Hordes of zombies will soon be returning to our TV screens as the third series of horror drama The Walking Dead is set to start airing on FX. Based on the cult comic series by Robert Kirkman, the show has broken cable viewing figures in the US, where the season 3 premiere was watched by 10.9 million viewers. IB Times UK takes a look at what has made the show such a resounding success, and what to look forward to this series.
The success of the show is down to great performances from the likes of British actor Andrew Lincoln, visually stunning set pieces and an adaptation of a genre that is in vogue. Zombie films have been popular with horror fans ever since George A Romero's Night of the Living Dead in 1968. That film, full of quiet dread and racial tension, established many tropes of the genre still used today.
The slow-moving but indefatigable zombie hordes feature in The Walking Dead and are referred to as "walkers" by the group of survivors. Recent films such as 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead tried to update the monsters for the modern age, making them quick, agile and strong. But it is the slow-moving masses that inspire greater fear; the feeling that no matter how many you repel the dead will keep on coming. This was evidenced last season in the show. The group found refuge on Herschel's farm and appeared suitably protected from any zombies that came their way. But there appears no sanctuary in post-apocalyptic America as a zombie onslaught overwhelmed the camp in the season finale and forced those who survived to flee.
Divided we fall
The attack would always have been hard to repel, but life was made easier for the zombies as they attacked when the camp was in disarray. Another important way the show follows the zombie genre is that the main enemy is never the monsters but members within the group. Last season saw a battle between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane (Joe Bernthal), the former best friends who hold differing views on how to survive the Armageddon.
Rick's idealistic stance of protecting all members of the group was weighed against Shane's view of survival of the fittest, and that the strong should not be held back by the weak. The two came to blows over what to do with Randall (Michael Zegen), a stranger they picked up who was a potential threat to the camp, with Rick's compassion countered by Shane's lack of mercy. The battle for supremacy of the group between the two was never going to end well, with Rick finally killing Shane in a shocking moment that is sure to have repercussions through the new series.
The Governor and Michonne
Shane was the principle antagonist of the show, and his departure leaves a pretty big hole that the writers will struggle to fill. But fans of the comics will be excited that this season moves on from the farm to the prison, where two of the most famous characters from the books, the Governor and Michonne, will be introduced. The Governor, played by Britain's David Morrissey, is likely to be the new enemy of the group, as he ruthlessly lords over another group of survivors in a former prison. Michonne (Danai Gurira) on the other hand will add some bite to the series as the tenacious martial arts fighter who wields a katana.
Executive producer Glen Mazzara said that bringing characters in from the comics was always his priority.
"There are a lot of fantastic characters throughout Robert Kirkman's book that we're dying to bring to life. Some will be introduced in this season and some will be introduced in later seasons. It's our intention to bring all those major characters to life," he said.
Bringing up baby
Along with these new characters, the show will return to find the group of survivors much changed since the events of last season. Rick might have killed Shane, but at the same time he destroyed his idealistic principles that a harmonious democratic community can be formed from the group. Without Shane's discerning voice and Dale's moral reasoning, there will be no-one speaking out against Rick's actions. According to Mazzara, "The question becomes how far can he push the group? What is the breaking point? And Rick will certainly have to deal with how far can he push himself and what is his breaking point". His wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is expecting a baby soon. She will be wrestling with how her words with Rick ultimately persuaded him to kill Shane, and the thought of bringing up a child in a world that appears without hope.
Away from the couple, the show's unofficial favourite character is the crossbow-wielding redneck Daryl (Norman Reedus). From being a solitary figure looking out only for himself he has become further integrated into the group, and has formed a touching relationship with Carol (Melissa McBride) after the numerous fruitless searches for her daughter Sofia (Madison Lintz). But memories of abandoning his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) remain, as seen when he saw him in a vision last season. Merle is now set to return to the show for real and could change Daryl's position in the group. Will Merle be seeking revenge for being left handcuffed to an Atlanta rooftop, and if so, will Daryl take his side and go against the camp? These questions and hopefully many more will be answered in the show this year as viewers hope the drama continues its intoxicating blend of petrifying horror, blood-splatter gore and strong character development. Be prepared for carnage.