As many of you might know I have covered the first three seasons of 'The Walking Dead' for High-Def Digest's blog, The Bonus View. I've recapped every episode, dredged up every character flaw, and lambasted every single hour Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company wasted away episode after episode on Hershel's (Scott Wilson) idyllic farm. After season one, the second season was somewhat of a slog. The third season promised a newly rejuvenated crop of zombie killing and a new location, yet somehow the show found itself mired in the sameness that plagued season two. Stretching the episode run out even longer didn't help either. Instead, it felt like the characters spent even more time wandering the dank hallways of an abandoned prison without much purpose. They'd simply replaced endless fields with endlessly winding corridors.
Running a show focused specifically on the zombie zeitgeist is a double-edged sword. On one hand you're starting out with a solid fanbase who will eat up the material because zombies are so in right now. On the other hand zombies don't provide a show with much character depth in the way of a villain. With poor twitchy Shane (Jon Bernthal) out of the picture (yes, I still miss him and will always remember him as 'The Walking Dead's most interesting character) the show was desperate to introduce a new grimacing opposition to Rick. Enter the Governor (David Morrissey). The malevolent leader of a fortified township called Woodbury.
During the show's interminably long 16-episode season, the writers furiously tried to give the Governor some depth. However, in the end he became nothing more than a villainous caricature. Someone to be laughed at rather than feared. There are a few moments near the end of the season where he literally cackles like a maniac with a cigar in his mouth, while he rattles off machine gun fire without a care. Middle of a firefight? No matter. The Governor fears no bullets, which makes sense since most of the survivors are completely inept at shooting living people – though perfect headshots where zombies are concerned are a dime a dozen.
The biggest complaint about season two was that, for long periods of time, nothing really happened. Sure the storyline on the farm had its surprise moments, but on the whole we listened to Dale bicker about maintaining some kind of Kumbaya society and watched as Rick couldn't make a decision. The farm proved to be extremely divisive. It was hard to tune in every week knowing that the characters were going to stay put and no one would keep an eye on Carl (Chandler Riggs). As much as people wanted season three to pick up the pace, it didn't. The characters found a prison, settled down, and, well, settled some more.
Relying so much on the coolness factor of zombies in prime time caught up to the show. We'd spent so long watching the undead be dispatched at a fevered pace that the characters took a back seat. Now that the third season has come and gone, it's hard to pinpoint any one character that actually feels authentic. They all feel like flat archetypes, especially Rick.
'The Walking Dead' remains one of the most popular cable shows on television. I, however, have grown disinterested. The fifteenth episode showed some promise, but then the season three finale basically extinguished it. What a letdown that last episode was.
I understand that fans are still crazy about this show, but I for one won't be continuing along with it. There are far too many other series on TV with varied characters and interesting storylines. 'The Walking Dead,' now more than ever, feels like a fad. If the popularity of zombies wears out, what foundation will be left?
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Walking Dead' comes to Blu-ray by way of Anchor Bay Entertainment. This is a 5-disc 50GB Blu-ray set. They're housed in a slightly oversized keepcase, with two singing arms that end up holding four discs back-to-back. Inside there is a booklet, but there's nothing of substance in it. It's a bunch of advertisements. There isn't even an episode list included. There is, however, a slipcover included. The set is marked as being coded for Region A.
'The Walking Dead' has always looked great on Blu-ray and the third season is no exception. The grittiness from previous seasons is continued here, but it only adds to the overall quality of the experience. The 1080p presentation has a great cinematic feel to it. Even with it's slightly grainier and softer appearance 'The Walking Dead' still looks great in high-def.
Texture and facial features are standout even with the grimier look. The makeup for most of the zombies is phenomenal. The enhanced resolution simply gives the wasted away walking corpses a great place to show off their putrid wares. However, the HD has always called attention to the addition of computer-generated blood spurts from gratuitous zombie headshots.
Color tends toward the browns, blacks, grays, and dark blood reds. Rarely does 'The Walking Dead' approach any sort of palette that could be considered "colorful." That's okay though, because the dour mood of the show is matched by its color scheme. A scheme that is presented flawlessly on screen as each different shade of brown is distinctly presented. Adding depth to the picture is some great shadow delineation. There is some very minor crushing during the prison hallway scenes, but one wonders if they could've looked any clearer anyway. Considering its purposeful gritty nature, 'The Walking Dead' still looks really well done in just about every way.
Yes, 'The Walking Dead's video has always been superb, but the audio presentation has also always been perfect. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround sound mix for the show has continuously pumped out the horrific sound effects of the show with frightening clarity. (As a side note it must be enormous fun being a foley artist on this show).
Every crunching skull, every breaking bone, every squish of tearing flesh is captured with absolute precision. The strength of the show's sound design is its attention to providing a downright scary surround sound experience. The added side channels give the show an engrossing feel. Growls, groans, and the shuffling of undead feet can be heard in the side and rear channels even if you can't see the zombies who are making the noise. It gives you the terrifying sense that you're right there, exploring an old prison, not knowing exactly where the Walkers might be.
Dialogue is always clear. The directionality up front flawlessly constructed. Prioritization works perfectly too. Voices are never fighting for space alongside the show's variety of sound effects. As much as I find myself disenchanted by the way the show itself is turning out, it's hard to deny the demo-quality aspect of this audio presentation.
The seasons keep getting longer as the show becomes a ratings juggernaut, yet the characters and their arcs always appear paper thin. Take out the gratuitous zombie violence and the show is left with a bunch of bland characters. Fans will indeed keep watching the show, but I'm one fan that's had enough. This is the end of the line for me as far as 'The Walking Dead' goes. If you're a die-hard fan, however, take solace in the fact that this set has amazing video and perfectly tuned audio. It certainly is a great release as far as the technical aspects are concerned. This season is really for fans only.