Still doing that dumbass grin, even after death...

Former Steelers receiver Hines Ward just can't wipe that ridiculous grin off of his face, even when he's supposed to be a zombie. (Gene Page/AMC / January 29, 2013)

And we're back! After a two month break for the holidays and football playoffs, AMC's The Walking Dead returned to the airwaves Sunday night with a fairly strong effort to kick off the final eight episodes of season three.

Sunday night's episode, The Suicide King, wasn't bad. There was plenty of gore, which I've sorely missed. Like when Glenn took out some frustration by performing the theatrical show Stomp on the cranium of that zombie who had been just chilling in that red pick up truck, minding his own business. Or when Merle was on his knees messing up that zombie's head outside of the gates of Woodbury. In each case the resulting carnage looked like someone took a roadkill opossum, put it in a blender with leftover spaghetti and meatballs, and then dumped it out on the ground on top of the zombie's neck. Love it.

But on the other hand, this episode didn't really have any of those "WOW!" moments that we've come to love from this series. Those moments that leave you hitting pause and shaking your head back and forth, massaging your temples, looking up at the screen and rubbing your eyes like "Ummm, hold on... what!?" I know you can't pull off a major shocker in every episode, but this one pretty much reinforced a lot of character development that had already been well established two months ago.

The Governor is losing control of Woodbury. Rick is losing control of his sanity. Carl is being groomed as the next leader; John Connor if you will. Rick doesn't want anyone else to share the prison with them, even though Tyreese seems like the perfect combination of nice guy and good zombie chopper.

This last bit causes some dissension in the prison camp because Daryl just eloped with Merle after they both ditched Woodbury (thanks to Rick and Maggie) and took his crossbow with him.

So yeah, Daryl and Merle reuniting and then running off into the zombie infested woods was pretty much the big plot development of this episode. That and the people of Woodbury starting to riot. What, did the Woodbury co-ed softball team just win the Georgia state title or something? (It's a good joke because the University of Maryland used to always riot when one of their teams won a game. Look it up.)

The thing I liked about the Woodbury angle was that it allowed for all these extras to mill about. Like at the Merle-Daryl forced fight scene at the beginning, or the storming the gates scene. I like to look at the extras because they're always wearing these carefully picked out outfits with vests and jackets tied around their waists and silly hats and other things that people never wear in real life. The extras are always nodding earnestly or just shouting pointlessly and basically doing a bad job of blending into the background.

I especially liked when that one jackass was just parked at the gate laying on the horn of his Built Ford Tough SUV. He must have been from New York City. Seriously, these people turn into chickens with their heads cut off at the first sign of trouble.

On another note, I do really like the scenes where they have random walkers shuffling around in the far background, down the road or deep in the forest. It really makes it feel like they're everywhere. I wish I could be one of those extras! I promise I won't eat a Jolly Rancher or quietly sing Biohazard lyrics to myself or something else that would never appear on camera but would be completely out of character for a zombie! ;-) (wink emoticon, fingers crossed behind back when making promise).

What about that scene where ghost Lori appeared in the catwalk of the prison common area? It was TOTALLY like when Cloud sees Aeris' ghost in Final Fantasy VII! Did anyone else find that to be a little over the top? His first reaction to seeing the sexy spectre of his deceased wife is to draw his weapon and start brandishing it all around and screaming? Rick is all like "Get out! Get out! What are you doing here! Just go!" and of course Tyreese thinks he's talking to him and is like "Chill bro! We'll go!" It was a classic comedic misunderstanding right out of an 80s sitcom.

Speaking of 80s sitcoms, the L'il Asskicker angle is supposed to be a nice respite from the bleak world around them, but the scenes of Carol and Beth chuckling sweetly while they lay the baby into a plastic post office bin are already getting tiresome. I'm afraid to see how the writers employ the baby if the series stays around long enough for it to walk and talk. I can see it now toddling into a scene holding a severed zombie hand and saying "this man gots a boo-boo" while all the other characters fawn over it.

And I'm sure everyone heard that Hines Ward was one of the zombies in this episode (so was Greg Nicotero, the show's make-up/special effects guy). Maggie put Ward out of his misery with a gunshot to the head.

I'd normally insert a bunch of anti-Steelers jokes here about how Hines Ward couldn't outrun the zombies just like he couldn't outrun tacklers, or how I bet he's not smiling now, or how he's not catching passes but he is catching bullets, or something like that, but since the Ravens just won The Big Game I'll take the high road...

Finally, everyone can take a big sigh or relief, because the Hyundai Tucson is still looking good and its engine is purring like a kitten.

Did you notice?
  • The names of the Woodbury citizens that the Governor cited as being murdered by Rick's banditos were: Tim (evil Glenn), Crowley (decapitated by Michonne), Gargulio (ahh, Gargulio), Haley (Zoey 101), Bob Adams (Bad Ass Bob Adams), Eisenberg (what about Cohen, Snyder and Katzenberg?)‎, and Richard Foster. Foster was played by Greg Tresan, who is actually the dog trainer on the show. (Thanks The Walking Dead Wiki!)
  • Kevin Smith (on Talking Dead) says whatnot way too much.
  • One of the Governor's henchmen, Martinez (backwards baseball hat guy), actually saved a little girl during the seige scene. Foreshadowing that he might be a good guy who joins the prison group (or tries to)?
  • Axel eats Top Ramen Oodles of Noodles out of a big pot at the prison? NOM-NOM-NOM. I hope it was Picante Beef flavor!
  • Sasha wears a shirt that says "Southern Gothic Revival." It's some band.
  • Rick kind of flinched when Carol said the baby had Lori's eyes. Like maybe he was thinking it wasn't his baby at all, but Shane's!


Did you know?

  • So there were a few songs earlier this season that I couldn't identify. Well the show is releasing a soundtrack (Volume 1) now that should reveal all. It features bands like Jamie N. Commons, Voxhaul Broadcast, Baby Bee, Fink, Of Monsters and Men and Delta Spirit. Maybe they'll send me a free copy...or not.
  • The fighting arena is actually an abandoned mill in rural Georgia.
  • Greg Nicotero was also the zombie that bit Andrea's sister Amy and was killed by Andrea in season one. (Thanks Talking Dead!)
  • There is a bar and restaurant in Senoia, Georgia (Woodbury) called Founders. I imagine the cast and crew must patronize the place occasionally. I'll have a Boilermaker with Michael Rooker please.