By Andrew Williams
January 21, 2014
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).
Now, this is the story all about how… Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his band of motley apocalypse survivors are aiming to secure themselves a new home: a prison filled with zombies. Shouldn’t be a problem.
Happy days? After a lacklustre Season Two, The Walking Dead ups the ante in its third outing with an avalanche of fan-favourite characters from the comics tumbling into the storyline. There’s katana-wielding bad-ass Michonne (Danai Gurira), The Governor (David Morrissey), a charismatic/psychotic, eye-patched leader of a nearby community, and stoic good-man-in-a-bad-situation Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), who all bring their huge character potential to a show that promptly wastes the majority of it. While all three are well-conceived characters that ultimately add to proceedings, the writers are wholly unable to lend them the kind of depth that would make TWD soar rather than shuffle.
The primary appeal of The Walking Dead (zombies aside) as a comic book series is its gripping, page-turning nature. Writer Robert Kirkman is a fiendish plotter, and even the least engaging issue usually contained a devilish twist. Even at its best, the television version still can’t find that level of pizzazz, even in the plots that deviate from the comic’s roadmap. And after three seasons, some of that responsibility has to come down to the cast. Actors who have sparkled elsewhere fade into the beige milieu of The Walking Dead, struggling to inject life into characters that consider themselves lucky to possess even one dimension.
The final frontier: As it was in Season Two, so it is in Season Three. All the tightly constructed zombie attack set pieces in the world can’t save a show where the living are less interesting than the dead.
Top three episodes: 12) Clear. Lennie James’ character from the pilot returns in by far the best episode of the season, providing exactly the kind of strong emotional heft this show should be delivering on a regular basis. 3) Walk with Me. The debut of The Governor and the presence of the perverted freakiness that was such a feature of the source material sets up high expectations for the season to come. 14) Prey. The best stories on The Walking Dead tend to be the standalone ones, as evidenced by this ep’s tense cat-and-mouse game.
Worst episode: 13) Arrow on the Doorpost. Representative of the way TWD failed the character of The Governor by muddling his intentions and lacking a clear vision of who he was supposed to be. Is he a tragic figure, a victim of circumstance, a psychotic creep, or a charismatic cult leader? The problem here is that he’s all four, depending on the episode, and he’s deeply uninteresting come season end as a result.
Season MVP: Dallas Roberts has been doing strong character work on various television shows and movies for a while now, and he’s by far the most compelling presence here as Milton Mamet, a scientist intent on discovering more about the zombies that plague the planet. He’s proof that a good actor can elevate even this material.
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The Walking Dead is available on Quickflix.