After an amazing first season in which the landscape of horror, gore, and to an extent, drama, on television changed, the dead kept walking, but the series got bogged down. Finding a place to hold up in Season Two did not serve the series well, as the farm kept to the cast of characters, and the stories were too safe.
There was optimism at the end of Season Two as the farm fell and our heroes were on the run again. Unfortunately, they would trade in the farm for a prison in Season Three, and once again, only the dead were moving. Instead of keeping our team of the living on the move, which yielded much success in Season One, the writers opt to imprison both them and the audience, and choose to introduce what are referred to as red-shirt characters in the Star Trek universe, and a whole new colony of living antagonists. Okay, some of them become sympathetic to Rick (Andrew Grimes) and the plight of his prison dwellers throughout Season Three, but the Governor (David Morrissey) of the colony known as Woodbury turns out to be one sick son of a gun. Yes, at the end of Season Three, we’re not completely sure why the Governor is as messed up as he is, but it is certainly one of the things we look forward to discovering in Season Four, which will premiere on October 13, 2013.
So, our cast is hold up in a prison, at war with the Governor, and his band of overly coddled, untrained, and somehow naïve to the world they live in, Woodburyians. This covers most of Season Three, as new characters, wearing the previously mentioned red shirts, are introduced and killed off. Luckily, Season Three marks the return of Merle (Michael Rooker), who has managed to land the position of enforcer for the Governor. Rooker gives an amazing performance as Merle that brings tension-filled energy to every scene he is in. The return of Merle in Season Three is only outdone by the introduction of the sword-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira), who, though more selective about her verbal contributions than Merle, provides a similar intensity and zombie dispatching skill that one can only hope we will be enjoying for seasons to come.
The five-disc set contains all 16 episodes of Season Three in which the writers display both brilliance and laziness. Though the latter rings true in numerous cases, one cannot escape the zombies, or the fact that characters have been created that we want to see what happens to next. We care about these people and as their respective characters develop in a world portrayed with more realistic grit than ever before, we are continually left wanting more.
Amongst the sixteen episodes, there are great moments to be found. The interaction between the two teams while Rick and the Governor meet to discuss a truce in “Arrow on the Doorpost” is simply smile-inducing, while more dramatic moments in “The Killer Within” and the season finale “Welcome to the Tombs” are certain to yield the opposite effect.
There is plenty of bonus material in this release including audio commentary on five of the episodes, deleted scenes, and eight featurettes. Whereas audio commentary can often be distracting, and deleted scenes tend to be nothing more than that which obviously did not belong, neither is the case here as both offer insight into the interesting choices being made by those guiding us on this journey. Unfortunately the majority of the featurettes seem somewhat contrived as if created simply to fill space. Yes, interviews with the cast are always both informative and entertaining, but such material is far too brief here, and the rest seems both forced and familiar.
Recommendation: Yes, the show is better when the cast is moving, and there are moments here where the writers clearly let us down, but, ultimately the performances are top notch and the characters being created are worth watching. No, this is not a show for the queasy, but it is a show for those who enjoy good storytelling. Though Season Three may not be the best thus far, the audience is given more than enough to create a desire to continue to walk with the dead.