To say that AMC’s The Walking Dead is a show about zombies is like saying that Rescue Me was a show about firefighters or 24 about terrorism. While these themes are important to the show, their greatest function is to serve as a vehicle for telling a much larger story. Dead is the story of the fight of a group of people searching for humanity while all semblances of it collapse around them. As Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) says at the end of Season 1: “All we want is a chance.”

That version of Rick was a gentler, kinder soul. With the premiere of Season 3, that has changed drastically. Last season, his authority was questioned and undermined by Shane (Jon Bernthal) who Rick subsequently killed and his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is pregnant, possibly by Shane. Rick’s final big declaration was that “This is not a democracy.” With the new season beginning, his quest for humanity has been challenged. We see a shorter-fused, more forceful Rick.

Looking for a place to stay after Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) farm is overrun by zombies, the group seeks salvation of all places, at a prison complex. Hershel even talks about growing fruits and vegetables. Having seized partial control of the facility, everybody is looking to celebrate a rare victory. Hershel’s daughters are signing a song and everyone is relaxing by a fire, but Rick interrupts to announce he is looking to take over even more. He sees an opportunity to seize weapons, food and medicine. “This place could be a goldmine,” he proclaims. The campfire scene and the conversation he has with Lori shortly thereafter depict a man who is fighting to stay alive, but forgetting what he is fighting for.

As for Andrea (Laurie Holden), who got separated from the group, she is currently under the protection of Michonne (Danai Gurira), who saved her at the conclusion of last season. Andrea is sick, but wants to keep fighting. Andrea’s character has undergone a transformation as well. She originally wanted to die at the end of the first season, but now we see someone fighting to live.

The Walking Dead is one of the most compelling hours of television around. Its writing and acting are phenomenal, and its imagery is vivid and captivating. Season 3 looks to be the best yet, with complex characters and compelling storylines that give the viewer plenty to chew on.

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