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TV Review | After rough season, ‘Walking Dead’ returns with a bang

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 06:11

 

In the post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” all it takes is one misstep and you’re done for. A single slip-up and you could be bitten by a walker (zombie), get lost in the wilderness or be attacked by other survivors; the list of threats is almost endless.

Luckily, the same rules don’t apply to network television. If they did, “The Walking Dead” wouldn’t have made it past a drab second season, which spent most of its airtime hashing out the same problems over and over again, seemingly to no avail. As the dialogue grew repetitive, the setting became increasingly boring and the plot continued to depart from the source material. Many die-hard fans of the popular series felt it wasn’t going anywhere.

Then the zombies finally showed up, and as the tally of kills steadily increased, so too did faith in the series. As it entered its third season, the show’s direction felt righted, and audience expectations were at their peak.

Four episodes in, it’s safe to say season three will not disappoint.

This year, the Atlanta-based survivors find themselves fighting to make a home for themselves amidst the chaos of a prison overrun by zombies. Thankfully, such a lofty goal promises quite a bit of conflict as the group is forced to battle hordes of walkers just to ensure the prison is safe.

Of course, once that’s all settled, there’s still no guarantee that a non-zombie won’t come along and try to take the prison from them.

Enter, the Governor.

One thing “The Walking Dead” has lacked thus far is a good villain. As filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock said, “the more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.” The same goes for television. While the mindless, stumbling zombies might have been frightening near the beginning of the series, after the show has dealt with them for three years it’s difficult to really fear them anymore, even if they can still tear the protagonists apart.

And so, keeping in line with the Robert Kirkman comic book that is the basis for the series, “The Walking Dead” will incorporate the Governor (David Morrissey) into the show to raise the stakes. Famously demented and sadistic, the Governor stops at no lengths to inflict pain on the survivors in the comic book. While his actions will certainly be toned down onscreen — rape and decapitation don’t tend to mix well with network television — introducing a villain as wicked as he is will certainly improve the plot and satisfy fans. It’s too early to tell whether or not Morrissey will give viewers the utterly vile performance they’re hoping for, but, needless to say, fingers are crossed.

Still, a villain isn’t all the series has going for it this season. The pacing, which ended up being season two’s biggest issue, has picked up tremendously, propelling audiences into conflict after conflict. The writing has been amped up a notch as well, allowing previously static, stagnant characters to fully develop.

The main protagonist is no exception. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), once a sheriff’s deputy and now the group’s leader, has finally resigned himself to the grimness of his world. Though he hasn’t lost his sense of morality, this admission has made him more blunt, vicious and capable, altogether creating a well-acted, fantastically complex hero. He’s truly a fresh departure from the classically valiant leads on other contemporary dramas.

The highlight of the show, however, is the loner, crossbow-toting redneck known as Daryl (Norman Reedus). Having been promoted further upwards into the main cast this season, Daryl continues to entertain with his snarky remarks and constant gruffness, both of which hide the heart fans have come to love. It doesn’t hurt that he also provides the best action scenes in the series.

Newcomer Michonne (Danai Gurira) is also sure to stir up a bit of interest. As her character in the comic book possesses a mind almost as twisted as the Governor’s -— and brandishes a katana and a no-nonsense attitude — her upcoming involvement in the show is guaranteed to bring thrills. Whether or not audiences will be ready for her is another question altogether.

Though a great deal of hype is circulating around this new season of “The Walking Dead,” none of it is unwarranted. After a strong finale last year and an even stronger start earlier this October, things look bright for the record-breaking cable TV series. Well
 sort of. In reality, things look pretty grim for Rick and his group of survivors. But hey, that’s exactly why audiences tune in week after week.

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