Review: The Walking Dead Season 4

With the arrival of October comes the changing of the leaves, the dropping of the temperatures and the arrival of the Halloween season. October also brings the premiere of The Walking Dead, the popular AMC TV show based on the comic book series of the same name. This fourth season comes on the heels of a rather lackluster season three, which boasted one of the most vicious villains in comic book history yet still managed to have as many low points and it did high moments. Looking past that, though, I still made time to catch the newest episode, hoping that it will introduce a new direction for the show and get it back on track. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

The team settles into a new normal. Life at the prison flourishes as they adapt to ways that include dealing with the zombies. They have to deal with certain chores each day, such as to halt the surge of zombies pushing against the prison fences. We also see a number of new faces around the prison; many of them are the survivors of Woodbury who were abandoned after the Governor flipped his shit and just took off. Many others were found by Rick or Daryl as they ventured outside of the prison walls in search of supplies.

We also learn that a council has been formed, presumably to introduce a sense of order into the group. Naturally, the council consists of Rick, Hershel, Daryl, Carol, and Glen. Basically everyone that survived since season one, and Sasha. The idea behind a council makes sense as it helps to avoid the tyranny that Woodbury faced with the Governor, the sole leader of an entire group of people that is bound to have their own ideas.

With how efficient the team have become, adapting so well to the threat of zombies that they've developed basic attack strategies for clearing out possibly infested areas, and without the threat of the Governor looming over them at every moment, the only real danger comes in the form of laziness, overconfidence, and stupidity. The premiere episode touches on two of those three things. One wrong move in the Big Spot department store puts a team of five in grave danger. Rick goes out into the woods and follows a stranger to some unknown place because he things he can handle whatever might be out there by himself.

This guy's new. How long before he dies?
The most emotional scenes come from the deaths of two characters that we've never seen before, which makes absolutely no sense. This isn't like Dale or T-Dog getting killed, characters that we've gotten the chance to know and grow attached to. Hell, this isn't even like Axel getting killed, a character that had more that 20 minutes of screen time and died completely unexpectedly. These two characters make their first appearance in this episode and die in this episode. What sort of emotional impact did the writers expect these deaths to have? It makes even less sense to see Rick's reaction to one of them. I mean, given everything that he's been through, at what point does he just become emotionally numb? I can see that they want to make sure that he holds on to his humanity as he is the show's moral core, in a sense. But given how he had to deal with his wife's death, kill his best friend, and see so many of his friends die, many of which by his own hand, the death of a complete stranger shouldn't have affected him like that. But maybe that's just me.

I'm also going to go into some detail here (so here comes a SPOILER WARNING) and just say that the whole scene with the ceiling caving in was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Let's...let's think about it a moment. A goddamn helicopter crashed into the building, a department store akin to a Wal-Mart, and a helicopter lies in ruins on the roof. There is no hole in the roof, no damage done to the building that can be seen from inside, no holes that let sunlight in. Despite the six and a half tons of scrap metal just sitting on the roof, it's a puddle of water that weakens the integrity of the ceiling. Just...just think about that for a moment. If you don't see the glaring flaw in this logic, then I can't help you.

They did mange to work in one unpredictable factor. One thing that could introduce a new sense of danger into the show. It's just a shame we had to trudge through 59 minutes of forced emotion and illogical plot contrivances to get to that point.

I loved The Walking Dead for the entirely of the first two seasons but the quality seemed to decline sharply in the middle of season three. While it had a few high moments, those just seemed to be overshadowed by the lowest of lows. The problem is, right now, everything is too good for the group, which destroys any sense of terror or fear living in a world infested by zombies might instill in the audience. But given the way the episode ended, the new showrunners may be bringing that to an end. Yes, the draw of The Walking Dead is about the living, not the cheap thrills that come from having a zombie pop out from behind a door but without that pervading sense of danger, the show devolves into All My Children set in the apocalypse. That's definitely not what I signed up for.

Everything that I hear about this season tells me that the danger factor will really ramp up something fierce starting with the second episode, so the purpose of this episode was just to set the stage for what's to come. Which I'm cool with. If I have to deal with one boring episode to get to the true meat and potatoes of what I love about the series, I'm willing to do that. But if this season gets to be as annoying as the last one, then I'm ready to write this off as the new Dexter and move on.

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