Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead”

the-walking-dead_comicYou know how it is, when you find yourself loving a particular TV show or movie and someone tells you “you should really check out the original”? Well, that has happened to me three times now; first with The Lord of Rings, then with Game of Thrones, and then shortly thereafter with The Walking Dead.

From these three experiences, I’ve come to learn that I have a sort of rule of threes. Basically, if three friends tell me I need to read the original source material, then I definitely do! And in all cases, I came to identify with the self-professed franchise geeks who acted they had some prized inside knowledge and were insufferably critical about the adaptations.

And now that I’ve read the entire series, all 112 issues that have been published so far, I feel I am in a position to do a comparative analysis to the show. But for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I figured I would only cover the material that has been adapted into the miniseries thus far. So if it hasn’t happened beyond season three of the show, you won’t have to worry about it being mentioned here.

Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead:
*Note: For simplicity’s sake, I will be breaking down the plot of the comic book series by trade paperback volume. So far, Kirkland has released 112 issues, the first 108 of which are available in 18 volumes, each one containing six issues grouped by common theme. The show has so far adapted material from the first 8 volumes or 48 issues.

Volume 1 – Days Gone Bye:
WD_Volume_1-Days_Gone_ByeThe story begins in Georgia with the story’s protagonist – Rick Grimes, a sheriff – being wounded in the line of duty. He awakens sometime later to find the hospital apparently deserted and comes to a set of barred doors. Inside are a mess of zombies that try to bite him, and he is forced to flee. Once outside, he realizes the chaos has effected the entire town, and finds more examples of reanimated corpses as he heads for home.

Once he gets there, Rick can find no trace of his family and it appears as though every house is deserted. He is then nearly killed by a young boy who hits him in the head with a shovel but is saved when the boy’s father sees that he isn’t a zombie and takes him in. This good Samaritan – Morgan – tells Rick that he and son son Duane have been held up since the trouble began and explain to him what they know.

Rick learns from them that the zombies are basically reanimated corpses that are the result of some new type of virus, a virus which spreads through bites and scratches from the afflicted. He also learns that the government, before all TV and radio broadcasts went dark, urged citizens to converge on major cities where the armed forces would be doling out services and providing protection.

the-walking-dead-002-days-gone-bye-v1-12-page-11After going to his old police station and dividing up the weapons that remain, Rick decides to head out in search of his family, who he assumes will have gone to Atlanta. After quickly running out of gas and finding the local stations tapped out, Rick procures a horse and rides to the city limits. He quickly realizes the city has been overrun and is beset by hordes of zombies which kill his horse and try to eat him.

Rick attempts to flee and is once again saved when a young man named Glenn pulls him into an alley. After escaping, Glenn explains to him that the cities have all been overrun, and he only ever goes in to do supply runs for his camp. He proceeds to lead Rick to it on the outskirts of the city, where he is shocked and relieved to see Lori and Carl – his wife and son.

walking-dead-headHis best friend and ex-partner Shane is there with them too. After the disaster struck, they feared the worse and assumed he was dead and came to Atlanta. But having found the city in a state of crisis, they formed a camp with some others. This includes Dale, a retired man who owns an RV and who has been keeping company with two sisters, Andrea and Amy; Allen and Donna, a married couple and their twin boys, Ben and Billy; Jim, a distant man from Atlanta who lost his wife; Carol, a woman who lost her husband, and her daughter, Sophia.

Rick is greeted by everyone but is warned by Dale that Shane is not as happy to see him as he would like to think. As the days come and go, Rick and Shane hunt while the women do laundry, and everyone tries to maintain some degree of normalcy. It isn’t long before the camp is attacked by a single Walker and Dale manages to take its head off. But this fails to kill it and they quickly realize that taking out the brain is the only way to kill them.

the-walking-dead-004-days-gone-bye-v1-12-page-13Rick begins to accompany Glenn on supply runs into the city, hoping to find guns and ammo to outfit the camp. This proves difficult as the city is choked by Walkers and the two have to get creative to survive – which includes smearing themselves in the gore of dead Walkers. Back at camp, Lori and Shane discuss Rick’s arrival and the subject of a romantic liaison between them comes up. Lori tells him it was a mistake, and Shane is heartbroken.

