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The Walking Dead is having a nice streak. After a very weak first half of season two, everything after the winter finale was an improvement and now that we’re two episodes into season three, those positive changes have been enhanced even more. Sick starts right where the premiere left off. Hershel has just had his leg removed and the surviving prisoners are bewildered by what they’ve just witnessed. This episode centers around the danger that the prisoners bring to the group’s new home and dynamic. The comic is all about how humanity is the main threat in this world; the zombies are merely a catalyst that can be swapped for aliens, a nuclear bomb, or anything else apocalyptic. For the show, the human danger aspect has only been hinted at with Shane and Rick killing the guys in the bar.
That core aspect is brought to the forefront this week with the prisoners, or perhaps I should just say Tomas. Right from the start it was clear that he’d be a problem, but whether he’d stick around to possibly be the new “wildcard” of the group, a potential villain, or walker food were my immediate thoughts. The idea that Rick and the others would clear out a cellblock for their new neighbors and split the food was a diplomatic and smart plan. Trusting anyone in their world would be a bad idea and prisoners add even more worry into that equation, but quickly deciding to murder them would be inhumane and dangerous, since they do have some weapons of their own and outnumber Rick’s group when looking at men. So the idea of training and moving the prisoners away was good in theory.
Seeing how new and foreign zombies were to the new characters and having our protagonists teach them was another very interesting aspect, which was helped by the time skip between seasons. Believing that the same people from seasons one and two, aka the dumbasses who slept in tents, could teach people to survive would be a stretch, but this season they’re weathered and wiser, which was expertly shown in the premiere last week with the silent opening scene and clearing the prison. Seeing Rick and the others teach the prisoners and how badly their initial attack went does add a lot to their “badass meter”, four guys and a woman can take on dozens of zombies while convicts can barely takedown one since they’re so busy shanking them in the guts.
Speaking of the toughness of these guys, it was hard to believe any of them besides Tomas was serving hard jail time. What did Tiny do, step on a puppy by accident? I’m not expecting all convicts to be Edward Norton in American History X on TV or in real life, but Andrea and Michonne seem tougher than the “criminals” they showed us who are in a maximum security prison. Also, the idea that they were locked in a cafeteria for 10 months and seemed pretty clean, sane, and basically just chilling waiting for a rescue party was hard to swallow. Luckily, the quick pace of the episode distracted from some of the paper-thin logic. There was nothing illogical about Rick’s response to Tomas though, after trying to kill Rick twice I don’t think anyone with common sense can blame him for not allowing Tomas to try for a third time.
The tension before Rick did the deed was very intense and he had a “damn you for making me do this” type look on his face all while giving him a look of pure anger and hatred. While I don’t blame Rick one bit for killing him, I do think chasing down and basically helping zombies kill Andrew was excessive. They all did spend at least 10 months together and were possibly friends, plus no one other than maybe Daryl saw Tomas discreetly attacking Rick, so from Andrew’s point of view, Rick randomly killed Tomas and his reaction seemed like what you’d expect from seeing a person you know being murdered in front of you. The huge difference between Shane and Rick is that Rick allowed the prisoners to screw up first before killing them, while Shane would have killed them first or at least violently removed them from the prison.
One of the other improvements the show has this season is making characters besides Rick interesting. With Hershel down due to his injuries, Carol is feeling the pressure of being the person with the second most medical knowledge. Her plan to practice on zombies was a bit bizarre, but it is better than going in completely blind. It’s nice that’s she’s actually doing something and getting her own subplot. It seems like everyone is doing their part and being active this season, T-Dog, which is the worst nickname ever and shows out of touch the writers are when it comes to other cultures, has gotten more lines and attention this season. Before he just used to stand around and breathe heavily as I’m sure many of us expected him to die, but he’s actually been talking and killing zombies this season, plus they’ve shortened that awful nickname to just “T”.
Carl is no longer the naïve, okay… stupid, kid from season two. He’s been killing zombies with the group and this episode he helps saves Hershel by getting medical supplies by himself. Lori was right that he shouldn’t have gone off by himself, but she’s Lori, everything she says is unlikable and wrong. If she said the Earth is round I’d want to disagree with her. The show has a long way to go and many obstacles before they can redeem her, but they have planted some seeds in the last two episodes. So we have danger from humans, gray moral choices, zombies everywhere, and that was just one hour? If the show can stay at this quality then it can actually meet the potential that the pilot setup but was quickly abandoned and the tense, dark nature of its source material. Here’s hoping they can keep the streak going.