Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum "Tricks and Treats"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Lana attempts to plan an escape from her situation, Sister Jude has other ideas to keep what she's seen secret. Court psychiatrist Oliver Thredson has his own opinions of her management skills when he visits Kit to ascertain his sanity to stand trial. Dr. Arden reveals some of his own particular tastes in women. And the asylum gets a new patient in desperate need for an exorcism, just in time for Halloween.

Another full plate this week, offering some great insights into the assortment of characters, more questions about Bloody Face, and a decent take on the exorcism that serves to advance some other character story lines down the road. Zachary Quinto is a welcome addition (with his own set of secrets too, it seems), and he looks like he fits perfectly in the 1964 setting.

Spoilers Now!
Teresa flees Bloody Face back to Leo and attempts to drag him to safety, but he reaches her. She flees inside a cell while he proceeds to cut up Leo.

Back in 1964 Wendy is distraught and wants to recant her testimony, but that might be tough given it's a sworn statement. She vows to get Lana out of Briarcliff, so takes the evening to compose herself with a hot shower. When she emerges she comes face to face with Bloody Face.

At the asylum, the inmates are woken up in the middle of the night for a room search. Jude finds some of Lana's notes hidden in her cell. She claims she has an excellent memory, so doesn't need them. "We'll see about that," Jude muses.

The nun goes to see Arden, suggesting Lana's memories are what are impeding her repentance, so he could perhaps help to erase some of them with electro-shock therapy. She adds that she's prayed about it and come around to seeing it as another of the Lord's tools. Arden goes to work on Lana and he offers Jude the opportunity to assist. Jude does so, but appears to show a hint of sympathy when she sees her pain, though the procedure goes forward anyway.

In the common room, Kit is brought to Dr. Oliver Thredson, the psychiatrist sent from the court to see if he's crazy. Kit protests that he isn't crazy and killed no one. He's starting to remember what happened. Alma was alive when they took her. Oliver decides he's insane. He speaks with Jude and wishes to talk about the appalling conditions he's seen in the asylum. She suggests he do his job and she do hers. 

Arden finds Eunice in the woods, who asks what the creatures are. But he's more concerned she's said nothing to Sister Jude about her chores. So he gives her a candy apple as a token of his gratitude. Despite sweets leading to sin, she takes a bite. Shelley watches them from the window.

Lana tries to keep notes so she won't forget. She sees Kit come into the common room and sit with Grace and listens to their conversation as they discuss a way out of the asylum. 

Jude is visited by a couple who are having trouble with their son, but Thredson interrupts and introduces himself. They want his opinion as well, much to Jude's chagrin. Their son Jed is 17 and hears voices. They found him speaking a strange language and eating the heart of their cow. They go to see the boy, but not before Jude warns Thredson again not to wear out his welcome. Jed is doing his best Exorcist impression.

It's bath time for Lana and Grace. Grace warns her there is no way to escape, but Lana seems to think her knowledge of the tunnels might be a way, and needs her help. Grace wants to take Kit, but Lana is adamant that he doesn't get out, believing he's a killer. She has trust issues given what Wendy did to her.

Shelley attempts to seduce Arden so she can get outside in the sun, but he won't hear of it. She recounts her story of how she was thrown in the asylum because her husband found her in bed with some navy guys. He's disgusted by her and leaves her.

Thredson thinks the county hospital is better equipped to help Jed, but the parents have already opted for an exorcism. Jude brings in Timothy, who listens to the doctor's concern, but asks him to assist. The church requires a licensed physician present. The exorcist, Father Malachi, is an old man in a wheelchair.

In the common room Grace wants to know where the tunnel is before Lana forgets. Kit takes the piece of paper she's written on just as the guards send everyone to bed (due to the exorcism). Kit reads it when he's in his cell.

Jed is strapped down. The exorcist gives Thredson the usual spiel about not listening to what it says, and sends Jude away. It's no place for a woman. The exorcism proves quite intense as Jed tosses Malachi across the room and seems to know things about Thredson being adopted. Timothy tells Jude he has to go deliver last rites, so gets Jude to watch him from the door. She goes in when he starts screaming and begging for help. Jed taunts her that she has no real power because she's a woman, and she became a whore because of it. 