Having made it back with guns and ammo aplenty, Rick and Shane begin to teach the camp how to shoot. That night, as they sit around the camp fire, they are attacked by Walkers that bite Amy and wound Jim. Andrea shoots her dying sister in the head to keep her from turning, and Jim is asked to be left on the outskirts of the city to await his fate.

Back at camp, Shane and Rick get into a confrontation and Shane begins to lose it. He almost shoots Rick, but Carl fires a shot through Shane’s neck, killing him instantly.

Volume 2- Miles Behind Us:
WD_volume_2-miles-behind-us
The second volume opens Lori having flashbacks to the night she and Shane slept together. Apparently, it happened on the night that they came to the outskirts of Atlanta, and between thinking Rick was dead and fearing for their safety, she took comfort in his arms. She also remembers that he told he’s always had feelings for her. Coming back to the present, we see them having a service for Shane, where she curses him and spits on his grave.

Afterward, they pack up Dale’s RV and decide its time to move on. With winter now upon them and no signs of help coming, they seek out in search of more permanent shelter. While on the road, they run into another group of people – Tyreese, his daughter Julie and her boyfriend Chris. They ask to join Rick’s crew, as they are also in desperate need of food and a place to stay.

They quickly integrate with Rick’s camp, as Tyreese proves adept at killing Walkers with his hammer, and he and Carol begin to hit it off as well. After clearing a field of Walkers, they sit around a fire and enjoy some supplies Glenn picked up. Things seem to be going well, but Lori tells Rick in private that she’s pregnant. Worse yet is the fact that it may not be his.

the-walking-dead-wiltshireAfter days on the road, killing Walkers hand-to-hand fashion, siphoning gas, and grabbing whatever they can from abandoned vehicles, they come upon a suburban development called Wilshire Estates. The gated community appears to be deserted except for a few Walkers. After clearing them out, they settle in. It also become clear at this time that Andrea and Dale have started a relationship. Tyreese and Carol appear to be getting closer too.

Things appear to be looking up, until Rick notices a sign at the front gate that says “All Dead, Do Not Enter”, which had previously been obscured by snow. Rick runs back to alert people, but is too late to stop them from being attacked by Walkers who begin emerging from one of the houses. Donna is killed and her husband Allen fires off his gun, which alerts more Walkers.

the-walking-dead-carl_shotThey throw everything and everyone back into the RV and head for the road, stopping many times along the way to try and pick up food. Finding most places picked clean, they decide to pull in near a wooded area and mount a hunting party. However, while in the woods, Carl is shot by a hunter who mistakes him for a Walker. Rick nearly kills the man, but stops when Tyreese tells him Carl is still alive.

The man tells him his name is Otis, and that he lives on a nearby farm owned by a veterinarian who has some experience dealing with bullet wounds. He and Rick begin carrying Carl to the farm while Tyreese doubles back to let the others know what’s happened. They meet up at the farm where Herschel, the farm’s owner, goes to work and is able to save Carl. With everyone together, introductions follow…

Herschel introduces his six children – his oldest daughter Lacey, son Arnold, Maggie, youngest son Billy, Rachel and Susie. Otis and his girlfriend Patricia are their neighbors who moved in when the trouble began and have lived with them ever since. Rick’s crew begin to settle in, Andrea attempts to speak to Allen, who is despondent after Donna’s death, and Carl soon wakes up.

the-walking-dead_herschelsfarmIn the days that follow, the two groups begin to bond. Glenn finds a willing partner with Maggie, who is about his age and also feeling lonely after being surrounded by nothing but relatives for so long. Meanwhile, Rick begins to talk to Herschel about his farm and learns that they have a special barn where they keep their dead… their living dead!

He’s naturally appalled by this, but Herschel is similarly appalled that Rick and his crew have been killing the them at every encounter. After a heated fight, Herschel storms off, but in the morning, they talk it out and Rick agrees to respect his rules while they stay on his farm. However, this proves difficult, as Rick’s crew begin doing practice shooting again which draws a Walker.

