Welcome back! In my last post, I was able to cover the first two volumes of the Walking Dead comic series and how they differed from the television adaptation. This took us to the end of season two of the show, as each volume became the basis of its own season. And as I might have mentioned, the series producers and writers made some serious changes, not the least of which had to do with the introduction or substitution of characters. But there’s another big change which I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention.
While the first season did a pretty good job of adapting the material from the comics – that is to say, succinctly with 6 episodes – season two took what was also a six-issue volume and expanded it to fill a full 13 episodes. Basically, this meant that they dragged things out inexorably to make it all fit. Aside from Shane’s ongoing presence, this included throwing some additional complications and events into the mix before Rick and the other finally moved on to the prison.
Their arrival and attempts to make a life at the prison was the basis of volume three of the comics and season three of the show. But whereas the show expanded on volume two to make their second season, they did the opposite with volumes three through eight, which covered the story involving the Governor, Woodbury, and the fight between his people and Rick’s.
Whether they simply glossed over certain events or chose to minimize certain story elements, the show’s producers and writers left an awful lot of material out, substituting it with their own for reasons which seemed to have more to do with inertia than fitting the requirements of television. And between myself and other fans of the comic book series, this seemed like a real let down.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here! First up, let’s take a look at the next few volumes and see how they compare to the show…
Volume 3 – Safety Behind Bars:
The series opens again with Rick and the others arriving at the prison, where he, Tyreese and Andrea begin clearing out the front yard of Walkers. With that done, they camp out in the RV inside the gate for the night and wait on morning to enter. Once they penetrate inside the first cell block, they are surprised to find survivors who barred themselves inside the cafeteria.
Everyone comes in to share in some food, and the supply situation appears to be abundant, which puts everyone at ease. But things get a little tense as Rick and the others realize that the survivors are not guards, but inmates. Rick explains what’s been going on in the outside world, something they have been oblivious to, and they recount what happened to the prison when the outbreak hit.
The four inmates include Axel, an armed robber; Thomas, who claims his crime was tax fraud; Andrew, a former junkie; and Dexter, a man convicted of murder. After eating and doing their intros, Dexter agrees to show Rick and Tyreese around. This culminates in them going to the gym, which has its doors barred, and finding dozens of Walkers inside. Afterward, people partner up and take to different cells.
While burning the bodies in the front yard, Rick and the others notice a plume of smoke rising from down the road. Rick heads back to Hershel’s farm to find that they are also burning the bodies of Walkers. Glenn and Otis explain that with the weather turning, more attacks are coming, and Rick proposes that they relocate to the prison. Herschel agrees and apologizes for sending them out earlier.
Back at the prison, Julie and Chris have sex for the first time and, in keeping with their pact, agree to kill each other. However, Chris fired too soon and killed Julie, leaving him alive. Tyreese is on the verge of killing him, but is stopped when his daughter comes back tries to bite him. Chris shoots her again and she dies. The last remaining truth about the virus is revealed…
Tyreese strangles Chris in a fit of rage and grief and burns both their bodies on the following day. After checking up on him to make sure he’s okay, Rick commandeers a motorcycle and drives off, saying he has something to take care of. Meanwhile, people at the prison begin to settle in while Tyreese, Andrea, Glenn and Billy work on clearing the gym. Things go well until they are surrounded, and the others escape just as Tyreese is enveloped.
We then catch up to Rick, who has returned to where he buried Shane, and unearths him and finds that he too has turned. Rick explains that he now understands that the virus turns everyone once they’re dead, not just people who have been bitten. He tells him he had to come back to make things right and shoots him through the head. Back at the prison, Herschel looks for his two youngest daughters – Rachel and Susie – and finds their beheaded corpses in a cell!
Glenn is forced to deal with their remains as the heads come back to life, and news of their and Tyreese’s deaths spread and cause panic. Andrea and Lori grab their guns and lock Dexter, their chief suspect, in a cell with his companion Andrew. Emotionally distraught, Carol kisses Lori and apologizes. Rick returns to find things in chaos and returns with them to the gym where they find Tyreese exhausted but alive, lying amidst the corpses of dozens of Walkers. In the laundry room, Andrea is accosted by Thomas, who it turns out is the killer.