She flashes back to when she was a singer during the war, entertaining the soldiers at her bar. Jed asks her about the girl in blue—the girl Jude hit with her car when she was driving home drunk. She never even got out of the car to see to her. Jed calls her a murderer so she proceeds to hit him. Timothy and Thredson run in. 

While Arden may find Shelley a whore, he isn't above hiring one...entertaining a girl in his office with a nice dinner. Though she's not as classy as he would hope and can't appreciate the wine or meal he's prepared. When he finds his fantasy date unfulfilled, he threatens her.

Timothy attempts to finish the exorcism but Thredson tries to sedate him. The lights go out in the asylum, waking up Lana who sees her door suddenly open up, along with everyone else's. She thinks it's her chance and grabs Grace.

Eunice runs to Jude to tell her about the problem in the ward while Jed goes into cardiac arrest. Kit catches up with Grace and Lana, but she forbids him to come. Kit says he's not a killer and Grace won't leave without him. She goes off with Kit and makes a run for the door, but Lana starts screaming that the killer is escaping, and the guards are on the two of them, beating on Kit. Grace shoots her a look.

Jed sits up in bed, staring at Eunice, then drops dead as Timothy gives last rites. The lights come back on. Eunice falls backward.

Back at Dr. Arden's office, his hooker is now dressing as a nun for him as he's instructed, but as she gets ready in his bedroom, she finds a box in his drawer full of pictures of women tied up and starts to freak out. He comes in and tells her she's not going anywhere and is about to rape her, but she bites his shoulder and flees.

In the morning Arden comes in to see Eunice as she's sleeping. He heard about her fainting spell and she had asked for him. He instructs her to rest and relax. Eunice is concerned about the creatures, but he's disturbed to see her out of her nun attire and tells her to get rest. After he leaves it's apparent that Eunice is possessed.

Lana is summoned to see Jude. Until last night, Jude had considered her an opportunist, and knows what it took to call the orderlies, so she deserves something special. She has Lana open the door and see her treat. Kit is brought in with Grace. Her reward is that she will not be punished while the two of them will, and she gets to chose which canes to use on each. Lana apologizes to Grace as Jude is about to begin, but Kit rises and tells her he's the only guilty one. That makes twice the lashes for him, Jude says, and proceeds to beat him.

The Verdict:
Asylum delivers an entertaining exorcism, one that allows us some insight into the past of Jude and Oliver, and sets up an exciting storyline for Eunice. I had been under the impression in early interviews for season two that there wouldn't be supernatural aspects to Asylum, but there was definitely something demonic going on with Jed.

It was good to see the various characters interact, and Lana's decision to ensure Kit doesn't escape at her expense was an interesting twist. She's certainly not the eager reporter willing to do anything to get what she wants. It's apparent Bloody Face is not Kit (now with killing Wendy and the appearance in the present day).

Zachary Quinto looks great in this setting. For the moment he seems to be the angel in the midst of the darkness of Briarcliff. But this is American Horror Story, and he's got to have some bad stuff in his past to muddy the waters.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Sick"

Non Spoiler Review:
Rick is faced with some difficult decisions (no surprise) in getting Hershel medical help while managing five prisoners who are oblivious to the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Lori's disintegrating marriage is weighing heavy on her, and now she must deal with Carl's lack of respect, as well.

Sick continued the momentum of Walking Dead's exhilarating premiere. While the action wasn't as much the focus this time, we got to see a huge amount of character insights and shocking decisions. 

There is no Andrea or Michonne this week, but the prison has enough going on to carry the episode. Everyone is getting their chance to shine, including Carol, and the oft-neglected T-Dog, who finally feels like he's part of the group again.

Spoilers Now!
Daryl orders the prisoners to come out slow, but one has a gun and a stand off ensues while Rick tends to Hershel. T-Dog opens the door and begins to clear a path as they take out the injured and leave the prisoners, but they follow after.

Back in the secure cells, Carol (who has received some training in the months since) takes over Herhsel's care, while Daryl stands guard outside waiting the prisoners to arrive. And they do. They quickly realize there isn't going to be a rescue, given the others have broken into the prison. 

Rick goes out to talk (but tells Glen he needs him with Hershel to take care of him if he should die). Rick learns they've been locked in the cafeteria for ten months after a riot broke out. A guard locked them in but never came back. Rick confirms their fears that there is no help coming. It comes as a shock, of course, but pseudo-leader Tomas refuses to believe it. They let them outside to take in the scene of carnage and walkers. 