Herschel attempts to stick it in the barn rather than let Rick shoot it, but this allows several Walkers to break out. Pandemonium ensues as Arnold tries to save his father and is bit, forcing Herschel to shoot all the Walkers and Arnold himself. He tries to shoot himself next, but Rick stops him. They bury Arnold and Herschel tells Rick he was right. Everyone is given their own gun to carry from this point onward, and Julie and Chris agree to a suicide pact.

walking_dead-prisonIn the aftermath, Rick appeals to Herschel to let them stay on, but Herschel is determined to see them go the moment Carl is healed. Lori confronts him and things become very heated, and Rick agrees that they’ll leave to prevent violence from breaking out. They hit the road shortly thereafter and drive for days. They then spot a prison not far from the road and Rick tells them to stop. He tells them they’ve arrived home.

Difference to AMC’s The Walking Dead:
Even at this early juncture, the difference between the comic book and miniseries are very noticeable. For the first few episodes, things seemed largely consistent with the source material. But by the end of the first season, there were some wide divergences that could not fail to go unnoticed. In some cases, the reasons for obvious, having to do with the vagaries of television.

Shane-and-RickFor starters, Shane and Rick’s confrontation was something was resolved relatively quickly in the comic book series. And while his eventual break was certainly hinted at in the show, it took a very long time for it to manifest itself in his decision to kill Rick. This was something I found annoying frankly. It was like, how many more episodes do we have to endure where they argue, fight, and he sneaks off to talk to Lori before they finally try to kill each other?

Shane being around for what was essentially volume two material also meant that the story in the second season changed drastically. Not only was the conflict between him and Rick prolonged, he was also a source of conflict between their camp and Herschel and the reason the barn was opened in the first place.

On top of that, he was responsible for killing Otis, a character who survived far beyond the farm thread in the comic and later returned. The fact that they had to go out to find penicillin and other medical supplies was due to Carl’s wounds being made life-threatening, which they weren’t in the comic. They also killed off Dale and Sophia in this season, which seemed rather odd since both lived on in the comic and played a rather important roles.

the-walking-dead-cdc1Second, there was the final episode in season one where the camp travels into Atlanta to go to the Center for Disease Control. Personally, I liked this episode best of the first season, so I was a little disappointed to not see it in the comic. But of course, it was easy to see how this episode was expositional. Since the CDC is in Atlanta, the show writers no doubt saw an opportunity to address the disease itself and lend it some mystery and background.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, their was the shuffle they did with characters. In addition to not introducing Tyreese until much later in the series, they also added characters who were not in the original. Daryl and Merle I could understand; these two were colorful, dynamic characters that added to the story. But Tyreese was central to the original story and its dynamic, so dropping him seemed inexplicable.

walking_dead_merle_darylThen there was also the addition of such people as Carol’s husband Ed, who was an abusive butthole, Morales and his wife Miranda, their two kids, Jacqui, and of course T-Dog. With the exception of T-Dog, all of these people died within the few episodes, Jacqui having committed suicide by the end of season one and the latter who lived well into season two but never seemed to get a back story. As a friend of mine said, “he was the highest paid extra in television”.

Between all of these characters, I have to wonder what the point was of including them. Was it just to pad the story? If so, why kill them off so casually? Why not simply incorporate Tyreese, Julie and Chris? Oh yes, and having Daryl and Merle meant there was more time spent in Atlanta, which led to the introduction of the small community of apparent gunmen who were in fact good Samaritans that were protecting a group of senior citizens. Again, a departure, but not a bad one.

Last, but certainly not least, the farm thread was also extended considerably and – in my opinion – unnecessarily. After the showdown at the barn, there was no reason to expect Herschel would allow Rick and his group to stay. But instead, the season went on, introducing a group of roamers that wanted access to Hershel’s farm the moment they learned about it, Rick and Shane’s showdown, and a massive Walker attack that divided the group in two and sent them running.

