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October 12. 2012 3:23AM

Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club: Zombies return to the airwaves


 

Welcome back, zombies.

The hit television show "The Walking Dead" returns for its third season tonight at 9 p.m. on AMC.

After a second season that broke cable records for the coveted ages 18-49 demographic, the third season of the comic book-based zombie apocalypse show will be looking to up the ante this season.

And fans of the comic book, which celebrated its 100th issue a couple months ago, are especially excited for tonight's premiere because of two teases in season two's finale.

The first tease was the appearance of Michonne, a fan favorite character in the comic book. She appeared and saved Andrea's life in the season two finale, making quick work of a hungry zombie with her katana.

Michonne (who will be played by Danai Gurira on the show) first appeared in issue 19 of the comic book and quickly became a popular character for her toughness and resiliency.

As in the comic, Michonne's first TV appearance showed her chained to a pair of zombies with their arms and jaws removed (so they can't attack her) to throw other zombies off her scent.

I won't spoil the reveal of who those zombies are, but rest assured that if you are only watching the show and not reading the book every month, you will be impressed with Michonne.

The second reveal came at the very end of the season two finale as the camera panned back to show a large building in the distance.

That building is a prison that played a major role in the comic and is destined to do the same on TV this season. Though some fans of the show complained that last season's farm location slowed down the pacing, don't expect the same from the prison.

"The pace is very different this year," Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's a lot more suspenseful and intense than it was last year."

And fans following both the comic and TV show have yet another reason to be excited for this season and his nickname is "The Governor." No, Arnold Schwarzenegger won't be guest-starring, this governor is bigger threat than even the zombies (or former actors turned politicians).

One of the strongest points in the comic is that the other surviving humans pose a bigger threat to officer Rick Grimes and his band than the roaming undead. We've seen small tastes of this in show (such as season two's barroom shootout), but the Governor (played by David Morrissey) will take that to the extreme.

But another great thing about the show vs. the comic is that the TV version isn't slavishly following the written work. This means even long-time fans of the comic like myself are often surprised where the show goes.

"We play very fast and loose with this material from Robert's work, and it's important to stay true to the spirit of the original work," Mazzara told THR. "We're going to make it our own, and I guarantee that this is a different story. People will be very surprised at how we're choosing to tell the story."

It's also been revealed that Merle Dixon, older brother of fan favorite character Daryl will be back (and not just in Daryl's imagination as we saw last season). That should add another layer of intrigue to season three.

At the longest season yet (16 episodes) and some great storylines from the comic book series ready to play out, season three of "The Walking Dead" is ramping up to be the best yet.

And that's saying something for a show that has already been superb.
 

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Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Check out his podcast "Nerdherders" on iTunes. His e-mail address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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