The second season of "The Walking Dead" was not as good as the first one, that is a common sentiment. There's a lot of hatred out there for it, especially since the characters tend to do pretty stupid stuff all the time eating up a lot of the time, but I for one didn't regard it as such an utter failure as many others. But whoever wasn't happy with how things got in season 2 should be more than happy with the first episode of the newly launched season 3, in which the show throws in an entirely different gear. We meet the group after their flight from the herde in the last episode of season 2 still on the run, visibly more professional than before. They routinely kill off walkers and are tougher than ever, but also gaunt and haunted, weary and worn down. From their dialogue we learn that there is a seven-month-gap between season 2 and season 3, but other than that they survived the winter, we don't know much.
|Would you have imagined here doing something useful for a change? Welcome to season 3.|
I have to say - I love this. A time jump without explaining what happened in between, forcing the audience to sort it out from the dialogue that obviously doesn't center on it is a great device of storytelling. I loved it in Battlestar Galactica, where they pulled it off for the occupation of New Caprica, or in Game of Thrones, were we repeatedly hear of past events only when someone mentions them by chance. It's a blown chance that they didn't show us the zombie apocalypse winter in my book, but perhaps there were budget constraints. At least what we see now is well past the point of zombie movies, months after the apocalypse, showing people coping with the new situation at hand.
|Like using machetes.|
The story brings the group to a prison that isn't breached from the outside, and keeping in tone with the new habit of making smart decisions, they decide to break in, kill every walker inside and take the damn thing for themselves to get Lori a safe place for delivering the baby. We get some scenes of genuine badassery out of it, but even more importantly, in a master-piece attempt of "show, don't tell", we get to witness the new group dynamics. Rick's the undisputed leader of the group, and if he gives orders, they are followed, no questions asked. Everyone has wisened and toughened up, and Daryl isn't any more badass than the others anymore, which says much when you think of how Carl or Carol behaved back in season 2.
|"Stay in formation!" was Rick's order, and astonishingly, staying in formation is what they do.|
It really gets worse for the group from there on. Exploring the tunnels of the prison, they stumble into some zombies, and Hershel gets bitten in the leg. They instantly hunker down in some room, where Rick hacks off Hershels leg with an axe to prevent the infection from spreading. If you had some doubts about the new tone, Hershel's leg should put all your worries at ease. When they looked up from their emergency amputation, they looked into the faces of some prisoners still alive and shocked by what they just saw - a nice cliffhanger before the credits rolled over the screen.
|Rick slashing away|
All in all, the first episode of season 3 really planted some seeds in the ground. We also got some brief glimpses of Michon, her two pet zombies and Andrea. The two girls seem to have formed some bond, but they are more or less mentioned in the episode to remind everyone that they're around - we'll have to wait until later before get to see more of them. For the moment, I am pretty contend with what I saw, and season 3 so far has provided a big, smashing entrance. Let's hope it reaches the heights of season 1 while avoiding season 2's lows.