None of this happened in the original. Rick and his crew packed up and left as one group because Herschel could not bring himself to trust them. What’s more, he and his family did NOT travel with them to the prison. Glenn, however, did stay behind to be with Maggie.

Summary:
And that brings us to the end of part I of this comparative review of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Stay tuned for the next installment which will cover volume 3 and 4 of the comic book series and the first half of season three of the show. I was hoping to wrap this up in a two installments – but hey, I’ve got to be realistic!

Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 3

My goodness, how I’ve fallen behind with my reviews of the Walking Dead lately! And there’s really no excuse, not with everything that’s been happening in the series lately. With the third episodes in the series, an all-important element has been introduced into the story arc – that being the dubious man known as “The Governor” and his little fortress town.

As anyone familiar with the comic knows, this is an extremely important development to the evolving story. Whereas it represents a separate plot thread in the story, it merges with that of Rick and the others who are trying to make a life inside the prison facility down the road. But I shant spoil any of that, mainly I want to talk about this episode!

Episode 3: Walk With Me
The episode opens with a helicopter crashing in the forest, and with Andrea and Michonne arriving on scene to witness what happened. They are forced to take cover as a series of vehicles pull up and men jump out, dispatching the Walkers who have been attracted to the scene. After killing them all, one man inspects the dead aboard the chopper who have begun to turn and shoots them all in the head.They then take the pilot, who is wounded but alive, into their custody.

Shortly thereafter, the group of armed men begin to inch closer to the forest where Michonne and Andrea are hiding. In order to stay hidden, Michonne kills her captive zombies by slicing their heads off. They think they are in the clear, but the moment they try to leave, a one armed man gets to them from behind and takes them both prisoner. The one armed man is none other than Merle Dixon, the brother of Daryle Dixon who was lost from the group in the first season.

They have a brief reunion as Merle explains to Michonne that he and Andrea are acquainted. Andrea then passes out from her sickness, and wakes up to find that she and Michonne had been taken to a small town nearby. After Merle explains to them how he survived after cutting off his own hand to free himself of Rick’s cuffs, a man referred to as “The Governor” walks in. He explains to them that they are not prisoners and are free to leave.

However, after seeing the town on the following day, Andrea believes they should stay. In addition to its walls, armed guards, and well-disciplined people, the town appears to be well stocked and peaceful. Michonne does not trust the Governor, but Andrea begins to take an obvious shine to him. One day quickly turns into two, and a rift begins to appear between Andrea and Michonne as the one wants to stay and the other wants to leave.

Meanwhile, the Governor speaks to the lone survivor of the chopper crash and learns where his comrades are waiting for them. He then takes an armed group to ambush them and steal their weapons and supplies. Upon his return, he lies to the townspeople and tells them that the chopper pilot died of natural causes and the entire squad of soldiers were killed by Walkers, and begins distributing all their supplies amongst the people.

Andrea then asks the Governor what his real name is, but doesn’t get an answer. Clearly, there is something of a spark between the two of them, and Andrea seems intent on pursuing it. At the same time, Michonne has clearly caught the eye of one of the Governor’s men, and it seems that whether she likes it or not, they will be staying for the time being. While Michonne remains suspicious, Andrea has been taken in by the town’s happy facade and the Governor’s outward charm.

The episode then ends with the Governor in his private apartment, his bed occupied with the town’s woman who was speaking to Andrea and Michonne from earlier. He then returns to a private den with a glass of whiskey where he sits in front of a row of aquariums which contain the heads of several living Walkers. Amongst them is the head of Welles, the helicopter pilot, and the heads of Michonnes own walkers.

Summary:
Personally, I felt that this was the best episode of the show thus far, with the possible exception of the one where the group finds their way to the CDC. In addition to being central to the overall plot of the show, it was also extremely poignant and entertaining. It begins with the reintroduction of Merle, a solid but unsympathetic character from the first season; the introduction of the Governor and his town, and ends with the revelation that he is far from an endearing character himself.

