Monday, April 14, 2014

The Walking Dead: Season 3 (TV Review)

        Ever sense the show first premiered on the AMC network, I’ve been a captivated fan of “The Walking Dead” television series. With lots of zombie action and situations that feel big and cinematic, this show certainly ranks high on the entertainment but it’s not just about the gory action. A lot of the show is devoted to the characters, how they change over time in this apocalyptic world and the show is even bold enough to ask some legitimately deep questions about our humanity. What would we do in one of their situations, would we make the hard choices that keep people alive, even if that means resorting to actions that are both morally and ethically wrong? It’s simply captivating and easily one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Now I’ve loved every single season of the series so far but one particular season is a mixed blessing, and has especially given fans of the show mixed thoughts, this of course is season 3. Well, I’d definitely put this season in the category of good, but it isn’t without some faults. P.S. If you haven’t seen this season I’ll be spoiling a lot of it in this post, and if you haven’t seen the show at all, definitely see it before reading this, if not, I have other posts.

       The set up for the season goes like this, back in season two, our traveling group of survivors took refuge at a farm and gained some new allies. Unfortunately, a herd of zombies stormed through their land, forcing them to go off on the run again. Now, Season three picks up with the former Sharif Rick and his group taking refuge in an abandoned prison, which will become a main stay location throughout the season and most of season 4. The first half of the season focuses on the group trying to subtle in and deal with a group of prisoners that were left behind. Meanwhile, one group member named Andria, who was separated from them at the end of season two, has now found herself in a small town called Woodbury, which seems like an ideal safe haven, with families and children living in peace, but there’s something far more sinister to this community then she realizes. Enter a new main stay villain called the Governor, who leads the town people. He maintains the illusion that he’s a cheery guy and only wants what’s best for his people, but when his true colors are revealed, he becomes a serious threat to our hero’s at the prison. The whole second half of the season becomes a never ending battle for survival between Rick’s group and the Governors town. 

        All the characters that have survived the last two seasons are back, most of which are better than ever but some aren’t nearly as good as before. Sharif Rick for example began as an awesome lead protagonist back in season one, and we cheered for him all the way. He’s the guy that made selfless decision’s and always did what was best for the group, but in this season, he goes through a serious change. He’s now become cold, bitter, more violent and even a little crazy. It’s understandable, considering what he’s been through, but I just don’t find myself rooting for him the same way I did in the first two seasons, he’s mostly by himself and a lot of his actions feel very out of character for him. Thankfully, he becomes an awesome lead character again by the end of the season, he starts to look cleaner and I love that he renounced his position as leader of the group.

    One thing that remains constantly bad in this season is his hallucinations of his late wife. Yes, after his wife dies, her spirit keeps appearing at the prison, or maybe its Rick losing his grip on reality, but every time she appears, the show goes for a magical mood, with light music, and his wife warring an attractive, clean white dress, which really breaks the mood of the show. It gets especially annoying after a while and by the eighteenth time Rick sees her, its like “Geese, would you cut that out already!”

       Thankfully, most of the main stay heroes are greatly improved in this season. The young adults Glenn and Maggie finally have a solid relationship going, and it’s a real treat to see them get married in the end. The old man named Hershel has gone from being a grumpy farmer, to the moral compass of the group and personally one of my favorite characters. My favorite character in the show has always been the red neck hunter named Daryl, he’s the underdog of the group, but no-one else is as bad ass as him. This season just elevates his awesomeness, he’s now become a respected member of the group and is no longer a lone wolf. I really liked Andria in this season, which is interesting because she was one of my least favorite characters, but she really improved in this season, I liked her story arch and her determination to bring peace between Rick and the Governor.  

       One of the biggest highlights of season three is the introduction of a new main stay character named Michonne, who’s arguably my second favorite character in the series next to Daryl. She’s a bad ass chick, who wields a samurai sword, almost reminds me of the bride from “Kill Bill”. At first, Michonne is a lady of phew words but as she opens up to the group, she has more to say, and we find out that she’s actually very carrying, has an upbeat personality, conveys some genuinely thoughtful words of wisdom and it’s just been a real treat to watch this character grow over the series.

       Another highlight of this season is the introduction of The Governor, honestly, one of the best TV villains ever. David Morrissey is just spot on in the role, finding that perfect balance between a wicked charm and actual scares. I love how over the cores of the series, the Governor seamlessly transitions from cartoony antics, to threatening actions, to complex character development, specifically in season 4. He’s everything you’d want in a good villain and that makes him one of the best. Plus, I’ve seen a lot of characters look cool with an eye patch look, but for some reason no one pulls it off quiet as well as this guy, he just owns that eye patch.

