I don't know why it takes me so long to follow certain TV shows (other than not having cable, of course). Season One of The Walking Dead sat unwrapped on my shelf for close to a year before I finally cracked it open, thanks to my consistent lack of free time and standard reviewing obligations. It didn't take me long to tear through all six episodes and I quickly snapped up Season Two, catching myself up completely in a matter of days. So, much like countless shows before it, The Walking Dead was able to win me over in relatively short order, especially with the benefit of watching back-to-back episodes on Blu-ray. I kept the formula going for Season Three, avoiding the week-long droughts between episodes by just waiting for the Blu-ray...and, like many shows of its kind, The Walking Dead plays even better as marathon viewing.
Thus far, each season of The Walking Dead has had a slightly different tone, largely due to the specific places that our survivors call "home". Season One's campsite made them feel vulnerable: a far cry from the doors, locks and other technology inside your average house or apartment, these remote surroundings didn't provide much in the way of security...especially after a terrible attack that sent everyone packing. Season Two found our group at the Greene family farm, complete with its own generator and other luxuries like cattle and fresh well water. Unfortunately, their homeland was again overtaken by walkers, creating an even more devastating loss for people slowly becoming used to disappointment. Season Three, on the other hand, reflects a more militarized tone: Rick, Lori, Glenn, Daryl and company seek refuge at the West Georgia Correctional Facility, voluntarily locking themselves inside a fortress that, under more "civilized" circumstances, wouldn't be an ideal home. But walls are walls, even if they're topped with barbed wire.
Aside from walkers, starvation, disease, weather, natural surroundings and a host of other threats, Season Three's primary "villain" is Philip Blake AKA "The Governor"; he's the psychotic leader of nearby Woodbury, a fortified town of less than 100 people that's powered by solar panels. Andrea and the badass sword-wielding Michonne are initially captured and taken there, where Blake and his disciples of Woodbury attempt to provide a measure of hospitality. Things aren't what they seem, of course...and after The Governor's true intentions are made known and Rick's group becomes involved, it begins a season-long arc that affects our heroes in profound, life-changing ways. Season Three runs for 16 episodes in all, which have been spread across the first 80% of this five-disc release. A total content list is provided below.
Complete List of Season Three Episode Summaries (via Wikipedia)
Reading occasional Season Three episode synopses and reviews during the course of its original 2012-13 run, it became painfully obvious that fans were sharply divided on the season's overall quality. Some proclaimed that the second half was bogged down with filler or the strengths of Seasons One and Two just couldn't be matched, but perhaps the week-long breaks between episodes gave them too much time to nitpick. For my money, Season Three of The Walking Dead is the best yet, chock full of suspenseful moments, interesting new characters, even more gruesome zombie kills and even a few main character deaths. Cast performances, especially by our core group of survivors, is more uniformly strong and polished than ever. Episode highlights include "Seed", "Walk With Me", "The Killer Within", "Made to Suffer", "The Suicide King" and "This Sorrowful Life". In all honesty, though, there isn't a bad episode in the bunch.
As good as Season Three remains as a whole, Anchor Bay's Limited Edition release is something else entirely. Packaged in a grotesque "Aquarium Tank" case, the attention to detail makes it a repulsively eye-catching addition to any sick, depraved home video library. Featuring two waterproof tanks, five "floating" zombie heads, two packets of flesh bits, six battery-powered LED display lights and a handsome Digipak case, this is a perfect collectible for anyone with a soft spot for black humor and cool packaging.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Much like previous season releases, there's a lot to like about the technical presentation here. The 1.78:1, 1080p transfers are rendered nicely...and even though The Walking Dead isn't attractive by design, almost every ounce of dirt, blood and gore is displayed in striking clarity. Black levels and shadow detail are also quite strong, as interior shots often rely on natural (or at least minimal) lighting on most occasions, while not glaring digital imperfections were detected along the way. Overall, fans will be pleased with the image quality at almost every turn, even when more squeamish viewers are tempted to cover their eyes.
DISCLAIMER: These promotional screen caps are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
The audio is pretty much perfect, as evidenced by the reference-quality DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track. Dialogue is always crisp and easy to understand, while frequent surrounds help to sell the suspense. Outdoor sequences are especially well done, featuring plenty of natural ambiance and a wide, immersive soundstage. Music cues also sound dynamic without fighting for attention with everything else. A separate French dub is available in Dolby Digital 2.0, as well as optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
Seen below, the star of the show here is the Aquarium Tank collectible that houses this five-disc set, designed by Greg Nicotero and sculpted by McFarlane Toys. The scaled-down replica of The Governor's infamous "head gallery" is, hands-down, one of the coolest packaging jobs I've seen in any format: durable, detailed and even waterproof (should you choose to go that route), it's topped off by two rows of LED lights that help this grisly display come to life...er, death. Basic instructions are included for setup, although you'll need to supply 4 "AAA" batteries yourself. Is it worth the extra cash? Hell yeah it is.
It's worth noting that the Blu-ray packaging also differs from the standard version: like both previous Special Edition season releases, this six-disc set arrives in a matte-finish Digipak case. Also tucked inside are the Aquarium Tank instructions and a small catalog for other AMC releases and TWD merchandise. The menus are similar to past season releases, featuring a basic interface and looping theme music.
Similar to past releases, this five-disc set includes a few interesting supplements that fans will in enjoy. First up are five Audio Commentaries
during "Killer Within", "Say the Word", "Made to Suffer", "The Suicide King" and "This Sorrowful Life". Featuring the likes of Greg Nicotero, Robert Kirkman, producers Gale Anne Hurd & David Alpert, and actors IronE Singleton, Danai Gurira & Michael Rooker, these commentaries go into moderate behind-the-scenes detail without overlapping too much with the other extras. I'll admit that more participation by Kirkman and an appearance by Andrew Lincoln or other central characters would've been nice, but fans should enjoy checking these out after they're done watching the episodes again.
A handful of short Featurettes is up next; there are eight total, with half being character-focused and the others looking at specific scenes or the production as a whole. "Rising Son", "Evil Eye", "Gone, But Not Forgotten" and "Heart of a Warrior" focus on Carl, The Governor, a few Season Three casualties and Michonne, featuring highlight clips and participation from the respective cast members and creative team. "Michonne vs. The Governor" looks at their violent brawl and the stunt work involved, "Safety Behind Bars" examines the incredible production design of the prison, "Making the Dead" takes another look at the makeup and gore effects involved in Season Three's most memorable kills, while "Guts and Glory" focuses on more character deaths. Despite their brevity, all eight are entertaining , worthwhile and informative.
Finally, just over 13 minutes of Deleted Scenes have been included for "Walk With Me", "Say the Word", "Hounded", "Home", "I Ain't No Judas" and "Clear". Most of these are just minor character moments, but they're definitely worth a look (although it'd make more sense to put them on their respective discs). Unfortunately, no optional subtitles are included during these supplements, which is disappointing.
The Walking Dead is a polarizing slice of post-apocalyptic drama with more blood and guts than TV shows normally get away with. Zombie fans will obviously enjoy themselves, but even those new to the genre might get suckered into the drama that just happens to come with it. This third season, more than any other, reminds us that "walkers" aren't necessarily the only threats that our heroes encounter...and, unfortunately, more lives are lost in the process. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray presentation is once again a winner, and even more so if you shell out for this Limited Edition set, which comes with perhaps the coolest collectible I've seen to date. Featuring 16 (mostly) great episodes, a terrific A/V presentation and a few worthwhile extras, this one package fans won't be able to pass up! Very, very Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.