In the immediate aftermath, Rick and Herschel are distraught and blame themselves for his daughter’s deaths. Carol, relieved to see Tyreese alive and well, makes love to him on the gym floor while Axel try to clear the fence line of Walkers. They are all interrupted when Thomas chases Andrea out into the yard. Rick intervenes and beats Thomas to within an inch of his life. Rick decides that he must die, that “you kill, you die” is to be their system of justice from now on.
Rick lets Dexter and Andrew out of their cell, but the damage appears to have been done. Convinced that he and the others are not safe with Rick’s party, he tells Andrew to get some guns from the armory they’ve been keeping secret. The decision is made to hang Thomas, but Patricia (Otis’ girlfriend) tries to let him out of his cell, he becomes violent again, and Maggie is forced to shoot him. His remains are tossed outside the gate so Walkers can feed on them.
Dexter and Andrew enter the yard carrying shot guns, and he orders Rick at gunpoint to get “out of my house!”
Volume 4 – The Heart’s Desire:
This volume opens with a rather important introduction – that of the character Michonne. While walking across the landscape, her two chained Walkers in tow, she hears gunshots. She sees Otis using Hershel’s horse-drawn cart to haul supplies to the prison, and firing off a rifle to keep Walkers by the side of the road back. Curious, she picks up his trail and begins to head for the prison as well.
Back at the prison, the stand-off between Dexter and Rick continues. It is interrupted when Walkers pour out of A Block, where Andrew took the guns from the armory, and a gunfight ensues. In the confusion, Rick shoot Dexter in the head. On the other side of the fence, Otis arrives and is nearly overrun, but Michonne arrives in time and saves him by lopping the heads off of Walkers with her katana sword.
Sending off a patrol to clear out the rest, Rick opens the gate and lets Otis and Michonne in. Andrew, distraught over the loss of his companion, runs out into the wilderness. Once again, things begin to return to normal, the people busying themselves between clearing the fence line of Walkers and using the yard to plant food. Dale and Tyreese also find the generator in the basement and realize they could have electricity.
Allen begins to recover from the trauma of losing Donna and joins Rick and the others as they conduct another sweep. However, he is bit on his Achilles heel when a Walker sneaks up on him, and Rick tells them to cut his foot off. Realizing that the virus is already in them, that everyone turns only after they die, he tells them they need to amputate and close the wound. With Hershel’s help, they manage to stop the bleeding and lay him to rest in a cell.
Carol is distraught when she hears of this and runs off to find Tyreese, who is in the gym trying to forget how things are going to hell. She arrived just in time to find him in the middle of an amorous encounter with Michonne. Glenn and Maggie, who’s courtship is growing, are away and oblivious to it all. And Andrea arrives in Michonne’s cell and hears her talking to someone, but no one else is there.
After catching him with Michonne, Carol becomes distraught and tells Tyreese to move out of their cell. Michonne takes him in and the two begin having a relationship of sorts. With Allen down, his boys begin to feel like they are about to lose him too, and Andrea and Herschel step in to look after them. After speaking to Lori about how he’s worried about Carol, Rick and Lori return to her cell to find that she has slit her wrists.
Rick comes to Tyreese and Michonne’s cell and tells him about Carol, and blames him for it. The two get into a terrible fight during, they accuse each other of becoming cold-blooded killers, and Rick falls over a rail and nearly cracks his skull. They are interrupted to learn that Allen has died from his wounds. Rick goes to his cell to shoot him to keep him from coming back, and then falls unconscious.
Rick wakes up to see Carol keeping watch over him. Having recovered from her self-administered cuts, she tells him she’s heard about how he confronted Tyreese for her, and proceeds to kiss him too. Dale shows up and tells Rick he needs to step back from being leader, and that a committee was formed that elected Tyreese to fill that role for the time being. Disheveled, tired and upset people are questioning him, Rick confronts them all and tells them how it is.
What follows is one of the most important and seminal speeches in the entire series. He tells them things have changed, that they will never go back to the way they were, and that killing is now the only way they will stay alive. He concludes it with the chilling words:
We’re surrounded by the dead. We’re among them, and when we finally give up, we become them. We’re living on borrowed time here. Every minute of our life is a minute we steal from them! …You think we hide behind walls to protect us from the walking dead! Don’t you get it! WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD!
