Even if The Walking Dead flagged in its second season, it sure knows how to come back from its deterioration: with a boatload of zombie killing as the survivors make their way to an abandoned prison. The group has lost some people - Andrea among them, who was left behind at Herschel's farm seemingly without hope - but they've been forced to carry on. We open in "Seed" after some time has past between last season and this one; the show makes that clear by the weariness of the travelers and their rugged looks, with both Rick and Carl sporting more hair than they usually do as the most apparent. It also helps that Carl is almost about to eat dog food before Rick steps in.
Oh yeah, Carl also shoots zombies now. Not in the "hey, I'm a man so give me a gun" way where everyone balks at him, but in a way where everyone respects him for it. Times have changed.
"Seed" focuses on clearing out the zombie infestation in the prison as the group heads inside. It's a pretty nifty place to bunker down, because there's lots of fence to keep out walkers and there are lots of places inside the prison to hide if they need to. There's also the whole danger of being caught inside with a bunch of the undead in other areas, but Rick is more worried about shelter right now and taking care of the main horde.
But there's also Lori's pregnancy to look at. She's afraid that her baby might die in a miscarriage of some sort - if that happens, will it eat its way out of her stomach? Or will she die in childbirth, and then come back to eat her baby and anyone who stands in her way? Hershel reassures her, but these ideas are actually some of the most exciting prospects of what could happen - I'm not saying I want Lori to die, but I'm not saying I wouldn't be happy about the baby ripping her apart and tearing its way out of her stomach, zombified and malformed.
Rick and the dudes are also tasked with clearing out other wings of the prison, and they venture in ready to take walkers down. But Hershel is attacked by a zombie faking death, and the group is forced to assess the situation with walkers everywhere and a new group of prison survivors who may or may not want to kill them.
That's where "Sick" comes in, a slower-paced episode thanks to lots of dramatic tension after it's unclear whether Hershel will survive his ordeal. Still, there's a lot of stuff happening after the prisoners are set free - they're not exactly trustworthy, and after one of them gets a bit too bludgeony with a machete, Rick is forced to kill him - with extreme prejudice. It's nice to see how much Rick has changed since his first encounters with the walkers; he's no longer hesitating to do the bad deeds, and we're getting a much darker side of him now that things have gone bleak. The same goes for Carl, who is much less annoying now that he's got something to do, but he still struggles with his independence.
So far, things are heading in a good direction - we've got shelter, but there are still walkers everywhere, and now that Hershel is out of commission, there's a tension about how the baby will get delivered. And there are still two prisoners to deal with - lots of drama that could cause problems later on. The show has found a nice pace so far, and it needs to stick to it; The Walking Dead works best when it's constantly shambling onward.