The season three premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” aired Sunday, pulling in 10.9 million viewers according to E! Online. Those figures make it the highest-rated episode of any drama series in cable history. It’s a 50 percent jump from last season’s finale.
And the action wasn’t lacking either.
The zombie apocalypse show opened with a bang. The group of 10 survivors invaded an abandoned house like a SWAT team. It was immediately obvious that some time had passed since the season two finale.
Most of the characters hadn’t changed much. Former police officer Rick (Andrew Lincoln) continued to act as leader, giving orders and going in ahead of everyone else. Daryl (Norman Reedus of “Boondock Saints” fame) still expertly handled his crossbow like it was an extra limb. They were all muscled, scowling and covered in layers of sweat and grime – same as ever.
Still, a few changed, if only superficially. Hershel (Scott Wilson) allowed a full white beard to grow in, and Carl (Chandler Riggs), the sole youngster of the group, was nearly being swallowed by his Beatles sideburns.
It’s understandable why regular grooming does not rank high on their list of priorities, but the excess hair must get in the way.
The most noticeable evidence of time passed was Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) misshapen baby bump, which tripled in size. She looked ready to deliver, adding to the never-ending sense of urgency.
At one point, the group sped away from a herd of walkers in a new, oddly clean Hyundai Elantra. Product placement, perhaps? If that’s how the show generates pocket change, the writers should include a cooler car. Hopefully the group will soon stumble upon a Lamborghini.
When they stopped to examine a map, Daryl delivered the best line of the night: “While the others wash their panties, let’s go hunt.” As they searched the woods for game, Daryl and Rick came upon the old prison compound shown at the end of last season’s finale.
Using an array of sharp hand weapons, the toughest members of the group took down zombies left and right. It was gory and thrilling – a complete flip from all the talking in circles and wandering around the farm the characters did for most of season two.
Maggie (Lauren Cohan), the sole female “storming the Bastille,” held her own with a foot-long sword. She’s obviously come a long way from the innocent, frightened young woman viewers were first introduced to.
Later, Lori confessed her fears regarding the baby to Hershel. There were the human concerns, like dealing with her husband Rick and son Carl’s resentment. Lori knows the baby might be Shane’s (Jon Bernthal), Rick’s best friend whom he killed in self-defense just months prior. Rick and Carl know this too.
Then there were strange concerns. Whenever the baby stops moving, she wonders if it might be stillborn. In that case, the baby would become a zombie, since they all carry the disease that causes the transformation. A zombie baby would claw its way out of her “Alien”-style. Lori insisted Hershel kill them both should it happen. Do it, Hershel.
It wouldn’t be a decent episode of “The Walking Dead” without someone getting bitten. This week’s unlucky winner: Hershel, in the ankle. Given the horrifying deaths he’s witnessed, it’s difficult to understand why he carelessly ignored that walker slumped against a wall. At least Rick wasted no time chopping off his leg at the knee with a hacksaw.
But did he do it before the disease spread? Will Hershel still become a walker? Even if he doesn’t, he’ll most likely contract an infection in the dank, dirty prison. What’s worse: Hershel is the group’s resident doctor. Without him, they’ll have a hard time dealing with additional injuries or sickness, not to mention Lori’s labor.
Overall the season premiere of “The Walking Dead” fulfilled fans’ desire for action. But with one character tempting death and another brand new, it also whet their appetite for more.