What’s more, Michonne, who has had very little exposure thus far in the series, really killed it in this episode. All throughout, she maintains her tough, frowny exterior, demanding their weapons and insisting to Andrea that they move on. However, she also shows genuine apprehension as its becoming clear that Andrea wants to stay and that there are some who would like her to stick around too. Though it is only conveyed in a few passing glances between her and one of the Governor’s men, it’s apparent that she will find her own reasons for sticking around soon too!

At the same time, the metaphor of the town couldn’t be more clear. At first, it appears like a happy, secure place, the kind of place a person who is used to scrounging and fighting for every inch would see as an instant paradise. But of course, the terrible truth is soon revealed to us, the audience, with the expectation that it will also become clear to Andrea and Michonne before long. As is intimated several times, it seems unlikely that such a place could exist, or that there is another shoe waiting to drop.

And of course, there is! In addition to being a driven by the desire to protect his people from the Walkers, the Governor is also obsessed with eliminating anyone and everyone he sees as a threat to his community and its way of life. And his arrival could not be more timely now that Shane is dead and the series has lost its main blocking character. All throughout the series, the point has been made that in the face of annihilation, mankind’s darker nature is it’s greatest threat to survival. Because in the end, it’s not simply a matter of staying alive but of preserving humanity’s basic dignity and morality.

So far, this paradox of battling death while simultaneously trying to stay sane and decent was personified in the conflict between Shane and Rick. But from this point onward, it will be represented by the contrast between the Governor’s community and Rick’s people. After all, it’s pretty clear point at this point that the Governor will be looking for them now that he knows that Andrea had companions who might still be alive somewhere. And given what he did to the squad of military personnel, he’s not likely to take to their existence too nicely!

Now on to episode four, which is downloading, err, playing right now! I shall return with more on season three just as soon as I’ve watched it!

The Walking Dead, Season 3 Episode 2

Welcome back to The Walking Dead, Season Three! I tell ya, one can wait so long for a show to premier again that by the time it gets going, they find themselves falling behind on their watching and reviewing. Would you believe I didn’t get to watching the latest episode til this morning? Yeah, it’s crazy I know. But I hope this review makes up for that and piques the interest of anyone who has yet to watch it.

Now rumor had it that this episode was the best one yet. That’s a pretty tall order considering that the show has set some pretty high standards thus far for action, suspense, and good old fashion gory kill fests! But I went in with an open mind and tried not to expect too much. Mainly, I just wanted to see what they would choose to reveal and what other cliffhangers we could expect.

Last, I should mention that thanks to a friend (hi, Khaalidah!) I’ve taken it upon myself to learn all I can about the comic books and how this show relates and deviates from them. Thanks to my initial research – still looking to get a comprehensive volume of the first 90 or so issues – I noticed a few things in this episode that were pretty significant as far as the overall storyline goes. But more on that later. Here’s what happened this week on The Walking Dead:

Sick:
The show picks up where the premiere left off, with Hershel bleeding on the floor from an impromptu amputation and Daryl discovering that there are inmates still alive and uninfected inside. After hurrying Hershel back to a cell where they try to stop the bleeding, Daryl, T-Dog and Rick have a strained chat with the inmates. Eventually, they come to an accommodation. In exchange for helping them clear out a new cell block for them to occupy, the inmates agree to share what’s left of the food supply with them.

At first, this doesn’t go so well as it is clear that the inmates are not used to fighting as a single, disciplined force. They make a mess of things as they come upon their first group of Walkers and begin stabbing them in the stomach and rioting on them. However, things improve with subsequent encounters, and slowly the group begins to get the hang of Rick and his group’s tactics. Namely, go for the head, stay together, and don’t let them get around you!

However, the biggest man, ironically named Tiny, disobeys these rules and slips off in the middle of an encounter, causing him to get scratched. The groups begins to debate what to do with him, but that ends when the inmates de facto leader (the only one with a gun) bashes his head in and they move on.

When they reach the cell block, a pitch battle ensues to the take out the last guarding the doors. During this fight, the same prisoner tries to take Rick’s head off, accidentally-on-purpose, and tosses a Walker on him when that doesn’t work. As soon as they kill off the last of them, he pretends it was all an accident. To this, Rick responds, “Yeah, I get it… Shit happens.” And then plunges his machete into the mans’ skull!

