The Walking Dead, Season Three: A Lengthy Report Card.

Last year, I complained about a few of my gigantic problems with season two of The Walking Dead. I also said that if season three didn’t significantly improve, I probably wouldn’t be sticking around for season four.

the-walking-dead-season-3-scene

Fortunately, prisons are inherently more interesting than farmhouses.

Well, after watching the mid-season finale, I can say with great joy that The Walking Dead has significantly improved.

DISCLAIMER:

Spoilers up till 3×08, “Made to Suffer.”

WAYS THE WALKING DEAD HAS IMPROVED:

1. I don’t want to kill all the characters.

TWD-S2-Studio-Cast-560

Some of the most insufferable heroes. Ever.

Or maybe that’s not fair. I did enjoy a few of the characters. Daryl has consistently been pretty awesome. Glenn was pretty awesome — he was my favorite character in season one — but his romance with Maggie in season two was boring as hell. I felt Carol had potential — especially in her scenes with Daryl — but she spent most of her time crying about Sofia, which while understandable, does not make for particularly good television. And Shane was sort of fun when he was going batshit crazy, but I was also glad when he died because you can really only have batshit crazy go on for so long before it gets boring.

Everyone else? Tedious, dull, or simply aggravating as fuck.

However this — mostly — changed in season three. For example, let’s look at season two’s four most problematic characters and see what happened to them:

A. Lori and T-Dog are both dead.

loritdog

T-Dog wasn’t so much of a bad character as he was a glorified extra. I didn’t necessarily want him to be killed off, but if he was going to stick around, he needed to gain a personality or a character background or something. Sadly, that never really happened, but at least his death scene was pretty good.

And speaking of death scenes . . . Lori’s death scene actually made me feel sorry for the character, which I didn’t actually know was possible at that point.

lori death scene

Of course, there are still some problems here. The Walking Dead has taken some heat for killing off T-Dog almost immediately after introducing Oscar, another black character, as if the producers were trying to maintain some kind of quota. I might think that this was merely an unfortunate coincidence if they hadn’t just done the exact same thing this last week with Oscar and Tyrese.

Also, while there were a lot of reasons I didn’t like Lori — namely that she had shitty priorities and bad decision making skills — the fanbase hated Lori so much that they attacked her for decisions that were actually understandable. For instance, people called Lori an awful wife for sleeping with Shane, and the season three writers (obviously pandering for the fans to like them again) had no problem at all with punishing her for that action. Problem is, Lori had absolutely no reason to believe Rick was still alive while she was screwing Shane, so all the hate that she gets for betraying Rick honestly comes off as a little skeevy and sexist to me.

Still, with these two problematic characters dead, I at least don’t have to deal with them and their annoying storylines (or total lack of storylines) anymore.

B. Carl is not a tiny, worthless asshole anymore.

Carl The Walking Dead Season 3

He still doesn’t have a lot in the way of actual character, and he’s still wearing his dad’s hat — which is just hard to take seriously — but he’s no longer saying awful things to women who just lost their children or strolling by himself through zombie infested woods for no godamned reason at all. And in the very last episode, where Carl shows humanity by helping save Tyrese and his band of merry survivors — but also good judgement by locking them up and away from his own people — well, this was a wonderful moment for both the character and the show. Season two was all about Hero Rick — who couldn’t be good without also being an idiot — versus Villain Shane — who was a better survivalist but also a ruthless, crazy douchebag. And in this single moment, little Carl shows that there’s a way to be merciful, cautious, and not a total douchebag, all at the same time.

C. Andrea is . . . still a little annoying, but she’s nowhere near as bad as she was.

the-walking-dead-photo02_500x333

Andrea was my least favorite character in season two. Yes, I hated her more than Lori. I wanted to like her, considering that she was the only female who did anything other than talk, but I could never forgive her for one, allowing Beth the opportunity to kill herself, and two, nearly killing Daryl. Also, she was a total bitch.

However, in the interest of really giving third season a chance, I did my best to ignore all that I knew of Andrea from prior seasons and start fresh. And while I think her story line is easily the most boring thing on the show, I at least don’t despise her like I used to. Sure, I wanted her to give Michonne the benefit of the the doubt and ditch the creepy fucking governor. But Michonne didn’t really give Andrea a lot of evidence that something was wrong, either, and I’d bet I’d have a hard time leaving the comforts of Woodbury based on someone else’s gut feeling. Besides, Michonne? I like her and all, but she’s not the best at using her words.

And while I really, really wanted Andrea to find out what the Governor was up to in the mid-season finale, I can at least hope that seeing Daryl (as well as the giant wall of encased floating zombie heads) will give her the push she needs to do some investigating and get the fuck out of dodge.

So, yes. My biggest four problem characters from season two are either dead or on the road to likely salvation. And while there’s still some dead weight on the team —

beth

Seriously, what does Beth even contribute — to the survivors OR the story?

— almost everyone else has vastly improved. Glenn, in particular, finally got the chance to be totally awesome again.

TWD_GP_307_0726_0248a

Glenn killing a zombie when he’s tied to a chair with his hands behind his back LIKE A BADASS.

You have no idea how happy this moment made me.

2. Also, things are actually happening on the show.

Walking Dead

Maggie killing the hell out of this zombie..

I have always thought that a family drama or a procedural that just happened to be set in a post-apocalypse world would make for awesome television. I still believe that. But boy, oh boy, did season two of The Walking Dead totally fail in making a “life with zombies” storyline work. For every rare moment of awesome that happened, there were at least seventeen dull as hell scenes were nothing of any kind happened at all. I know I’m giving the show a hard time, and there certainly have been worse things on television — season two of Heroes, for instance — but if I had to come up with one adjective for the entire season, I’d probably go with “stagnant.”