Tomas seems to think the prison is theirs, but Rick kiboshes that. More agreeable Axel tries to find a common solution by sharing the cell blocks. Rick says he'll take half what's in the cafeteria in exchange for helping to clear out a cell block for them. Tomas agrees. But Rick warns them to stay away from their people or he'll kill them. 

Rick is shown the pantry, which is still well-stocked. Rick opens the cooler but finds they've been using it for their bathroom. 

Carol manages to stabilize Hershel. Glen tries to console Maggie who wonders how her father will get by if he survives. Rick and T-Dog return with the first batch of food.

Lori isn't keen about living beside prisoners. The only other option is to kill them, Rick muses, but he tells her she'll say that now, then judge him for it after. She admits to being a shitty wife and knows he's not a killer and tells him to do whatever he has to do with a clear conscience.

Maggie needs a minute alone with unconscious Hershel (and he's handcuffed to the bed as a precaution). She pretty much tells him it's okay to die and rest in peace as she and Beth will be okay.

Carl has gone off and found the infirmary on his own and cleared out the supplies for them (and killed two walkers, to his mother's horror). He tells her to get off his back. Beth tells him he can't talk to his mother like that, so he storms off. 

Carol takes Glen outside in private and wants to use a walker to get more experience working on bodies. Glen isn't confident in the wisdom of that, but she needs to learn how to cut through the abdomen and uterus without cutting the baby should Lori's pregnancy prove difficult. She kills the walker and with her practice corpse, starts experimenting, unaware she's being watched from the woods. 

Daryl tutors the prisoners on the best manner to kill the walkers and proceed to clear out a cell block for them. But when they encounter their first group the prisoners proceed to attack and beat on the walkers. They quickly learn they need to focus on the brain. Big Tiny is scratched and protests he's fine. The others suggest they quarantine him but Rick is adamant there's nothing he can do. It's Tomas that abruptly kills him. 

Next up is the laundry room where they unlock another room of walkers. But wild card Tomas throws open both doors which creates chaos, and allows him to push undead in Rick's direction. Rick realizes what he's trying to do and stares him down, then kills him with a machete. Prisoner number four flees into the corridors with machete-wielding Patrick Bateman Rick in pursuit. He runs out into a courtyard full of walkers and Rick shuts the door on him, leaving him to die horribly (or become a zombie). That just leaves Axel and Oscar. Axel pleads for their lives, protesting they aren't murderers like Tomas. Oscar won't beg. 

Rick opts to let these two live and takes them into a cell block where they find prisoners shot in the head. Rick leaves them in there and locks down that cell block. It's theirs. 

Maggie hears Hershel stop breathing and steps away. Lori tries CPR and he starts breathing, freaking the hell out of them all. Carl has his gun on him, but it appears he's still alive. Rick, T-Dog and Daryl return. Hershel hasn't developed a fever yet. He wakes up to everyone's delight and takes Rick's hand. 

Lori and Rick have a moment alone. They'll start cleaning the dead in the morning. He informs her he doesn't think she's a bad mother. She muses they can't really get divorced. They have food and Hershel is alive. It was a good day. He tells her they're all very grateful for what she did, and with a pat on her shoulder, he walks off. 

The Verdict:
Another winner, presenting lots of action and difficult character choices. Rick's outlook has changed considerably since we last saw him taking pains to herd walkers into Hershel's barn, to the point that he now sends someone to a horrible (un)death rather than take a simpler route by killing him mercifully. Is he acting out his frustrations with Lori on the prisoners?

It was satisfying to see that there is no easy answer to their marital problems at the end of this week. Rick's pat on the shoulder was a bit chilling after Lori's series of mea culpas. But it shows the strength of this series' writing in choosing no simple outs for its character dilemmas.

Hershel's zombie fakeout provided a bit of adrenaline in that scene. And Carl's very brief but effective moment securing medical supplies and dismissing his mother was a great one. Carol is also shining with her extra duties, and a much stronger character than we've seen. I was a little leery about her working on that pregnant walker—envisioning her getting bit by a live zombie baby inside. But maybe that revelation is for next week.