      This season also marks the return of an old adversary named Merle, who’s Daryl’s older broth and the first official foe to take on the group. Back in season one, his efforts to gain control resulted in him losing his left hand to Sharif Rick. Now he’s back with a sword replacing his missing hand, making him far more threatening than ever before. However, he becomes more of a wild card in this season, struggling between his loyalty to his brother and seeking vengeance on the people who left him for dead. I like what they do with him in this season and where his story ends up at the finally of the season is very satisfying. Ricks arch enemy Shane, who died at the end of season 2 also makes a cameo during a fire fight, which was a very nice touch. I know I’ve made a lot of complaints regarding Rick’s hallucinations, but having him imagine that his old nemesis Shane was shooting at him during the heat of a fight was actually quite effective.

      That takes care of the characters, now let’s look at what goes on this season. Well, this is pretty much the season for people that didn’t like season 2. That season didn’t rely on much gory action and was actually a lot more subtle, focusing on the characters and some genuinely thought provoking themes. Season 3 on the other hand is a strait up action packed romp, with lots of gory zombie battles and shoot outs. This makes the season a lot more entertaining to watch, but it doesn’t tackle as many subjects that make you think. There are some good elements in there, and even episodes that study the human condition, it’s just not as deep as I’d like it to be. The story also gets very repetitive by the end, almost like a record player repeating the same song over and over again. Having said that, there are still some great action highlights, and the season stays consistently entertaining to watch. My favorite episodes are in the mid-season finally, when our young lovers Glen and Maggie are captured by the Governor, which forces Rick’s group to go on a desperate mission to rescue them. This was the first time the two groups cross paths and it’s hear that their on-going battle officially begins.

      Now fans of the show already know that you can’t get too attached to the characters because this series has no problem killing off its main cast. Personally, I think season 3 went way too far with axing of its main cast. Some of the character deaths like Merle’s and T-Dogs were excusable and while the death of Rick’s wife was sad for him and his son, I never really liked her character, in fact, I found her annoying. But then we have Andria’s death, which was completely uncalled for. Even if you weren’t a fan of this character, her death still disappoints because it ruins one of the main story arch’s that was a main focus for most of the season. I feel like they wasted her for no good reason, and the show even wasted it’s time with two episode focusing on her trying to get back to the group, only to be kidnapped by the Governor and killed before she can reunite with them, that sucks. Then there’s the issue with those prisoners who were introduced at the beginning of the season. This started an interesting conflict for Rick’s group, having to live with these convicts and slowly welcoming some of them into the family of survivors. Unfortunately, they all drop like flies before the mid-season finale, so what the heck was the point of introducing these characters and setting up an interesting conflict if there just going to get killed off so suddenly.

      Another element that comes into play for this season is religious metaphors and symbolism. Now there have been moments in season two that lightly touched on religious themes but this season really utilizes its symbolism. Some may be annoyed by this but I think it’s a great touch. There’s lots of lines and quotes taken directly from the bible that are conveyed frequently by the characters, discussions that revolve around maintaining ones faith in a critical situation and even the titles of some of the episodes have a religious background to them. One of the episodes involves a character that plans to betray someone they were once close to, and the name of the episode is “I’m no Judas”. Even the final image of the season is a little wooden cross. 

      The actually resolution for the season is slightly disappointing but it has its good moments. The final four episodes of the season start to get very conversation heavy, which was great at first. There’s an episode titled “Arrow on the Door Step” which features Rick sitting down with the Governor, and the bulk of the episode is just these two talking back and forth. Honestly, I loved this, it’s so cool to see the hero and the villain just sit down and talk to each other, plus it just builds up the excitement for when we see these two battle each other. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a pay off, at least until season 4. After so much buildup and high anticipation, this season ends on a relatively quiet note, the Governor disappears and the town’s people all join Ricks group at the prison. It’s not a bad ending by any means, it just leaves you wishing for a little more kick.  

      As of right now, seasons 4 and 2 are my personal favorite’s of the show so far, but season 3 is still a good fallow up. The story may get really repetitive at times, and the ending could have been a little stronger but it is still very entertaining. It improves on most of the characters, the battles are awesome, the new characters are some of my favorites that the show has to offer and in conclusion, I think this season has a lot more good quality material to offer then not.

                                                                          The End

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