Differences to AMC’s The Walking Dead:
As already mentioned, many of the changes that took place in season three, which were adapted from these volumes, seemed to be motivated by inertia. Having strayed from the source material in season two, they were now obligated to find ways to tie it together with material from the next volumes to make it all work. But there was still some serious minimizing and exclusions which I really can’t see the logic in.
For starters, Tyreese’s and his daughters absence from the cast at this point meant that a ton of important plot developments were not usable. His daughter’s death, his killing Chris, his affair with Michonne and how it led to Carol’s attempted suicide, and his big fight with Rick. This last one was especially important, in that it demonstrated how both men were effectively being pushed over the edge by their situation.
Sure, they found other ways to sneak some of the ideas in, but they were not nearly as effective in my opinion. What’s more, they did a total rewrite of the inmate crew. Instead of Dexter, Thomas, Andrew, and Axel, we got Tomas, Big Tiny, Oscar, Andrew and Axel, and their characters were switched up. Axel remained the trustworthy one of the group, but Tomas ended up merging Thomas and Dexter’s character into one short-lived bad guy who dies very quickly.
Rick killing him was true to the spirit of him murdering Dexter, but it was not nearly as dubious. And Andrew runs off in the book never to be heard from again, he doesn’t flee to go cause trouble down the road. Big Tiny and Oscar served no purpose either, being little more than stand-ins who also die pretty quick. And even Axel died off in the first half of season three. Once again, the term “highest paid extras” seems to apply!
And speaking of extras, the way they killed off Dale and Sophia in season two and – again! – left Tyreese out of the picture, meant that Carol’s character has effectively been reduced to a background person. Aside from flirting with Daryl, brushing Axel off, and popping in to help look after other people kids, she did very little in season three.
Oh, and Carl and Sophia also begin courting at this point in comic. But since she dies in season two of the show, they switch that romantic angle over to Carl and Beth, another character that doesn’t exist in the original. Yes, Herschel had several daughters – and four sons (one of whom was a Walker) – but none of them were named Beth.
Once again, some characters are dropped and other subbed in inexplicably. Oh, and you may think that Allen’s absence from the script may be the reason Herschel lost his leg in season three, but you’d only be half right. In truth, the amputation Herschel endured was reminiscent of a different character losing a foot, which comes up later. Yep, two amputations in one story!
Michonne’s introduction was also vastly different. Instead of finding Andrea in the wilderness and traveling to Woodbury with her, thus introducing both the town and Governor far sooner than took place in the comics, she shows up at the front gate of the prison and integrates with them quite quickly. Sure, they managed to capture her badassery in the show, but they completely glossed over her rich inner life, which included vulnerability and the fact that she’s also fighting to maintain her sanity. Some of this would be covered later, but in a very topical, in-passing kind of way.
Ah, and let’s not forget how Merle was part of the Governor’s crew, which was their way of reintroducing him after his departure in season one and explaining his whereabouts. This provided another connection between the two camps and a tie-in for a character that wasn’t in the original story. And this was one change I saw the value in, as it laid the groundwork for an eventual clash of loyalties for the Daryl family and was a chance for more character development.
At this point, I have to say that reading the comics has diminished my opinion of the show, which is exactly what I was afraid of! While I didn’t like season two much, I was a fan of season three right until that unsatisfying ending (more on that later). But now… between the way they chose to leave certain characters out, thus decapitating much of the story, and introduce different characters who are promptly killed off, I have to say I really don’t get what they were thinking.
Sure, the obvious explanation is budgets. But that argument falls flat when you consider that they dropped some leading characters in favor of ones they invented themselves. For the cost of Daryl and Merle – aka. Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker, both very talented actors! – they totally could have afforded a solid actor to play Tyreese as well as two perfectly decent teen actors to play Julie and Chris.
Of course, I can see the reason for keeping Shane around. Between the actor and the character, they felt they had something with him and didn’t want to lose that. But the early termination of Dale and Sophia is another matter. In Dale’s case, his relationship with Andrea was an important aspect of the plot, as was Sophia’s with Carl. Their deaths I can only assume were a matter of conflicts or money, as no other explanation seems to make sense.
But alas, the best is yet to come. As volumes 5 and 6 begin, we are introduced to the Governor and the seeds of the prison versus Woodbury confrontation are sown. And trust me when I say, compared to what the miniseries did with it, the comics version was far more interesting, and bloody! Stay tuned!