Despite Andrea and Michonne's absence, surely that must be some Woodbury spies watching from the woods. Or... dare we hope—Tyrese (who I was sure one of the prisoners was before the Ricktatorship massacre).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: 2312

Non Spoiler Review:
Kim Stanley Robinson established himself as one of the great modern science fiction writers with his Mars trilogy (Red MarsGreen Mars and Blue Mars), as well as an assortment of other works like Antarctica and The Martians. His latest endeavour is 2312, an odyssey of the solar system and human experience 300 years in the future.

The story begins with Swan Er Song, an eccentric engineer who has spent her life building terraria (hollowed out asteroids) throughout the solar system, as well as indulging in a host of genetic enhancements. When her grandmother dies unexpectedly it reveals a secret that starts her on a trek that crosses back and forth across our solar system. 

What struck me foremost in this novel is Robinson's big picture take on the future that the vast majority of science fiction writers seem to miss. We get the usual fantastic technology and space travel, but we also see the focus on humanity itself, and a culture dealing with advancements in longevity, the beginning of human speciation and transhumanism, living in space, and integrating artificial intelligence. It presents a fascinating look at our future that is equally hopeful, optimistic, disturbing, and sometimes horrific.

2312 is neither a utopia nor a dystopia. It is simply a logical presentation of a future 300 years from now, with an Earth that has endured the most destructive years of global warming and rising oceans, and now deals with the legacy of it.

It's been ages since I read the Mars trilogy, but what struck me then was Robinson's chapters devoted exclusively to scientific details which could prove quite dry to get through. Here he's vastly improved his style—creating excerpts amid the chapters that detail various aspects of the future and are much more palatable. I should note that 2312 does not take place in the same universe as Robinson's Mars Trilogy, and Mars itself is oddly absent for most of this book in favor of the other planets.

2312 is one of those novels I lazily enjoyed, not wanting to rush through it. The characters' journey through the solar system was enough to carry the story on its own merits, but it is also a mystery novel. Unfortunately that actual plot proved to be a bit more low key, as I was expecting something a lot more epic given the build up early on. And the ending does wrap up a tad neatly than one would expect.

Ultimately the story is about human beings, and this future represented in Mercurian Swan, Titanian Wahram, Martian Jeanette and Terran Kirin, among others. The characters are all quite interesting, representing various factions and aspects of this strange humanity that is quickly branching off into new species, but occasionally pine for the homeworld. This novel successfully presents a culture that feels 300 years different from our own (compared to early 21st Century humans in space ships which a lot of writers create). 

So I highly recommend 2312. While the story might have reached a little more towards epic levels, it poses a lot of ideas of human society, technological advancement, and what we might achieve. In that respect it's a very intelligent read.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: American Horror Story: Asylum "Welcome to Briarcliff"

Non Spoiler Review:
American Horror Story returns with a new story and new characters (but, luckily for us, with several of the same cast members). Starting in present day a newlywed couple on a horror honeymoon tour investigate Briarcliff Asylum. Flash back to the early 1960s we see the asylum in its hay day, run by the Catholic Church under the authority of Sister Jude (Jessica Lange embarking on what should be a new iconic performance) and Father Timothy (Joseph Fiennes).

Rounding out the cast is an assortment of inmates extracted from Silence of the Lambs, a nosy reporter looking to investigate new arrival Bloody Face, a doctor eager to experiment on pretty much everyone, heavy duty themes like religion versus science, civil rights and homosexual discrimination. Asylum starts off with a very full plate.

But it all worked, at least in this first episode, presenting the usual American Horror Story onslaught of crazy events, sex and outrageous characters. It's created enough intrigue to promise an exciting season, and hopefully it succeeds in leaving us with another memorable storyline.

Spoilers Now!
A newly married couple (on a haunted honeymoon tour) explore the empty ruins of Briarcliff Manor. As Teresa fills us in, the mansion was built in 1908 as the largest tuberculous ward on the east coast. Bodies were shuttled out in an underground tunnel. The Catholic Church bought it in 1962 and turned it into a sanitarium for the criminally insane, with serial killer Bloody Face as their most famous resident. 

They attempt to have sex in the infirmary, but Teresa freaks out when she hears a noise, so they continue exploring. She urges Leo to put his hand through the food slot of a dark cell to take a photo of what's inside. He does so and his arm is abruptly torn off.

