It’s no longer in question. AMC’s The Walking Dead has become an television entertainment phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. Based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Dead follows a group of survivors trying to stay alive in the zombie apocalypse. After a short first season, things really ramped up in Season 2 (read a full review here) when the group found refuge on an isolated farm, only to be overrun by zombie hordes and forced to flee.
Picking up several months later, Season 3 finds the group on the move and discovering a new hope in the form of an abandoned prison. Sensing a chance at sustaining their lives, the group takes the zombie infested prison by force and make it their own, but not without challenges. Along with internal threats of former inmates and leftover walkers, a new danger is growing nearby in the fortified town of Woodbury, inhabited by those not fully aware of the deadly world outside their walls.
If Season 1 is considered the introductory instalment and Season 2 the thrilling sophomore builder, then Season 3 is absolutely the ride unleashed. The third year fires up the pace and the conflict to new heights under showrunner Glenn Mazarra (who took over halfway through the second season). The season makes great moves by introducing two pivotal and polarizing new characters with the sword-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the charming-turned-homicidal leader of Woodbury, The Governor (David Morrissey).
It also brings back some Season 1 players back and resolves some hanging story beats with Daryl Dixon’s big brother Merle (Michael Rooker) and Rick’s first friend in the new apocalypse, Morgan (Lennie James). The season, as expected contains some major character deaths, with one episode in particular packing a one-two punch that will bring a viewer to tears. It’s something to be said for a zombie show that can evoke that much invested emotion in its characters.
The only fault of the season is that it builds and teases an incredible showdown between Rick’s group and The Governor’s army. The final episode delivers that battle, but some viewers may feel a little deflated over the end result after so much time spent foreshadowing a mind-blowing climax. But like the second-half of Season 2, the first-half of Season 3 is the show firing on all cylinders.
The third season now finds itself released on home video as of August 27, 2013 on DVD (also available on HD Blu-ray), with all 16 episodes collected over 5 discs. Although the show works much better in high-definition quality, the standard 480p picture image of the DVD package is fairly effective in its own right. A very capable Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mode provides an effective audio experience as well.
There’s a good collection of extras to be found in the set too. There are 8 quality (but brief) featurettes about some key aspects of the season, whether it’s zeroing in on characters with ‘Rising Son’ (Rick’s son Carl), ‘Heart Of A Warrior’ (Michonne), and ‘Gone, But Not Forgotten’ plus ‘Guts & Glory’ (killed off characters), or shedding light on the prison set (‘Safety Behind Bars’), production and FX make-up with Greg Nicotero (‘Making The Dead’).
Some decent audio commentaries with various cast and creators are also attached to a few episodes, including the whopper heart-breaker Episode 4 and mid-season climax Episode 8. Plus there are some Deleted Scenes from five episodes that highlight some neat character moments, but nothing too significant (unlike Season 2’s set that unfolded a brand-new deleted opening).
The Season 3 DVD edition of The Walking Dead pretty much follows suit with its predecessors by delivering the content in a solid technical manner and a similar line-up of special features that fans and collectors should be used to. The third season itself is one hell of a thrill ride and arguably the show’s best outing yet, even if the latter half doesn’t quite execute what the earlier episodes deliver.