The zombies return for a third year in The Walking Dead, ready to chew everyone up and spit them out, probably because we reviewers were so mean about their previous run. Yes, it had pacing problems in the middle and was over-soapy, but they seemed to get their shit back together by the last few episodes.
So, I’m going into this new season of undead antics with a renewed sense of positivity. You’re not going to find any optimism on the screen, so someone has to do it.
Darker, Scarier, Prisoner
This year, comic fans will see some iconic Walking Dead stories adapted, including the prison setting and iconic characters Michonne and The Governor. And in this first episode, within minutes of the start, we’ve already seen the first of those. To be fair, they showed the prison over the hill in the final shot of season two, so couldn’t drag it out too long.
But the premiere is less notable for the content – if you knew the prison was coming, you could predict most plot beats in this episode. The selling point here was the taut pacing, sense of threat and economy of time spent on soapy plots. (No-one is saying the characters shouldn’t have feelings, but in a show like this, it’s better to show them subtly and quickly, rather than multiple five minute soliloquies.)
Maybe it’ll slacken off once the gang have settled into the new cells, but for now, this is a Walking Dead I want to see: tense, scary, but still character-driven.
As well as predictable prison exploration, we also saw Hershel take a bite to the leg. Hope it won’t be fatal – with Dale dead, the gang could use a wise older man to dispense wisdom, especially now he has a beard. Also, the subsequent leg-chopping scene: pretty damn brutal.
Elsewhere, Michonne is introduced, very briefly, with hints of her and Andrea having adventures off-camera. Hard to know where they’re going, but it was a short snatch for now, and Danai Gurira has realised the character more or less exactly as I’d hoped.
So, yeah, I don’t want to start dancing around yet, things could still slow right down, but this was a fine start to the new Walking Dead season, and David Morrissey’s Governor hasn’t even appeared yet. Hopefully they’ll keep it up.