1964. At his gas station, Kit is surprised by his friend Billy and friends who want to borrow his gun to scare a guy who messed with a friend's sister. Billy tries to intimidate him and creates an awkward scene (making reference to chocolate) before leaving. Kit returns home to his new wife, Alma. Given she's black they haven't told anyone they've been married, but he wants to be open about it. She doesn't. 

After some pre-dinner sex Alma goes off to get it ready. The radio goes to static and Kit sees a bright light. He runs outside, expecting Billy, only to find the light in the sky and Alma screaming. He runs back in to mayhem and is levitated to the ceiling, falls down and has a flash of some creature operating on him.

Investigative reporter Lois Lane Lana Winters arrives at the asylum for an appointment with Sister Jude. She's escorted by Sister Mary Eunice among an assortment of inmates, and up a spiral staircase. Jude is busy shaving a woman's (Shelley) head as punishment.

Jude explains Shelley was brought in as a nymphomaniac, but Jude believes mental illness is the fashionable explanation for sin. To her, Father Timothy Howard is the real visionary of the asylum. Most of their wards come from the gutter.

Then Eunice bursts in to whisper that the bad person will arrive any minute. Lana thinks that's the maniac Bloody Face who is being admitted that day. Jude realizes her interview has been a pretence to see this new arrival. Jude explains the killer is being turned over to them until it's determined he's fit to stand trial. Bloody Face turns out to be Kit.

Jude sits with him once he's been checked in and strapped in to his bed. He protests his innocence for killing anyone. His story about little green men doesn't fly with her. When she asks if her dark meat slid off the bones easier than his other victims, he spits in her face. So she proceeds to beat him.

Shelley tires to flirt with Kit in the common room. He meets another girl, Grace, who fills him in on the rules and says she isn't crazy. As long as the common room is open, the same song has to play. He quickly annoys the wrong people and gets beat up. When Jude arrives everyone cowers, but Kit gets the blame and is ruffed up and thrown into solitary. Grace brings him food (she's on kitchen detail). She reveals she's accused of chopping up her family but maintains her innocence.

Jude storms in to see Dr. Arden who gives it back as good as she can give it. He is a firm believer in the power of science (and shows her a new species of plant he created by bombarding it with gamma rays). And he wants her to stay out of his business. Four patients have disappeared under his supervision and she demands an explanation. He confesses the bodies were cremated. She finds it interesting the ones who died don't have families, and vows to bring what he's hiding out in the open. She'll always win against the patriarchal male.

Lana is excited to find a story at Briarcliff but her editor doesn't share her vision. She thinks it's her big shot, and her lover, school teacher Wendy, is fully behind her. 

Jude has dinner with the handsome Father Timothy whom she has very unchristian fantasies about. She wants to know where he found Dr. Arden. Timothy counters he was sent there by people better equipped to judge his godliness than her. He seems to see science as a part of religion, but she's more black and white. He shares his plans—to be cardinal of New York—and vows to bring her with him as mother superior. And eventually he could be pope. That's why he needs her to be a team player and the doctor needs full oversight over his domain as she has over hers. 

In the woods, Eunice is bringing a pale of meat, as per Arden's instruction. She leaves it and runs right into Lana, who has been sneaking around the estate. She tells them they have to go as they hear animals in the trees. 

Kit wakes up as Arden comes in to sedate him and take him away. He's brought to Arden's laboratory. He believes the secret of the human psyche resides in the brain, and he plans to uncover the darkness in Kit's. Kit flashes back to his abduction. Alma cried for his help. But she was found skinned. Arden finds a lump in his neck and removes a bizarre implant that abruptly sprouts legs and jumps off the table.

Eunice brings Lana in through the tunnels, refusing to say what she was feeding. Lana suggests if she help her look around she won't tell Sister Jude. Eunice takes her through the men's ward and leaves her there when she gets hit with feces from one of the inmates. Shelley tells her Kit was taken to solitary. When Jude arrives, Lana hides herself in a room until she leaves. She proceeds to solitary, peering through the food slot and is grabbed by something.

Jude later berates Eunice for her stupid behaviour and her misplaced trust. Instead of defending herself, Eunice begs to punished and beaten, but Jude, slightly taken aback, orders her to smarten up.

