We start our new season after a lapse of several months. A new system is established: crops are being grown, Walkers are being dispatched in planned attacks, Carol is teaching the younger kids how to use weapons, Beth has found herself a boyfriend, and Carl has made a friend. There's even a sense of hope - people are starting to think far enough ahead that when Maggie has a brief pregnancy scare, she knows that she could have gone through with it if she had been pregnant.
I'm going to be brief about this episode, and there's a good reason for that. More than anything, this opener was an establishing episode. Sure, stuff happened. We had three deaths right off the bat, although all three of them were new characters from this episode. But mostly this episode served to show us the system in place. We can see where all these characters are and get a good sense of how they're doing. This way, moving forward, we can see the way the system will fracture and change.
The main plot of the episode centered around a planned run to a local store to get more supplies. Among the party are Daryl, Glenn, Beth's boyfriend Zach, and a new guy to the group named Bob. While in the store, Bob accidentally knocks over a shelf which causes the structural integrity of the roof to cave in, and Walkers actually start falling down from above, which was all sorts of terrifying. They've really stepped up the Walker makeup this season, and some of the effects were truly cringe worthy. The group at large manages to escape, but Zach is killed. One of the strongest and most heartbreaking moments in the episode was when Daryl goes to tell Beth about Zach's death. She is very serene about the whole thing. She says that she doesn't cry anymore, and she gives Daryl a hug and asks him if he's doing okay.
Some other great character moments - the growing flirtation between Carol and Daryl. The respect everyone has for Daryl. Carl's way-too-mature attitude and Rick's discomfort with it. Maggie's speech about living verses simply existing. Glenn's overprotective attitude. Basically, all of the character stuff in this one was great. I felt more attached to these people than ever.
The subplot involved Rick going to check on traps for food and coming across a hungry and scared girl named Clara. Kudos to this girl for her acting, because she seemed totally depraved and desperate. Rick is immediately suspicious, and he goes back with her to find her husband. As was obvious from the sketchy way she was acting, her husband wasn't so much with the... being alive...anymore. In fact, Clara had been attempting to lure Rick to her Zombie-fied husband so he could get something to eat. Ew. Rick very easily overpowers her, but she is too far gone to try and live without her husband. She stabs herself and as she's dying, asks Rick not to shoot her, so that she can reanimate and live as a Walker with her husband.
Ultimately I'm a little unsure about this subplot. It was fine, and I thought the acting was great. However, it didn't seem to serve a larger purpose. Rick has a talk with Hershel about how Clara represented what Rick might have become after what happened to Lori. However, I wasn't really buying it. If Rick is still going crazy, I'd like to see it. I don't want a transparent comparison between him and some girl he met in the woods.
But that's a bit nitpicky. As our episode ends, a friend of Carl's, Patrick, gets sick and collapses in the shower, dead. And then, of course, he reanimates... dun dun dunnnn.
A strong opening, over all. It wasn't one of the over-the-top awesome episodes I've come to expect, but that's because it's an establishing story. In the future, I know great things will happen. I'm excited to have this show back. It makes for great television.