The second season of the Walking Dead was at times criticised for its slow pace and lack of zombie action which I generally found to be unfair although some parts did drag a little early on in the season. However, for me season two never bored and if the longer second season (compared to the eight episode first season) was crucial in establishing the characters to such a degree that we actually cared for them, then season three had the more difficult job in actually doing something with them. For me, again, the writers have generally delivered a satisfying season that ups the ante even more so with a season that builds upon issues from season one and two, reintroduces and settles accounts with old characters, introduces new ones but at the same time manages to really set up the fourth season as well. OK, the finale itself is very much up for multiple discussions BUT if they truly deliver what I expect they're going to do in the fourth season, I'm sure most will forgive it. As it is however, I loved this season although I can completely understand why so many people will feel let down by this season finale compared to the rather spectacular previous finales.
The basic synopsis for season three is thus: eight months have passed since Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the remaining group of survivors were forced to flee the farm and since then they've been struggling to survive against the bitter wilderness and the endless surge of deadly Walkers. When they discover an abandoned prison with it's high fences, watch towers and green spaces, Rick sees hope that they may have finally found salvation. Meanwhile Andrea, having been isolated from the group, travels with the enigmatic and sword wielding Michonne as they too struggle to survive. When they are rescued by another group of survivors they are taken to a fortified town called Woodbury where its leader, a man calling himself the Governor (David Morrissey), promises food and protection. But while the weight of responsibility weighs down on Rick, the mask begins to slip from the Governor as his true nature to begins to show itself.
Andrew Lincoln has been a compelling lead from the start and even here in season three his story is taken to much darker depths and is a far more unhinged person throughout the majority of this season than he was previously. I love Lincoln's performance but I personally found that this season was almost stolen away from him altogether by series newcomer David Morrissey. Fans of the comics will know all about the Governor but may find themselves disappointed to find that throughout most of the season, this Governor isn't quite at that point of mad tyranny. Season three is more about the rise (or more fall depending how you feel) of the Governor to becoming the tyrant that the comics portray and this is aided by Morrissey who is sensational in the role. Totally unpredictable and boasting such an uneasy presence (and great accent) that you don't quite know what he's going to do next. Rick and the Governor are opposite sides of the same coin and though they don't enjoy much screentime together, their journey's this season couldnt be more important.
There are a few questionable steps along the way where some moments are handled a bit too subtle or low key than you'd expect, some new characters are introduced late on and don't enjoy sufficient screentime to really mean something. However the most bitter criticisms seem to have been directed at Andrea and after a complete re-watching of the season, a lot of that criticism is correct; at least from the half-way point onwards. The issue is that the Governor is exposed for what he really is well before she finally comes to that conclusion herself: the heads in tanks, the capture of Glenn and Maggie, the retaliation against the prison etc. is brushed aside by Andrea as say a lover's spat. It wouldn't be so much of a problem if the character reacted suspiciously against the Governor as peacemaker rather than still be a loyal ally. It's wrong and naïve and more to the point that come the season finale you really don't care for her anymore which is a real shame because she was one of the most interesting characters to this point.
I think it's a season that certainly loses a little momentum late on, ironic since season two actually gained momentum, and I think there's valid criticism that what was promised season long isn't quite delivered. However I think the characters are the winners this season because although a major plot point isnt fully resolved, the characters journey reach full circle conclude in a very satisfying way, particularly Rick, Carl, Merle and the Governor. I think season three and four will be more closely linked together and will be viewed as an extended whole (much like the first two seasons) meaning that for me generally, full acclaim and/or condemnation of season three is still some time away. As it stands, season three is a more action packed season than before with an even greater emphasis on the characters and most importantly; the human threat. It loses steam late on and new characters aren't really developed and while season three isn't a fully complete story, it delivers and leaves enough to set up a potentially epic season four.