Another runs, and ends up getting locked out by Rick, to be eaten shortly thereafter. Of the last two, Rick and the others try to decide what to do with them. The one insists that unlike their companion, he is no killer and just wants to live. The other refuses to plead, and tells Rick to do what he will. Rick decides to spare them, and they enter the new cell block. They find that the former inmates were all shot in the head, execution style.

Meanwhile, Hershel goes from bad to better as Carl manages to slip off and find the infirmary. Coming back with gauze, bandages and peroxide, he even boasts that he killed two walkers. Naturally, his mother is incensed, but he insists he’s just looking out for the group. And the medical supplies help, as Carol gives Hershel’s stump a proper wrapping that will ward off infection. They also cuff him to his bunk, as a precaution…

What follows is on the most touching scenes as Maggie has some time alone with Hershel and tells him its okay for him to let go. Unlike her little sister Beth who hopes her father will recover, Maggie is convinced that they must be prepared for the worst, and tells her unconscious father that she and Beth will carry on as best they can. They have a close call when Hershel stops breathing and becomes suddenly reanimated after Lori gives him CPR, but everyone calms as they realize he’s still alive. He even comes out of his coma shortly thereafter to the relief and delight of everyone.

However, Carol has impending woes as she knows that Lori’s baby is due soon and may have to be removed by C-section. She doesn’t know how to do this, and at the time it seems as though Hershel will not be on hand to do it himself. Hence, she asks Glenn to help her procure a female Walker so she can practice on it. After finding and killing one in the yard, she gets to work on slicing open its stomach. As she does, she is watched from the treeline by someone… or something!

Things come together in the end as Rick and Lori have a private chat. They commend each other for their quick actions and being cool in the crisis. All in all, they agree that it was a good day. However, Rick still can’t talk about all that’s happened between them. The episode ends with him telling her how thankful they all are for saving Hershel’s life, and then leaving her alone.

Summary:
Hm, best episode yet? Not in my humble opinion, but definitely a good one! Personally, I am waiting on next week’s which the previews have indicated is where Michonne and Andrea will meet “The Governor” and be brought to his little town. What’s more, hints are given that Merle Dixon, Daryl’s crazy-ass brother from season one, will be making an appearance. If this episode had some people thinking it was the best yet, I’d tell them to wait on next week’s. Promises to be revelatory!

But of course, this weeks episode still needs a little play by play. For starters, it was damn good because of the way it juxtaposed the group’s fight to save one of his own members alongside the rather ruthless display Rick made with the prisoners. After cutting a deal with them but realizing he couldn’t trust them, he quickly dealt with their ringleader by splitting his head in cold blood! Then he even trapped another one outside where he was eaten by Walkers. As the Joker would say, “See, even to a guy like me, that’s cold!”

What’s more, hints are given that Carl is heading down the dark path as well. After running off to fetch supplies, he had absolutely no patience for his mother telling him that he took an unnecessary risk. In addition, the scene when Hershel is revived and they suspect he might be a Walker ends with Carl holding his pistol whooped out and at the ready. This, along with last weeks episode shows how Carl has progressed from little kid to dedicated killer. And when it comes to his parents, he’s showing some clear signs of identifying with his father at the expense of his mother. You might say he’s picking up on the conflict between them and picking sides.

Also, there was a little revelation that put me in mind of something I read about from the comic books. During this episode, Rick tells the prison inmates that they all have the virus, and that as soon as any of them die, they will be reanimated as Walkers. To my memory, this is the first instance of this being mentioned in the series, though I could be wrong.But if it is, it means they have now tackled an important part of the comic book series, which was the grand revelation that any one of them, including people who die while still human, has a strong chance of coming back as a Walker. Remember Shane? Well, if they choose to follow the comics on this point, Rick will have to travel back to where they buried him, unearth him, and put a bullet between his eyes.

Like I said… cold!

