This is the third article in a continuing series. Spoiler Warning - although the comics often differ, there may be potential spoilers included.
Despite a few grievances, I am a committed fan of The Walking Dead TV series. My biggest applause for the series is how they've found a balance between staying true to the essence of the graphic novels, while also converting the stories to more compelling narratives for TV; and all the while, keeping fans of the graphic novels guessing. For the purpose of this series, we'll compare a few of the adaptations between the graphic novels and the TV series to see what has worked and what has not.
Third Up: Morgan & Duane, and Michonne.
Morgan & Duane - WORKED - 8 out of 8 zombie heads.
I chose to include Morgan & Duane in this article, because of Morgan's stunning reappearance in Episode 12 of Season 3,"Clear". Morgan is a minor character in the TV series, as he's only appeared in 2 episodes, but each episode that featured Morgan was a home run for the series, and Lennie James delivered fabulous performances in both. Many critics and fans agree that The Walking Dead pilot as the show's best episode, which centered around Rick, Morgan, and Duane. The pilot had more gravity than every other episode in season 1 and most of season 2. I was almost in tears as Morgan sat on a chair in the deserted house, unable to pull the trigger and kill his zombified wife, while yelling at himself to do so. It gave the audience a real inside look at the pain these people are going through as they lose their loved ones, and the hope they grasp onto that maybe their loved ones aren't really gone.
"Clear" is a close second for "best episode" to date, as we learn that Morgan has become mentally unstable, largely due to the fact that Morgan's zombified wife bit his son Duane, and reanimated him. Only then was Morgan finally able to shoot his wife, but it was too late. And the guilt of losing his son has turned him hopeless and crazy. This is the only real difference between Morgan & Duane in the comics and the series, as the comics do not specify how Duane was reanimated. But this change worked for the TV show. It added an additional element of horror to imagine a father watching his son die when he could have prevented it. Morgan is also the only character that we have seen do a complete 180 without watching his transformation occur over time, which has given us a much more dramatic view of what one year of living in a post zombie-apocalyptic world can do to a person. And Rick witnessing this change, and what losing his son has done to Morgan, might just be the kick in the head Rick needs for him to shake his own crazy and get back to protecting Carl and the group.
In the comics, Morgan joins Rick and his crew when they run into each other again at the police station; however, it appears in the TV series that Morgan isn't planning to join forces with Rick anytime soon. But Morgan's presence was more impactful this way, with him remaining by himself, "clearing away the zombies" from his town. At the same time, I hope this is not the last we've seen of Morgan on the show, as his very similar adaptation from the comics has worked perfectly so far.
Michonne - STARTING TO WORK - 4 out of 8 zombie heads.
If I had reviewed the adaptation of Michonne's character from the comics just a few weeks ago, I would have given her a lower ranking, but her performances in the last few episodes have led me to believe that its possible for her character to become a favorite on the show. Michonne is a fantastic character in the graphic novels, and there are certainly many similarities with her TV counterpart: she is one of the strongest fighters in the group with her katana, she uses "zombie pets" to avoid other zombies, and she is quiet and tends to work alone. But her extreme silence and constant brooding face throughout the first half of Season 3 left little to root for with her character.
The series hasn't yet touched on Michonne's background or explained who her two "zombie pets" were, as they do in the comics. We've barely had a chance to feel for her, other than when she confronted Andrea in the episode "I Ain't a Judas" and scolded her for choosing a warm bed over a friend. That was a great moment for Michonne, and it allowed us to see that she's a human with feelings for the first time since her character was introduced.
I think Michonne spoke more in the episode "Clear" than she has in all of the episodes in Season 3 combined. With that said, when she did speak, I enjoyed listening to her, and actually began to find her character relatable. Her sarcastic joke to Rick ("You're eating his food now?" - "The mat said welcome") was my favorite line in the episode. And her attempts to bond with Carl and Rick made her character much more likeable; at least more-so than when she stands in the corner, silently moping.
With last week's episode, "Arrow on the Doorpost", the show has set up Michonne to become a major player in the Woodbury vs. Prison showdown, as the Governor tells Rick that he will drop the entire fight if Rick turns over Michonne. Unlike the comics, the prison survivors' loyalty to her is questionable at this point. Given Rick's recent cold attitude toward outsiders (remember the hitchhiker), I found myself wondering why Rick would risk the lives of Carl and the group for Michonne, who they are just beginning to trust. It will be interesting to see how the series justifies Rick's decision to back Michonne, but I hope that this plot point will help the show to continue to develop her character. If the show does continue to develop her, like they have in the comics, then we should be in for an enjoyable ride with Michonne. But if "Clear" was a one-time shining episode for her, then graphic novel fans are in for more disappointment.
PART THREE CONCLUSION:
Last week, I discussed how the series' biggest struggle in translating the comics to the screen has been in developing interesting characters (especially with the loss of Shane). However, evidenced by Morgan and Michonne, the show has been getting better as the second half of Season 3 continues. Despite the comics' stronger character development, the show has had a stronger effect on my emotions in the moments that it does pull off solid dramatic portrayals, such as the pain in Morgan's face and voice as he shares his son's death with Rick.
I spent most of this article reviewing the episode "Clear", because it had some of the finest character portrayals on the series to date. Scott Gimple, the lead writer of this episode is slated to become the new showrunner in Season 4, which I'm hoping is a sign of good things to come for the series.
Check back next week as we look at three more members of Rick Grime's crew. In the meantime, if you haven't checked out the graphic novels click here to get started.