The Walking Dead returns tomorrow night and we're back with the first of our early reviews for the new season. Like last season, I'll make sure to keep these reviews free of major spoilers, but obviously, don't read this if you haven't been watching the trailers and have no idea what to expect.

Since it was first announced that The Walking Dead was coming to TV, fans of the comic book series have been excited at the thought of seeing The Governor and prison stories coming to life. Everything from the past two seasons has been leading up to this storyline and The Walking Dead Season 3 starts with one of the most impressive and ambitious season openings I've seen.

The story doesn't pick up immediately after the events of the Season 2 finale and you'll quickly realize that there are some changes in the group. Most notably, Lori's pregnancy is further along and Rick needs to figure out where to have this baby. It doesn't take long for them to stumble across a prison that may be a perfect home if it wasn't for all of the walkers surrounding and inhabiting it.

When The Walking Dead first aired, the pilot episode was a big TV event that had a movie-quality feel to it. This was due to a creative team that included Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, and Greg Nicotero, who all had plenty of movie experience under their belts. While I had no major issues with the first Season 2 episode, it didn't necessarily have that big event quality of the pilot. That's certainly not the case with the Season 3 premiere, which feels like it could have been the first half of a Walking Dead movie.

The cast and crew really stepped up their game with this premiere. Not only are things moving at a considerably faster pace, but there are easily more walker kills than in previous episodes. Greg Nicotero and KNB EFX continue to impress with the walker effects, and horror fans should enjoy seeing the addition of animatronic walkers to the mix. It may feel like the episode is non-stop action, but there is also just enough downtime to let us know what these characters have been going through.

Like many, I was a huge fan of Shane in Season 2 and I have to say that you aren't really given a chance to miss him. Fans of the comic series will be especially surprised by how quickly events transpire in just the first episode.  Similar to the past seasons, the story mirrors many of the major events from comic book, but isn't a direct adaptation. You'll notice that little changes have gone in to make up for the fact that Dale, Sophia, and Otis died off much earlier in the TV series. Also, fans of T-Dog and Maggie will be happy to learn that they have really stepped it up in Shane's absence, along with the rest of the group.

The big focus of this episode is on Rick and the group of survivors discovering the prison. Because of it, you'll see very little of Andrea and Michonne in this episode. Keep in mind, however, that there are sixteen episodes this season and we'll see plenty of them and many brand new characters throughout the season.

It seems like this episode has also been designed as a great jumping on point for those who have never watched an episode of The Walking Dead. While you won't be able to pick up on every little reference, you certainly won't be lost following along. Those who are not fans of the show may not be won over by this episode, but I'd still suggest giving it a try. The episode definitely fits in line with the previous seasons, although it has a different pacing and feel to it that you may enjoy.

If you've been a fan of the TV series so far, I can't see how you won't be blown away by the opening of The Walking Dead Season 3. By the time it ends, you'll be cursing your TV because you'll want to get into the next episode right away. Having seen the second episode, I can tell you that it is just as impressive as the first. The cast and crew have certainly raised the bar with the Season 3 opening and I'm excited to see the world of The Walking Dead expand and change over the entire 16-episode season.

Score: 4/5


We've been running exclusive coverage of The Walking Dead Season 3 for the past two weeks and we're not done yet. To catch up on our recent coverage, visit the following links: