Before we dive into the Season 4 premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’, I would be remiss if I didn’t first thank Aaron Peck for his outstanding coverage of the last couple of seasons. Aaron’s busy schedule (and honestly, his dissatisfaction with Season 3) has prompted him to pass the torch. So, just as Scott Gimple takes over as show-runner for ‘The Walking Dead’, I’ve been handed the weekly duties of recapping what transpires. With that bit of business set aside, let’s take a look at the Season 4 opener.
Some time has passed since the big battle with the Governor (who doesn’t make an appearance this week), and the people from Woodbury seem to have settled into the prison nicely. We’ll learn a bit later in the episode that the prison now has a council to make decisions, including Daryl as one of the prominent leaders. They’re willing to welcome other outsiders into the camp if they’re deemed worthy.
It’s hard not to notice all the changes that have taken place at the prison. A farm has been set up that includes both a vegetable garden and a pigsty (though the oldest pig isn’t looking too healthy these days). Herschel has a new prosthetic leg (no doubt saving the effects department thousands of dollars per season). The guard towers that the Governor’s men blew to smithereens last season appear to have been rebuilt. Oh, and Rick seems to have found either a working computer or an electrical charger to keep his iPod running. (Those things don’t take AA batteries, you know.) Then again, this is the show where the gasoline supply seems to be unlimited, so I won’t fuss too much about the characters being able to listen to music.
Viewers also learn that many of the characters who were single last season have formed relationships – most likely so that someone can cry for them when they get killed off later in the season. Herschel’s daughter, Beth, is dating a guy named Zach. Tyrese seems to be warming up to Karen (the sole survivor of the Governor’s psychotic slaughter of his own people last season). Tyrese’s sister, Sasha, may or may not be attracted to newcomer Bob Stookey, who seems – at the very least – to have an alcohol addiction that will almost certainly come into play as the episodes progress. Finally, in case you were wondering, both Glenn and Maggie, and Daryl and Carol, are still couples.
With all the effort to show us how things have stabilized at the prison and to introduce the new characters, not much happens in terms of story advancement in this first episode. It’s Rick’s turn to go outside the prison and check the snares they’ve left to gather dead animals for food. While he’s out there, he runs into a frail woman named Clara, who first begs Rick to help her drag an animal back to her camp (Rick gives her a sandwich instead) and then asks if he’ll accept her and her husband (who’s back at her camp) into the prison. Rick claims that he’ll have to meet the man first and ask three questions – the answers to which will determine whether the prison can accept them or not. However, once they get back to Clara’s camp, she tries to kill Rick. It turns out that Clara is as crazy as they come, and all that’s left of her husband is just a severed zombie head that she continues to feed. She eventually stabs herself as Rick watches. Before she dies, she asks Rick what were the questions he was going to ask. They are as follows:
- How many Walkers have you killed?
- How many people have you killed?
While Rick is off dealing with insanity again (thankfully not his own this time), Daryl takes Michonne, Glenn, Zach and Bob to a local Big Lots… err, make that “Big Spot”… on a supply run. Unbeknownst to the group, a bunch of zombies and a crashed helicopter are up on the roof, the weight of which has made the building very unstable. Inside, Bob finds a shelf full of wine and, while checking out one of the bottles, accidently brings the entire shelf crashing to the floor. The loud noise makes the Walkers on the roof more active, and their movement causes them to crash down through the ceiling. Bob gets caught under the shelf, but the others manage to rescue him in time. Not so lucky is Zach, who gets bitten. Returning to the prison, it becomes Daryl’s duty to tell Beth about losing Zach. Beth is pretty emotionless when she hears the news. She tells Daryl that she doesn’t cry anymore.
This week’s premiere wraps up with Carl walking in on a class where Carol is showing the other children the proper way to use a knife to stab zombies. She asks Carl not to tell Rick what she’s teaching the kids. One of the older children in the class, Patrick (who wears Harry Potter glasses), says that he’s not feeling well and asks to be dismissed. Coughing and hacking his way to the showers, Patrick collapses and dies – turning into a Walker as the episode concludes.
Well, it doesn’t look like zombies will be the only crisis for our heroes this season. Patrick’s death (as well as the pig’s, which is shown deceased in the second half of the episode) seems to signify that there’s a deadly virus going around. Since we already know that the zombie plague is an airborne virus that has infected everyone (and when you die, you turn into a zombie – even if you’ve never been bitten by one), could it be that the same virus has now mutated to the point where it’s killing and people without them having to die naturally or get bitten first? If so, this group better find a scientific mind to join them pretty fast, or the cast could thin out pretty rapidly.
Without having any context as to what will follow, the first episode of Season 4 is slightly disappointing. It’s possible that we’ll look back later and see a lot of other stuff that’s been set-up for future episodes, but as a standalone, this one is a rather so-so way to start the new season.
What did everyone else think? Were you satisfied with the Season 4 premiere?