This is just some of what’s happened in Season Three so far:

Rick’s group of survivors took the prison.
Hershel’s leg was amputated.
The prison was invaded.
T-Dog died saving Carol’s life.
Maggie was forced to brutally c-section Lori without anaesthetic to save the baby.
The Governor — The Walking Dead’s first real human villain — was introduced.
Also Woodbury.
Merle reappeared in all his racist, one-handed glory.
Glenn and Maggie were both captured and tortured (physically and psychologically).
Rick led a party to rescue Glenn and Maggie.
Michonne was introduced and later had an epic fight with the Governor where she stabbed him through the eye with a piece of glass.
Daryl found out his brother was alive, promptly got captured, and is now facing potential execution with him.

My god, there are . . . plot developments! PLOT DEVELOPMENTS!

You have no idea how much I yearn for this in television shows. Particularly this one.

CONCLUSIONS:

I won’t say there haven’t been a few missteps here and there — I hated Full Belly Zombie for continuity reasons alone, and Rick’s whole phone call hallucination nonsense left me utterly unmoved — but overall, this season has improved so much that The Walking Dead has become one of my favorite television shows right now, and I’m eagerly looking forward to its return in February.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A

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4 Responses to The Walking Dead, Season Three: A Lengthy Report Card.

  1. Becki says:

    I was seriously ready to give up after season 2, but then I started hearing good things about this season and decided to start watching again. Definitely glad I stuck with it now, because I’m back to genuinely enjoying this show rather than just watching out of habit. Now if only they could do something about their apparent issues with black characters, then this season could officially be considered perfect.

  2. fatpie42 says:

    Once again, I’ve not really read this post because I want to avoid spoilers, but I’ve now read your last post because I’ve seen season two now.

    Interestingly my comment back then was that season one was full of cliffhangers and, I must admit, season two has ZERO cliffhangers. Oh my god, the whiny kid might die! *meh!* About the only source of tension was the idea that Carl would do something drastic but, like with anything remotely threatening in that season, this was foreshadowed to death. ZOMG I wonder what’s in the barn? What do we do about the stuff in the barn? Hey, let’s kill the stuff in the barn. Wow, that was anti-climactic.

    And yes, Lori is annoying as hell, not least because she makes the most stupid argument against Andrea’s self-obsessed mopey gun-slingling she could POSSIBLY have conceived. It pretty much came down to this: “You should leave the men to do the shooting and do chores instead.” What… the …. frak…!!!! I mean, part of me was interested by the way that when society crumbles they seem to suddenly revert to extreme patriarchy, but surely if these are really supposed to be modern day women at least SOME of them ought to be calling BS and, to be frank, I’d kind of hoped that Lori would be one of them.

    Heck, as much as Lori frets about Carl, she barely seems to remember that he very nearly went right ahead and raped her last season. And even when she FINALLY says to her husband that he needs to find away to finish Carl off, she seems to completely change her tune straight after. It gets to the point where I’m wondering what mood swing Lori is going to have each episode, since she’s either repeating herself or completely contradicting what she said the previous day.

    And one point where you completely echo my own view (to the point where I’m wondering whether I skimmed that bit and it sat in my sub-conscious) is regarding T-Dog. There’s a bit in the first episode or two where it’s suggested that the team might end up leaving both T-Dog and the older guy behind. T-Dog then says that he doesn’t think the team are racist. He then seems to happily sit in the background saying absolutely nothing for pretty much the entire season. Even in the big climactic meeting towards the end of the season EVERYONE ELSE says something, but T-Dog stays silent. WHY??? I suspected he might be about to die too. The writers had clearly lost interest in writing any lines for the character.

    I don’t think season two was THAT bad overall. It had a few good moments that were spread WAY too thin. In the end though, I absolutely agree that season three needs to be a hell of a lot better to make it worth slogging my way through the second season. I loved the first season and the second season did NOT live up to it.

  3. Charles says:

    Season 2 was intensely plodding but I think it had to happen. It reminded me of The Stand, when the survivors reached Boulder and settled into the business of rebuilding some semblance of normalcy, wherein life became nothing but public works and town meetings. And then the bombing happened and several important characters died and reminded everyone that in this new world, you can’t afford to get complacent. I think that lesson informs the example of the Governor, who really goes to show you what happens when vigilance becomes paranoia and normalcy is a rigid, strictly-maintained construct. I’ve not read the comics but I don’t think things are going to end well in Woodbury – and I can’t wait.

    • You know, I like that idea, and I can see the basic similarities with The Stand — where you needed to slow down and take time to further develop characters and deal with the sociological ramifications of, well, creating a society in the apocalypse before blowing everything the hell up.

      My problem is one of execution. I find the discussions in The Stand interesting. I like hearing/reading the debates about how Boulder should be run. (To clarify, I’ve read the book and watched the miniseries.) And other than Harold, who’s supposed to be an insufferable little shit, I care about the characters. When people are killed off, it matters to me. But in season two of The Walking Dead, that wasn’t my experience at all. I wanted to like the discussions they were having — morality in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic world could be fascinating — but I didn’t find the writing strong enough to carry the themes, and I really didn’t care about most of the characters. Killing almost any of them in season two would have meant nothing to me.

      Still, I like the structure you’ve pointed out — and I am TOTALLY with you on not being able to wait for The Walking Dead to come back.

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