"The Walking Dead" Gets New, Badass Life in its Third Season Review

The Walking Dead changes showrunners like European soccer teams change coaches: so quickly that its hard to keep track of who is in charge at any given time. As a result, the hit AMC drama, based off of Robert Kirkman’s long-running comic book series, has had its share of ups, downs and unbelievably flat plateaus (such as the majority of season two) during its first three years on the air, as the various head honchos imposed their own styles of storytelling on the program. Season three, under the leadership of Glen Mazzara (who has announced his departure for season four), was the show’s strongest yet, as it found an entertaining balance between season one’s grim and gruesome mayhem and season two’s (often dull) character-driven drama, while also introducing new human characters that posed just as much of a threat to the show’s core group of survivors as the undead. The result will appeal to not just horror fans, but anyone who can appreciate quality drama on television. 

You can follow the story of this season without having watched prior episodes of the show, but you’ll be much more emotionally invested in it if you have. The body count is higher than ever, as many beloved (and others less so) characters from the show’s early days bite the dust in a variety of tragic ways. The Walking Dead has been on the air long enough at this point that the audience has actually developed connections to these people, and so many of the exits are both shocking and upsetting. In addition, two well-known characters from the comics are introduced: samurai-sword wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the sinister Governor (David Morrissey).

Michonne is one of season three’s brightest stars. She’s a somewhat-terrifying but totally badass heroine with a samurai sword and two pet zombies; as portrayed by the foxy and fierce Gurira, she is a great, tough female character on a show that could use more interesting women. Michonne first appears in the company of Andrea (Laurie Holden), who was separated from the main group during the season two finale and has spent the winter months that followed sick, surviving only because of Michonne’s friendship. The two women are eventually captured and taken to the mysterious town of Woodbury, which is led by the man who calls himself the Governor. At first, Woodbury seems like paradise: decent food, furnished houses and a proper guarded wall to keep out walkers. It’s the closest thing one can get to a normal life in this blood-spattered world, and Andrea embraces it. However, the more cautious Michonne quickly suspects the truth: Woodbury is not normal, and neither is the Governor.

While Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of his crew hole up in an abandoned prison, Andrea ends up getting romantically entangled with the Governor, who comes off as a smooth and charismatic leader but has numerous gruesome secrets--including a collection of severed heads in tanks, a zombie daughter, and a twisted mission to wipe out any other human colonies nearby. When the Governor learns of the prison through the capture of young lovebirds Maggie and Glenn, the two groups and their equally stubborn leaders end up on an inevitable collision course. Much of season three concerns not the threat of the walkers, but the threat of other people--especially people who find themselves in positions of power when perhaps they should not be. Morrissey, who is in my opinion one of the most underrated actors working today, makes the Governor absolutely magnetic even in his most evil moments. You can understand why Andrea would be drawn to him, and why she finds it so hard to turn on him even as his dark deeds begin to come to light. The scenes he shares with opposite number Lincoln as they attempt to negotiate a truce in the episode “Arrow on the Doorpost” are some of the best moments of the season.

There are numerous other episodes among the sixteen in this set that deserve to be singled out for their quality. “Killer Within” is a tragic hour that culminates in a birth scene that will not soon be forgotten, and signifies a huge turning point for both Grimes and his son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Also a standout episode for both Grimes men (and the actors who play them) is “Clear,” in which Rick, Carl and Michonne travel back to the Grimes family’s hometown for a supply run and encounter Morgan, the man who saved Rick’s life way back in season one. Morgan and Rick spend the episode in conversation that is both contemplative and argumentative; it is painful but thrilling to watch.

There are numerous other moments throughout the season that will get your heart rate pumping with their mix of human drama and inhuman violence, including the reunion of fan favorite Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) with his rebellious, redneck older brother Merle (the brilliant Michael Rooker), as well as a, shall we say, explosive scene at Woodbury that answers the question “What happens if you light a zombie on fire?” One might suppose that it would be hard for the finale to live up to audience expectations after such a great lead-up to the end of the season, and one would suppose correctly. While “Welcome to the Tombs” is not terrible, it is a disappointment compared to the rest of the season’s arc, as it brings everything to a rather rushed and messy conclusion. Nonetheless, it is not so poor of an episodes that it takes away from the accomplishments of the rest of the season, and it will leave you hungry for season four.

The Blu-ray set of The Walking Dead’s third season is a worthy investment for fans of the show, and not just because of the season’s storytelling. Watching the program in high-definition really makes you appreciate the talents of the Emmy Award-winning special effects crew; the gallons of gore and hordes of zombified extras look disgustingly real. The five-disc set also contains numerous bonus features that cater to the show’s obsessive and rather cultish fanbase. Overall, it is a great continuation to the Walking Dead saga.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The Blu-ray release contains numerous featurettes, audio commentaries and deleted scenes that should satisfy even the most ravenous walkers--I mean, fans.

"The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season" is on sale August 27, 2013 and is not rated. Drama. Directed by Daniel Sackheim, David Boyd, Ernest Dickerson, Greg Nicotero. Written by Charlie Adlard, Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Glen Mazzara et. al.. Starring Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies.

Sep
05
2013
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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