Everyone grab your crossbows and ready your guns. The walkers are back.
The new season of The Walking Dead opens with a very different world from the previous season. The threats of the Governor and Woodbury have subsided for now, and a tight-knit community has been woven on the prison grounds. The lives of the new community has generally become more agricultural in nature: farming and raising animals provides the food, sharing provides comfort, and there’s a lot of community work and newfound happiness in their new sanctuary. Along with the constant slaughter of zombies, of course.
Rick’s attitude has taken a 180 degree turn from his hallucinatory state-of-mind last season. In addition to forming a council and establishing order on the grounds, he has become more responsible as both a leader for the community and as a father for Carl and Judith. As Hershel says to him, “things break, but they can still grow.”
Carl also has changed tremendously. While a growing of age sadly means a loss in childhood appearance, his deeper voice and longer locks stand testament to him maturing as a young leader. As he was last seen shooting down a young boy from Woodbury, he has since grown out of this bloodthirsty attitude. In the opening scene, Carl questions Rick about a pig he named Violet, which seems to be sick with some disease. Rick replies that Carl should not be naming animals they are eventually going to eat, and teases him about his new hobbies, including reading comic books late at night.
Relationships have sprung out left and right, promising new characters and stories. Tyreese finds love with Karen (a member of Woodbury, played by Teen Wolf‘s Melissa Ponzio), Beth has romanced a young lad by the name of Zach (Kyle Gallner), and the relationship that has withstood two seasons is as true as ever between Glenn and Maggie. There’s some curiosity as to whether another baby might be introduced into the storyline.
Select characters have also been recognized as extremely crucial to the storyline of the new season. Michonne has become a benevolent, well-liked member, especially for Rick and Carl. Her newfound mission is to find the Governor and bring him back for retribution at the prison. Due to his new role in the community of bringing back survivors from walker attacks, Daryl has become very loved and somewhat of a celebrity amongst the members of the community, much like the real-life community of fans of the show. He has even acquired from Carol the nickname of “Pookie”.
When Rick goes on a mission to check the snares, he stumbles upon an extremely ghostly woman, who is honestly the most terrifying living being that has come across on the show. In ragged clothes, and matted skin from months facing the outdoors, she looks like some sort of hybrid walker. With her frail voice, she begs Rick to accompany her back to her campsite, where he can maybe provide help to her and her husband “Eddy”. Along the way, she describes her tale of survival from the walkers, and inquiries if Rick too had to do “certain things” which may have compromised morality for survival. Rick remains curt, but it is understood that he still feels guilty for leaving people behind in past seasons.
Meanwhile, the remaining members of the council (Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Tyreese, and Sasha) set out to raid a nearby department store. Young Zach tags along, and provides some laughter to Daryl as he tries to guess what his occupation was before the outbreak (his guess is “homicide cop”.) As they enter, they fail to notice that the rooftop is home to a helicopter that has crashed, and a crowd of at least 40 walkers.
They begin the raid in typical The Walking Dead suspense – no music or lights, just the sound of heavy panting. When a member of the raid – Bob – accidentally brings down a shelf of wine bottles, he also accidentally weakens the ceiling. Without warning, the walkers from above start to fall down through the ceiling and onto the unsuspecting raiders. Survival instincts kick in and the slaughter of walkers begin. Though they all manage to get out, Zach’s leg is ripped out by a walker and the group is forced to abandon him.
In the forest, Rick and the lady continue to walk back to where she is based. When they reach there, she rushes over to a makeshift kitchen outdoors with the food Rick has provided, leaving Rick next to the tent. When he realizes that there is no “Eddy” in the area, he turns around just in time as the lady flings herself at him, attempting to take him down as more food.
Rick quickly evades her capture and stands over her as she mutters nonsense to herself, though he catches that she hasn’t actually killed walkers, but has taken down human beings. Before killing herself, she whispers to Rick that he “doesn’t get to come back from this”. He heads back to the prison grounds, visibly shaken by this experience.
Back at the prison, Carl and a group of kids, including a young, new character named Patrick, gather around the fence and discuss going to “story time” sessions, which are hosted by Carol. Carl complains that it’s too baby-ish for him, and the rest leave. Later, when he spies on the group, he discovers that the story time is actually a self-defense class, including a how-to on holding and wielding knives. Carol notices Carl, and pleads for him to not tell this to his father before he runs away.
Back from the raid, Glenn and Maggie are reunited, and Maggie tells him that she is not pregnant. While Glenn is thoroughly relieved, Maggie states that she wouldn’t be against the thought of giving birth. When Glenn brings up Lori’s death and how it led to her death, Maggie replies that being afraid is “how we keep breathing”, and that she’d welcome the chance of having a baby with open arms.
Daryl takes it upon himself to inform Beth about Zach’s death. Quite to his surprise, she shrugs it off, and tells him that she’s learned not to cry; emotional investment is not worth anything in the world they live in now. Daryl evidently is more upset, his reason being that he’s just tired of losing people.
When Rick seeks Hershel’s council concerning the woman in the forest, Hershel says “you get to come back. You do,” pointing out how Rick came around from the brink of mental insanity, how Carl became more of a tempered being, and how Judith has survived so far in this apocalyptic world.
As things in the prison calm down, the sound of coughing emerges during the nighttime. Patrick, who had been sick throughout the episode, works his way down to the showers in an attempt to clean himself of his sickness. After two seconds however, he collapses, evidently falling prey to some horrible sickness. Before the episode ends, the camera pans into his face, showing that he has resurfaced into a walker.
Though the premiere did feel like more of the same, there’s definitely the chance for exploration of new characters, new themes, and strange plot twists. The action scenes against the walkers almost taking down the humans at the department story have not disappointed, and idea of an enemy looming from within the community, namely some sort of plague, just adds to the familiar, thrilling aspect of the show. So far a great start to the new season, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next coming weeks, and whether Rick and the gang can go on another 30 Days Without an Accident.