“The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” announced their respective return dates to 6,000+ ecstatic fans in Hall H on Friday. These two genre-changers capped a major day for television at Comic-Con; personally, each panel reminded me of the tipping point that occurred here at the height of “Lost”‘s popularity, when there was a clear an indication that the small-screen gives us more to invest in in terms of character- and plot-line development. You know, the qualities Steven Soderbergh has cited as he prepares to leave the world of film for TV.
Both panels delivered wildly entertaining previews into their respective third seasons.
Please don’t put me in the barn for saying this, but “The Walking Dead” is an almost-there show. What I mean: Now that we’re beyond the Frank Darabont dismissal drama and the shaky start to season two, true greatness awaits in season 3 as the Ricktatorship senses a mutation in the zombie epidemic and encounters a seemingly abandoned prison that pits them against pure evil in human form. I’ve had issues with the Rick Grimes character over the second season, and Andrew Lincoln seemed aware of Rick’s abrasiveness and questionable decisions. The same goes for his wife, Lori, played by the radiant Sarah Wayne Callies. (“I’m not a homewrecker, I play one on TV,” she offered.) Together, Lincoln and Callies offered sound defenses for their characters’ past actions, and Callies’s assertion that she’d ultimately done right by her husband and family was better articulated than most of Lori’s dialogue. I was like: hey, Robert Kirkman, perhaps she should be in invited into the writers’ room? At the end of the table sat Danai Gurira, who appeared at the end of season two as the katana-sword wielding Michonne, and David Morrissey, who will psychologically terrorize audiences as The Governor. Both actors kept their statements brief, but it’s clear they’ll be more front and center at Comic-Con 2013. And what else is there to say aside from the fact that Merle, the survivalist redneck played by Michael Rooker, appeared at the very end of the season 3 preview trailer.
George R.R. Martin himself moderated the “Game of Thrones” panel; one cool thing about Martin is the fact that he’s been doing the sci-fi/fantasy convention rounds for years, so he was most interested in truly interacting with his cast and the audience without being anything but his sex-and-violence-focused self. He had no filter – it was like hearing your cool grandfather swear, and the crowd loved it. They also loved each time Emilia Clarke and Richard Madden took a question; there was a serious Team Daenerys/Team Rob vibe happening. If I had to gauge who should win the throne from the Hall H reaction, it would be a Targaryen world. The season 3 casting announcements were thorough surprises; personal highlights were brief testimonials from Diana Rigg (who looks amazing) and Mackenzie Crook and his whole Rhys Ifans/I don’t really sleep look. This upcoming season is going to be such an all-star game it will be hard to back a single contender.