By John Hornor Jacobs
Author of This Dark Earth
After an explosive and powerful first season—with only a few small plot missteps and the loss of the show visionary and powerhouse, Frank Darabont—Season 2 of The Walking Dead began to bog down and spin its figurative wheels. Some genre shows can walk the fine line between drama and action and for the greater portion of last season, the arm of the pendulum pointed firmly toward drama rather than action.
Here’s a quick Season 2 synopsis: We spend an inordinate amount of time looking for a lost girl (though points to the writers for having the bravery to kill her off instead of resorting to some pat resolution of that storyline). Rick’s son Carl is shot (though he recovers with AMAZING swiftness), leading us to a safe and protected farm owned by a preacher named Herschel. Rick and his itinerant clan of refugees take up residence at the farm. We spend the lion’s share of screentime-building tension in the Cain and Abel arc between Rick and Shane with Lori watching on, wide-eyed. Daryl’s abilities and tenacity become apparent and he assumes a larger role in the post-apocalyptic community, despite his natural misanthropic tendencies. While T-Dog is regulated to a mere bit player, Dale—the moral compass of the show—is killed off prematurely in comparison with the storyline of the comics.
Carl begins to form of pre-adolescent rebellious streak (the short-lived “Where’s Carl!?” meme burning through the Internet was particularly entertaining). Lori spends a lot of time grimacing and displaying her fine cheekbones inquiring as to Carl’s whereabouts, because, you know, mothers usually don’t keep track of their pre-adolescent, recently gun-shot boys after Zombiegeddon. Other than schtupping Shane in zombie kill-crazy lust, Andrea adds very little to the plot, while Glen falls in love with a farmer’s daughter and Sophia does a lot of hand-wringing and makes multiple ineffectual advances on Daryl.
Shew. I need to take a breather after that.
I didn’t mention a lot of zombies in that synopsis, did I? No, there weren’t a lot of zombies present. There were enough to keep me watching, but just barely. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t require zombies to enjoy television. But with all the drama, I could’ve been watching Downton Abbey or something. Rick and Co. lived last season on a farm and unfortunately, like in the real world, life on a farm is boring. And full of drudgery. However, in addition to life on a farm being boring, there are also (usually) a lot of seeds planted. Here are five reasons I think Season 3 will be total zombie awesomesauce.
1. We saw five seasons’ worth of character development in Season 2
That’s right. We’ve planted the seeds and the field is sown. Time to let those seeds grow and the characters you know, act. At the end of Season Numero Dos, the zombies blew their peaceful, i.e. boring, Farmer Ted life into oblivion. Our group is back on the road and the world is dangerous again. We’ve found love, we’ve lost love. We’ve lost characters we liked and hated—on one hand, Dale died, but on the other, so did Shane. (Hey, I realize some of you liked Shane and some of you hated Dale but whatever the case, they worked as foils, yin and yang, if you will.) All of the cast members have settled more into their personalities, the crucible of the apocalypse has burnt away much of the dross of character (now three seasons into the show), and a good amount of the chaff has been separated from the wheat of the storyline. Now is the time for some true action (and it’s a good thing, too, because I was running out of metaphors).
Also, Shane is dead. We can stop all the tension-building regarding his sorry ass. Admittedly, it paid off in the last episode of Season 2, which was tremendous.
2. The ascendance of Daryl
Daryl’s becoming more important. I went to FandomFest in Louisville to pimp my book This Dark Earth, a zombie novel that I think many of the fans of The Walking Dead would enjoy. Of all the stars at FandomFest, the biggest crowd draw by far—and I mean lines around the block filled with screaming girls—was Norman Reedus. There’s something about Daryl (and Mr. Reedus) that attracts people. He’s got the classic bad-boy, loner type written all over him and in a lot of ways, that makes him more interesting than say, Rick, because his motives are obscure and the more he acts, the more the audience feels the character is revealing parts of himself. With Rick, everything is pretty much out there on his sleeve.
Plus, crossbows are cool. (Never underestimate the cool factor.)
Remember just a few seconds ago when I mentioned the cool factor? Let me introduce you to Michonne. While Gotham might need an enema, The Walking Dead seriously needs a katana all up in that bitch. Seriously, y’all. Enough with the teaching women how to be badass—cough cough Andrea cough—just give me a badass woman who doesn’t have to discover herself or get training from some dude.
4. Penitentiaries are inherently more interesting than farms.
Especially if full of zombies. ‘Nuff said.
5. The fabled Season 3 sweet spot
Historically, shows tend to have worked out the kinks by Season 3, if they make it that far. The writers know their characters, the production team has worked out the kinks, the actors have settled into their personas, expanded to fill the corners and inhabit the space.
All of this might not seem like it’s that important, but consider the logistics and headaches making hundreds of zombies. After three years, the make-up and special effects teams—usually huge time and budgetary concerns—will be primed and confident and working like a team.
By now, the team backing The Walking Dead will be firing on all cylinders. Season 3 is when shows hit their stride and from everything I’ve seen in the trailer this season is going to be a doozy. The Walking Dead premieres Oct. 14 at 9P/8C on AMC.
So, I’m excited. Feel free to comment, abuse, praise, instruct, or blather on about how wrong or right I am. I want to hear what YOU are excited about!
Photos courtesy of AMC TV by Gene Page
Get relationship tips. Find help with your love life. Have a happy marriage. Sign up for our newsletter!