Lana wakes up to Jude's face and strapped to her bed. She apparently took a tumble and the nun informs her she's got a long recovery ahead. Jude has already visited Wendy, who had wanted to see her, though she's not family.

Flashing back to her visit with Wendy, Jude points out she has no legal standing to visit and suggests that as a teacher Wendy was never aware that Lana was a homosexual. Lana threatened her facility under false pretenses and she intends to see she gets her inside look at her mental ward. She can do it discreetly or by exposing their relationship. Jude suggests Wendy's sworn statement is more than enough to remand Lana into her custody, but a scandal will work just as well. A torn Wendy agrees to sign it to keep her job.

Jude shows Lana the statement and promises to cure her. Eunice then brings Jude some keys she took and she finds Arden in a supposed vacant room disinfecting the chamber. Jude can smell something has been living in there (and the walls are covered in scratches). Jude vows to ferret out what he's been doing. 

Back in the present, Leo is bleeding out and Teresa tries to get him to the car. She rushes to get his phone but finds the doors locked, then runs right into Bloody Face and screams.

The Verdict:
The second season kicked off with suitable AHS insanity—there's a lot thrown at the audience, from an assortment of interesting new characters, possible alien abduction, serial killers, abuse, as well as heavier themes—religion and science, and treating homosexuality as a disease. I think the 1960s setting is going to really help explore a host of issues the present day couldn't. But we still get the Teresa/Leo storyline (for now, at least) in modern day to hopefully provide a tie in by series end. So there's little to comment on as far as direction until we get a sense of where it goes from here. But I definitely like what I see.

Jessica Lange's new accent is going to take a few episodes to get used to, but she's already defined an exciting new character. While not a fan of Joseph Feinnes' overboard acting (Flashforward, Camelot...), he behaved particularly restrained this week (for now). It's also nice to see actresses who previously had minor roles in the first season taking center stage here (Lana and Eunice).

A lot of questions about the guilt and innocence of the various inmates remain up in the air—Shelley, Grace and, of course, Kit. Is he the same Bloody Face we see in the present day, and was he truly abducted or is he actually crazy and killed Alma? The spiderlike implant, however, seems to suggest those aliens exist. But not just appears Dr. Arden is a neo-Dr. Moreau by creating wild things in the woods around Briarcliff. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Seed"

Non Spoiler Review:
Walking Dead returns with a strong beginning for its third season. After wandering in the wilderness for some six to seven months, the survivors are reintroduced as a much more cohesive group that's got their shit together. Moses Rick stumbles upon the prison we saw in last season's finale and the vision that it represents their chance at a truly secure home (as well as a place for very pregnant Lori to have her Shane zombie baby). Meanwhile, Andrea and her new BFF Michonne have been wandering around Georgia these last few months, too.

Seed hit all the right notes kicking off what should be an intense new season. Anyone who complained about a lack of zombies last year gets their fill in just this episode. While the character bits were overshadowed by the intense action, there will doubtlessly be time for that in weeks to come—though Lori and Hershel shared a very good scene together on the matter of the baby. 

Having read the graphic novels, the prison arc is one I've been anxiously anticipating. With the introduction of Michonne (who only had a couple of scenes this week but shows a heckuva lot of promise), a 16 episode season, and ratings (as of this writing) as the most watched episode of a cable TV series, Walking Dead appears to have exciting times ahead.

Spoilers Now!
Rick and the gang break into a house for supplies killing walkers as they go (Carl is getting handy with his gun). The house appears to be abandoned, though Daryl manages to snare an unlucky owl for a meal. Cleared of danger, the rest move in. Carl only finds two cans of dog food but Rick stops him from eating and they sit in silence before T-Dog notices walkers approaching the house. They make their way out the back way to their vehicles and drive off. They are a well-oiled survivalist machine.

In the country they attempt to find a route to avoid a massing zombie herd that apparently has been driving their migration. They've spent the winter going in circles, according to T-Dog (which means Lori is very pregnant). Daryl and Rick go off to scout, immediately finding the prison (from last season). Rick seems to have an epiphany. 

It's full of walkers, though, but they return with the rest, cut through the gates and get through before the herd can get to them. There are multiple layers of chain link fences and walkways, allowing them to formulate a plan to clear the prison of walkers in segments. Rick makes the run for the main gate and makes it to another tower where everyone proceeds to pick off the zombies inside. The group camp in the open space and plan all the awesome stuff they can do once the area is secure. Rick scours the gates for any weakness. 

