Walking Dead returns on AMC with premiere of season 4 (review)

Gene Page/ AMC

After a long wait, The Walking Dead has finally returned. With another several month gap, it seems more than just Woodbury’s residents have migrated to the prison, but the spirit as well. The prison has turned into the equivalent of Woodbury, it seems, albeit with a much more sane group of leaders (at least for now). Now, more than Woodbury residents live at the prison, as Daryl and others have consistently been bringing new survivors in, giving them sanctuary. Hershel and Rick seem to have been creating and tending to some farmland on the “front-yard,” too, giving at least a somewhat steady food supply. And the question of Carl’s humanity is been proactively addressed by Rick, as he refuses to let Carl partake in the taking down of walkers and encouraging him to help out with chores and attend “story-time.” Tyreese seems to have found his own love-interest, Karen, who survived the Governor’s decimation of the Woodbury army, as well as Beth (well, not anymore), whom I’m sure many viewers expected Carl to pursue.

One of undoubtedly many problems to be faced by the prison residents this season will be the walker pile up on the outside fences. Carol speaks to Daryl about the issue and says they’re getting as bad as the previous month, which (1) indicates a time-lapse of at least one month, and (2) shows that this has been a recurring problem; with essentially a town of people and livestock living at the prison, the scent and noise would surely draw large numbers of walkers, as the viewers saw. Tyreese, of all people, has lost his stomach for putting down walkers, claiming it’s very different to put one down that’s trying to kill him, versus killing a “harmless” one that’s right up against the fence, and that makes sense—outside the prison walls, there is no time to think, you just act and survive. Now that he knows safety from behind the fences, constant killing can take its toll, and it has. Furthermore, it sheds light on something else that is not available to everyone in the world: choice. Simply surviving does not provide one with many avenues, if ever more than one. Now that there is a society that he is a part of and is protected, Tyreese has the choice to not partake in the pure survival aspects of his new life, and everyone (well, not everyone, but most people) have that same choice available to them. Even Rick has developed reservations about carrying his python, and only does so after urged by Hershel on behalf of “the council,” likely worried that any more killing could force him into another descent from sanity (another issue explored later-on).

Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) – The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Beth, again, of all people, now longer seems to be letting the world around her affect her too much. Her boyfriend, Zack, informs her that he’s going on a run with Tyreese, who wants to “help in other ways”; Daryl, who has become even more of a leader to everyone; Michonne, who has still retained her status as a loner and has been actively scouring the surrounding areas for The Governor; Sasha, who has earned her place as a fighter and a member of the council amongst the prison; and Glenn, who is currently amid a pregnancy scare with Maggie, as he refuses to let her go on the run due to the potential complications. Zack says to Beth that he just “wanted to say goodbye” because “it’s dangerous” out there, an idea which Beth brushes off as if he were joking or acting dramatically. She does not say goodbye to him, either believing that he isn’t in as much danger as he was, or to shield herself from the potential emotional trauma of literally saying goodbye to somebody she cares for.

After this encounter, Bob Stookey, former army combat-medic, requests permission from Sasha to join the run for supplies. She, at first, refuses, claiming he hasn’t been there long enough, that he was found alone, and no one is entirely sure how much of a “team-player” he is yet. However, he is persistent and she gives in, which unexpectedly turns into a bad idea. This group goes on their run while Rick attends to the traps and snares set around the prison to catch animals for food. This split in the storyline allows for simultaneous drama on Rick’s end and action on the end of the group going on the run.

As Rick wanders about, shown finally carrying his python after being urged to, he finds a dying boar. As he steps forward to examine it, there are suddenly foot-steps approaching, and he takes cover behind a tree. He peeks out to see what looks like a walker bending over the boar, preparing to feed. Semi-disgusted, he begins to walk away before coming to a halt at the sound of “wait!” What he thought was a walker is actually a survivor who says she and her husband have been having a rough time, and her appearance definitely mirrors that. First, she asks Rick for help to carry the boar back to her husband who has not been well recently. Rick, instead, offers her some spare food he has since it would be significantly easier to transport. She accepts the food, then asks if he has a camp nearby, to which he responds yes, and she predictably requests sanctuary for her and her husband. Rick responds that he must meet her husband and ask them each three questions before he can consider taking them in. Before they go off, Rick pats her down and warns her that if she tries anything, “you will lose.” She complies, but responds by claiming she has nothing left to lose. As they travel back toward the woman’s camp, she tells Rick that the pandemic begun as she and her husband were waiting for their flight to take them on their honeymoon. She says that, without her husband, she would not be alive, and that he showed her everything that she needed to do to stay alive, though she obviously harbors regret over many of the things she has had to do to stay alive.

