Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Walking Dead Season 3 (AMC)

I review the third season of AMC’s hit TV series The Walking Dead, starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohen, Steven Yeun, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira and more.

I’ve been massively behind on The Walking Dead, in part due to the sluggish pace of the second season. However, I used the last two weeks that I had without any lectures whatsoever to play catchup on this show, watching an episode a day until I reached the finale last night, when I was able to breeze through the final two episodes that I had left in a couple of hours. Because when The Walking Dead is good – it’s among the best shows on televisions, capable of producing some gut-wrenching, unpredictable twists and turns that you won’t see coming. However, as is the case in most of Season 2, The Walking Dead can also dramatically drop in quality, allowing for an unstable experience as you never quite know what incarnation of the show you’re going to get next.  However, thankfully, Season 3 appears to be a step in the right direction, fixing most of the problems that went wrong in Season 2, although not without introducing a few new ones.

Seven months after the group was forced to flee Herschel’s farm, they’re still on the run and in desperate need of shelter. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group are low on morale, and his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is heavily pregnant. When they do stumble across a home they find a prison occupied by Walkers – and find an ideal refuge to take place from the undead outside the walls. However, the prison itself isn’t entirely a safe haven as the group were lead to believe, with not only the inmates being turned into walkers, but also, there are inmates that have survived the outbreak. And to make matters worse, not far away from the prison, is the mysterious town called Woodbury, run by the mysterious man known as The Governor (David Morrissey), which is about to play host to Andrea (Laurie Holden), who has been separated from the group since their escape from the farm, and the sword-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira), and will have dramatic consequences for the entire group.

Nobody is safe on The Walking Dead. Characters drop left right and centre, with the show not afraid to dispatch of its main cast in random episodes as opposed to saving the killing for the season finale, like most other shows would do. I unfortunately had the fate of the people who die spoiled for me before watching the episodes – which is growing all the more unavoidable due to the series’ massive online presence, but even so, the deaths remained traumatising and came in often incredibly high moments of tension. Even characters who you at first would have hated are changed over the course of the season, and for the ones that die that you like, it makes the loss considerably harder. And it’s not just the deaths too, because these characters – pretty much every survivor on the show goes through incredibly traumatic experiences, which come at a near constant level, with there being virtually no respite for the characters as The Walking Dead throws a horrifying situation after a horrifying situation at them.

The splitting of the group allowed for an effective increase in tension. Whilst Andrea’s character started off promisingly however she grew increasingly problematic, becoming one of the series’ most hated characters by fans as it progressed, and it’s easy to see why due to the incredibly stupid decisions that she makes. The two most important new additions though are welcomed – with the loner Michonne being a fan-favourite from the comics having a large role to play as the series progresses – first with Andrea, and then later with Rick’s group, but the introduction of Rick’s new nemesis, The Governor, played incredibly well by David Morrissey, who Doctor Who fans will recognise from The Next Doctor, makes an intimidating new addition to the cast. There are also the surprising but welcomed return of two old characters who we haven’t seen since the show’s first season, which makes a great addition to the series. I won’t mention their names here due to spoilers, but the episode in which the other character shows up, Clear, delivers with one of the best episodes of the season, offering a great look at how the loss of someone close to them can change a character.

Unfortunately, the second half of the season of the show doesn’t quite match the heights of the first, with the Governor becoming drawn into a role as a proper, fully blooded villain leading up to a whole episode devoted to a confrontation between him and Rick which doesn’t go anywhere (Arrow on the Doorpost), and the final episode of the season ended up being an incredibly underwhelming one, allowing for a real disappointing end. However, as is evident from the first half of the season (and a few episodes from the latter half, like Clear), The Walking Dead Season 3 moved at a much faster pace, feeling incredibly more intense as it really worked well, feeling like a much needed improvement on Season 2 even if the show hasn’t quite returned to its heights of the first season just yet.

VERDICT: 8.5/10

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