Episode 1 left us with a big cliffhanger after the emergency amputation of Hershel's leg. Episode 2 picks up exactly where the first one left and leaves Rick, Glenn, Daryl and Maggie at gunpoint with some inmates of the prison who clearly can't believe what they just saw. There's not much time for chit-chat, however, as Rick commands Hershel to be brought back immediately before he bleeds out. The inmates, of course, follow them. They are more afraid of the group than the group is of them. That's a clear sign how times have changed; in season 2, guys like these would have scared the shit out of Rick and the others. Now, they are more a nuisance.
|Can't really take them seriously.|
Problems soon arise. The inmates try to bargain for the cellblock, but Rick will have nothing of it. It soon becomes clear that the guys don't even know what happened - the apocalypse are news for them. This is so sad, especially watching their reaction and how they try to cope with it. Their leader, imagining himself as a tough nut for sure, settles for Rick's help clearing another cellblock and some weapons in exchange for half of their supplies, of which they have plenty. Being locked into the cafeteria helps. They then start to clear out the next cellblock, and the inmates are behaving so utterly stupid that the eyerolling of the group is only appropriate. The difference to stupid behavior like in previous seasons is that the show doesn't try to sell it as appropriate for the characters. It's appropriate for these stupid troupe, but not for our heroes anymore.
|Big WTF on their faces.|
Meanwhile, in the cellblock, Hershel is being nursed by Carol - she really found sensible stuff to do in that winter - and we see again how sentiments have changed. There's no question that someone bitten by a Walker is chained to the bed, with someone always ready to put something hard in his skull. That's reason. When Maggie starts to silently plead with Hershel that he might die, because as a cripple, his fate would be worse, we can see what cracks their psyche already took. We also get a new glimpse of Carl, who quietly wonders off, not do perform some horseshit action and put himself in need of rescue, but to gain some supplies. Woah, that little guy changed, too.
|Apples don't fall far from the tree.|
And this really is the most important thing about the episode. The people we left at the end of season 2 are not the same people we see now in season 3. That's clear to see. Running around and killing zombies is cool, and it certainly was a refreshment to see them go at it professionally, but in the end, these people are worn down more than anything. Carol captures a female walker to practice C-section, Carl performs missions on his own, they know that every day can be the last day, and so forth - there really is a huge leap in attitude and away from the former civilized man. The group has reduced itself more and more to matters of survival, and it has taken its toll.
|Hard to imagine that happen in season 2.|
A question that burns into mind is what the hell happened with Lori. The treatment she gets from Rick and Carl can't be the old Shane business. It seems like something happened in these winter months, something she really, really fucked up and that brought the rest against her. You don't see anyone argueing or even thinking about her treatment. It seems like they all accept she's essentially the bad guy of the group, so I guess she has done something to earn it.
|Not mama's son anymore.|
Fascinating as the clash between the inmates and Rick was, the leap for him seemed a bit constructed to me. Lori advising him to kill them if need be was a club over the head to know what to expect, and it came exactly like this. The prison gang walked the thin red line between caricature and characters, and I'm not quite sure yet how it played out. It sure was nice to illustrate how realities have changed, but somehow, it was a tad obvious what would happen and how Rick would literally kill the last pieces of the old Rick. Let's see what they do with the material.