The Walking Dead, Season Three Premiers!

It’s here at last!This past Sunday, after taking a very long break, the AMC’s Walking Dead finally premiered their third season.I tell ya, I was waiting so long that I almost forogt all about it. And it’s been weeks since there have been any helpful previews to remind me!

But alas, last night I remembered that the 14th was the big day, er, evening, in which the show would be airing. And, since I lack cable TV, I knew I would have to be employing extra-legal means to see it. So, taking to my computer, I found a torrent, uploaded it, and watched it with baited breath! Well, not exactly baited, but definitely lots of anticipation. I mean, it’s not like it was the new season of Game of Thrones, am I right? 😉

But before I tell you about this episode (Spoilers to follow), there’s the matter of how the last season ended. As we all know, all what was left unresolved thanks to the showdown between Shane and Rick, the split up of the original group, the loss of the farm, and Andrea’s rescu eby a mysterious hooded stranger. What was going to come of all this? Who would make it in this next season, and who would die?

Episode One – The Seed:
The party breaks in to a home occupied by Walkers and begins killing them, clearing the way for the rest to come in and settle down. Afterward, they begin to search for food, but find only an owl (which Daryl shoots with his crossbow) and some cans of dog food. However, more Walkers begins descending on the house, and they are forced to throw their bags into the small fleet of vehicles they have and flee.

From this opening scene alone, a few things become clear. For one, it has been several months since the shootout at the barn took place as evidence by Lori’s pregnancy bump. Second, Hershel, Maggie and Beth have joined the party, clearly believing that they would be safer on the road than on their farm. Third, Shane, Andrea and Dale are gone, either dead or having split off and gone their own way.

After leaving the house, the group confers and agrees that they can’t keep moving as they have been. Pursued by different groups of Walkers, their ultimate goal is to find a place to set down until Lori can deliver her baby. At last, they find a place that seems secure – a prison! However, there is still the matter of clearing it of all the Walkers that are currently inside. After making their way through the fence, the group deploys with the discipline of an army unit and takes out over twenty of them. Apparently, they are getting pretty good at killing zombies!

After making camp and having a meal, Rick tells them that they need to push and take the rest of the prison. He thinks that it fell early on, and that it must have supplies, food, medicine, and an armory. However, since they are low on ammo, they will need to go in in and fight it out hand to hand. This they begin to do,but quickly realize the interior of the prison is not as secure as hoped.

Luckily, a cell block which they come upon does appear to be impenetrable and they decide to spend the night there. And just to be on the safe side, Rick finds the keys to the cells and every locks themselves in for the night. Ironically, the prison’s purpose is reversed now, locking people in instead of trying to keep them from getting out.

In between all this, we cut to a small town, where we meet Michonne for the first time and watch her ass-kicking skills at work! This consists of her decapitating zombies with her samurai sword, and without the slightest bit of trouble I might add! After making the rounds, she returns to a “Deer Cooler” (a meat locker) where we find Andrea, who appears to be sick and in her care.

They decide to set out again, as Andrea doesn’t think she’ll survive if they stay. Packing up her two captive Walkers, the two set out… Yes, apparently Michonne is n the habit of keeping two Walkers with her in chains while traveling. Neither have jaws, which is clearly a defensive measure to make sure they can’t bite her. And I’m guessing having them around keeps other Walkers off their backs. Clever!

Lastly, we cut back to Rick and his usual party of hunters are exploring the basement of the prison. Unfortunately, this area is filled with Walkers, the party gets broken up as they begin running from two separate parties. In the process, Hershel is bitten on the leg and they are forced to scramble to the nearest secure room. Once there, Rick amputates Hershel’s leg with an axe to prevent the spread of the infection. Hershel is still in danger of bleeding out on the floor, and Daryl turns around to see several uninfected prisoners hiding in the next room…

Summary:
What can I say about this opening episode except WOW! Some seriously and truly badass stuff happened here, not to mention plenty of more cliffhanger notes. For starters,the opening scene was very effective and quite intelligently done. Not a word of dialogue passes between anyone in those first few minutes, and yet, we are made to everything of importance. The group has changed, they’ve become more seasoned and experienced, but everyone has the same look of fatigue and wear on their faces. The moment when Carl opens a can of dog food and Rick throws it in the fire place, that too was classic. It’s like he’s saying,”we may be hungry but we’re not animals!” And it was done without a single word.

