I’ll skip the charming preamble about how much I’ve been waiting for this series, and instead talk about my goals for the season. Some of them are seeming decidedly attainable after this episode!
- Lori miscarries, and the mostly-developed fetus, which one can reasonably assume is infected like everyone else, turns and eats its way out of her all alien-style. Lori dies too. Thank god. Bonus points: Lori and/or the fetus bite Carl.
- T-Dog is given a personality, and Carol continues her quest for awesomeness.
- Daryl continues to be awesome, and maybe gets a bit more precious mother-son bonding in.
- Daryl gets laid
Which brings me to the episode. We see the gang sweeping a house. Everything is going well; walkers are getting killed, they’ve made silencers for their guns, Daryl is being awesome, Lori hasn’t said a word yet, and Carl hasn’t gotten anyone killed. Lori has become super pregnant between seasons two and three, and I’m crossing my fingers it means her end is near. Daryl shoots an owl to eat and Carl’s gourmet canned dog food is pitched away by rick in a short-tempered fit. This house sucks you guys, and it’s surrounded by walkers.
The gang moves on, urged by the ‘shambling horde’ that seems like the plot device that will reunite our heroes in an episode or three. Daryl comments about the rest of the group ‘washing their panties,’ thus reinforcing our love for him as an ill–mannered asshole with a heart of gold. He and Rick go hunting, building upon that shaky mutual respect we saw building at the end of season two. Our favorite hero and our conflicted leader stumble across what we can presume will be the setting for this entire season–an overrun Georgia prison foreshadowed in the last 30 seconds of last season.
In an unprecedented turn of events, all of the characters are useful, productive members of the group as they clear the prison yard; Carol is acknowledged as a good shot with a rifle, Beth is shown trying to be a diversion, and Rick gets his typical Big Damn Hero moment. Even pregnant Lori shakes a fence and pretends she cares about her husband, which is good because the walkers seem to be getting faster.
This is all just scene changing while we wait for Daryl to get a few more awesome lines in. “Little Shane’s got a hell of an appetite.” is already one of the best lines in the show. I started to get scared that my goals were colliding during the Daryl-Carol backrub moment. TV gods, allow me to clarify: I want Daryl and Carol to have a life-affirming familial relationship full of emotional intimacy and character development, and I want Daryl to have meaningless fan service sex with any reasonably attractive woman of legal age.
Around the fire, T-Dog and Herschel plan for the future, talking about canals and tomato seeds, and you get the idea that maybe these people can really make it. Maybe they’ve finally found a place they can not only survive, but begin to rebuild. There’s a sense of hope, even when Herschel requests Beth sing a nostalgic song that reminds him of one of his dead wives. Suddenly there are several voices in chorus, out of time like a symbolic reminder that the group may not always be unified, but is still working toward a common purpose. Sandwiched as this scene is between the big gorefests of this episode, it seems to be particularly hopeful: these people have really got it figured out. They’ve got a plan, can do the day to day walker killing, and still enjoy the little things.
They continue to clear the prison, encountering the hilarity of walkers in full body armor. While it makes them harder to kill, technically it also covers their scratching and biting pieces, so other than giving the gang a good source of weapons and armor to scavenge later, all it gives us is a moment of Maggie being fabulously badass.
Inside the prison we get some obvious exposition of something they’ve been subtly working toward all episode: Carl’s raging hormones have shifted from stupid stunts and irresponsibility with firearms to being attracted to cute blonde girls who look to be 6 years older than him. I’m hoping the next episode will have a return to stupid stunts in an attempt to impress Beth.
Intermittently, we’ve been getting little snippets of the hooded, katana-wielding, armless-walker-slave-having weirdo from the final episode of season two. The internet tells me her name is Michonne, and for as much as I yelled so much profanity at the tv when she first appeared, I’m beginning to like her. She’s using her minions as pack mules! And what’s wrong with Andrea? Did Shane give her Hepatitis or something (which hopefully gives us another entry in the Lori death pool)? It’s clear because they’re holed up in a place called Sportsman’s Deer Cooler that their storyline hasn’t really taken off yet. I was finally beginning to like Andrea, so I’ll be sad if she gets offed soon.
There’s a great scene where Lori tells Hershel she worries the baby will be stillborn. I am dangerously close to becoming incontinent in my excitement. Dangerously close, I tell you. I’m so tired of Lori and her heavy-handed manipulations. Damn it woman there’s an undead apocalypse, there is NO TIME for this Machiavelli bullshit, and stop cat-fighting about whether clean underwear is more important than shooting walkers. Pregnancy hormones are one thing, but playing the victim by crying about how your son and husband hate you because of your choices and actions is a little hard to swallow. I hope they find some new way to introduce legitimate conflict like Shane or Dale did, and don’t just rely on Lori and Carol sniping at one another.
In a smart move, they start spraypainting directions as they move through the prison. In a stupid move, they seem to forget they’ve been successfully battling walkers for around a year, and freak the fuck out. In a wildly predictable move, Herschel walks within a foot of a ‘dead’ walker’s mouth and gets bit (someone had to in this episode). In a surprisingly direct and no-nonsense move, Rick just takes a fucking hatchet to his leg. Hatchet.
This freakout over the sudden and not entirely unpredictable appearance of walkers is perplexing, given how harmoniously everyone worked earlier in the episode. They had systems, formations, and plans, working like a well-oiled (if somewhat catty) machine. The minute the group gets broken down into smaller components, however, everything goes to shit. When the group is separated it leaves room for blame and recrimination, because even in an undead apocalypse, it turns out man is the real monster. A show where a healthy functional group lives day to day and wards off the undead is not as compelling as a show that has adopted ‘fight the dead, fear the living’ as a grim prognostication for this season.
Then suddenly, an influx of new characters, and proof that mustache wax survives the apocalypse. My boyfriend was very relieved to know that should we too survive, he can continue to be dapper.
Oh, and we’re still not using the Z word.