Not a word is spoken during the first five minutes of the third season opener of “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m. Sunday, AMC). Without giving too much away, the gang comes upon a house and secures the place by shooting a few undead in the head and bashing others with axes. While foraging for food, one man kills an owl and then begins to pluck it. That can’t be a good omen. And just when folks start to relax, they’re besieged by a small army of zombies and have to exit through the back door and escape in their vintage pickups, motorcycles and a shiny, product-placement worthy new car.
This cinematically artful scene shows how unending warfare with brainless zombies in a grim wasteland tends to cut down on opportunities for meaningful conversation and witty banter.
Later, the gang commandeers a safe spot — within a prison, no less. Irony alert! There’s a quiet moment complete with folk songs by the campfire. The scene reminds us of how much “Dead” resembles a classic big-screen Western — a tale of hardy pioneers looking for a promised land, making their way in a hostile wilderness beset by savages.
‘‘Dead” follows a television trend dating to at least “CSI” that uses special effects to entertain an increasingly desensitized audience with almost nonstop morbidity. The zombie-killing scenes take up at least a third of the action. In addition to being repetitive, they’re unspeakably disgusting and violent in ways that make Brian De Palma’s “Scarface” look like “Little House on the Prairie.”
Sunday’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “60 Minutes” (6 p.m., CBS): Syria’s rebels; a Texas court set up for veterans; a half-century of James Bond movies.
• The Houston Texans host the Green Bay Packers in “Sunday Night Football” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Game one of the National League Championship Series (7 p.m., Fox).
• A portal to the past on “Once Upon a Time” (7p.m., ABC).
• Mrs. Thackeray’s absence is felt on “Upstairs Downstairs” on “Masterpiece Classic” (8 p.m., PBS).
• A new co-star helps Billie’s Broadway review on “Boardwalk Empire” (8p.m., HBO).
• Trust in Morehouse vanishes on “Copper” (9p.m., BBC America).
• Antoine gives back on “Treme” (9 p.m., HBO).
• Brody must eliminate a link to his secret activities on “Homeland” (9 p.m., Showtime).