The Walking Dead Season 3 sped through the equivalent of four graphic novels worth of story. The events in season three, from the prison to Woodbury, cover elements from Walking Dead Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars, Walking Dead Volume 4: The Heart’s Desire, Walking Dead Volume 5: The Best Defense, and Walking Dead Volume 6: This Sorrowful Life. There are a ton of minor narrative shifts from page to screen in season 3 of The Walking Dead, but here are some major differences that further moved the story away from its printed counterpart.
The show has not yet delved that far into Tyreese’s family, and Tyreese has been more of a plot point than a nuanced character on the show. The suicide of Tyreese’s daughter, Julie and her boyfriend, Chris, in Safety Behind Bars is one of the most wrenching sequences to take place in the prison, and while the show features its share of tragedy in the same setting (such as the death of T-Dog and Lori and the power struggle with the other prisoners) not having that heartbreaking visual of Tyreese holding his daughter’s corpse or killing Chris in a fit of rage (since Chris survived his suicide attempt) robs the character of moments that enrich his story. After awhile, it becomes clear that Tyreese is relieved to be free of the burden of protecting Julie and Chris, a familial burden that seems to be breaking Rick. This disconnect from emotion creates a conflict between the cold Tyreese and the passionate Rick, a conflict that has yet to manifest on T.V.
On page and on screen Michonne has become the face of The Walking Dead, and it’s fascinating (and a little bit jarring) to witness the differences between comic and television Michonne. Fans of the character would be surprised to learn that the first thing she did after being introduced was seducing Tyreese. This caused Carol, Tyreese’s lover at the time and completely unrecognizable from her strong-willed television counterpart, to slash her wrists in a failed suicide attempt. The whole thing had a misogynistic vibe to it, an unfortunate tone that Robert Kirkman would soon remedy by making Michonne the core of his story…other than the Grimes family). At first, Michonne is a wild card in the prison, a temptation, a foil, and a question. The character would not come into her own until Woodbury, but when she did, it was not something fans (or the Governor) would soon forget.
When the television cast got to the prison, they had a brief but pivotal run in with the inmates. In the comic, the prisoners, one in particular, played a more vital role. When Rick and his crew break into the prison they are shocked to find Dexter, Andrew, Axel, and Thomas still alive and thriving within the walls of the jail. These four ended up testing the morality of the comic survivors like nothing else they encountered before. Axel is very similar to how he is portrayed in the show. He does live longer in the comic but he remains a helpful and reluctant ally to Rick and company and even forges a few bonds. He was on the same path in the show until he took a bullet from one of the Governor’s snipers.
The show replaces Dexter, the prison’s alpha male with Tomas, and the differences are striking…particularly as it pertains to Rick. In both adaptations, Rick shoots Tomas/Dexter in the head during a zombie attack; he does so to secure the prison from the belligerent and clearly violent rival. In the show, Tomas is more overtly challenging; he is a clear danger to the group that sabotages Rick’s efforts during a zombie attack. In the comic, Rick’s actions are more ambiguous, as Dexter, who was in the prison first, demanded that the survivors leave. Rick got all Darwinian on Dexter’s ass to secure the prison for his family, but in doing so, he abandoned his morality.
These actions took place after the tragic situation with Thomas, a key character that never made it onto the show. Thomas was a mousy little man who claimed he was in prison for white collar crime. In one of the most shocking sequences in the early days of the Walking Dead comic, Thomas is revealed as a violent sex offender and serial killer and beheads two of Hershel’s daughters. At first Rick blames Dexter, a man he knew was in prison for murder, but soon Thomas reveals his true nature by attempting to satisfy his murderous appetites. This causes Rick to take justice into his own hands as he executes Thomas, proclaiming that the old system of justice is dead and his new rule is “If you kill, you die.” An edict he ignores by murdering Dexter. Thomas brought an extra element of horror to the story, as the group discovers not all horrors are of the Biter variety long before they discover the evil within the confines of Woodbury.
Carol is a hot mess!
Over the course of the story that takes place over these issues, comic Carol fails a suicide attempt, summarily ignores Sophia, tries to shack up with Lori, kisses Rick, suggests a polyamorous marriage with Rick and Lori, and behaves like a needy burden. We’ll stick with the tough as nails ex-housewife riding on the back of Daryl’s bike we have grown to love from television, thank you.
Lori lives…for a little while, anyway!
The most shocking and poignant moment from season 3 was Lori’s death during the birth of her child. It was the moment where Carl had to leave childhood behind and do the unthinkable: kill his mother before she could turn. Lori’s survival in the comics changes the entire dynamic of Rick, Carl, and the others. While Rick is at Woodbury struggling with the Governor he uses Lori as motivation to survive. Rick is driven in the comic, but not haunted by a failure to protect his wife. Carl is still allowed a bit of childhood, happily spending his days playing with the still living Sophia, his “girlfriend.” Of course, there is no spectral vision of Lori to haunt Rick; instead the physical Lori sits in her cell bemoaning Rick’s habit of abandoning his family to go on his all-important missions. When Rick returns from Woodbury, handless and shaken from his experience, Lori is there for him, there is still a sense of domesticity in the Grimes’ life, as Lori is still a living and vital cast member…until, of course, she isn’t.
Andrea Doesn’t Go to Woodbury
On TV, Andrea was the point of view character for most of the ordeal in Woodbury. She witnessed the Governor’s vacillation between magnanimous savior and cruel despot. All the hopes of salvation the Governor represented were embodied in Andrea as she desperately wanted to believe that he was there to lead his survivors to a place of peace and prosperity. In the comic, Andrea does not go near Woodbury. While Rick, Glenn, and especially Michonne suffer at the hands of the Governor, Andrea is safely ensconced in her cozy cell with her beau Dale. That’s right; Dale is still alive and experiencing Andrea in a biblical way. Andrea never journeys to Woodbury, so she never finds herself tied to a chair to become zombie bait. Seriously girl, how long does it take to pick up a screwdriver?
The Governor is More Redneck Less Hitler
TV’s Governor is a complex villain. A viewer can almost understand why he is the way he is. He lost his daughter, his home, and any sense of community or security he once had. It’s almost as if he became a neo-human, a perfect killing machine suited to survive in the world of the dead. His humanity has been shed almost like an evolutionary imperative to survive the new world. The comic Governor is every bit the villain but not nearly as nuanced. He has the fascinating story aspect of the zombie daughter, but he is a being of pure, unadulterated appetite. He gleefully cuts off Rick’s hand, and takes, kills, or fucks whatever he wants.
The TV Governor threatens to rape Maggie, the comic Governor actually rapes Michonne. The Governor on TV is obsessed with control, while the comic Governor has the same traits but his main focus seems to be on his arena fights. He is fiction’s most vile fight promoter, a cross between Vince McMahon and Major Bludd. His fate at the hands of Michonne is one of the most cringe-worthy moments in the history of comics; it is a vivid and terrible moment of body violation that the Governor completely deserved. It is a sequence that probably cannot be used in the show which makes the comic the avenue for a more visceral experience.