It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning. The wind has just a little bit more bite. And our favorite sheriff is back and fighting zombies in The Walking Dead. This past weekend, New York Comic Con was the scene for all kinds of interesting activities. As you may have heard, Criminal Element was there! We even managed to snag spots at the hour-long panel dedicated to all things Walking Dead.
NOTE: All of our panel pix are slightly awful, as we were too far back with not enough zoom, and the lighting was challenging. But, hey, we were there!
The panel opened with the first few minutes of the season premiere, showing our favorite survivors working, without even needing to speak, as a well-oiled machine in a raid on a house. It was as intense as it was awesome, which you would know if you watched the premiere. (You did, didn’t you? Go, Carl, go!) The prop guys on set warned Andrew Lincoln before filming that there were more zombie kills in this season’s premiere than in all of season 1!
ChrisM is the ultimate TWD fanboy at CrimeHQ. Clare2e isn’t as deep into the franchise, though a horror and zombie fan, natch! So, you’ll get two perspectives (for the price of one, even!) on the hints and implications that will cast shadows across all of season 3.
There was a nice assembly of important characters present, including Rick, Carl, Daryl, Michonne, the Governor, and Merle, the latter three who will play big roles in season 3. Also present was producer Gale Anne Hurd. (Did you know she began her career as an assistant to the legendary Roger Corman, and just got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—how cool is that?) Robert Kirkman, creator of the original comic and co-author of the novels, was also there, basically not-answering questions about how everything ends and what it all means. Showrunner Glen Mazzara wasn’t there, except in spirit, as he sent a little Up-with-fandom-and season-3 note that Chris Hardwick of The Talking Dead read aloud in his role as moderator. Yes, the crowd was packed tighter than walkers at a live-meat buffet.
ChrisM: As a fan, I care most about three of the characters: Rick, Daryl, and Merle. Yes, I’m a fan of comic-book Michonne, and The Governor is perhaps one of the best villains around. But those are just the comic-book versions, and the TV versions remain untested. At the panel, Kirkman embraced the demonstrated capacity of the show to succeed even while deviating from the written canon, which I’m okay with, but that does mean that I’m going to be skeptical of how things are presented, *cough* Lori *cough*.
Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, stressed Rick’s upcoming character development. Which is GREAT news. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to shout at the man for being wishy-washy all the damn time. The Rick of season 1 had a purpose. He was upholding what it is to be a decent and good man, during a time when almost all other decent and good men are dead, or walking dead as the case may be. In contrast, the Rick of season 2 was confused all the time, almost to the point where he was paralyzed into inaction. He was making Shane look pretty good there toward the end. Sure the guy was flirting with “rapist” but he had a plan. Andrew Lincoln commented on Rick’s journey from “whining” (his word) to the “dark side.”
The finale of season 2 showed a Rick that was harder, more commanding. He finally unburdened himself of the knowledge that the Scientist from the CDC gave him: that everyone is already infected with the virus that makes people walkers. I’m excited about this new Rick. The harder one. However, I’m curious to know how he is going to preserve the basic decency that made him so great and Shane so evil in season 1. Rick can’t lose that. Especially now that the group’s emotional center, Dale, has gone on to greener pastures.
Clare2e: This season jumps forward in time, which means characters have changed, in some cases a lot, from the last time we saw them. The crowd was going mental for Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, and there were tons of questions for him from actual kids. There was interest in who now would replace Sophia in his affections. (Will he be crushing on Beth? Oh, perhaps, perhaps.) It was funny to see how horrified Kirkman was at the ages and number of kids present who watch and love the show. Here’s an interesting snippet, especially after what we saw in the premiere, about Carl’s growing up and getting over trauma from past seasons.
As Gale Ann Hurd said, “Where’s Carl?! He’s in the house, killing zombies!”
