The Walking Dead

Episode 301 - "Seed"

Starring Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Laurie Holden, IronE Singleton, Lauren Cohan, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, Emily Kinney and Danai Gurira

Written by Glen Mazzara
Directed by Ernest Dickerson

In the seven months since the second season of AMC's "The Walking Dead" concluded, anticipation has been high for what lay in store. Season Three, it was made abundantly clear, would introduce popular characters Michonne and The Governor, who are fan favorites from the graphic novels on which the series is based--as well as the prison which would become a new haven for the band of survivors. Notice I didn't say "safe" haven. All this aside, third season opener "Seed" brings the series back in smashing form.

Several months have passed since the group was forced to abandon Hershel's (Scott Wilson) farm. In the interim, they have been holing up in various houses for as long it has remained possible each time. The pregnant Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is now a few weeks away from giving birth. On a routine hunt with Daryl (Norman Reedus), group leader Rick (Andrew Lincoln) spots the prison complex. Despite securing a cellblock as comfortable living quarters, the group must contend with further perils within the byzantine bowels of the structure. Meanwhile, Andrea (Laurie Holden), who was rescued by a hooded, Katana-wielding figure after being separated from the group at the end of last season, is presently very ill and being cared for by her rescuer, the enigmatic Michonne (Danai Gurira).

Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes.

If "Seed" is any indication, the soap opera-like plot elements of the second season--which frustrated some fans--are to be jettisoned in favor of more action-oriented storylines. While Rick and Lori's marriage has obviously been severely compromised because of her earlier affair with the late Shane (Jon Bernthal), that element plays out almost as an afterthought rather than a true character motivation. Their son Carl (Chandler Riggs), on the other hand, seems to have undergone a character arc of his own and is now a participating member of the group rather than a mere child to be supervised.

One key ingredient to "The Walking Dead" is the idea that no character is "safe." This was proved last season with the reveal of the undead Sophia (Madison Lintz); the sudden, shocking demise of Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn); and later Rick's dispatching of Shane in the penultimate episode "Better Angels." "Seed" wastes no time by ushering in the new season with a surprise potential death of a major character near the end of the outing. [Highlight to read SPOILER:] Hershel is bitten on the leg by a walker and, despite a quick amputation of the infected limb, may not survive. [END SPOILER] Plus the episode's final moments present the revelation of an even newer threat in the prison, ending on a particularly engaging cliffhanger.

Danai Gurira as Michonne.

Director Ernest Dickerson, who had helmed Season Two's memorable finale "Beside The Dying Fire," picks up the reigns here and directs from co-producer Glen Mazzara's script. "Seed" plays out in the kinetic, no-nonsense pacing that made "Fire" such a successful entry; indeed, the latter episode seamlessly dovetails into the former. The cold open, in which Rick and his group clean out a new potential home of walkers only to spot an approaching herd which requires a quick retreat, plays out in wordless yet compelling narrative. The new opening titles montage (deleting Bernthal and DeMunn from the cast cards and adding Gurira) is presented in an even deeper sepia hue, perhaps mirroring the advanced decay set upon society lo these many months after the undead pandemic first began.

Great care has always gone into the writing of "The Walking Dead," making the characters and their personal drama as compelling as the post-apocalyptic predicament that serves as the series' backdrop. That the writers are allowed to stray from original story points in the graphic novels makes the show unpredictable and entertaining for those who've already read them. Like practically every other episode in the series, "Seed" leaves the viewer wanting more and itching for next Sunday to roll around. That's the mark of damned good storytelling.

Review by Petch Lucas, for Pitofhorror.com