Carol brings Daryl some food on watch and discuss their situation—Rick got them farther than she thought he would, and Shane never could have. She's also become a good shot in the past months. She and Daryl flirt.

Rick thinks the prison supplies could be intact given the walkers are primarily prisoners and guards. That also means weapons, food and medicine—including an infirmary. He wants to go inside and clean it out hand to hand. Lori just wants to recoup for a few days given how exhausted they are. He rebuffs that suggestion. She's obviously walking on eggshells around him as he doesn't want to talk about the baby.

Come morning they begin the arduous task of clearing the prison interior (including dealing with walkers in riot gear armor). They clear one cell block and make camp inside for the night.

Meanwhile, in another town, sword girl Michonne raids a pharmacy for supplies and joins Andrea who is very sick. Andrea suggests she leave her otherwise she'll slow her down. Michonne says they'll leave in a few days. Andrea feels she'll die there, so they head off together (Michonne with her two walkers on chains). 

Lori thinks she's lost the baby, and given they're all infected she wonders if it's going to reanimate inside her. She's also worried about dying in child birth and coming back. Hershel tries to alleviate her fears but assures her he won't let that fate befall her. She thinks Rick hates her.

Rick takes stock of their new weapon finds and begins the next phase of clearing the prison. Deep inside the dark interior they find several severely eaten corpses and run into a crowd of walkers that send them running in different directions. While searching for Maggie and Glen, a walker bites Hershel's leg. They all manage to flee inside a larger room and secure the doors.

Rick makes a quick decision and amputates Hershel's leg at the knee to stop the infection. Rick realizes he's bleeding out when Daryl sees a crowd of faces at the window behind him. He tells Rick to duck as he raises his crossbow. Only these ones are alive, and prisoners.

The Verdict:
Seed was Walking Dead at its best. The clearing of the prison was one of those great moments from the graphic novels that made for an effective bunch of scenes and proceeded logically and methodically. In fact, the opening sequence was brilliant showing the group working as a cohesive team (in total silence)—especially the evolution of Carl. I was also pleased at how resourceful everyone is, even in the most minor of scenes (Maggie grabbing a stray axe before they flee the house), and the conscious use of hand to hand to save ammunition as much as possible. It's those little touches that make everything feel genuine.

As I mentioned, there was a shortage of character moments, but we saw (a much stronger) Carol flirting with Daryl, as well as a great scene with Lori voicing (all of our) concerns that she might be having a zombie baby. 

The only thing that didn't really work for me was the time jump over winter. While it's conveyed that they've been barely surviving, I didn't really get a sense that they endured a winter that was all that bad and it glazes over what must have been difficult plot lines to conceive of as far as finding food, supplies and shelter. I think it makes it more noticeable with Michonne and Andrea, and what they've been up to all this time. Bear in mind that Andrea will now have been with Michonne longer than she was with Rick and the others.

Also on the matter of time passing is how Rick and Lori appear to have grown quite distant given Shane's death and the unspoken paternity of the baby. At this early juncture, it just doesn't feel real that this has been the status quo for six months.

It also came off as a head scratcher how Rick has managed to not notice the prison over all these months. Granted they've been circling around going from house to house, but given its proximity in the closing scene last season, it just seems a stretch that it's not even on the map (!) that they've been using to track their progress.

On the plus side, the time jump does solve some worrying plot problems—the aging of the actor who plays Carl had the series maintained its slow time lapse over seasons. It also kicks Lori's pregnancy to relevancy and we get a Carol who has come to terms with her daughter's death. 

Also of note is that Hershel could very well be the receiver of a lot of Dale story lines given Jeffrey DeMunn's departure. It was Dale who had his leg amputated well into the comic book series, so it was nice to see that come up here as an extra twist. Let the mutilations begin...

So the premiere was a great win for the series, coming off a season two that was (rightly) criticized for meandering around with little action. If it keeps up this pace, I'll have no worries for its future. Note to AMC execs—Mad Men is an amazing series (and one of my favorites), but The Walking Dead is your golden child at the moment, as the ratings prove, so please learn from the errors of your ways in cutting the season two budget and let this show be the epic television it can be.

And lastly—zombies in riot gear. Brilliant.
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