The Walking Dead: Season Three - DVD Review

'Offers a complexity not seen within The Walking Dead before and which deserves to be commended'.

If the first two seasons of The Walking Dead were undeniably Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) story, then Season Three is where that truth becomes far less incontrovertible. This season starts off as two stories: that of the survivors remaining with Rick; and that of previously supporting player Andrea (Laurie Holden), separated from the group at the end of the last season and seen at the start of this living alongside katana-wielding newcomer Michonne (Danai Gurira). It’s a double narrative – arguably becoming triple or even quadruple during Season Three's second half – which offers a complexity not seen within The Walking Dead before and which deserves to be commended.

The choices made here in terms of setting and structure, especially when compared to the relatively safe haven of Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) farm which served as the survivor’s base for Season Two, are also ambitious, and thankfully they pay off more often than not. The introduction of the “perfect” community of Woodbury, led by shady leader The Governor (David Morrissey), is a choice which could have become too ludicrous to work within the now well-established post-apocalyptic zombie-land in which The Walking Dead takes place. And yet, through skilled writing and a gaggle of good performances from the cast both new and returning, it works.

Whilst Rick is no longer the undisputed main focus of the story, that’s not to say that Season Three allows him to take a backseat. As the series throws some of the most mentally and emotionally punishing storylines yet at the character, Lincoln steps up to the plate admirably. The actor delivers throughout the season his most impressive turn so far, taking Rick to some very dark and testing places as his story progresses.

It’s through Rick’s rivalry with The Governor that Season Three finds its most engaging plot thread however. Those running the show tread an admirably restrained path in developing the relationship between the two men, only allowing them to finally share screen time three quarters of the way through the season during “Arrow On The Doorpost”. It’s an episode which is all the better for the previous restraint maintained by those behind the scenes, and which forms the season highlight in terms of tension and dramatic craft. Morrissey also deserves high praise for his excellent performance as The Governor, ensuring he remains a character both exaggerated and believable, and only letting things slip a little too far into pantomimic levels of villainy a few times towards the very end of the season.

This is still not a perfect set of episodes: the death rate throughout is consistently high, at times leaving you with a sense of pointlessness in investing in any new character just in case they find themselves dispatched by a bite or a bullet in two or three episodes time. There are also characters here we have been with since early Season One who still feel too lacking in development – do we actually know anything, for example, about T-Dog (IronE Singleton)? His ultimate fate in this season feels like something of an admission by the showrunners that they simply dropped the ball with the character, opting for a lazy conclusion to his story to clear some space for the more interesting newcomers.

In spite of its lingering minor shortcomings, Season Three of The Walking Dead feels like both a continuation of what was done right in Season Two, and a conscious effort by those writing and directing to keep the series fresh and evolving.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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