I’ve reviewed The Walking Dead for this site since its first episode in 2010 – I have a longer relationship with this grim soap opera of death than many close friends and loved ones. No matter how dull it was when trying to be deep, regardless of my annoyance when they didn’t kill the Governor off last season, I stuck with it.
But despite this endless love-hate relationship, even I wasn’t prepared for this week’s twist, when life in The Walking Dead… actually seems to be going okay? Obviously it can’t last. Spoilers follow.
Spruce up your home with fresh meat!
I may have been disappointed with the Governor’s let-off last year, but did like the subsequent development: displaced inhabitants of Woodbury coming to join our heroes in the prison. That big concrete bastard always had potential to turn into a genuine home, but became a spooky hole where a handful of survivors waited for death.
This year, with the population boosted, everything is in full swing – they’ve even got a canteen with polystyrene food containers, for crying out loud. There’s a new group of supporting cast, which both makes the place feel less grim and, yes, provides the writers with fresh meat for the grinder.
Because this is still The Walking Dead, where the main question is When and how will they die? Sure enough, two new characters take a permanent holiday by the end of this episode. Obviously, things couldn’t stay totally blissed out, but it makes a difference to have a home worth fighting for. Last year, to be honest, it often felt like they might as well kill themselves, considering their only prize for survival was the chance to shiver alone in an empty cell block.
Lighten your load with traumatised gardening!
In actual plot news, there’s a cool zombie attack scene, as the writers find a new way to make that exciting when they drop in through the ceiling. Meanwhile, Rick has taken up traumatised gardening to recover from last year’s breakdown. It’s good to see his character arc taken seriously, even if it doesn’t make for exciting viewing yet. His brief encounter out in the wilderness had a nicely judged little horror twist at the end though.
Honestly, despite my approval of the broad direction, the whole first half of the episode was a little slow, but the latter part got me back on board, ending with a cliffhanger: there might be a disease spreading through the survivors – will this be the last straw? I’ll give them credit for coming up with a new and interesting threat, now let’s see what they do with it.
Oh, and Michonne showed emotions other than Angry Killing Machine. All told, interesting stuff happening – if we can get some momentum running, maybe it’ll even lead to a good season. I’m trying to temper my optimism with The Walking Dead – after all, I gave a great review to the first episode of season three and that kinda petered out – but this is a strong start.