October 15, 2012




WHERE WE WERE:  Finally leaving the farm owned by Herschel (Scott Wilson), where for most of a becalmed season, there had been at least as much soul-searching as zombie killing, much of the philosophizing having to do with whether pregnant Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) should bring a baby into a zombie-laden world, and whether her son Carl (Chandler Riggs) was old enough to be armed.  There was also time for a romance to spring up between Glenn (Steven Yuen) and Herschel’s daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan).  Towards the end of the season, as a behind-the-scenes shuffle on the show replaced original showrunner/creator Frank Darabont with Glen Mazzara, Walking Dead began to move more quickly than its Walkers, and in fairly short order hero Rick (Andrew Lincoln) killed anti-hero Shane (Jon Bernthal), while Sophia (Madison Lintz), for whom the gang had been searching all season, was revealed to be a Walker herself and put out of her (and our) misery.  Herschel’s farm was overrun, finally freeing everyone to get on the move again.  Also:  in the season finale, we got a quick glimpse of Michonne (now cast with Danai Gurira), who’s so kick-ass she travels with armless Walkers as pets, and who saved the life of Andrea (Laurie Holden).

WHERE WE ARE:  The Season 3 premiere seemed to be a message from Mazzara (who wrote the episode, directed by Ernest Dickerson) to viewers that the time for profundity is largely over, and the time for splattering zombies has arrived.  There may have been more Walkers dispatched in this one hour than in all of Season 2 combined.  Some months have passed since the group’s departure from the farm, and Herschel, Maggie and his younger daughter Beth (Emily Kinney) have joined the travelers.  This isn’t really a SPOILER, since it only involves reading the opening credits, but for what it’s worth, Cohan is now a cast regular, along with Gurira, while Kinney and Wilson are guest stars–also credited as guest stars are Melissa McBride (who plays Carol) and IronE Singleton (T-Dog).

The main location of most of the Walker stoppage is a prison discovered by the gang.  Lori is now very pregnant, and it’s time to find a location where everyone can stop wandering for a while.  Also, they’re low on supplies.  This leads to Rick and the troops clearing out first the prison grounds, then one wing after another of the building itself, which is heavy on dark, blind corners where dangers can lurk, and Walkers outfitted as prison guards as well as convicts.  By the end of the episode, those dangers have led to a casualty, and an indication of where the season’s major plotline will be going.  Meanwhile, Michonne has been protecting Andrea, but the latter is in increasingly bad shape, and one assumes their paths will cross with the main group.

As noted, there was no shortage of action in tonight’s premiere, and enough bursting Walker skulls and punctured eye sockets to make any devotee of gore happy.  There were also some danger signs, though.  Confining much of the season to the prison, if that’s the plan, may not be much of an improvement over confining everyone to the farm last year.  Aside from the fact that Carl is now a full-fledged member of the shooting team (and is starting to feel his oats with Herschel’s daughter Beth), none of the characters seems to have gone anywhere since we last saw them, unless you count Ricky getting significantly more twitchy, as though he’s inhaled some of Shane.  Lori is still frightfully dull, burdened with most of the gloomiest what-will-become-of-us dialogue.

The word is that Michonne and the prison are an iconic character and setting for the graphic novels on which the series is based–as is The Governor (David Morrissey), seen only in promos thus far–and so one hopes that this season intends to be more than a retread of last year, this time in a jail.  In any case, the show’s status as a hit is unlikely to change:  even with the shortcomings of last season, Walking Dead–which, unlike AMC’s prestigious Mad Men, pays the bills–ended last season with incredible numbers, almost 9 million total viewers and a 4.7 18-49 rating that would make it a smash on any broadcast network.  Those zombies may not be too bright, but clearly they’ve got charisma.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."