At the start of The Walking Dead’s second season, our favorite gang/potential walker lunchmeat narrowly avoided dying in an explosion at the CDC only to promptly lose previously unimportant preteen cipher Sophia (Madison Lintz), and spend approximately the next five years fruitlessly searching for her…and searching for her…and searching for her. And then, for shits and giggles, searching for her some more. Amidst all that searching, they found time to take residence on the rural farmland owned by gruff-but-kind-hearted ex-veterinarian Hershel (Scott Wilson).
There, Glen (Steven Yeun) gets his cherry popped by a woman normally out of his league; Shane (Jon Bernthal) goes even more nutso-bad guy-crazy than ever, before gettin’ turned all zombie like by a vengeful and angry Rick (Andrew Lincoln); Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) discovers she’s pregnant and mopes a lot; Dale gets eviscerated and actor Jeffrey DeMunn follows series creator/frequent collaborator Frank Darabont out the door; and Carl gets shot after ignoring the first of 567 orders to “get back in the house Carl!” Meanwhile, fans bemoaned how one of the best genre shows on TV got bogged in a swamp of so-called “character development” – code for “sequences of nothing happening moving slower than a zombie with arthritis.”
Okay, so The Walking Dead admittedly had some growing pains in its sophomore season. Part of it no doubt stemmed from the surprising and infamous ouster of Darabont and AMC’s boneheaded decision to cut the budget of its highest-rated show ever. The other part is the highly reasonable, but botched-in-execution, idea to pad out a show set in an apocalyptic zombie world with an emphasis on developing the characters rather than just focusing on bloodshed. Theoretically, this is a good idea – a TV series can only last so long on gore alone – but one undone by having characters make silly, questionable decisions and behaving out of character, endlessly stretching out plotlines to the point of absurdity, shoving characters to the background for long stretches and indulging in dry, repetitive and aimless storytelling. In other words, turning it into season three of Lost.
That said, I still enjoyed Walking Dead. I was still willing to follow it wherever it lead, bumps along the way be-damned, and was willing to forgive its deficiencies by optimistically reasoning it was a good idea that needed ironing out. It remains my only appointment show TV and after the awesome, emotional, season-saving finale, I was eager to see where season 3 went.
And that’s apparently to prison, where the visual recreation of some of the original comic book’s most beloved characters get brought to life. After zombies overwhelm Hershel’s idyll, the surviving gang seek refuge in an abandoned penitentiary, where safety, of course, isn’t a guarantee – and not just from the undead either. Meanwhile, disillusioned Andrea (Laurie Holden), splintered from the group, hooks up with comics favorite Michonne (Danai Gurira) – a katana-wielding neo-samurai princess who keeps a pair of armless, jawless zombies on chains as “pets.” The dynamic duo makes their way to surprisingly functional small town overseen by another fan fave – the sadistic, gentlemanly and tyrannical leader known as The Governor (David Morrissey.) Oh and Michael Rooker – season one’s racist redneck Merle (aka crossbow wielding Darryl’s long lost and now right hand-less bro) finally reappears after a too-long absence for the talented and intense actor.
Comic creator and current exec-producer Robert Kirkman has claimed that the new season will represent a more balanced union between the character focus of season two and the heavier action/bloodlust of season one, which hopefully gets The Walking Dead back on track to being one of the best genre shows on TV. The first half of the season (yes, it’s been halved again, with eight eps this fall and another eight in February) begins on AMC Sunday, Oct 14 at 9.