I would like to say they need to bring Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist) back as lead Producer, and occasional director (wouldn't it be nice to see him direct the first episode of every season?); but it's unrealistic to hope for such things, because it must have been a pretty good reason for him to leave. Maybe he disagreed with them trying to stretch the season into twelve episodes instead of six episodes, like season one. That doesn't necessarily matter whether he disagreed with it or not (which he probably did), but what matters is that I* disagree with it (I wanted to say fans, but I can't speak for them, I can only speak for me), because stretching out a season also means a lesser budget for each episode (and less zombies for you hardcore zombie fans), and it usually will mean the season will be slower--unless, of course, a lot of ground is traveled within the twelve episodes--but with The Walking Dead (Season 2), that's not the case because they've stayed on the farm for the entire season and the first half of the season was incredibly slow paced. So, the point is: yes, stretching out six episodes to twleve episodes has its flaws, but we don't know if it's the reason Frank left the show.
Wiith that being said, these are some things that could help the show:
During Comic-Con 2011, Joe Hill (while promoting his own Graphic Novel series called Locke & Key) talked about his and his father Stephen King's interest in writing for the third season of The Walking Dead. And if Glen Mazzara wants to at least fill halfway into Frank Darabont's shoes, he needs to take the father and son up on their interest in writing for the show. Not only would it be ideal in writing Rick and Carl's relationship better, but it's because Joe Hill is experienced in writing graphic novels, and therefore he has a respect and insight for The Walking Dead's source material: a graphic novel. Also, The Walking Dead, being a Western with zombies, is right up Stephen King's alley. And I'm referring to The Dark Tower series which effortlessly blends the Western genre with horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, etc.. I don't care if they need to give Stephen King his biggest paycheck yet, but they need to get him any way they can. And besides, the writers during this season definitely know how to create tension (a very, very slow burning tension I might add), but they riddled The Walking Dead with too many soap opera elements. It's become a soap opera with zombies; and not the other way around.
If the same group of writers write Season 3 with the same slow pace, I don't care how nicely it wraps up at the end--or how grand the finale is--I won't be satisfied, and that's that. It's not even necessarily about how many zombies are in the show, it's about a vibe. Frank got it (The Mist wasn't a zombie movie, but it had a zombie vibe--and a sort of Survival Horror that Season 2 of The Walking Dead doesn't even come close to having); and Glen, he doesn't understand it (or if he does, he doesn't understand how to obtain that Survival Horror vibe).
2. Chandler Riggs
The way Tom Hardy trained for The Dark Knight Rises, that's how the Producers of The Walking Dead needs to treat Chandler Riggs, the boy who plays Carl. I think all the fans of the show feel the same way; a lot of his dialogue is too forced; he tries to talk in a deeper voice than he has (and therefore hinders his acting ability); he doesn't know how to realistically act in front of Rick and Lori. Part of the problem is the writers of the show giving him lines that they should have realized that Chandler couldn't deliver.
3. Peer Pressure from AMC's Other Shows
I think this is a very subtle, almost impossible to prove theory, but it makes sense. Mad Men thrives off from its relationship drama; Breaking Bad thrives from its intense dialogue and emotional cliff hangers; The Killing thrives (well, it does have a second season) from being a mystery: therefore most of the audience, who are primarily women, who watch the show are pleased, because they want to be fooled over and over and over again. The formula is simple:
the killer who they thought was the killer wasn't the killer so there's another killer = The Killing (S2)
And The Walking Dead looks to its counterparts and . . . it tries to be like them, instead of being what it should be. Look at it this way, Rubicon (a fantistic, compelling show with rich characters, an innovative plot, and was exactly what it needed to be) got cancelled after one season, and the release date on the DVD/Blu-Ray? Your guess is as good as mine. This is what happens to shows that don't comform to the norm: they are assassinated. Maybe it's fear that is holding The Walking Dead back from being what it truly needs to be. In the entire second season of The Walking Dead, there are only two episodes that I thought were pure genius and fit the zombie "vibe." Only two out of twelve. So much of the first half of the second season was trying to build soap opera elements instead of zombie folklore/Survival Horror elements. The fall of Rubicon might have been an element in Season 2's inability to take risks. Although, like I said, it's hard to prove.
4. Location, Location, Location
Season One was half-urban, half-woods. But, really, they weren't in the city for that long. Besides, it was a very short season: only six episodes. Either way, it didn't show enough of either location where you got sick and tired. The writers changed it up per episode. Season Two, on the other hand, will have a unifying effect on most of the fans of the series: GET OFF THE FARM; WE'RE SICK OF IT! The funny thing is, at the end of the season, I almost want them to stay. But it took the writers of the show way too long for this emotional epiphany that was induced when we find out that Hershel is more of a Rambo than we originally had thought (but they should have shown that earlier in the season).
With that being said, it's time to get off the farm. And when I say get off the farm, I mean: if I see as much as one barn in Season 3--uh, let's just say, I might get a bad migrane and puke out blood. Season 3 needs to be almost completely urban because Season 2 has used up the rural setting to the point of depletion; Season 2 is to rural settings as Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood is to oil.
I'm not a fan of the graphic novel series, but I think the escaped prisoner story arc could be interesting. And then I keep hearing something about a character called The Governor. Either way, Season 3 needs a setting that we won't get sick of, and it needs to have quicker pacing. We already know the characters, so we don't need an entire episode of character "A" stuck in location "B" and having him talk to imaginary friend "C"--we just need the show going back to its zombie roots using a good location to its utmost usage.
And weather. Maybe some snow wouldn't be such a bad thing.
5. This and That
Essentially Season Three could be something compelling. And in all honestly, the second season of most TV shows are usually kind of weak, because it's the "in-between" season. Almost always Season's three and four are really when it picks up. So hopefully The Walking Dead follows that trend. But it can't if it continues the way it's going. Even cinematic elements like cinematography have sort of sat in the back seat this season. There were really none of the "awe" moments that the first season had; and back to the my third point, if The Walking Dead should take tips from any show, it should be Breaking Bad in terms of the cinematography.
Last but not least, if Frank can't come back to direct the first episode of next season, why don't they try to find another A-List director? David Fincher, anyone? Or maybe someone completely qualified but unlikely, like Christopher Nolan's brother Jonathon? Jonathon has shown interest in television with Person of Interest. So is it that unrealistic that they would be able to have Nolan co-write and direct the pilot episode? Not at all. In all honesty, I'd love to see Zach Snyder direct the first episode for Season Three, too. I mean, Dawn of the Dead (2004) has been the only good zombie film in the last couple decades (28 Days Later doesn't have zombies in it, so it doesn't count, remember? They're infected with rage; they're not dead and you can kill them in ways other than damage to the brain--ergo, not zombies--but it's still a great film); in fact, the remake of Dawn of the Dead has been the greatest zombie movie since the original Dawn of the Dead . . . that's three decades!
6. In Conclusion: What They Should Do From Now On
If they can't get Frank back, they need to find a special guest director for episode one (some other good ideas: David Cronenburg, Neill Blomkamp, Guillermo del Toro, heck, even Eli Roth if they make sure he doesn't add a million F*** bombs in the script).
And Stephen King is a must-have on the writing staff. He's the most successful horror writer of All Time; they need to have him. Pay the man and his son whatever they ask for (which probably won't be that much) and have them work on the story for Season Three.