ChrisM: Then came Norman Reedus as our Daryl Dixon. Reedus stressed that Daryl is thriving off of looking after the group, and adopting Rick as his new older brother. I was initially curious about how Daryl is going to react to the return of his older brother Merle, which is something Reedus brought up as well. To me, Daryl has been a little like a lost puppy. Sure he is a badass zombie killer with that cool crossbow and devil-may-care attitude, but he is naturally subservient. He latches on to whomever happens to be the big dog. In season 2, that was Rick. But we also got to see Daryl come a little bit into his own. He had a bit of a come-to-Jesus with a hallucination of his brother, but even imaginary Merle kept Daryl moving toward survival. So, the question is: will Daryl continue to be his own man or will he switch back to being little brother to Merle again? Only season 3 will tell.
Clare2e: Kirkman joked he doesn’t know anything about Daryl and Merle Dixon, since they’re not from the comics, but then admitted how much he enjoys the new story opportunities they bring. Another provocative bit involved Daryl’s romantic potential with Carol, which ChrisM discussed earlier this year. Norman Reedus’s answer was funny and very true to the character.
Having not read the comic books (yet), what I know about the lawyer-turned-quasi-nihilistic zombie-murderer Michonne comes from ChrisM’s teaser post. But I have to say, I was excited by actress Danai Gurira’s exuberant passion, her “intense, brutal joy” in playing an intelligent character who discards any identification as a hunted victim and, instead, decides this new world offers a unique platform for her to rise to the top.
I’m fascinated by the ways Michonne conceives for the new status quo to benefit her, such as with her “pets,” walkers she’s neutralized by removing their arms and lower jaws (eeew) and whom she’s subsequently turned into pack mules she doesn’t even have to feed. “Capitalize on them, make use of them. They’re not as smart as you.”
David Morrissey plays season 3’s new Governor of Woodbury, which is a sinister utopia, a (slightly?) better and safer place to live, as long as you don’t get on his bad side. He couldn’t say too much about his arc without spoiling, except that while it may differ in some specifics from the comics and the novel—which the actor consulted as his character bible—fans, he said, will be very pleased at how true he’ll be to the spirit of the character.
There are gaps in time between the sets of stories in the comics and novels, and that may be where his version of the character will live and breathe. In the later comics at least, the Governor’s been warped into a monster who delights in and justifies his cruelty to other still-humans, so when it’s his realm of Woodbury versus Our Gang at the prison things are bound to get hideous.
ChrisM: Last, but not least, there’s Merle, Daryl’s older brother, absent from last season. Merle is a bit of an unknown. He was only around for a few episodes in season 1, but chewed up every second of screen time he got. Michael Rooker magnificently plays a country boy/racist/professional survivalist. He wasn’t able to talk too much about his character arc in the upcoming season either, but he did say “I’m a tough asshole” and stressed that Merle is a survivor.
Now, I’m not prepared to call Merle evil or villainous. I like to think of him as dwelling comfortably in the gray. Yes, he has that whole racist thing going. But he does care, in that way an abuser cares, for his little brother. I don’t think what Merle does is done out of malice, just out of an urge to survive. Like a wild dog. It will certainly be interesting to see if Merle redeems himself or if he fails to win back Daryl.
It’s worth noting that when asked what their next-favorite walker killing weapons would be, other actors said flame-throwers, possibly Lucy Liu or Chuck Norris. (The original Walker, of course!) But Rooker first said an arm-mounted bazooka, before he revised it to a rocket launcher. He seemed to think that people of younger generations might not have heard of the former. Oh, Merle. You’re never too young to know what a bazooka is.
Clare2e: Robert Kirkman also commented, in answer to a question, that he finds the characters’ adaptations to a whole new reality much more exciting to explore than the situation of a bunch of people tweaking around in a lab. If this season offers any sliver of hope, it probably isn’t going to show up in a shiny, little test tube. Salvation, assuming there is any to be had, will have to be bloodily and brutally won.
So, that’s our download! What elements/characters are you most excited about seeing in season 3?
Wait, you’re still hungry for more? Of course, we’ve got you covered with “Seed,” the Season 3 Premiere of The Walking Dead!
See all of Christopher Morgan’s posts for Criminal Element.
Clare Toohey is Clare2e here, on Twitter, and also at Women of Mystery. She dreams of seeing TWD’s Merle Dixon and Ash from The Evil Dead in an epic mano-a-mano (since that’s all either of them has) battle royale.
See all of Clare Toohey’s posts for Criminal Element.