The Walking Dead: Season 3 - 10 Reasons Why We Loved It
Review by Rob Carnevale
AS THE third season of zombie drama The Walking Dead reached its bloody climax on Fox on Friday night (April 5, 2013), we deliver 10 reasons why the show deserves to be considered among television’s all-time greats.
1) Character complexity: Whereas, by his own admission, some of the characters in Robert Kirkman’s original comics lacked layering, the TV incarnation has delivered it in spades. Hence, even the villains in season three regularly displayed moments of humanity, with David Morrissey’s complex portrayal of The Governor a classic case in point. Michael Rooker’s previously hissable Merle Dixon also displayed unexpected humanity during his final moments, while even flawed characters such as Laurie Holden’s Andrea got to explain their motivations for sometimes acting irrationally. And then there’s leading man Rick (Andrew Lincoln), proven to be a fallible leader as the pressure finally took its toll.
2) Shocks: As ever, The Walking Dead doesn’t shy away from making tough decisions concerning favourite characters or even deviating from the comics to deliver some genuine shocks. Season three saw a surprisingly high death toll, including Laurie Holden’s Andrea (a major departure from the comics), Sarah Wayne Callies’ Lori (killed in different circumstances to the comics) and emerging characters such as Dallas Roberts’ Milton and Michael Rooker’s Merle. The show has successfully created an atmosphere where no one is safe.
3) Andrew Lincoln: Whereas a lot of US series have an unshakeably good hero as its focal point, this season in particular tested Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to the limit. Traumatised by having to kill his former best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) at the end of season two, Rick also had to come to terms with the death of his wife following childbirth. It tossed him into a downward spiral in which he was unable to think straight, discarded his ability to show compassion, tested his paternal instincts to Carl and his newborn, and made him see ghosts. Lincoln displayed the complexity of these emotions in brilliant fashion, never allowing viewers to stop rooting for him even when he took the wrong decisions (such as almost sacrificing Michonne for the greater good.
4) Norman Reedus: Daryl remains the unsung hero of The Walking Dead. A darker figure than Rick, but no less heroic, he found his own loyalties tested by the re-emergence of his brother, Merle, and the conflict between blood and ‘new family’. He did stray occasionally but his return to ass-kicking, arrow firing form was an early series highlight, while the resolution of the story between him and Merle was genuinely poignant. For great twisted scenes, having Daryl have to kill a newly turned Merle was agonising.
5) David Morrissey: As villains go, The Walking Dead now has one of TV’s finest in The Governor. Unspeakably evil, borderline insane, yet charismatic when he needed to be and calculated, this was a fascinating enigman. Morrissey, for his part, imbued the character with a great deal of complexity, offering hints of a former humanity (and family man), now seriously clouded by his inability to save his beloved wife and daughter. And yet, his onerous acts included killing Merle, Milton and Andrea, while eventually massacring his own township troops when things didn’t go his way. Unlike the comics, he lived to fight another day following his prison assault, offering up the mouth-watering possibility of far more insights into this intriguing character come season four.
6) Michael Rooker: Like David Morrissey, Michael Rooker created another of The Walking Dead‘s chilling villains, particularly during the first half of season three when he proved a major thorn in Glenn and Maggie’s sides (often despicably so). But as The Governor turned against him and he was forced to reunite with brother Daryl, Rooker was able to display a more complex character who was eventually just about worthy of our sympathy and (perhaps) respect. His own demise was brilliantly realised in another of the season’s highlights.
7) Danai Gurira: The Samurai sword-wielding Michonne was yet another great new addition to the series. First glimpsed at the end of season two, she remained an enigma for large parts of the first half of season three but eventually proved to be a great ally in Rick’s battle against the Governor. And while she was often a woman of few words, the insights into her back-story and compassion afforded by Gurira helped create another genuinely memorable character. Her sword-wielding prowess was great, her coolness appealing and she stole several of season three’s best moments: her encounter with The Governor (in which she claimed his daughter and his eye), her bonding with Carl as he sought to find an old photo, and her final moments with Merle.
8) Scott Wilson: Hershel Greene is another of the show’s great assets and, with Rick’s humanity showing signs of faltering, its moral compass. He is the elder statesman of the show, the wise old head who is the go-to guy for sound advice or a shoulder to cry on. We feared the worst when he was bitten early on in the series (prompting a bloody leg amputation). But even with one stumped leg, he has a grand presence and is a fascinating and hugely likeable character to be around whenever he is on-screen. The decision to deviate from the comics and keep him alive has been a wise one.
9) Moral complexity: All the best shows get people talking and arguing afterwards. The Walking Dead is no exception. On countless times, characters were faced with moral and ethical choices that gave rise to furious household debates afterwards. And the climax of season three lay the foundations for more, most notably the future of Rick’s son Carl (excellently portrayed by Chandler Riggs) and where he is heading psychologically as a child soldier. Rick’s choice between saving his family and sacrificing Michonne was another, as were decisions concerning several characters who were either taken in or forsaken along the way. The Walking Dead isn’t afraid to put viewers in as difficult a position, empathy-wise, as its central characters.
10) Zombie kills and gruesome deaths: As gruesome as they are, the show never seems to run out of inventive ways in which to kill the walking dead. In that regard, it often lives up to its name. But of late, there is also a twisted quality to things as well, as evidenced in both the demise of Milton and Merle (as orchestrated by The Governor). It means for all the complexity of the characterisation and plotting, The Walking Dead also still knows how to deliver a good splatter-fest too.