19 Oct 2012

Screen Time: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 3, Episode 1 'Seed'

Episode 1 - 'Seed'
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yuen, Lauren Cohan, Scott Wilson, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira

Stewart R: It’s crazy how quickly a year can pass.  It only seems like yesterday that we were waiting for the second series of The Walking Dead to arrive, with just six episodes under our belts and a sense of adventure riding alongside the sheer terror of survival in a world populated with Walkers.  Within a couple of minutes and a single scene of this latest and much awaited third series we can tell it’s been a very long winter for the small group of survivors led by Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes. It’s a brilliant sequence that shows how efficiently these people are working together and in the same stroke shows how close to desperation they truly are. The beards are longer, the eyes more tired, faces gaunter and the smiles non-existent. Added to that is the fact that the whole opening scene is acted out in near silence as everyone tries to go about their job and not bring it to the attention of any roaming Walkers.

It gives us a great idea of just how things are going under the ‘Ricktatorship’ (as I’ve seen it dubbed elsewhere) where nothing is open up for debate anymore and the group is following the hardening former cop with the slightest sense of fear in the air at any sign of failure.  The usual problem of aging child cast members has been dealt with sensibly thanks to the jump of seasons and change in demeanour within the group to make Chandler Rigg’s Carl progression into his early teenage years effortless and believable and as he jogs around in his father’s hat, gun in hand it really does help to highlight the shift in attitude to surviving at nearly any cost. Everyone has a part to play and no-one gets to hang back or not participate.

It’s no real spoiler to say that the crux of this season debut is to set up one of the major locations to be used through the 16 episodes that we’re pretty certain to enjoy over the Winter of 2012 and into Spring 2013. The prison stay made up a large chunk of the comic’s first few years and while the cast in the TV show is currently a bit different to the initial arrival as seen in Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s black and white panels it’s clear to see that the source material is never truly in threat of being thrown to the wind - it’s just too damn good for that! Indeed it becomes apparent to some extent that the creators may be trying to parallel certain smaller events and plot points in the comic series by moulding and shaping the current cast to fit and if this first instalment of the third year is anything to go by it should well work!

Importantly to the whole damn exciting rickety bridge that is The Walking Dead TV show, the constant threat of gruesome and painful death alongside undesirable resurrection is always present and looms over every conversation and interaction as you just don’t know what could be lurking around the corner or in the shadows. Further into this episode that edge of the frighteners is sharpened and made keen as the screen is just a bewildering mash-up of darkened corners, twitchy torches and the silence that broods over the very best zombie and horror films. The middle of the previous season bottomed out slightly by keeping the threat far from arms length and seemingly controllable, only to bounce everything loudly upon it’s head come the series finale and though this is the usual explosive debut that swift turning of the tide still lingers in the memory and should hopefully help to carry these 16 episodes through even those inevitable quieter moments.

Making it to your third term these days is almost a pipedream in the fickle world of televisual dramas and The Walking Dead has made it this far and is still on the up and up. The cast are all in fine form, the blood and guts quota appears to have been increased - there’s a bit in this episode where I even winced and gave a questioning look the screen’s way - and it looks to be a glorious year ahead for us as an audience. This is one of those starts that makes you feel like you’re back in the (slightly grubby and decaying) arms of that good friend of yours who went travelling for the Summer - you missed them even more than you thought you would and it’s so so good to have them back! (Just watch out for any unnecessary biting...)  9/10

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