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Clara (Kerry Condon) - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Clara (Kerry Condon) – The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The two finally approach the woman’s camp, and she makes her way over to a box and a blanket, with no husband in sight. Confused and suspicious, Rick begins looking around the camp for signs of other people, weapons, or danger. Just as he takes his eyes off of her, she lunges at Rick with her knife, though he easily defends himself, throwing her to the ground and drawing his gun, all the while showing reluctance over the fact that he’s going to have to kill this woman now. As Rick hesitates, she confesses that she couldn’t live without her husband and that his now severed and walker-fied head needed to be fed. Seeing that there is no way out for her, she grabs her knife and presses it against her stomach, begging Rick not to shoot her and prevent her from turning. As she plunges the knife into her stomach, she asks Rick what his three questions were. “How many walkers have you killed?”, “How many people have you killed?” and “why?” She tells Rick that her husband killed all of the walkers they encountered, and that the only person she’s killed was herself. She killed herself because not only does she not believe she can come back from what she’s become, but that she doesn’t deserve to come back. She feels that turning into a walker is a worthy punishment for all the wrong that she’s done and has had to live with. These words echo in Rick’s head, as he’s been struggling with similar issues since they arrived at the prison. He kept his group alive, but at what cost to his humanity? And he fears the same dilemma for Carl, which is why he’s pushed so hard to remind Carl that he is a kid, not a killer.

Parallel to Rick’s arc for the episode was the group scouting for supplies. They approach what looks like a former quarantine shelter that was overrun and abandoned, now inhabited by walkers, which were lured out by a rigged boom box by Sasha on a previous trip. As the group waits outside the market, Zack tries to guess what Daryl did before the apocalypse, which apparently he has done many times before. This time he comes up with “homicide cop,” to which both Daryl and Michonne respond with laughter. After Daryl’s knock on the windows attract the straggling walkers, the group ventures indoors to do some shopping. As they enter, the camera rises to show a downed helicopter and a mass of walkers roaming the roof of the building.

Inside, all is going well, and most have spread out to each look for specific supplies. Bob Stookey is on his own and wanders past a display of wine, which he almost lustfully eyes. He picks it up and begins to sneak a bottle in his personal bag before deciding against it. As he places it back onto the shelf, it collapses and causes an entire display to fall onto him. It barely misses crushing him, but his foot is caught and he is trapped underneath. The walkers on the roof hear the noise and begin exploring for the source, as they move about, the weight on certain, very weak sections builds, and soon, it begins raining walkers on the group. The slaughter-fest begins around the trapped Bob, with the group getting spread thin and each getting into some close calls. Bob, who was left alone, had to deal with an approaching walker creatively by peeling the walkers skin/skull with his bare-hands. They’re always coming up with new and interesting ways to deal with walkers on this show. After some of the horde is dealt with, Zack runs over to Bob, kills a few walkers, and helps Daryl get Bob out from under the shelf. Just as they pull Bob out, Zack is attacked by walkers, with one bite to the leg, and another to the neck. Daryl wants to pull Zack out, but the helicopter on the roof can no longer be supported and begins falling in. The group leaves Zack who is subsequently (off-camera) crushed by the helicopter. Zack made the only casualty of that shopping trip.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Walkers - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Walkers – The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Not much went on back at the prison during the aforementioned arcs. Carl echoed his father’s words in telling some younger kids not to name the walkers, as Carl, earlier, had named a pig they had who was sick. After that, the smaller kids ask Carl’s friend Patrick if he’ll be attending story-time later. He says yes, and they run off. He then tries to justify his decision to Carl, saying that he still feels like a kid and wants to hold onto that feeling., while telling Carl that it’s not something he would be interested in. Carl, at least somewhat curious as to the allure of story, tries to sneak in on the meeting later-on, which is run by Carol. She is reading a story to the kids until another adult excuses himself from the room. Once he’s gone, Carol puts the book away and reveals a set of knives, which are supposed to be the day’s topic of discussion. Just as they are revealed, Patrick asks to be excused as he isn’t feeling well and didn’t want to vomit on anyone, as important as the lecture was. Story-time, which seemed to be implemented by Rick, became a ruse Carol could use to teach the children self-defense, perhaps feeling that her daughter could have potentially survived if she had more training and knowledge, however young she was. Carl reveals himself after the surprising turn-of-events, to which Carol’s only response is “don’t tell your father.”

After Rick and the group arrive back at the prison Rick speaks with Hershel about his encounter with the woman that day, feeling that he could just as easily been her, and that he could still become her if he lost anything else that mattered to him. Hershel sternly reassures Rick that he is different than that woman, and that he has come back from the brink and always will. Meanwhile, Maggie informs Glenn that she, for-sure, is not pregnant. Though both are relieved, Maggie believes that they still could have gone through with it if it did happen. Glenn disagrees, but Maggie insists that she cannot be afraid of being alive, that the fear that kept them breathing cannot be the same motivator to live as a human is meant to. Daryl also goes to tell Beth the bad news, who takes it surprisingly well. She claims that she’s done with crying and just glad that she got to know Zack, as she resets her “Days Without an Accident” sign from 30 back to 0. In typical season-premiere fashion, the plot-twist is saved for last, as a sickly Patrick wanders into the washroom to cool himself down before finally collapsing, dying, and turning. It seems the new enemy of the prison will be disease.

We at Cryptic Rock award this season premier an 3.5 out of 5 stars. Though it contained some compelling drama and intense walker killing, the episode did feel a little disorganized, which comes naturally with a time-lapse and a sudden introduction of new characters, all the while trying to continue off the story-arc from the previous episodes. Rejoice, for The Walking Dead has returned!

Patrick (Vincent Martella) - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Gene Page
Patrick (Vincent Martella) – The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 2 – Photo Credit: Gene Page

Written by Ryan McEvoy

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