New season ‘The Walking Dead’ to Return

By Ellie Rulon-Miller

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Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for “The Walking Dead.”

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The zombies are back.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the successful television adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s increasingly popular comic book series about a zombie apocalypse, returns on Oct. 14 with its highly anticipated third-season premiere.

A gut-wrenching show filled with suspense and moderate gore, “The Walking Dead” has been gaining steam and viewers since its first episode aptly aired on Halloween 2010. Certain plot twists digress from those in the comic series, but producers have managed to keep most of the show consistent with the original storyline.

It certainly helps to have Kirkman on as an executive producer, too.

The disparities between the show and the comics are often what make the show so interesting to watch. For example, characters like Daryl and Merle Dixon do not appear in the books at all, yet they make for two of the most compelling figures on the show.

A key different lies in the character Sophia Peletier. She does not get separated from the group (and ultimately killed) before they find Herschel’s farm, or ever, for that matter. On the contrary, Sophia loses both of her parents and is cared for by Glen and Maggie in the comics.

These, which are only a few, of the plot and character differences are not all of what viewers are looking forward to as Oct. 14 draws nearer.

One character, who was lost in the first season, will be returning this season: Merle Dixon. The last we saw of Merle was on a rooftop in Atlanta, when Rick handcuffed him to a pipe and left him in the sweltering heat and sunlight.

When Rick and a few others returned for him, all they found was a severed hand and a trail of blood, the handcuffs still intact, and a bloodstained saw.

The trail of blood, which Rick and Daryl followed through the commercial building upon which Merle had been handcuffed, has left many viewers wondering exactly when Merle would be returning to the show.

There were no indicators that he had died, though it has always been possible that he was simply gnawed to death by a horde of the zombie “walkers” after cauterizing his wound and escaping the building through a fire escape window.

For all intents and purposes, viewers were led to believe that he survives.

A full season has passed since Merle’s disappearance, but still shots and behind-the-scenes photos of him during season three filming have been surfacing for weeks. He appears to be working for the Governor, who operates a walled-in community and cuts off Rick’s hand in the comics. He is perceived by Rick and the group as an evil person because he takes the living people he finds and feeds them to zombies as a means of entertainment for the people in his community.

The comic plays with the idea of evil and the perception of evil very highly with the Governor; he does not think he is doing anything wrong and sees the zombie-feeding as a way of maintaining some level of normalcy for his people, who know nothing of the murders he and his men commit.

In the photos and even in a few promotional shots, Merle has a metal prosthetic attached to where his hand used to be which he uses as a weapon. This begs the question: Will Rick lose his hand in the show, or will Merle bear the burden instead?

The intertwining of the comic book storyline with the show-exclusive character of Merle is intriguing. Story writers can take the plot of the show in 100 different directions with this twist, especially given how having Merle on the Governor’s team will undoubtedly affect his relationship with his brother Daryl, and how their reunion will go.

Season three also brings the formal introduction of Michonne, the mysterious, hooded, sword-swinging character who saved Andrea from a couple of walkers in the final moments of season two.

The comics depict Michonne as the epitome of a badass. She is fiercely independent, but, assuming her story stays in alignment with the comics, she does not abandon her loved ones: she keeps her boyfriend and brother, both now zombies, chained to her at all times. She has cut off their jaws and arms so they are not a threat to her.

Having them around serves a practical purpose, too, as their scent seems to cover hers and other zombies cannot easily detect her.

What also remains to be seen is whether Michonne will have the same intense brawls with the Governor, or if her brutal rape, without a doubt the most unnerving pages of the comic series, will be written into season three. Perhaps the only thing coming close to the brutality of Michonne’s rape is the revenge she exacts on the Governor for it.

Season one encompassed the first six issues of the series and the second season covered the six subsequent issues. If season three uses issues 13-18 as its foundation with plot twists thrown in by writers and producers, viewers should brace themselves for some of the most difficult scenes and unexpected curve balls since the show began.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at [email protected].