I admit it. I'm a thinker. I like to dissect what I see and hear--take it apart until I've examined every single aspect of what I understand and then shake it up and do it again. So, it should come as no surprise that I've done just that with the premier episode of The Walking Dead.
The biggest question I'm left with after watching the premier isn't, "Where's Beth?" but rather, "Are the walkers waking up?" Follow me on this.
The walkers show a newfound awareness
In the woods when Carol and Tyreese are hiding from the herd, there's a moment when the leading walker seems to consider whether or not to continue after the prey it knows is ahead of them, or turn to follow the noise at Terminus. This might have just been passed off as animal instinct if it weren't for that pause of consideration rather than an immediate turn toward the noise.
Later, there are several walkers inside Terminus who are quite alert. Their eyes are clear and they move with purpose. They pick and choose their victims and aren't as often tied up in attempting to gain access to somewhere behind closed doors.
They are focused on what they want and how to get it
At the shack where Tyreese and the captive from Terminus are waiting for Carol to return, the walker who presses its face against the window looks around the interior. This is a conscious act, not just the usual, "I've hit a wall and so I'm going to keep leaning until something gives," action of the walkers we've become used to.
Finally, the butcher left to turn in the kill room comes for Rick as the gang is making their way to the fence. The convoluted run for train car A was part of the problem Rick, Daryl, Glenn, and Bob faced in this episode. How, then, would that particular walker, one Rick left to turn after killing him, just randomly find the very man responsible for his new state of being? I think this walker was looking for Rick in particular.
Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing the walkers. It wouldn't be the first time. But even if that's the case, these walkers are examples of a large shift from previous seasons. Their behavior is far removed from the shambling, mindless beasts we've become used to. They move with purpose and are even moving faster than they have in the past. Is this just my mind playing games, or have the writers made these changes to bring some new horror into The Walking Dead World? You decide.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm Eastern Standard Time.