Seven to eight months have passed since the massacre at Hershel’s farm. Winter has come and gone, Lorie is bursting with baby and the group is slowing cycling outwards raiding house by house for supplies, all while avoiding what seems to be two large hoards of walkers. I actually ended up loving the fact they jumped forward in time and didn’t fill in the details in absolutes.
In a number of ways we knew what was to come, they just spared us the on-screen details all while giving time to give cause as to why the gang are so much more efficient with firearms. That’s certainly not to say that the show is so predictable we can put a finger on every single thing that happened, but with this choice they crisp up this season and ditch the baggage.
The grind of hell on Earth is already showing on the faces of the survivors – Rick, Lorie, Carl, Glenn, Daryl, Carol, Maggie, T-Dog, Hershel, Beth – as their actions are more calculated and baser than ever. They now show years of hardship on their faces after being plunged into this world, even though it’s only been about one. Even a joyful song comes across as cruel and eerie.
It’s a small miracle that they stumble upon the potential fortress that is the West Central Prison, somewhat of a curse disguised as a blessing – high walls, fencing and the likelihood of an infirmary and armoury all at the cost of a few hundred concentrated walkers (and the need for a few thousand rounds of ammunition). The goal is clear (and essential to their continued survival) but the way about executing the plan is far more troublesome. The solution comes down to a hand-to-hand, systematic siege of the complex, yard by yard, cell block by cell block, zombie by zombie.
It was made clear, even in the marketing material, how impressive the set mimicking the prison is (any behind the scenes material cemented that fact) and in this first episode the true perfection at what the designers have constructed becomes readily apparent. The practical effects are staggering in their ability to convey space and simultaneously a feeling of safety and peril. Never has The Walking Dead felt more like a horror movie than now, and a dilapidated, zombie-filled prison provides the perfect boogeyman for what is essentially a haunted house.
There are delicate touches to the prison, from general grunge to the blink-and-you-may-miss-it suicide victim in an interior watch tower. It’s one thing to show death in absolutes but to show it at a distance beforehand shows real thought and care being put towards the overall atmosphere.
The descent into darkness is also sublimely orchestrated and aids in ramping up the sense of dread and tension. Never have I been as creeped out by this series or felt like there could be more potentially dire outcomes. We go from a dense green forest, to the overgrown grass of the yard, to the debris-littered interior and finally into the gloom-enveloped bowels of the cell block. The fact that all these stages are riddled with the undead only makes matters more disturbing. The final scene of Seed also continues the trend of reminding us that it’s not just the undead that the survivors need to fear.
We also briefly pick up with the separated Andrea and newcomer Michonne who are having some troubles of their own, with the former suffering from an illness not of the zombie variety. This duo have clearly become friends in the time that’s transpired even though it initially looked more like the katana-wielding, walker-laden Michonne was more of a lone wolf. It will be interesting to see if we learn more about that they’re been through over the winter months.
Though it served as a tease in some ways (especially for fans of the character) I’m personally glad they didn’t opt to equally divide screen time between these two groups. The siege of the prison is compelling and substantive enough we didn’t need filler. We know that Andrea is alive and (mostly) well and that’s good enough for now.
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