By Dalton Carver
Staff reporter

Warning: Spoilers

Season 3 of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is the best and most intense one so far. While the first season built everything, and the second expanded it, the third makes you feel all of it. The inhumanity and the death, but most of all, the life.

However, life is something of a commodity in “The Walking Dead.” You feel a sort of loss when you experience the death of a beloved television character. “The Walking Dead” makes you feel that loss, whether you like that character or not. Another death means one less human being that walks that Earth, and one more Walker that does.

The worst part is “The Walking Dead” doesn’t kill its characters just once.  It brings them back, and makes you watch as they must be killed again. And even after their death, they keep reappearing in some way to haunt the ones that did survive.

This is the predicament of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) for the majority of Season 3, as the phantom of his recently deceased wife often returns to haunt him. The group’s faith in him is shaken quite visibly, and it’s a major conflict throughout the season. Even his son, Carl, asks that he not be the leader anymore, one of the biggest lines of the season. Fortunately, Rick pulls himself together by the end of the season. However, one wonders if he’ll ever be the same again. None of this is helped by the horrendous actions of The Governor of Woodbury, a Walker-free, idyllic community.

The Governor is one of the most sadistic, evil characters I have ever experienced in a story, let alone a television series. David Morrissey plays this role to perfection, slowly revealing the character’s true, animalistic nature as the season wraps up. Right from his introduction, something is a little off about the Governor. I thought viewers wouldn’t find a more reviling character than the racist and violent Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), but his sacrifice in the penultimate episode redeemed him.  On the other hand, nothing the Governor can do will ever reconcile his actions.

The nearly seven-month gap between the second and third seasons may confuse viewers for a little bit, but the world rights itself soon after. It was interesting to see how the characters had changed since the escape from Hershel’s farm.

Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), especially, underwent one of the most significant transformations throughout the season. Right from the get-go, you see Carl participating in a violent house-clearing. When the moment was determined that Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) wasn’t going to survive childbirth, it didn’t take much hesitation for Carl to shoot his mother in the head. He continues doing boneheaded things, like going on the search for the photograph of his parents, and nearly getting himself killed quite often. The transformation is complete when he shoots a surrendering Woodbury assailant. Shane may have had more of an impact on the boy than viewers had previously conceived. As the season went on, I liked Carl less and less.

The group never really feels settled into the prison, mostly because Rick and company never fail in making enemies. On the tail of killing Shane, Rick begins to adopt some of his best friend’s qualities. He doesn’t hesitate to kill those who threaten the group, and trusts no one. As the conflict from Woodbury escalates, certain character’s qualities shine. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is forced to deal with the death of his brother, Merle, and becomes better for it. It’s easy to see why Daryl is a fan-favorite. Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) is another one that is very likable, being the grandfather figure of the group. His diplomatic approach in a violent, direct world is refreshing. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohen) continue their couple-like ways. Glenn eventually proposes to Maggie, but this is hardly the biggest change for him. His personality and demeanor change drastically from the point where the Governor and Merle torture him and Maggie. Although he takes on a darker side, Glenn still manages to remain a positive and likable individual.

Last, but not least, Michonne (Danai Gurira) really came into her own by the end of the season. Her image as sword-wielding badass gave way to the point where she was actually accepted into the group. The conversation with Rick towards the end of the season finale was especially gratifying. Hopefully, Season 4 sees her developing even more.

Despite all these great things, I was disappointed with the way the Woodbury – Prison conflict was solved in the season finale. The Governor wasn’t dealt with like he should’ve been, and I guarantee that he’ll return next season. I just wish some sort of punishment had been handed to him. The fact that there wasn’t makes him all the scarier for the next season, though. Aside from this, Season 3 is the best by far, creating a good balance between Walker-killing action and survivor interaction. Although, one wonders how many survivors will be around to review next season.

On a final note, Andrea (Laurie Holden) finally got killed off. I don’t think the majority of fans will be disappointed by that one.

Dalton Carver is a sophomore majoring in communication. You can email him at dalton.carver@sckans.edu or tweet him @dalty_james.