Rick: We have to go in there ... hand to hand.
Synopsis: The group has been on the run all winter, dodging herds of walkers and scavenging as they go. Rick is desperate to find a safe haven so that Lori can deliver safely. Despite this, things between the couple are strained. When the group finds the prison, Rick decides on a dangerous gamble to clear it of walkers to use as a base.
Seed picks up pace-wise from Beside the Dying Fire, Season 2's finale, but several months have passed since the fall of Hershel's farm. Lori at this point is VERY pregnant, and the group has been on the run since the homestead was overrun by zombies.
It is interesting to note how hardened and cohesive the group has become. Gone are the days of keeping the kids and women back while the men deal with the walkers, and endlessly debating courses of action. Everyone who has survived is a soldier now ... even Carl, who has become exactly what Lori feared, a hardened killer. Even little Beth Greene, who last year tried to commit suicide rather than face what the world has become, is able to muster up the courage to survive this world gone mad.
Andrea and Michonne (the character with the sword from last season) have been on the run all winter as well. Andrea is sick, and Michonne has found aspirin for her fever, but despite the illness the former wants to leave their temporary home. She feels she will die if she doesn't keep moving and fighting the illness. Of more interesting note are their other traveling companions. These are two walkers Michonne has disarmed, literally, and de-jawed (I think I just made up a word there). She uses them like pack mules and leads them on chains.
The episode opens with Rick and company finding and clearing a house of zombies in search of food, only to find a couple of cans of dog food are all that's left. Walkers arrive, and soon the group is back on the road. During a rest break Daryl and Rick go hunting and find the prison. The group penetrates the outer courtyard and clear it. With the safety of fences and the ability to rest after weeks on the road, Rick decides to clear the inner courtyard and penetrate the prison itself in search of sanctuary.
|The phalanx attacks, and Glenn is holding my LMF knife.|
The group action is visceral and compelling; they are nearly overrun as guard walkers in riot gear attack, and the group has to figure out how to penetrate riot helmets. Their superior tactics and aggressive action carry them through; Rick leads the team in a pre-planned phalanx-style formation that keeps everyone covered and allows them to take the zombies one at a time as they attack piecemeal.
They find a way into the prison and clear one cell block. Then, the group gathers resources from the dead guards (flash bang grenades, more weapons, and body armor) and proceeds to search the interior to find the commissary and infirmary. Stumbling into a herd of walkers in the dark, Maggie and Glen get separated and when Hershel tries to find them is bitten on the leg. Rick, in a desperate bid to keep him alive, amputates his lower leg before the acute infection can kill him. The episode ends with more survivors - prisoners who have taken refuge nearby - stepping into the open.
There is a lot here to discuss. It is pretty obvious the writers have taken past criticisms into account. Showrunner Glen Mazzara, who wrote the episode, does a masterful job of showing us rather than telling us what has happened in the months after their exile from the farm.
First, being on the run without a fall back location STINKS on ice. This group is on the run, out of resources, and running out of time.
In a crisis, you can do two things, stay put or leave. If staying put, or "bugging in" is not an option, you should have a destination in mind before you leave -- a relative's house out of the danger area, a hotel (with resources to pay for it), or a secondary location if you can afford it. If you are staying with someone, ask if it's okay ahead of time. If you are buying a second location like a hunting cabin, etc., make sure it is secure and remote. This is your safe haven.
If possible, cache some supplies there ahead of time. For instance, if your plan is to go to your brother's house two hours away, ask if you can leave a couple of bins of supplies there; put in some spare clothes, bedding and storage food. That way, if you show up with just the clothes on your back, you have something to wear and will be able to contribute food to the household.
None of this was possible for Rick's group. The scope of the disaster is such that there is precious little they could take and very little is left to scavenge.
Secondly, everyone needs to contribute to the group's survival. EVERYONE. Note how all the members of our band of heroes helped take down the walkers in the initial penetration of the prison. Even Carol, the meekest of the group, is in a tower firing an AK-47.
As parents, we typically try to shield children from harsh reality. That is a good thing. The problem is when parents become overprotective. Kids need to learn how to do some age appropriate things for themselves. While no one expects a 13-year-old to become a trained killer like Carl has, the fact is there are some practical preparedness skills kids can learn; how to start a fire, basic land navigation, using tools like knives to enhance survival, etc.
Lastly, group members with irreplaceable skills need to be cross-training others or consideration needs to be given to leaving them in reserve. Hershel is their only medical resource, and taking him deep into the prison was a mistake on Rick's part. In my opinion, Hershel should have stayed and Carl should have gone on the mission. I know Carl is his son, and he wants to safeguard him as much as possible, but losing Hershel puts everyone at risk.
Preparedness Lessons for Episode 301:
- While staying in one's home is preferable, have an alternate location if possible with multiple routes to it preplanned. Make sure you cache resources there.
- All members of a family or group need to contribute to survival.
- People with skills vital to the continued success of the group should be protected to the extent possible.
Next week: The group continues to try to save Hershel as they come to terms that some of the prison population survived. I am sure they were all in there for parking violations.