Good news for zombie fans: Last night, AMC's drama The Walking Dead, which follows a group of people attempting to survive in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, came back to life. (Watch a trailer for the third season below.) After a second-season finale that saw the group's safe haven on a farm overrun by zombies and set aflame, the third season picks up seven months later, as the group encounters a prison that may be their best chance for survival. Is the third season of AMC's zombie drama brilliant or brainless? Here, four reactions:
1. The Walking Dead is back and much better than ever
"The Walking Dead is finally coming to life," says Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture. During its second season, the series devolved into "a mediocre daytime soap interrupted by zombie attacks," with flat characters and clunky dialogue. But the season-three premiere is a huge step in the right direction, with a tense, almost silent opening scene that "might be the show's best five minutes to date." If the rest of the show's third season is as strong as its premiere episode, its grim take on the the zombie apocalypse might finally become must-see TV.
2. The show has gotten even gorier
By TV standards, the episode was "extremely graphic — the latest reminder of how thoroughly The Walking Dead has moved the realistic gore of the slasher film into the television mainstream," says Mike Hale at The New York Times. The series' main characters have dispatched so many zombies that the violence is "almost comically routine," which might "give pause to those concerned about our continuing desensitization to violence." For everyone else, however, the "efficient, choreographed killing" in the premiere is some of The Walking Dead's best.
3. The new prison setting is a great opportunity
Given that many fans grew tired of last season's farm setting, it may seem like bad news that the series' main characters immediately commit to converting the prison they discover into a long-term survival base, which will keep the show stuck in one location, says Zack Handlen at The AV Club. But the prison is a big improvement over the "idyllic" boredom of the farm because it "presents immediate challenges": The group has to kill the zombies in the prison yard, break into a cellblock, and deal with the living human prisoners. As long as The Walking Dead keeps finding ways to complicate its narrative, the new prison setting is an asset, not a liability.
4. The mysterious new character doesn't disappoint
Michonne — a sword-wielding zombie-slayer who briefly appeared in the second-season finale — was "easily this season's most anticipated character," and she doesn't disappoint, says Nate Rawlings at TIME. Michonne is reintroduced as the show's toughest and most accomplished character yet, "smoothly beheading zombies while barely breaking a sweat." The show will continue to explore the new character in the weeks to come, but if her scenes in the third season's premiere are any indication, fans "may be in for a hell of a ride."
Consensus: After a middling second season, The Walking Dead is at its grim, gory best again.