Books & Review
Updated: Oct 16, 2012 02:51 PM EDT

walking dead

Daryl (Norman Reedus) is on the hunt in the second episode of the third season of "Walking Dead."
(Photo : AMC)

"The Walking Dead" has done it again. "Seed," the first episode of season three of AMC's hit horror series, smashed ratings records in its premiere Oct. 14 with 10.9 million viewers watching, a bigger rating in the 18-49 adult demographic than any other entertainment series this fall, including all broadcast programs.

Based off the monthly black-and-white comic book series written by creator Robert Kirkman, "The Walking Dead" follows a gang of lost souls just trying to survive day-to-day life in a post-apocalyptic U.S. overrun with the living dead. The first two seasons of the AMC series were hugely-successful. The season two premiere broke cable ratings records in the 18-49 demographic as well. But the season three premiere shattered everyone's expectations for the show.

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"The Walking Dead" was already the most successful basic cable series of all time in the adult demographic, and the premiere episode of season three was up more than 50 percent from season two, receiving a rating of 5.8 for adults in the 18-49 demographic. The only broadcast entertainment show even close to that was ABC's "Modern Family" season premiere, which pulled a 5.5 — and that's on network TV. AMC is at a severe disadvantage as its only available in a fraction of U.S. homes, and was dropped by Dish Network.

Fans that complained of season two's aimless narrative structure and slow pacing were treated to what was easily one of the goriest, most visceral, high-intensity episodes of the show yet.

(Photo: AMC) Looks like T-Dog (IronE Singleton) is letting his handgun do the talking in episode two of season three,

(Photo: AMC) Looks like T-Dog (IronE Singleton) is letting his handgun do the talking in episode two of season three, "Sick."

"I think everyone would agree after the way we ended the second season, backing off in any way and slowing the pace down would have been a mistake," Kirkman said in a recent interview with Access Hollywood. "We kind of hit the ground running ... and it just kind of goes from there. It's just absolutely nonstop."

If that's indeed the case, "Seed" sets an intriguing, gripping precedent for the rest of season three. The writing more fluid and confident, the episode boldly struck its own tone and path, likely surprising everyone from readers of the comics to those who've only seen the show.

"I'd been filming for 14 hours straight that day and it was a really intense day," star Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) told Access Hollywood of episode one's final scene. "My wife called set 'cause she was worried, because she hadn't heard from me. One of the guys came on set and said, 'Your wife's asking you to stay close by set because she's worried about you driving home!'"

"I did this scene and I couldn't sleep for two and a half hours," Andrew continued of the intense moment that left fans screaming at the television. "I was so wired. And it was largely down to the fact that I had an axe in my hand. And Greg Nicotero ['TWD's co-executive producer and special effects makeup designer] and the team had done this gag... It was unbelievable and you know that it's been a really horrific, gory thing and it's worked when all of them come up and go, 'Oh yes, that went very well!'"

(Photo: AMC) Need something amputated quick? Call 1-800-Rick-Grimes.

(Photo: AMC) Need something amputated quick? Call 1-800-Rick-Grimes.

Episode two of season three, "Sick" airs Sunday Oct. 21 at 9/8c on AMC.

"Sick" will pick up from the shocking ending of the premiere episode and finds the group fighting off other new, impending threats.

"It's been pretty intense this season," Lincoln said. "I made the fatal error this year of going into the writers' room and saying, 'What do you think Rick's breaking point is?' Well, that's the worst thing I could have said. We find out this season ... He's going to the dark side."

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