Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Oct 30, 2012 04:13 PM EDT

walking dead

Glen, Rick, and Daryl run to guard the gates as the alarm sounds, but who or what set it off? (Photo : AMC)

Viewers who complained AMC's hit horror series "The Walking Dead" had lost its way have likely been eating their words and any remaining critics lately. Season three has magnified the show's best features and hungrily chased them in intriguing new directions.

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 have been hugely successful; the season two premiere broke cable ratings records in the 18-49 demographic. But season three has shattered everyone's expectations for the show, ratings and otherwise.

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The premiere episode for the third season of AMC's "The Walking Dead" broke ratings records for the network with nearly 11 million viewers. Episode two, "Sick," which ran on Sunday Oct. 21, pulled in another 9.5 million fans, topping all non-sports programs for the week, and cementing "The Walking Dead" as the hottest TV series for the coveted 18-49 demographic so far this fall.

With DISH Network now once again carrying AMC, there are 14 million more users who can now watch "The Walking Dead." AMC airs a new episode of the series three times on Sunday night.

After a third episode that introduced us to new characters like The Governor, and reintroduced us to some old faces - Merle! - episode four looks to continue the breakneck pace Kirkman and crew have established thus far.

With episode three revealing Merle's return to the series, it's only natural to wonder if Kirkman and co. plan to reunite him with his brother, Daryl (Norman Reedus), who's proved to be an integral part of the show's core group.

"Daryl grew up with a brother like Merle, who's racist and he takes drugs. He doesn't want to be his big brother," said Reedus parsing his character, Merle, and the show at large recently at a press conference for the show.

"Merle is like your drunk uncle at a Christmas party, where you're like, 'Shut up, man! Just shut up!' So, a lot of the big moments between Merle and Daryl in Season 3 are Daryl telling him that he's not his big brother. This conflict with Merle and other people in our group puts Daryl in the middle of it. He's trying to put out fires, and that, at some point, he's like, 'He's my brother, but this is what's happening.' Certain things happen where Merle tries not to be so Merle-y, and Daryl sees through it and tells Merle that he's not him. Daryl is passing Merle. Daryl is not Merle," said Reedus.

Over the first two seasons Daryl has progressed into one of the most dynamic characters on "The Walking Dead," and as a result, a fan favorite.

(Photo: AMC) Laurie isn't the best with a gun. Is this target practice or is she fighting for her life?
(Photo: AMC) Laurie isn't the best with a gun. Is this target practice or is she fighting for her life?

Reedus continued, "The popularity of Daryl has taken off, and I think a lot of that happened with 'Cherokee Rose' (Episode 4, Season 2). I really saw a shift with that episode. He won't hesitate to kill you, but he'll also risk his own life, looking for your little girl. There were certain moments where Daryl would go off looking for Sophia and Rick would say, 'Don't leave yet. Stay and let's make a plan and do it right.' And he'd say, 'No, I'm better off on my own.' He's still this guy."

"Daryl is like an animal in an alley, in the rain. You see him and you want to go touch him, and he snaps at you and will bite you, but if you feed him and take him in for a day or two, he'll follow you forever. Merle is not like that. Daryl doesn't hate anybody in the group. Daryl will fight to keep everyone alive. He's not really looking after anything for himself. He's got no internal plan to f*** you over. He's exactly what you see. There's nothing sneaky about him, and he has heart."

Reedus further elaborated on how Daryl relates to the rest of the group, where he sees the character going in the future, and how he is trying to define his role in relation to leader Rick.

"Rick is such a good character because he just keeps messing up, even though he's trying his best. If he did everything right, it would be boring. But, Daryl is not Rick and Daryl doesn't want to lead this group. Daryl doesn't want the responsibility of these people. Daryl does his thing and he's loyal and he'll fight for everybody and he cares about everybody. He's finding who he is, through these people relying on him, and he's never had that," said Reedus.

The prison has already played a huge role in the first two episodes of the season, and the location's significance will only grow as the season rolls on, according to Reedus.

"There's more tension inside than there is outside, this season. Being inside a prison looks safe, but there's only a small section of this prison that we're in and the rest of it is just as scary as the outside. It's full of zombies and there are people trying to take this prison and we're fighting for this prison. There is so much tension inside the walls that it's almost worse than being outside, but we can sleep there. Every day, we were shooting and thinking, 'I can't believe they're letting us do this.' This season is amazing. It feels like a film, every day on set."

While the first three episodes were a slick mix of brooding atmosphere and shocking fits of gore-drenched violence, Reedus wants to assure viewers that episode four will take everyone even deeper into hell.

"We just watched Episode 4, as a group, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house, even though these were people who were there while we were filming it, all day, over and over again. We saw Episode 1 at a screening for the cast and crew, so there were 400 people packed in the place, and everyone was screaming at the top of their lungs. You could barely hear the dialogue. If it does that to us, when we're there filming it, bored and waiting for the day to be over, it's going to blow your minds. It's great!" said Reedus.

"The people that are really fans of the show, we're not dumbing anything down for anyone. It's smart television. It's not one of those shows where there are three people in an office that you know are going to be there until the season ends. Anyone could go, at any time, just like in the real world that we're trying to play in. It's fascinating to watch."

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