Then there are the scenes where they fight their way onto the prison grounds, then into the prison proper were both very cool! In the first, special attention is given to the fact that the company has become a highly disciplined and able force, which is demonstrated in how hey manage to quickly envelop the zombies and pick them off from all sides. The moment at the end where Rick shoots the last of them and then laughs to himself is especially good here. It’s like a moment of pride where he’s realizing how effective they’ve become at the whole business of staying alive and killing zombies!

Then comes the fight next day where they begin clearing out the prison grounds using only handheld weapons. Each and every one of them is particularly badass here, stabbing and slicing their way in. But the best part is when the former guards, decked out in full riot gear come to fight them and they have to get creative. After all, you can’t simply smash in their skulls when they are protected by a helmet, and Daryl’s arrows prove useless against the helmets face shields. Here, T-Dog grabs a riot shield and begins bashing into some, while Maggie realizes that the best way to kill them is to stab under the helmets, and then feels very proud of herself when she kills one this way.

And of course, the irony of the prison. What better demonstration is there of how in an apocalyptic world, everything is turned upside down? In this kind of environment, a facility that was once built to incarcerate men is now turned into a fortress, with the express purpose of protecting those withing from those without. And the ending, where they must both cut off Hershel’s leg and find prisoners who are still alive? Whoa, you talk about a climax! A sure fire guarantee that people will be tuning in next week! I know I will…

However, there were also some kinder, gentler elements that were also well suited to the story. In this episode, Lori is desperate to talk to Rick about everything they’ve gone, specifically the triangle that existed between her, Shane and Rick. The matter of the baby’s true father is intrinsic to this, and while Lori wants to talk it out, Rick sure as hell doesn’t! She lets on towards the end that she thinks that Rick hates her, and intimates that Rick killed Shane, which is something she blames herself for. Her words “I put that knife in his hands” silences any doubt as to the whereabouts of Shane, and whether or not she or being literal or metaphorical remains to be seen.

Also, there is the issue of budding and developing romance that is factored in here. In the last season, Maggie and Glen began to have a relationship, and its clear from this episode that it is still happening. At the same time, Carol is beginning to make some overtures towards Daryl, who as we may recall was a great comfort to her last season while they were still looking for her daughter Sophia. However, Daryl seems a bit unenthused and is keeping her at a distance for the time being.

At the same time, little Carl also seems to be taking an interest in Beth, much to the chagrin of her father Hershel. Between these two seasos, he’s obviously grown considerably and is trying to emulate his father, wearing his old hat, shooting a gun, and trying to be a protector. It’s cute, it’s endearing, and in a way all of these relationships are indicative of something very important in the story. In the midst of all that death, people want to cling to life and take what joy they still can. But naturally, there’s a great deal of misgiving and hesitancy since there’s a chance it will end in pain.

Michonne was also very cool, and for what’s it worth, it’s good that they introduced here. Obviously they haven’t developed the thread involving her and Andrea very much in this episode, but we can assume their will be more to  come on that front later. At this point, we can only assume of what happened to separate her from the rest. But if I were a betting man, I’d say Shane killed Dale to protect his secret, Rick killed Shane out of necessity (he did kinda go batshit crazy there!), and Andrea took off because her and Shane had a thing. Somewhere along the way, she got sick and fell in with Michonne, who pulled her out of harm’s way.

The only complaint I might make, more of an observation really, was that as usual, they did up the disgusting factor! The worst part, for me, was when Rick ripped the helmet off one of the prison guard Walkers and his entire face came with it! Oh, and did I mention the skull kept screaming at him? And then Rick cut his head in half with the machete. I know it’s all animatrons and models, but holy shit yuck!

Looking forward to episode two and more revelations, not to mention zombie smashing!