The Walking Dead returns, now with increased moral abandon! [SPOILERS]

In case you haven't seen it already (and this post contains lots of spoilers after the jump, so you might want to hold off), AMC's The Walking Dead came back with a vengeance, picking up months after we saw the survivors fleeing Hershel's farm and Andrea meeting the warrior woman we now know is Michonne. A lot has changed, and if you're a reader of the comics, you'll know that some crazy, crazy stuff is about to go down. What has a few more months of the zombie apocalypse done to our "heroes"? The answer: very upsetting, but understandable things.

Since I'm going to be discussing things that happened in this episode, please assume that I'm, well, going to be talking about things that happened in this episode. And that means there are spoilers from this point on.

This summer, I started reading the Walking Dead comics and have read just beyond where the show is taking place (thank you, The Walking Dead: Compendium One). What have I learned from this? That once the survivors reach the prison, things take a very gritty, nutty, and disturbing turn. Yes, the show is quite a bit different from the comics. But there would obviously be plenty of opportunities for the show to follow the same insane events, albeit with different characters. (I'm looking at you, Carol.)

For starters, Carl has been promoted from the role of "inconveniently absent son" to "fellow killing machine." He would be in elementary school if not for the zombie apocalypse, and now he's one of his father's trusted gunmen. This both devastating and fantastic. The killing of zombies has become nothing more than a daily chore, and Rick seems to find the process satisfying enough to smile about, as if he just raked a ton of leaves and found a lush, green lawn underneath. As a group, they've developed their reflexes and devised a series of effective methods for zombie extermination that give them enough time to squat in an abandoned residence and eat owls. If civilization was still around, they could probably open up a pretty competitive zombie extermination business with a staff of skilled employees.

Eventually, they all come across the prison we saw at the end of Season Two and clear it out to check out the digs. Rick, leader of the Ricktatorship, is hopeful that this will make a reliably safe home, what with its purpose of keeping people confined.

Our merry group of friends is now living in a world in which killing their decaying brethren is as commonplace as flushing the toilet, and a stark, stone fortress designed to house the worst of society looks like a cozy dwelling. We've seen everyone struggle to adjust, fight and weep for what they've lost. But now, they've reached acceptance, looking ahead rather than back. This was bound to happen, but it's amazing to see this sharp of a turn from last season, when everyone still seemed ruled by the chaos.

Not that everything is all hunky-dory. One of my favorite parts of this episode was Lori's creepy zombaby thoughts. Significantly more pregnant than she was at the end of last season, she and Rick are past the whole "Rick's or Shane's" thing, and Mommy is having much darker and terrifying thoughts about her unborn child. She can't feel any movement, so if her baby is dead, is it a zombie, and will it tear her apart from the inside? Or, will the baby kill her during childbirth, turn her into a zombie, and then she'll kill the baby and everyone else? They're extremely valid thoughts to have, no matter what opinions everyone has formed about Lori. Personally, I find this element of the Walking Dead story to be incredibly interesting: bringing a baby into this world in the first place, attempting to rescue a healthy human race amongst the ruins or sparing a child from the horror, but then considering these very real complications.

In addition to Lori's zombaby and the casual "whack-a-mole" approach to zombies, we also have Andrea and Michonne. We get a better introduction to Michonne's badassery with some hot machete action, and we find out that Andrea isn't doing so well after a long winter of zombie fighting. It's not a lot of information, but it was enough to point us in the direction of a storyline that will be leading up to the Governor, the character who bothered me the most in the comics. (So far.)

But the most spoilery takeaway from "Seed" took place in the final moments: While trying to clear zombies from the various parts of the prison, Hershel (now bearded and ready for this new lifestyle, dreaming of tomato and cucumber crops) gets a portion of his leg torn off by a zombie. And then, because Rick wants to save him by stopping the infection (if that's how that works), Rick chops off the remaining portion of Hershel's leg with an ax. Which makes sense in the situation, but now Rick is a man who will chop off a man's -- an ally's -- leg without dwelling on it for more than ten seconds. The look on his face says he is begging his mind and soul to believe that he did the right thing, but he still just cut off a guy's leg without a second thought.

We are in a new era for the survivors, kids. A crazy one. This season is going to be nuts.

Photo credit: AMC