many fronts. And much like any leader, he is forced to make the tough choices. in light of those challenges. Diplomacy just does not work with entities that operate under no code of conduct.
I don’t think people – even Lori or Herschel – realize how truly alone Rick is in this and the immense weight on his shoulders.
Unlike Shane who seemed to have been in his element in the world post apocalypse, willing to kill people in cold blood under the guise of “saving everyone”, Rick really does have a hard time pulling this off. Everytime he makes a decision in that direction, he seems to struggle deep inside, even if he doesn’t talk about it.
Rick may have unwillingly become the leader of this of group of people that look up to him for guidance and leadership, but it appears as if this role has also given him something to live for; to strive for, to fight for. It is what keeps Rick going in light of absolute devastation in the remnants of days gone by. Rick’s allegiance to this group is unequivocal. Giving up on the group would mean giving up on hope and a future and Rick cannot go there if he wants to make it through this in one piece.
I think the writers have done a great job portraying Rick’s struggle and how he is divided and conflicted. Leadership is ultimately about making the tough calls and actually realizing that the call you are making is tough. It it weren’t, it wouldn’t be leadership. And Rick is a leader, flawed as he may be in other aspects.
Having said that, there are still some inconsistencies which puzzle the astute observer – in no particular order:
1) When we left off at the end of season 2, Lori was upset with Rick having killed Shane and that Carl had to put Shane down after he had turned. Halfway through the first episode of the 3rd season, that resentment is still apparent. But suddenly that changes and Lori complains that after everything she put Rick through, it is no wonder he hates her. But hello…where did that come from? Just five minutes ago Rick was the one trying to making amends with Lori but now suddenly Lori is the one having to make amends with Rick? It seems like the writers decided half-way through to change this around hoping we won’t notice.
2) Why does Carl hate mommy dearest so much? If something happened in the winter months we didn’t get to see, then the writers should have made it clear somehow. Without having done so, however, it just seems a bit odd.
3) When we left off, fall had begun and the group was trying to figure out a way to survive winter. Let’s say it was October. Now it is summer again (going by vegetation sometime around July) - so something like 9 months have passed. Yet Lori is still pregnant (looks like 7 or 8 months). How is that possible? Lori must have been at least a month or two pregnant by the time she found out. If something like 8 months have passed, how can she still be only around 7 months pregnant?
4) If everyone is infected anyway and they “turn” after they die, then why does it matter whether they are bitten or not? You only worry about such things when you worry about viral or parasitic transmission. But if everyone is infected anyway, why do they care? And for that matter, why do people who get bitten die sooner than those not bitten – even though both are infected?
I think that, by far, this is the biggest disconnect and disappointment in terms of internal consistency. Maybe there is an explanation for it but they are not telling us what that is, so we are left with speculating - which is always a sign of bad story telling.
5) How the hell is Hershel alive? How did the infection not kill him? He first had his leg hacked off by a dirty ax lying around in the decay of the prison. Then they used a bunch of unsanitary towels and everything they could find in the stench to dress the wound. How did he not get an infection or die from blood loss? He is an older man who has been probably malnourished with a weakened immune system. How could his heart and brain have survived the lack of oxygen from all the blood loss, not to mention the immense infection? I mean this was a leg being hacked off for crying out loud.
6) Finally, exactly who is brain dead may I ask? For 10 months these prisoners are stuck in there with everyone dead and zombies walking outside and it never occurred to them to break out? Or go figure out what has happened. They just stayed there hoping the National Guard would show up? Really? For ten months? Since when do prisoners not look for opportunities to break out, especially in light of complete chaos.
Such inconsistencies gnaw at the believability of the show and the writers are well advised to avoid them. It remains to be seen how far down the rabbit hole the writers want to take us; just hope that that particular hole isn’t something we can find easily in prime time soap.