After several months on the road, Rick (Lincoln) and the survivors take refuge in an abandoned prison. Nearby, a man known as The Governor (Morrissey) is in command of Woodbury, a small, fortified town which offers protection and safe haven from walkers. Eventually, however, it becomes clear that The Governor and his people aren’t nearly as welcoming as they seem, leaving Rick and the group with more to worry about than just the undead…
During its first two seasons, The Walking Dead proved frustratingly inconsistent. Though capable of gripping zombie drama, the show was often guilty of repeating itself and treading water, slowly growing stagnant as the writers were forced to stretch their material as a result of problematic budget cuts. As such, it’s something of a pleasant surprise that season three is such a significant improvement. Having clearly taken stock, new showrunner Glen Mazzara and his team enforce a number of crucial changes that are both very welcome and long overdue. Finally moving away from Hershel’s sleepy farm, there’s noticeably more action and much less narrative wheel-spinning. Moreover, a few deadweight characters are killed off while one or two old favourites are wisely brought back into the mix. Hell, Sarah Callies’s widely-disliked Lori Grimes even admits to being a bad wife and mother.
Okay, so most of the supporting players remain largely uninteresting, and the second half of the season isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the first. But on the whole, season three is considerably more exciting and urgent on a regular basis, boasting such a notable increase in zombie carnage that previous budget concerns must surely be a thing of the past. Opening with a strong run of instalments, there are plenty of genuine gut-punch moments (see the end of episode four), while Andrew Lincoln’s de facto leader gets chewier material as he struggles under the burdensome weight of his Ricktatorship. Disappointingly, fan-favourite Michonne (Danai Gurira) doesn’t live up to the promising intro she received at the end of last season, rarely offering more than a disapproving scowl and the odd dash of sword-wielding walker-slicing. David Morrissey’s Governor, on the other hand, makes for a show-elevating addition, providing us with a fascinating antagonist who brings a different kind of threat to the table. Keep an eye out for him.
Boasting more action and less narrative wheel-spinning, season three of The Walking Dead is a huge improvement.