The Walking Dead-heads that grumbled at the lumbering pace of Season 2 were silenced from the get-go. From the adrenaline rush of the premiere where the survivors fought their way into the walker-infested prison to the introduction of one of the most multi-layered villains on telly, in Season 3 we lived and breathed this post-apocalyptic world.
As ever, the gross-out cannibalism and moments of sweaty tension were balanced with absorbing character development. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) transformed into the cut-throat dictator the group needed him to be, while second-in-command Daryl (Norman Reedus) gave us plenty of meme opportunities – saving Carol (Melissa McBride), cradling baby Judith and rocking a poncho like Clint Eastwood, accompanied by a motorbike as his steed.
The return of Daryl’s brother Merle (Michael Rooker) tested his loyalty to the group and made way for some terse but touching scenes (“I just want my brother back,” “Get out of here, man”). What was most intriguing, though, was Merle’s subservient relationship with the Governor (David Morrissey). It was a testament to how manipulative a leader he really was.
We were on tenterhooks waiting for his mask to slip and confirm what Michonne (Danai Gurira) – and readers of the comic series – knew all along. And as it turned out, he was every bit as sick and tragic as we hoped.
With the introduction of Woodbury and the prison, this year’s run benefitted from the variety that Hershel’s farm severely lacked. There was no such thing as a filler episode until the second half of the season hit. It’s here that the Governor’s story begins to plateau and Andrea (Laurie Holden) officially became zombie bait for ignoring the glaringly obvious.
Things never play out the way we think they will, and that’s a huge boon as well as a drawback. The meeting between the Governor and Rick was an anti-climax, as was the hotly anticipated introduction of Tyreese (Chad Coleman). By the time the finale rolled around it had lost momentum.
Missed opportunities aside, The Walking Dead remains must-see television, and the bonus features offer fascinating deleted scenes and episode commentaries for die-hard fans.