The Walking Dead: The (New) Brains Behind Your Favorite Zombie Show

Gene Page/AMC/courtesy Everett Collection

WHEN WALKING DEAD creator Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), left the acclaimed show last season, amid reports of an unceremonious firing, cast, crew and fans alike were stunned. Rumors alternately attributed it to Darabont's inability to adjust to the pace of a weekly show and his refusal to accept budget cuts (further speculation blamed said budget cuts on that "greedy" AMC darling Mad Men).

Some couldn't see a way forward without their fearless zombie leader, while others called it the best thing that could've happened to the show. "The Walking Dead has always needed a television-savvy hand to guide it," wrote Scott Meslow in the Atlantic, pinning some of the show's weaknesses on Darabont's unease with the TV format. "And fortunately for AMC, newly appointed showrunner Glen Mazzara is much more qualified than Darabont for the job."

Now, fans can judge for themselves: Season 3 of AMC’s horror series — premiering Sunday, Oct. 14 — is the first whose conception and execution will be entirely under the helm of executive producer and showrunner Glen Mazzara.

“Whenever I write a script, I want people on the edge of their seat,” Mazzara told Huffington. “That’s my voice, and that’s what I want the show to be.”

Fans and critics had lamented the slow pace of the second season, which almost exclusively took place on a farm. Mazzara, who previously wrote and produced for FX’s high-drama series The Shield, says that upcoming episodes will be different.

“I think it was my job going into Season 3 to better integrate all of the things we love about The Walking Dead so that you don’t have to wait too long for some humor or a scare or a thrill or a heartfelt scene,” Mazzara said. “I wanted to the show to be unpredictable.

"I wanted the show to be thrilling. I wanted the show to stay very far ahead of the audience so that they have no idea what’s coming next.”

In the Season 3 premiere, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow zombie apocalypse survivors find a prison and decide to call it home (“This prison is ours,” Rick declares). The prison arc, which originated in the comic book, will occupy a good portion of the plot.

“Our group has worked hard to find this prison, and that’s not something they’re going to give up any time soon,” Mazzara said. “As writers and producers, we love that prison. I wanted [the characters] to be stumbling through a desolate world where a prison seems like a reasonable place to hide.”

The show — based on the comic series of the same name from Robert Kirman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard — is not a straight adaptation of the books, with liberties taken to make it a world of its own. However, the prison saga is a significantly darker entry in the comic series, and The Walking Dead is expected to reflect that mood this year. Dead prisoners are the least of their troubles as new (living) characters come into the mix, who may pose more dangers. Just glance at the tagline (“Fight the dead. Fear the living.”) for hints.

Most rewarding for readers of the comic book will be the arrival of a new villain, The Governor (David Morrissey), and Michonne (Danai Gurira), a fan-favorite character who favors a katana over a gun.

“She’s a warrior and sees right into the heart of people,” Mazzara said of Michonne. “I think people will be excited to follow her because she, in some ways, becomes one of the hearts of the show.”

Meanwhile, other characters who have enjoyed prominent play on the show will see their storylines cut short. TV Line reported in August that a series regular will become “zombie kibble” this season, and Mazzara assures us there will be more deaths to look forward to.

“We talk about everyone’s demise to the chagrin of all of the actors,” Mazzara said. “There will be major character deaths throughout Season 3 — I can’t possibly say who or where, but I guarantee all of them will be surprising.”

This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.