Zombie fans have a common gripe about AMC's horror series "The Walking Dead." Sometimes an entire episode will go by without so much as a single "Walker" getting some blunt force trauma to the brain.
The show waxes on about the fragile nature of man as well as our ability to survive in extreme circumstances. For stretches at a time, the zombie infestation comes second.
That's hardly the case during the first new episode of the show's third season.
"The Walking Dead" returns in time for Halloween season at 9 p.m. EST Sunday night. Consider the opener a belated apology for all that prior restraint.
The survivors from last season, including Rick (Andrew Lincoln), the not so unofficial leader of the group, are looking for a new place to call home. Hershel's farm, where most of season two took place, got overrun by walkers, and now they're back on the open road eager for shelter.
There's still no sign of Andrea (Laurie Holden), who got separated from the group at the end of season two.
When the group discovers an abandoned prison, they think they've found a place where they can hunker down and breath easier - at least for a few days.
The prison is crawling with walkers, forcing them to go on a ruthless killing mission to secure the perimeter. And you know what that means - a series of zombie kills fashioned with the kind of special effects George A. Romero could only dream of back in 1968.
The monotonous killings may please gore hounds, but you'll soon long for the big picture questions that separate "Dead" from most other zombie offerings. The season still holds plenty of potential even with the show dumping some red meat out for the base. Rick's wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) is very pregnant, and she wonders if the baby will be born "walking," if you catch her drift. Rick is in full command of the survivors, but he's also learned he must kill fellow humans to protect his own.
And what about the mysterious woman we saw at the end of season two, the warrior with those serious swords? She's back, but we haven't learned much about her yet.
"The Walking Dead" isn't afraid to sic walkers on some of the main characters to keep us guessing. It's one of many reasons why "The Walking Dead" isn't like any other show on television. Yes, those bedside vigils from last season wore out the patience of regular viewers, and some of the knotted brow dialogue can be precious. New show runner Glen Mazzara treats pulp material with dignity, making this zombie apocalypse superior to the modern undead competition - no matter the screen size.