Waking up in an empty hospital after weeks in a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds himself utterly alone. The world as he knows it is gone, ravaged by a zombie epidemic. The Walking Dead tells the story of the weeks and months that follow after the apocalypse. Based on Robert Kirkman’s hugely successful and popular comic book series, AMC’s The Walking Dead is an epic, edge-of-your-seat drama where personal struggles are magnified against a backdrop of moment-to-moment survival. A survivalist story at its core, the series explores how the living are changed by the overwhelming realization that those who survive can be far more dangerous than the mindless walkers roaming the earth. They themselves have become the walking dead.
Deputy Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in an abandoned hospital after surviving a shooting. Outside the hospital the world is a nightmare, the dead have re-animated. Walkers, as they’re called, are everywhere. After meeting a man and his son, Rick learns that his wife and son (Lori and Carl) may have fled to Atlanta, where the Center for Disease Control has set up a quarantine zone. He arms himself and sets out for the city.
Rick’s best friend has helped Lori and Carl survive, and they are living just outside of Atlanta in a makeshift camp for a handful of survivors. Rick arrives in Atlanta to find it completely overrun by walkers. He’s rescued by people from the camp and reunited with Lori, Carl, and Shane. Rick assumes control of the group and following an attack by a horde of walkers, they flee for the CDC.
At the CDC, they find one surviving doctor. He knows a bit about the pathology of the virus, but has no cure. Before long the CDC building activates safety protocols as it runs out of fuel. Rick’s group barely manages to escape before the building incinerates.
Escaping the blazing inferno that was the CDC, the group heads out for the nearest military base only to be waylaid by a sea of abandoned cars on the Interstate. When walkers attack, Carol’s daughter Sophia runs into the forest. While the group searches for Sophia, Carl is shot by a hunter named Otis. Luckily, Otis’s boss is a veterinarian, Hershel. The group moves to Hershel’s farm and continues to search for Sophia, led by an impassioned Daryl Dixon.
Tensions between Rick’s group and the people living on the farm grow, as Hershel does not want them staying there. Lori finds out she’s pregnant, but is unsure if the father is Rick or Shane. Her pregnancy increases Rick’s desire to stay on the farm. It all comes to a head when Glenn (who helped Rick escape Atlanta) finds that the barn is full of walkers. After a heated debate between Shane and Hershel, Shane releases the walkers from the barn to be put down. It’s here that the group finds Sophia, now a walker herself. Rick does what he has to, and shoots her in the head.
A distraught Hershel (a recovering alcoholic) heads to an abandoned tavern to drink. Glenn (now in a relationship with Hershel’s daughter Maggie) and Rick go to retrieve him. It’s here they run into an untrustworthy group of scavengers. After a shoot out, they bring a wounded scavenger, Randall, with them back to the farm. As he heals, Dale is attacked by a walker. Daryl is forced to kill him. The group wonders how they can ever trust Randall enough to let him go. Shane settles the issue by taking him into the field and breaking his neck. He hides this fact, and uses Randall’s disappearance as a lure to get Rick alone and away from the farm. In the ensuing confrontation Rick stabs Shane to death. When Shane’s corpse reanimates, Carl shoots him down.
The gunshot draws in all surrounding walkers, who swarm the farm. The group barely escapes, getting separated from Andrea, who has been with the group since Atlanta. As Andrea struggles to survive on her own, she’s rescued by a woman with a samurai sword and two unarmed (literally) walkers on chains. As Rick’s group makes camp, Rick reveals that he learned at the CDC that everyone is infected by the virus, they will all become walkers when they die. As the camera pans out, we see a large prison in the distance.
Months have passed since the group left Hershel’s farm. With Lori in the latter stages of her pregnancy, the group is lucky to find an abandoned prison. They manage to clear it of walkers and take up residence, finding several prisoners, who have locked themselves inside. During a particularly bad walker attack, the group is separated. When Lori goes into labor, Maggie has to perform an emergency C-section, which kills Lori. Carl shoots her to prevent her from coming back from the dead.
Michonne and Andrea find a walled town called Woodbury. A seeming utopia safe from walkers. It’s run by a man named The Governor, who initially treats them with mistrust, which is reciprocated in full by Michonne. They also find that Daryl’s brother Merle is there, having survived amputating his own hand back in Atlanta.
We learn that Michonne’s mistrust of The Governor is well-placed. He kills a group of soldiers for their equipment, keeps his walker daughter leashed to the wall, and has aquariums full of animated walker heads in his den. He hides all of this from Andrea as he pursues a relationship with her. When Michonne escapes, Merle tracks her down but is unable to kill her. She manages to get to a town, where she sees Merle capture Glenn and Maggie. Injured, Michonne gets to the prison and leads a group of them to Woodbury to save Glenn and Maggie.
In the fight that follows, Daryl is captured and Michonne kills The Governors daughter and stabs him in the eye, leaving him emotionally and physically ravaged.
Meanwhile, another group has managed to find the prison. Led by a man named Tyreese they are tired and helpless. A distrusting Carl allows them to stay but keeps them under lock and key until Rick can return.
As the first half of season 3 ends, an enraged Governor forces Daryl and Merle to fight one another for survival.