The third season of The Walking Dead starts on Sunday night —I will be recapping episodes on Mondays again—and it looks to be the darkest season yet. It’s also the first season that is free of Frank Darabont. Season two was really uneven and you could clearly see where the network’s ideas had been stitched together over the remains of Darabont’s plan. I hope that season three, with its consolidated leadership, goes more smoothly and everyone spends a lot less time standing around talking. Season two didn’t come together until Officer Rick and his band of survivors started getting away from Crazy Cannibal Herschel’s farm and exploring the surrounding area.
We return to find the survivors back on the move until they discover a prison where they decide to set up camp. The problem with season two was that it was so static, with Herschel’s farm being the dominant setting for all of the action. But the farm was too remote and so the characters just kept having the same conversations with themselves. It’s no coincidence that the best sequence of season two happened in town when Rick came up against other people. The prison ought to work out better than the farm since it brings the survivors into contact with Woodbury, a post-apocalyptic town run by The Governor (David Morrissey, The Hollow Crown).
And then of course there’s Michonne (Danai Gurira, Treme), the new female character introduced at the end of season two. With her katana sword and pet zombies, Michonne is a serious badass and dear God, please let her be the antidote to the “every woman is either useless or a bitch” problem the show has. I’m worried because the teasers make it clear she’ll spend a fair chunk of the season with Andrea, who is the suckiest character on the show bar none. I hope that Michonne can stand apart from Andrea’s awfulness in the same way that Rick doesn’t get dragged down by her, but it worries me to see Michonne sequestered away with just Andrea as her foil.
HERE BE SPOILERS.
SERIOUSLY, LOOK AWAY IF YOU’RE SENSITIVE.
LAST CHANCE TO EXIT BEFORE SPOILAGE.
Fans of the graphic novels know what’s in store for season three. The prison, Woodbury, The Governor, Michonne, Horrible Lori’s pregnancy—we know where these things go. Show runner Glen Mazzara and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd have sworn up and down that they won’t shy away from the grisly reality Rick & Co. face as they try to set up a more permanent home in the prison, emphasizing that this season, it isn’t the zombies that pose the biggest threat, but other people. The two biggest questions are, of course, what about Rick’s hand and Lori and the baby’s fate. Rick is going to get seriously hurt at some point, but so far they’ve done a great job keeping a lid on the details, undoubtedly because it will be such a huge turning point for the character and the show.
However, I have heard that yes, Horrible Lori will die this season, and within the first few episodes (though I’ve also heard that actress Sarah Wayne Callies is likely to return in some capacity, probably as a kind of hallucination for Rick to talk to, which does happen in the comics). Callies was a vocal Darabont supporter and the plotting ended up taking her out sooner than initially expected, which is interesting because that’s pretty much the exact threat the AMC execs promised when they sacked Darabont: “Anyone can die.” Season two’s major character deaths—Dale and Shane—were two big Darabont loyalists, so whoa, AMC does not f*ck around with their threats.
Over the last two years The Walking Dead has been the most promising show on television that struggles to consistently meet its potential. When it works, it works better than almost anything, but there is still the problem of the standing around talking bits. Hopefully, with the behind the scenes turmoil pretty much laid to rest, season three will put the show on the same level as the pilot episode, which is still one of the single best things ever produced for television.
I’ve got expectations, Rick. Don’t let me down.
Attached - the cast of The Walking Dead at the Season 3 premiere last week.