Location plays a huge role in Robert Kirkman’s zombie comic The Walking Dead. Fans frequently refer to particular story arcs by invoking the location where all of the action goes down. Hershel’s farm is a prime example of this. (I hate it when people say things like, “The place is really a character in the story,” but settings are inordinately important to the series.) It stands to reason that AMC’s adaptation of Kirkman’s funny books would follow a similar path, which they do.
Setting has been front and center throughout the first half of The Walking Dead‘s third season, with the primary emphasis on the prison and on Woodbury. These places play such a pivotal role that, if the show didn’t spend enough effort on the sets, the entire season would be fraught with problems. Luckily the attention to detail in the two main sites has been spot on, and deposed showrunner Glen Mazzara has tweeted out a bunch of concept art.
In these images you get a glimpse at the prison, Woodbury, and various places contained therein. On the Woodbury side, there are views of the streets, the walls, and even the Governor’s apartment. From the prison you’ve got the cafeteria, the boiler room, and the even the cellblocks.
Looking at these crisp black-and-white drawings, you get an appreciation for how closely the set designers and crew follow the plans. They all feel pretty close, especially the streets scenes in town, and the disheveled interior of the prison. Woodbury works because, even though there is still danger, it feels safe, normal, and like old times. There’s still a big wall around you, and guys with guns patrol the streets, but it looks remarkably like a small, boring suburb.
On the same side of that coin you have the prison. It cleans up nice, but if they had found this pristine, tidy place, no one would have bought it. The interiors look like there has been an inmate riot and subsequent violent panic. Garbage, mattresses, and corpses litter the place.
While not the only thing season three of The Walking Dead has done right—overall it’s been a huge step forward from the first two—creating the look of these two places is something they’ve done well.