Another year, another season of The Walking Dead. As has become the tradition, the third season got even better than the previous two.
For one thing, we had a clear villain - and what a villain he was. The Governor. I have heard some comic fans complain that they did not like that he started off kind and magnanimous, but for viewers who haven’t read the comic, this is how you need to do it. That psychotic nature was always bubbling under the surface - he was just great at hiding it. It is rare you get a character who is so depraved, yet doesn’t come off as a cartoon. Having a human villain gave a new dimension to this season. While the zombies are horrifying, they are also easy to understand. They are mindless, operating on pure instinct. What’s more, by the third season, our survivors have largely learned how to live with the walkers. In fact, of all the notable deaths this season (and boy, there were a lot) I think only T-Dog was truly killed by walkers. He was bit, he fought as long as he could, then he left himself to be walker-bait so Carol could escape. Lori died in childbirth; Merle was shot by the Governor; Milton died of blood loss after being stabbed by the Governor; Andrea shot herself before she could change; and most of the citizens of Woodbury died at the hands of the Governor.
There were other, huge character shifts this season. Rick totally lost his marbles. He started seeing his dead wife, speaking to her on the phone, and became intensely paranoid of anyone unfamiliar. His return from the edge was a little too easy, and a little too cheesy. Then there was Carl. Little Carl, growing up way too fast. His father’s paranoia really started to rub off on him - but I guess shooting your mother in the head to prevent her from turning into a drooling flesheater can flip that psychopath switch in the brain.
This season was larger in scope than previous seasons, largely because of the dual settings: the prison and Woodbury. While switching between the two was sometimes detrimental to the storyline, it also offered us a Civil War kind of set-up. We see how one side prepares, then the other, knowing eventually they will come together in a massive battle. But some of the best episodes were far more quiet, more intense, and took place at neither locale.
So who wants to take bets on where season four will lead us? I have not finished the comics (I just got the part where Shane dies) so I don’t have even a general idea of what might transfer over. But based on what I know of the TV series, two things are pretty certain: the Governor is not gone and Carl is no child anymore. The Governor is out there, and we know he will return for season four. After slaughtering a dozen of your followers in cold blood, you’ve pretty much fallen past rock-bottom to a nebulous underworld there is no coming back from. While Carl seems to be headed in a similar trajectory, he is young enough and malleable enough that he can come back from the brink - I just don’t think Rick is in any position to do so. What actually fascinates me the most is what will happen to Lil’ Asskicker in five or six years. What happens when you are born into the zombie apocalypse? With absolutely no knowledge of a life besides this one, how does that change your world view?