There really isn't a show quite as rightfully maligned as AMC's The Walking Dead. It's a gritty genre series that airs on what is arguably the best channel on cable, and somehow it's managed to squander more chances than most shows are given. Part of that is due to network interference, and part of that is due to poor plot construction and story contrivances. It's not like it matters, though: the series is one of the highest rated on cable, and its third season premiere, "Seed," which aired Thursday night, will undoubtedly post huge ratings. By this point, you either know if you love or hate The Walking Dead -- and even if you hate it, you might still be watching.
The show had a marked change in quality last season with the takeover of new showrunner Glen Mazzara -- it finally gave up on trying to become a complex character show and instead focused on becoming as much of an intense, fast-paced genre show as it could. The change worked to its advantage, with the final string of episodes being amongst the show's best. "Seed" mostly continued that trend, providing serviceable zombie thrills (and plenty of gore) while not being hindered by tremendous amounts of plot or character development.
The series managed to find a way to skip most of Lori's pregnancy simply by flashing forward -- in the interim between seasons 2 and 3, the survivors have apparently been doing nothing of real importance (season 2, anyone?). Rick is a hardened man, the show never hesitates to point out to us, though he's hardly given anything much to do in the premiere, except walk around, give orders, and brood. No character really had a chance to shine in this episode -- either they were given brief character moments to re-establish their relationships with others (Daryl and Carol's weird back massage, for example), or they simply fulfilled the roles required of them by the plot (T-Dog had noticeably more dialogue, but it was all plot related).
We also got to play brief catch-up with Andrea and Michonne, though not much was revealed about them other than the fact that Andrea is now sick. Those hoping to see them reach Woodbury (and the Governor) this week were disappointed, though -- they'll probably get there next week.
Most of the episode was dedicated to good-ole-fashioned zombie-killin', which is where The Walking Dead really takes its pleasures. There were plenty of head-stabbings, head-smashings, headshots (a disproportionate number), and other zombie-dispatching tactics, including a rather memorable scene in which Rick ripped a zombie's face clean off. The Walking Dead knows how to keep people watching -- it just brings more and more outrageous gore, and people keep coming back.
The episode's "big moment" came when Hershel conveniently stepped into the grasp of an apparently dead zombie. While viewers were probably asking themselves what the hell Hershel was thinking by not making sure that zombie was dead, Hershel was having his calf ripped out by the zombie. In an attempt to save him, Rick decided to perform a quick amputation -- though the end of the episode left Hershel's fate unknown. The arrival of some new supporting characters -- this time, a group of rather confused prisoners -- might lead to Hershel's salvation, or his obsolescence.
Overall, "Seed" was a solid episode of Walking Dead. That doesn't mean that it's a solid episode of television; the series seems to flourish as really high-production low art. But the show's enjoyable enough to continue watching, and season 3 looks like it's going to continue the upward trend started in the season half of season 2. It won't ever be truly satisfying television, but it's fun enough to keep watching.