The makers of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” clearly heard some of the audience complaints about the second season’s slow pacing and excessive jibber-jabber regarding what constitutes morally appropriate behavior in a post-apocalyptic climate.
Perhaps that’s why Season 3 of America’s most-watched zombie-oriented television series began with a steady barrage of gunshots to undead foreheads, throat impalements and walker-eyeball stabbings.
And that doesn’t even count the partial amputation of a key character’s leg or the murder of a defenseless hoot owl. Hey, a zombie-apocalypse survivor’s gotta eat.
Yes, seven months after the Season 2 finale in which the “Walking Dead” survivors bolted from Hershel’s farm in the wake of a rotter takeover, the series has returned, moving home base to an (almost) abandoned prison and cranking up the action to zombie-kill 11.
To be fair, only a pair of episodes from the third season — which began Sunday and will split 16 installments into two chunks, running from October to December and pick up again in February — were made available in advance to critics.
Based on teasers for the new season, as well as the events that unfold in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, on which the show is based, we know that the prison move and the introduction of new characters (see: the ruthless, sword-wielding Michonne) promise to take the narrative in fresh directions.
But in the meantime, don’t be surprised if these first two hours feel, at times, a little been bitten there, already zombie-killed that.
In the few months that have passed within the “Walking Dead” narrative, things have changed, but only a tad. These hardy souls and the rest of their partners in post-apocalyptic survival-scrapping focus on turning that jail into a cozy home where they can comfortably rest without fear of their faces being chewed off.
Some obstacles naturally get in the way, including one that pushes a main character’s survival into the maybe category and leads to a scene that may make even the most gore-obsessed “Walking Dead”-ophiles a little teary.
“The Walking Dead” can still surprise us that way. And that’s one of the reasons why we must keep watching.
We also must keep watching to reassure ourselves that if faced with a global meltdown, zombie-virus-related or otherwise, we could survive, even though in real life we basically dissolve into puddles when the power company can’t flick the power back on three days after a storm.
We’ll keep watching to find out how long our undead-battling posse can survive at the prison. We’ll keep watching to keep track of how many zombie eyeballs get stabbed over the course of the season.
And we’ll keep watching because we want to believe that if a time comes when the dead really do walk the Earth, attention must be paid to the living who stubbornly remain.
“The Walking Dead” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC. Viewer discretion is advised in a biiiig way.