Wednesday November 28, 2012
Fear the living
ON THE AIR
By MICHAEL CHEANG
Focusing on the living instead of just the dead makes the third season of The Walking Dead the best one so far.
I HAD almost given up on The Walking Dead. The second season of the series may have scored record ratings for a cable show in the United States, but that didn’t disguise the fact that that particular season was a meandering, plodding affair that didn’t seem to be headed anywhere.
Fortunately, the final three episodes of Season Two in which two major characters (Dale and Shane) were killed, piqued my interest in the show significantly, and by the time the silhouette of the badass katana-wielding Michonne and the forbidding sight of the prison (location of one of the comic series’ most pivotal story arcs) came on, I couldn’t wait for the third season to arrive.
Well, the third season is almost halfway through, and boy is it good. In fact, this is probably one of the best shows on TV right now.
Picking up eight months after events of the Season Two finale, the show loses little time in introducing the first major element of the season – the prison where Rick’s group decides to take over after spending a few months on the road. With Rick and Daryl leading the way, the group is now a well-oiled zombie-killing machine. But with Lori already eight months pregnant, a safe haven to deliver the baby is needed, which turns out (ironically) to be a prison.
Meanwhile, having been separated from the group by a large herd of zombies, Andrea (Laurie Holden) has spent the last eight months wandering around with Michonne (played by Danai Gurira) and her two armless, jawless “pet zombies”. They eventually end up in a settlement of survivors called Woodbury, where they meet The Governor (David Morrissey), the charismatic and seemingly kind leader of the community.
Now into its sixth episode in the United States, this season of The Walking Dead has without doubt been the best of the series so far. It’s also a particularly exciting season for fans of Robert Kirkman’s critically acclaimed graphic novel series, because the show has finally reached one of the series’ most essential and crucial story arcs, which features some of the most iconic characters and game-changing moments of the books.
The downside of watching a show adapted from a book or series you have already read is you pretty much know what’s going to happen, so you either stop watching halfway because you can’t bear to watch the anguish and hurt you know the characters have to go through, or you keep watching the show till the end, looking forward to the payoffs that you know are coming.
Kudos to the producers of the show, though; they’ve managed to keep the essence of the book’s plot while adding different touches of their own. As a result, even a major fan of the comic would still be genuinely surprised by it.
What keeps me watching it, however, is the gripping tension that permeates the entire series. Even when they are just sitting around discussing their options, you can feel the sense of hopelessness that hangs like a shroud over them. The dark and gloomy atmosphere of the prison has also served to ramp up the horror of the walkers (zombies always seem scarier in the dark for some reason).
After two seasons, the walkers are already pretty much part of the furniture. The gang’s zombie- killing skills are also so well-honed that you no longer feel as though they have anything to fear from the walkers.
Fortunately (or rather, unfortunately for our heroes), there is a new threat in town, and he is scarier and more dangerous than even a herd of zombies. The threat this time comes not from the dead, but from the living. Chillingly played by Morrissey, The Governor is probably the biggest threat the gang has had to face so far, not just because he is a formidable foe, but because he is someone who is willing to do anything to protect his own people. Ironically, that is what Rick is out to do as well, and although they haven’t met yet, you know there is going to be one heck of a payoff when the alpha males finally meet.
Speaking of Rick, Andrew Lincoln mentioned before that this season, his character finally goes “bat- s--- crazy”, and you really have to see for yourself how that happens. His son Carl also grows up significantly this season (and thankfully, isn’t as annoying as before).
The point of The Walking Dead is not just about killing zombies, it’s also about the way people change psychologically when thrust into such desperate and hopeless situations.
The stark difference between Rick’s gritty gang of survivors and their gloomy prison home and The Governor’s seemingly peaceful town of Woodbury makes for a fascinating contrast. The more permanent setting of the prison also means we get to see how the group functions as a family unit, rather than just a bunch of people thrown together by chance.
One of the main reasons the third season is so good is because after two seasons of watching the world revolve around Rick’s group of survivors, we finally get to see more of this post-apocalyptic world they are stuck in, and how other survivors have managed to stay alive.
Ultimately, The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies – it is about people, and the third season perfectly illustrates how the living are actually a lot scarier than the dead. To paraphrase the show’s tagline, you may know how to fight the dead, but it is the living whom you should be afraid of.
The Walking Dead airs on Fox Movies Premium (Astro Ch 413) at 11pm on Sundays.