Season Analysis: At least stuff happened in Season 3, unlike in Season 2. So why did I so regularly feel disengaged? And if I felt that way, why did I keep watching?
Midway through Season 3, I had pretty much given up hope that anyone on The Walking Dead besides Daryl (and Hershel, I guess) would ever really be interesting. But surprise, surprise, TWD actually took a page out of the TV Show Improvement Playbook and mixed things up a bit. “Clear” told a more or less self-contained story but managed to actually have the most significant developments of the season. With the three of them on a run for supplies, Rick gets his own subplot, while Carl and Michonne get their own as well. The latter sounded like a recipe for disaster, but its moments of genuine pathos and dark humor actually managed to work wonders on the show’s two most problematic characters. Isolating Rick didn’t sound all that promising either, considering his motivations had become as fuzzy as his mental state. It certainly helped that the return of Morgan ensured Rick wasn’t the craziest one around this week. And a revisited piece of Season 1 like that made it clear how wise the show would be to restore some hopefulness to these characters – however desperate that may be, there has got to be something to fight for.
Season Analysis: Was that farm that our survivors spent season 2 stuck on some sort of Möbius strip?
“Beside the Dying Fire”
If it wasn’t clear from the series’ beginning, then Season 2 of The Walking Dead made it abundantly clear that a zombie TV show is a very different beast than a zombie movie. To be able to maintain a reasonable degree of serialization, having a massive zombie attack with the same level of momentum week after week is simply not going to work. So, while The Walking Dead does not have frenetic, claustrophobic horror every single second, it does have decent acting (though spotty characterization) and philosophical explorations of the disintegration of society (though those questions often only scratch the surface). But when a major zombie horde actually does overrun one of the survivors’ temporary strongholds, it tends to be entertaining. Hershel’s farm had felt like a town that could not be exited after entering it, so it was a hugely necessary kick in the pants to have it destroyed. The best moments of “Beside the Dying Fire” – Rick revealing that everyone is infected as well as losing his shit by declaring that this group is “not a democracy”, Andrea getting separated and being saved by the hooded figure with the katana – were satisfying mostly in that they promised new directions for Season 3. But after a season that chased its own tail, I was happy to have exciting previews.
When I started watching The Walking Dead, I wondered how a story set in a world overrun by zombies could be sustained over the course of the length of a TV series when I had previously seen it truly succeed only in films. That concern was tempered by my awareness that the Robert Kirkman-penned comic book series that the show was based on was carrying on with critical and fan approval after several years. Still, I actually needed to see proof from The Walking Dead the TV show that it had plans for the long haul before I could throw in my support without any reservations. While I had been enthralled by the vision of abandoned cityscapes, I was most stimulated by the developments related to Rick and the gang heading to the Centers for Disease Control. And then everything changed… I am a sucker for scenes towards the end of an episode that feature completely new settings with hitherto unseen characters and also scenes that feature characters leaving behind mysterious taped confessionals, and I was doubly pleased by the appearance of my old friend Noah Emmerich. As I know him best as Jim Carrey’s best friend in The Truman Show, I knew he would be perfect as Dr. Edwin Jenner if he were to be someone you would like to trust but would also have some misgivings about.
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