It’s a new season and Walking Dead is back! This is no doubt scant consolation for you Breaking Bad fanatics currently writhing in withdrawal symptoms with no hope of relief but for us zombie or comic fans it is great news. It goes without saying that spoilers abound so read with caution. I’ll try and Rot13 anything I think is particularly spoileriffic.
I’m going to throw out a bunch of disjointed thoughts about the episode specifically and living in a zombie world in general, nothing too formal and certainly nothing like a formal recap. The first thought that occurred to me as the opening scenes occurred was that, as a fan of the comics, we’re officially off the reservation so to speak. With the Prison/Woodbury conflict resolving with the prison enduring (so far) and Woodbury effectively being destroyed as it has in the show we’re pretty much going in the opposite direction that it did in the comics. Potentially spoiler musings:
Creuncf, ubjrire, gur Tbireabe fheivivat vf gur pyhr urer. Va gur pbzvpf gur Tbireabef nffnhyg ba gur cevfba erfhygrq va n xnzvxnmr punetr ba gur sraprf jvgu iruvpyrf juvpu erfhygrq va gur cevfba jnyyf orvat veercnenoyl jerpxrq guhf eraqrevat gur cevfba hfryrff nf n ershtr. Gur urebrf syrq, gur Tbireabe jnf zheqrerq ol uvf bja crbcyr. Gur sngr bs Jbbqohel vgfrys jnf arire rkcyvpvgyl erfbyirq. Vg vf cbffvoyr gung gur Tbireabe znl fubj hc gb ercevfr guvf ebyr ng gur raq bs bhe pheerag frnfba. Evtug abj, jvgu Jbbqohel qrsvavgryl tbar, gur Cevfba raqhevat naq gur Tbireabe nyvir (univat fubg uvf bja crbcyr) jr’er ng na nyzbfg vairegrq jbeyq gb gur bar bs GJQ pbzvpf.
Suffice to say, though, comic fans of TWD are a lot more in the dark now than they were before.
My initial reaction to Farmer Rick and the general shots of prison life was, to put it mildly, gratification. I know I like to obsess about details but I’d always asked a lot of the questions that the shows writer nerds clearly also were thinking. Why don’t you kill walkers through that fence with gloves, aprons and some skinny pointy things? Answer: they do! Why don’t you set up spikes and an airlock sort of mechanism on your gate to let people in and out? Answer: they do!! Another detail I hadn’t considered but enjoyed was Farmer Rick and his music. Well yes, of course that endless slithering, shuffling, hissing and moaning is going to become a cheese grater on the brains of anyone within earshot of the fences (read everyone outside and likely a lot of the people inside the prison buildings). For me watching some of these details was enormously pleasing and heightened my ability to suspend my disbelief. Good stuff!
I like the newer stronger Carol enormously; she may be turning into my favorite character in the core group. I enjoy the dynamic between her and Darryl who is enjoying a bit of deserved celebrity. It must be admitted that Darryl has a skill set especially well suited to surviving a zombie apocalypse world. I do not know why I took and –instant- disliking to the Darryl fan boy (hereafter called Nerdlinger) but I did. I’m not proud of it.
My husband asked me “where are all the zombies on the fence coming from?!?” I initially thought he had a point; stabbing walkers with rebar through a chain link fence is clearly a pretty solid strategy for clearing the buggers. A person with good gloves and an apron (I’d want a face visor too personally, gross gross gross!) would be able to kill a pretty big number of walkers in a day even if they weren’t working very hard. You wouldn’t expect so many to be shambling out of the woods at the prison. On further consideration, however, I think this stream of walkers is justified and indeed is likely an unavoidable feature of TWD world. We know, from comics and the show, that Walkers tend to shamble in the direction of their last stimuli with a slow but implacable gait. Now if you envision the prison on a map and then mentally imagine their supply runs going out to gather goods and then returning you realize that the entire region the prison is located in has a near constant stream of stimuli pointing directly at the prison. Sure your car or your horse can zip right past those walkers over ten or twenty or fifty miles but when you do that you’re pointing every walker directly at your refuge. What would be the plausible result? An endless stream of walkers eventually showing up at your walls. Is this avoidable? I don’t think it is unless you can somehow make yourself no longer in need of scrounging from the surroundings and that’s a sobering thing to consider.
