Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 2 Review

The five watchful eyes of the shadowy prisoners may be a concern of the audience's but for not for Rick and those trying to help out the wounded Hershel. Daryl carefully targets the unknown bunch but only for the brief moments Rick and the explorers stay in that room. As suddenly as the convicts are introduced they are quickly ignored in light of Hershel's injuries. It is a fantastic U-turn of events, highlighting the shining feature of Season 3's "Sick": Subversion of expectation.

Of course the imprisoned survivors are not totally forgotten and as Hershel is brought to the cell-base, the five follow. As a brief conversation has informed us, the five do not know the extent of damage and ruin of the outside world. They had thought the group were a rescue team but quickly realise that that isn’t the case. Their insecurity leads to a hostility (and fear) of what Rick and co want from them and their prison refuge.

The leader of the prisoners is an unnamed muscular Mexican-looking guy, hell-bent on exercising his power. Rick’s gruff voice and forceful demeanour, aside his fiery troop consisting of T-Dog and Daryl, is a definite threat. Nevertheless, Rick wants to stay in the prison for security reasons and talks the Latino aggressor out of a fight. The prisoners’ naivety is not something Rick feels like exploiting and whereas he could tell them to find a new life in the empty world (to which their 10 month incarceration has denied them any awareness of), sending them off to inevitable demise, he teaches them about the state of affairs.

“It’s all gone.” Rick explains. The look of disbelief on each of their faces leaves the audience to imagine how they experienced the outbreak and how they slowly came to realise the dead were walking. “Have you got a cell phone or something, that we can call our families?” one of the convicts asked to which Daryl assertively responds, “You just don’t get it, do you?” The caged men have a startling innocence toward the epidemic which later leads to a chaotic run in with the walkers.

As the men step out into the sunshine to witness the destruction and death all around, they still have little motivation to venture out. The leader is adamant that now that they know of some safety (as the intrusive Rick and co have found it in their old cell) that the prison will become their kingdom and their cell returned. Daryl becomes increasingly irritated by the pushy nature of the convicts and holds his crossbow to the eye of the leader, telling him, “You could try your luck out on the road”. Eventually a compromise is met as, trying not to lose face, the head criminal says, “If these three pussies can do all this, the least we can is take out another cell block.” They just need some weapons to do so. Negotiations go well and both teams will help one another out to keep everyone unharmed or, worse, from dying.

The food is the bargaining chip; the five have clearly “not been starving” from their appearance and so food from the cafeteria should understandably be divided (“if you pay, we’ll play” states Rick). At least with both parties getting what they want, they will have no need to stay in each other’s company. The “little left” claimed to remain is more food than the lead survivors have seen or consumed in years and they gladly take all they can.

As one half of the episodes deals with the clash of co-inhabitants, the other keeps a watchful eye over Hershel. The frail old man, whose expertise in medicine and doctorial procedures is a necessity to the groups’ wellbeing, needs to stay alive. However, the extremity of his injury, not to mention the lack of supplies to keep him well (save some provisions Carl single-handedly gets), makes his survival very uncertain. Had this scenario taken place in Season 2, the solemnity of the moment may have smothered the show’s pace. Fortunately, Season 3 has (so far) got a better handle on structure and tone meaning that Hershel on his death-bed is a harrowing and dramatic event, given just the right amount of attention. His daughter Maggie is understandably distraught and worried of what “we’ll do without him” whilst Glenn and the others think more positively. Neither side can be sure of Hershel’s outcome so the moments of laboured breath are distressing.

As said, moments like these are not lingered on for too long and as they take up chunks of the run-time, they do in sections (editing through cross-cutting to keep the momentum). It allows for the relationship of Rick and Lori to have some analysis – the complexity of their feelings toward one another are interesting enough for the minutes captured yet any more reflections on the matter could become dull (Bill Gierhant, the episode’s director, capably cuts through this multiple moments).

As far as we’re aware, this season will include several explorations of the prison perimeters. Episode 2 changes it up slightly by adding the company of the convicts. These men would know the layout very well but their handle on killing the walkers that have taken over it is laughable. As Rick, T-Dog and Daryl stand back, the five rush the walkers screaming, punching and shanking their way through the undead. They do little damage to the already-maimed corpses but give the audience something to chuckle about. They get the hang of it eventually but one guy’s insecurity about the situation leads to him getting infected (by a disgustingly hand-less walker). He needs putting down and as he pleads the leader violently hacks him down (almost as if saying to Rick, “Watch your back”).

Before a sudden turn of events with Rick’s band versus the prisoners, Carol asks Glenn to her out with Lori’s expected caesarean by having a walker’s body to practice on. However Hershel makes it out of his run-in, he won’t be able to carry out the C-Section and Carol’s idea is “sane” (to quote Glenn).

For what they've been through, our lead survivors have had to put up with a lot. They have endured the harshest environments and the most perilous situations and so some overly aggressive alpha male will not be tolerated. The sparring of stares between Rick and the Latino has made their rivalry dangerously volatile. As they break through another room, the convict leader throws a walker at Rick who escapes thanks to Daryl. Having ignored Rick’s governing about only opening one door (and stupidly pulling open both), aside the attempt to slash Rick with a knife, and have his head chewed off by a zombie, the Latino is pushing his luck. In a moment of unbridled antagonism Rick takes his machete and plunges it into the head of the leader. Pushing a zombie into and on top of him was a cruel attempt to thwart Rick's move into the prison; stupid also as the convicts are outnumbered and outgunned. The remaining lot are shocked and scared (as are the audience who perhaps weren’t expecting it); one runs away and is left to be mauled by a group of walkers, whilst the other two are given their own cell and left to live their lives away from Rick et al.

The last scenes include Hershel waking back up (after a frightening gasp during Lori’s mouth-to-mouth resuscitation), Rick and Lori almost finalising their marriage and Carol cutting open her zombie in lull of practice. The latter scene is seen through a shaky and unknown point of view, ending on a sense of mystery and dread - could an unexpected event take place in episode 3? I’d count on it.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth. Episode 1, "Seed", was also reviewed here.

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