It's safe to say that the expectations for the upcoming third season of AMC's The Walking Dead are fairly high, given the tease at the end of season 2 featuring not only the debut of fan-favorite Michonne (Danai Gurira), but the new season will also take the survivors off Hershel's farm and have them set up camp in a rather ominous-looking prison.
In an an on-set interview with AMC, Kirkman offered a description of the prison set and spoke briefly on the subject of Michonne's sword-handling skills. He also spoke about fan expectations with the inclusion of the villainous Governor (David Morrissey) and how he will play into the larger, more dangerous world that is expected to be unveiled during season 3.
According to Kirkman, the prison set is one of the most remarkable pieces of construction for a television series, and it largely works because of its faithfulness to the source material.
"The big change this season is we've got this amazing prison that we're filming in. It's absolutely stunning, and I never get used to being on set. They've taken a lot of what you see in the comic book series and brought it to life in ways that I didn't think possible. This is going to be one of the most impressive looking things that's ever been put together for a show."
So far, The Walking Dead has been about small band of characters surviving together against the threat of the undead walkers, but in season 2, a potentially greater menace was revealed in the form of other survivors, hell bent on making the most out of the inherent lawlessness of a society in ruins. With that added danger, season 3 begins a new chapter where humans step up to the top of the food chain and once more become the primary hazard to the living.
"The plan was always to evolve naturally into a place were the zombies essentially become a manageable threat. You know the rules. You know how to deal with them. To a certain extent they become something to not really be scared of unless you mess up. Humans, however, do not follow any rules and will always do something that surprises you and are capable of doing things far worse than trying to eat you... We're definitely going to be seeing a lot of horrible things."
Of course, for fans of the comic, the prison storyline features horrible things done to and by the two newest members of the cast: Michonne and the Governor. To hear Kirkman say it, the adaptation of the key prison elements to television will set the standard for The Walking Dead series in terms of the scale and spectacle of the storytelling.
"When you think about The Walking Dead comic series, you think about oh, the stuff they with did the Governor, the stuff they did with the prison and Woodbury and Michonne. And that's really a lot of the stuff that people remember the story for and that's stuff we haven't even gotten to in the TV show yet. So as much as people love the show, and as high as the ratings are, and as cool as the show is, I feel like we haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. This season is absolutely going to blow people away."
Although she was only teased at the end of the second season, Michonne quickly became one of the most talked about aspects of the finale and since then everyone seems to be fascinated with the sword-weilding mystery woman and her undead traveling companions. Although Kirkman confirms Michonne will be hacking some zombies, the show won't lose its focus on the human drama.
"There's been quite a bit of sword training going on and [Danai] is doing an amazing job. She's going to do all of the hard character stuff and drama that The Walking Dead is known for, but she has tremendous physical capability and the sword training that I've seen is absolutely amazing. I can't wait to see her hack up some zombies. She's using a sword that we specially designed for the show...The origins of the sword will be revealed on the show."
One thing fans can expect is more zombie madness when season 3 rolls around; mainly because the season has increased the episode count of season 2 - bringing the total number of episodes to 16. That's 10 more episodes than the entirety of season 1.
"The actors and the crew and a lot of the producers would not be thrilled to hear me saying this, but I love doing 16 episodes a year. I think the more the better, and I think it's a lot of fun. We are going to get to tell bigger stories, and tell more stories, and get into the characters a lot more. So the more the merrier."
Look for The Walking Dead season 3 to kick off on AMC in October.