I wrote a column last week for the Lit Reactor site that included 10 Things The Walking Dead needs to do in Season 3 to keep me watching. To blend my worlds completely, I thought I’d do the follow up piece after watching the premiere here.
Before we even get started on the list I have to say that the premiere was very good. Advancing the story (and characters) forward six months was a wise decision. It allows us to rejoin a group that has drastically changed. Everyone is far less whiny, and though they’re starving to death and constantly on the move, they all know their jobs and move like a well-oiled, if at times dysfunctional, machine. This is a huge improvement on last season. Beware of spoilers!
10. KILL LORI – 0/1
While they haven’t killed Lori yet, she is at least 20% less annoying in this first episode and I’m glad to see the pregnancy so advanced. She only had one ridiculous crying outburst, and had she not been that way ALL the time for seasons 1 and 2, I would have forgiven it, the woman is nine months pregnant and nearly starving to death in the zombie apocalypse after all.
9. MICHONNE IS A STAR, LET HER SHINE – 1/1
So far so good. It’s clear they intend for Michonne and Andrea to find the Governor and his compound before finding the prison, or the core group. On the surface this is annoying (if only because Michonne’s intro to the group in the book is so good) but I can see the story reasons for it. At this point you can’t squeeze much drama out of Andrea and Michonne showing up on the prison doorstep, except for a quick reunion scene. There’s much more to do if you put Michonne and Andrea in the compound, so they’re already there when some of our core group ends up there - in fact, the possibilities of this are quite cool. I just hope we get to that stuff before the end of the season. Beyond that, on the show thus far Michonne is a woman of few words, as she should be, and awesome survival skills.
8. GIVE DARYL MORE TO DO (BUT DON’T RUIN HIM) – 1/1
Again, so far, so good! Daryl is still true to character and a total badass. He’s still the character I’m most interested in and hope survives above everyone else. Impressive considering he’s one of the only characters not based at least in part on a character from the book. The writers also FINALLY gave us a reason for Daryl and Carol to maybe have some vague interest in one another, in their brief flirty conversation, which was perhaps one of the funniest moments in all three seasons thus far. I’m still not sold on Carol and Daryl, but this was the closest I’ve come to caring about that idea.
7. DON’T IGNORE THE BEST SOURCE MATERIAL – 1/1
Awesome. While they’re obviously deviating in some ways (see: Michonne & Andrea) the prison stuff was riveting, and quite accurate to the book, right up until the end and the new characters we were expecting were introduced. There’s still a lot of time to screw this up of course and the premiere was filled with so much action that I hope they’re saving some for the rest of the season - rather than starting with a bang and leaving a middle full of whimper as they have in previous seasons.
6. CUT DOWN ABOUT 70% OF THE SPEECHES AND MONOLOGUES – 1/1
Woo! Done! While we had a few moments that made me roll my eyes, they were all pretty limited. Rick puts the kibosh on Lori’s attempt at cloying drama, Lori’s plea to Herschel is about half as long as it would have been last season, and even Andrea’s speechifying to Michonne was cut short. Blissfully short. Of course we had a lot of action and plot to fill the hour, so only time will tell if they’ve actually learned their lesson here, of if it’s just a happy accident. I’m still giving them the point though!
5. BRING IN TYRESE – 0/1
No. And I see no sign of him in the previews. Cut to a million sadfaces. That said, “T-Dawg” had slightly more to do and seemed less like deadweight in this first episode. He’ll never be a replacement for Tyrese (and I don’t want him to be) but better writing for him and some actual screen time can’t possibly hurt, right?
4. LET THE REAL ANDREA STAND UP – 0/1
Not so much. I was hopeful when I saw we’d skipped ahead six months that we’d cut to a badass Michonne and “the real” Andrea cutting a swath through zombie hordes. Instead we cut to Michonne doing just that and Andrea sick from a cough…or something. Now, we’re TOLD that Andrea has been busy being awesome (hence the painful “I saved your ass all winter” line) but having it told to us is not remotely the same thing as seeing it and deciding it for ourselves, and I wish they would learn this lesson. Additionally, the previews of Andrea didn’t inspire confidence, I saw a lot of “soul-searchy” conversations.
3. CARL CAN GO – 0/1
Kid is already aging out in a problematic way. And his crush on Beth has the potential to get super creepy, but he was at least far less annoying. He had a job to do, nobody was spending all their dialogue worrying about him. He has been upgraded to useful. It was good. I’m not going to give a point for it, but it was definitely a positive change.
2. STAY ON BOOK – 1/1
Promising! So far almost everything we saw here is drawn from the book in a positive way. Even if they had to change it, the changes make some sense for the adaptation to television.
1. MORE ZOMBIES – 1/1
This first episode certainly packed a wallop. But so have most of the season openers (and closers) I hope they didn’t blow their budget and all their awesome zombie action in one shot. It was great, but we need some continuing tension when it comes to zombies throughout the season to balance the show correctly. I’m optimistically giving them a point for this episode and the benefit of the doubt for future issues.
Final Score? Officially? 6/10
But I’m giving one full bonus point for the trajectory they have Maggie on. I think in fact that what we’re seeing from Maggie in the show is better than her portrayal in the books, and she’s filling a great void created by the absence of Andrea’s true self. So 7/10
Additionally, even in the places where they didn’t give me EXACTLY what I wanted (kill Lori!), they still improved dramatically. On the whole I’d give this episode a solid 8.5/10. It was smart, it was engaging, the action was excellent, and it was even funny (once). I’m absolutely tuning in for the second episode, but given how strong all the season openers have been I’m going to keep one foot out the door until we go a few more episodes.
And the first time I see back-to-back speeches in a single episode I am out.