I’m gonna kudos the supermarket scene: Walkers raining from the roof with an eventual collapse was hair raisingly scary. Well done show! I’m going to overlook the questions as to why they didn’t all come running while team scavengers were having their love fest at the front of the store in the interest of dramatic effect. Too bad about Beth’s boyfriend; I had him pegged as a red shirt the moment I saw him. Beth can’t have nice things. This scene was brought to you by two words: protective gear. There is simply no excuse for scavenging teams to not have it. I would say that 90% of walker bites occur on three regions: lurkers or crawlers who surprise you go for your legs from foot to knee; Walkers who mob you or jump you go straight for your shoulders and the junction of your neck and shoulders; finally your arms are your defense and so a good number of people trying to instinctively shield themselves with their forearms get bit on their hands and arms up to their elbows. There is zero narrative reason why every member of the team could not/would not be kitted out with solid knee high boots (or heavy boots with lower leg protection), big solid gloves (or at least bracers/armguards) and some kind of neckpiece/shoulder protection. You’re in a prison awash with riot gear for Fish’s sake! Why other than for drama, would you be running around beyond the walls functionally bare ass naked? Glen seemed kitted out and Darryl and Michonne have indestructible fan armor but why are our newbies unprotected? Maybe that sly dog Hershal doesn’t like Beth’s redshirted boyfriend?
Poor ol’ Rick can’t win with me. I disliked him as Sherrif Rick, I disliked him as Ricktator and I loathed him as Crazy Ricktator so it comes as no surprise that I dislike him as Farmer Rick who suddenly dislikes guns. I mean yeah you do what you need to ta recover from your mental trauma but refusing to take a weapon beyond a knife with you while you go out to check snares potentially full of flailing squeeling animals (otherwise known as walker drawing devices); yeah paging Professor Darwin. The Irish lady was obviously bad news, well done show for honestly making me think she was a walker. Her wrecked desperation was deeply effecting and I gotta say; her husband was must have been a near superman to keep her alive this long in a zombie world. It’s a pity they couldn’t recruit him. Obviously her mental hell would be a perfect hook for Farmer Rick, him being only a couple episodes or so out from being a lunatic himself so of course he would go with her. The scene with her dying and him asking his three questions, however, was powerful and both actors turned it out very well. The foreshadowing here, however, especially with her weeping “you can’t come back” bodes very ill for the Prison (Rfcrpvnyyl fvapr jr xabj sebz gur pbzvpf gung gurer’f n jubyr pbafgryyngvba bs ehvarq jbeyq gur tebhc vf zrnag gb ivfvg juvpu gurl jvyy abg qb vs gurl ohvyq n arj fbpvrgl va gurve cevfba jnyyf.).
Carl seems to have found a pretty tolerable midpoint between the Kid-psycho persona he was sporting at the end of last season and the clueless sheltered Woodbury kids that he peers around with. I think his remonstrations against naming the walkers were well placed. Those things are not to be taken lightly in TWD world. You don’t scorn the weather or the wilderness and in TWD you don’t scorn the walkers or you end up dead.
I am confused by the scene with Carol. It seems that under the cover of conveying culture to the prison’s tots Carol is instead conveying life skills. This makes perfect sense intellectually and emotionally (if Sophie had been given these lessons maybe she’d have survived) so I do not understand why Carol needs to do this on the DL. Most of these kids shouldn’t even have parents now thanks to the Governor and why in God(ess?)’s name would anyone object to teaching the tots to be something other than Walker chow? Why would Carl object? Maybe he’s angry he’s been missing out on useful weapon skills when he thought he was dodging boring old cultural enrichment. Either way Carol gets +1 reputation with me.
It was only when the show made a point of showing the bloody eyed walker (hereafter referred to as Weepy) a second time that I gave this shambler a longer look. Even by zombie standards he’s a creepy one and why would a walker ooze bloody tears? Are we looking at some horrific confluence of pathogens? Set, as it is, right alongside the unfortunate Violet the Pig snorting off to pig heaven for an unknown reason it looks like we have a disease problem abounding (though if Violet rises as a walker pig that’d be really funny even though it’d probably herald another game over moment for humanity in TWD world). This made my hair stand on end and also made horrible sense. How does this walker thing work with pests? Walker bites (and sometimes scratches) can infect you with some kind of super walker disease that’ll bring you down (unlike you’re the ambient walker infection everyone has that reanimates them when they die by normal causes). Do pests like to munch on walkers? Can we get transmission a la malaria? If you can I’d say it’s pretty much game over for humanity at this point because I’m not convinced that the northern latitudes are habitable for humans; if you have to spend your summer dodging walkers how do you stockpile fuel and food enough to last the winter? If fleas or bugs can kill you with second hand walker blood in the south then human habitability is pretty much confined to some sort of narrow ribbon between those two climes.
As if to justify my dislike of him, Nerdlinger isn’t simply a Darryl fan boy (he’s all mine damnit!) and isn’t actually afraid of knives, he’s sick and doesn’t tell anyone. This strikes me, again, as very counter survival. I’d say that in an environment where being sick is a serious indication of some small bite that’s about to turn you into a walking killing machine there should be a culture and rules that say you need to come clean about every sniffle. On top of all that it looks like Nerdlinger was considerate enough to hack and sneeze all over the community showers water supply before dying and turning into a Walker. Isn’t that nice of him? I’m beginning to wonder if the prison even has to worry about the Governor coming back to smash it up or if it might just be about to perish in a cloud of plague. As if the Walkers weren’t gross enough.