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The Walking Dead" Episode 3"

They may have hit snooze on the zombie nightmare, but not to worry--there's still plenty crossbows-to-the-brain, righteous beat-downs, and self-mutilation to go around.

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  • AMC
  • No zombies to wail on? Try a redneck!

The Walking Dead’s third episode leans more toward the hand-wringing, moody premiere episode than the wall-to-wall zombie mayhem and keep-on-running propulsion of the concussive second ep. And yet, in the midst of significant family drama, the show pivots expertly into gut-twisting moments of action, never letting us forget that behind the soap opera love-triangle and abusive-asshole subplots, these characters are living on the edge of the unspeakable—and we’re not just talking about gut-hungry geeks closing in on the mountain camp. With a few frightening turns from the humans this week and last, The Walking Dead is establishing, in the tradition of the best apocalypse-survivor stories, a kind of horror equivalence between the actual and the mental, between the physical proximity of the zombie horde and the psychic proximity of rage, despair, and insanity that arises once the familiar order is all but gone.

We begin with Merle Dixon, the bug-eyed racist left for dead on an Atlanta rooftop with a snarl of zombies just out of reach. Also out of reach: the hacksaw that could set him free. His crazed giggling over the past turns suddenly to spitting anger as he considers his predicament and the likely outcome—while back at Camp False Sense of Security, the same thing is about to unfold in slow motion.