The Walking Dead has returned! After last year’s mid-season cliffhanger, the return of this show was one of the most anticipated events this television season. And in fact, yesterday’s premiere even beat out the Olympics in terms of ratings. Kind of a downer, really. But people love their zombies and were waiting for months for their WD fix. And we see the Winter Games every what, four years?
In any case, the midseason premiere opened much as expected. With the prison overrun and the survivors scattered to the four winds, the focus on the most important group in the diaspora – Rick and Carl. Along with the other members of the group, their struggle to carry on mirrors the groups, and humanity’s itself, in this post-post-apocalyptic world.
The episode opens with Michonne looking upon a ruined and overrun prison. After killing Hershel’s now resurrected corpse, she lures two Walkers into a trap, removes their arms and jaws, and binds their necks. With them as her protection, she sets off again on the road. Farther on, Rick and Carl are struggling along, looking for food and shelter for the night, with Rick lagging behind because of his wounds.
They find their way to a diner and procure some rations, and Carl seems visibly angry with Rick. Farther on, they find an empty house and set down for the night, and by morning, Carl wakes up and finds Rick comatose on the couch. After trying unsuccessfully to rouse him, he begins to voice all his anger, blaming Rick for their situation, the death of the Judith, and the loss of their friends.
His yelling draws two Walkers to their door which try to break in. Sneaking out back, Carl lures these two away quietly, but is then set upon by a third. He is forced to fire his gun multiple times, but survives. He then tells Rick he doesn’t need him anymore, goes out again in search of food, and once more runs afoul of a Walker, wastes the last of his ammo, and is forced to trap it in a bedroom and escape.
Elsewhere, Michonne sets down for the night and dreams of her life before the Walkers came. She recalls a time when she, her boyfriend, their mutual friend and her son were all together, but the dream quickly turns into a nightmare. We see here that these two men were her Walker escorts before, that she was forced to mutilate their bodies and use them for cover.
Continuing on, she begins to pick up many Walker followers, and begins to notice that one even resembles her. She eventually draws her sword and kills this woman, and then is forced to kill the rest as they close in on her. Eventually, she does, and even takes out her escort. Alone again, she breaks down and cries, but eventually manages to pick up Rick and Carl’s trail…
Back at their house, Carl is awakened by Rick making strange sounds and reaching out at him. He grabs his father’s gun, thinking Rick died in his sleep and has now turned. Carl is unable to pull the trigger and cries, telling Rick that he was wrong. But Rick then calls out his name and tells him to “go outside… stay safe.” Carl holds Rick and tells him he’s scared.
Finding her way to the diner where Rick and Carl passed before, Michonne rests and begins speaking to her departed boyfriend. She says she’s figured out the answer, by which she means why they should carry on amidst everything around them. Back at the house, Rick and Carl talk and resolve things. Carl apologizes for risking his life while Rick admits that things will never be the same again.
At last, Michonne comes to the house and sees Rick and Carl inside, and begins to cry. She knocks at the door, Rick looks through the peephole and begins to laugh. When Carl asks, Rick replies “It’s for you”.
Admittedly, this episode was pretty slow by the show’s own standards, placing it firmly in the category of pacing episode. But this is to be expected after the midseason climax, and it managed to still be effective. And it was quite cool to see Michonne do her thing, and accurately. Last season, her role was played down to a large extent that it was good to see out and about, and kicking ass!
This episode also gave them a chance to develop her character and get into some of things that has been glossed over previously. For example, we only hear about how she talks to her boyfriend once, which was something central to her character when she entered the story. Alone for so long, she comforted herself and found strength by imaging him there, talking to her and sharing in her trials.
Also, the interplay between Rick and Carl in this episode was pretty faithful to the comic book. After being caught in the wilderness together, Carl found himself having to take charge and at one point thought Rick had turned. But there, Rick was struggling with the death of Judith and Lori, and dealt with it by talking to her on a broken phone (which instead was moved up to season three).
At this point, I’d say the rest of the season has a pretty predictable arc. The rest of the crew will find their way through the wilderness, they will eventually meet up with Rick, Michonne and Carl, I anticipate Morgan will join them too, and they will find their way back to (*SPOILERS!) where they will meet (*SPOILERS!) and then head off to find (*BIG SPOILERS!)
But that still leaves plenty of room for surprises between now and then, and I will be watching!