“The Walking Dead” has repeated a similar ebb and flow of quality over its first two seasons that hopefully won’t continue in Season 3. Both previous seasons started out with strong episodes, and then dwindled down the stretch. The second season improved in its conclusion, but the poor pacing and narrative decisions leading up to those episodes was so atrocious it severely hampered the season as a whole.
Season 3 also starts out with two very strong episodes, but the difference from Season 2 is that showrunner Glen Mazzara and his writers seemed to have listened to criticisms (from both fans and critics) and dealt with them head on. This, along with the addition of two exciting new characters — Michonne (Danai Gurira) and The Governor (David Morrissey) — has my optimism for “The Walking Dead” as high as it has been since the amazing pilot.
The story has moved forward a number of months since leaving Herschel’s (Scott Green) farm, with our heroes on the move from temporary shelter to temporary shelter. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has seized control of the group, and they’ve become hardened under these dire circumstances. There’s no room for the moping and bickering that bogged down much of Season 2 as the group searches for a safe haven so Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) can have her baby.
Speaking of Lori, she has a conversation with Rick about being a terrible wife and mother that feels like a direct answer to her character’s poor development. It’s nice to see the writers realize how awful Lori has been. It’s better that Rick has little patience to put up with it anymore.
Another one of the major issues I’ve had with “The Walking Dead,” a TV series about zombies, is a lack of zombie action. Well, the Season 3 premiere has the best walker (the name zombies aren’t given on “The Walking Dead”) killing the series has ever done. If you, like me, love hoards of the undead getting massacred via handheld weaponry, you will love this episode. It’s a bloody, gory outing filled with a number of “zombie kill of the week” moments.
Once Rick and Daryl (cast MVP Norman Reedus) come across the prison, the action picks up and the premiere concludes in excruciatingly tense fashion. The second episode continues much of the momentum and dark tone built in the premiere.
I’m still not ready to declare “The Walking Dead” has fixed its litany of problems, but this is a very good opening that points to a promising future. I just hope it’s not a letdown — again.