‘The Walking Dead’ Review & Discussion

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 2nd, 2010 at 9:08 am,

walking dead 2 The Walking Dead Review & Discussion

AMC’s The Walking Dead is probably THE most anticipated new show of 2010 (besides HBO’s Boardwalk Empire). Based on the popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead comes with the talent of show creator Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), a cast of strong – if not yet widely recognizable – actors, some great makeup effects and a unique synthesis of horror and drama.

The show is also boldly attempting to add itself to the roster of AMC programs which have gained significant critical and popular acclaim in recent years – Mad Men, Breaking Bad – which is an ambition that I don’t think many zombie apocalypse TV shows (or movies) share.

So does The Walking Dead live up to the hype surrounding it – and is it another fine achievement for AMC TV? To both questions: Yes. How does this show about the world being overrun by zombies manage to be what so many other similar offering from the horror sub-genre cannot? By keeping a fine-tuned human drama at the center of all the monster madness.

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Episode Recap

In this pilot episode directed by Darabont and entitled “Days Gone Bye”, officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a mild-mannered man from a small town in Georgia who gets gunned down in the line of duty. When Rick awakens in the hospital weeks later, he finds himself alone and corpses scattered everywhere – some of them dead, others not as dead as they should be. After stumbling home, Rick finds his house vacant and his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) seemingly fled from all the horror and carnage outside.

Rick soon runs into Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and his son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner), two survivors who fill Rick in on the events and circumstances of the zombie apocalypse. Morgan informs Rick that Atlanta was the rallying point for survivors, and that if Rick wants to find his wife and son, that would be the place to look. Rick decides to head for Atlanta, unaware that the city has been overrun with “walkers.” When Rick arrives in the city, only the dead are waiting to greet him.

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Review (Contains SPOILERS!)

the walking dead 2 The Walking Dead Review & Discussion

“Days Gone Bye” was a great episode that made it crystal clear what The Walking Dead is all about: a balanced mixture of zombie horror and human drama. A lot of people who aren’t fans of the comic series are likely approaching this show with a wary sense of curiosity, wondering if it’s going to be a silly splatterfest of gore and jump scares, like so many other zombie apocalypse stories. However, few people today (outside of horror fans) remember that when George Romero made Dawn of the Dead in 1978, critics were impressed by that film’s ability to weave an insightful consumer culture subtext into its literal story about a group of survivors who hold up in a shopping mall to escape a legion of zombies. The zombies were not just a novelty, they were a metaphor; in that way, Dawn of the Dead was entertaining on levels that everyone – from the scholar to the layman – could enjoy.

Robert Kirkman took a different approach with his comic book series, and thankfully Darabont and the other Walking Dead showrunners have honed in on that core essence of Kirkman’s work and brought it, intact, to this TV series: namely that the title, “The Walking Dead” refers to the living as much as it does the zombies. This show examines that which is changed and exposed in those hearts still beating, as human beings are faced with hell on Earth.

This first episode hammered that theme home with a wonderful subplot about Morgan Jones. If you needed to find the human heart in all this zombie insanity, you needed look no further than Morgan and his internal struggle to let go of his wife (who was turned into a zombie) and do what is best for his son. As Morgan held that rifle aimed at his wife’s zombie face, you could feel the agony coursing through him, making his hand falter. More than feel it, you understood it: why even the hollow visage of a lost lover still has the power to move someone. We’ve seen such moments before in zombie lore, no doubt, but the strength of actor Lennie James gave it the emotional impact it needed to resonate.

Rick Grimes The Walking Dead The Walking Dead Review & Discussion

Andrew Lincoln also did a wonderful job of introducing us to Rick Grimes and making him a character we can root for. From the very opening of the episode – Rick and Shane (Jon Bernthal) discussing their different approaches to dealing with women – you instantly got the sense that Rick is a good guy. Sure, in the midst of this hell Rick will likely have to cross some dark moral thresholds and do some terrible things to survive – but at his core, it’s clear from the start that Rick is a thoughtful and compassionate version of the macho man archetype.

The scene where Rick returned to the park to send his condolences to that half-a-torso zombie woman was easily my favorite scene of the episode, followed closely by the opening encounter when Rick must set his humanity aside to shoot a little zombie girl in the face. Every zombie encounter Rick had foreshadowed the complexity of his character – I expect we’ll see a great arch for Rick over the course of this first season, and am now confident that Lincoln can shoulder any dramatic weight placed on his shoulders. The brief look we got at Rick’s wife Lori, partner Shane and the other survivors, immediately established some serious drama that will unfold all too soon.

the walking dead zombie The Walking Dead Review & Discussion

Finally, the closing minutes of the episode served to remind us that even in the midst of all this juicy drama, there’s also plenty of thrilling zombie-horror action to get our blood pumping. Seeing Rick enter Atlanta and nearly get torn to shreds was gripping – when he was under that tank, surrounded on all sides by walkers, I nearly jumped out of my seat in panic, even though I knew good and well that he would survive. That final aerial shot of the zombies baring down on Rick in the tank was gorgeous, and really spoke volumes about just how far up crap creek this character (and any others he’ll meet) really are. Human drama + zombie thrills… I couldn’t ask for more.

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All in all, I thought this initial episode of The Walking Dead was great, and have full confidence that the show will do for zombie-horror what The Sopranos did for mob drama and The Wire did for cops & robbers shows: elevate it to a level of prestige few thought possible for genre TV. I’ll be tuning in for the rest of the season – how about you?

UPDATE: To get you excited for the rest of The Walking Dead Season 1, check out this preview video below!

The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sundays (starting this Halloween) @ 10/9c

TAGS: the walking dead

114 Comments

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  1. Glad you liked it Kofi

    All the reviews I’ve read have been glowing so far. I can’t wait!

    Also a big + for mentioning Wire. I’ve watched 4.5 seasons in the last couple of weeks and can’t believe how good it is.

  2. watched a promo copy of the show myself. was an example of what Frank Darabont does best, put the emotion of character driven stories to the forefront.

    anyways Kofi. you never answered my question. whats Frank Darabont’s connection to Dark City and the Crow? you credited him in your last featured Walking Dead article

    • LOL!!!

      Allen – I think that day I was mashing up Darabont and Alex Proyas in my head. Strange, you’re the first person to notice that!

      I’ve changed that article. *Hand slaps forehead*

  3. This looks AWESOME…man cannot wait till Sunday!! GREAT article Kofi!

  4. As a HUGE fan of the comic, I really love what they added to the back story of Rick and his marriage; Morgan and Dwayne’s life. God I loved those scenes.

  5. How did you watch it? I don’t think it’s on Hulu.

    • I review some things early – part of the job :-)

  6. Lookin forward to watchin this been waitin since I first heard about it ^_^

  7. I got an usual chance to see it early also, I loved the comics and hoped they wouldn’t strip away the core of the stories. They did’t. They delivered on everything. Nothing removed, everthing added. It was a perfect start to what is hopefully the Ongoing TV SHOW of survival horror.

  8. I deal with the walking dead on a daily basis. The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is watch them on tv. :/

  9. I saw it last night(Saturday). The show was really amazing. I thinkI found a new TV series to watch!

  10. I have a feeling that this show is gonna be epic, even before reading this article… I always wanted to see a show on tv that was a survival horror… Like if resident evil, or silent hill were tv shows and not movies… then the human connection would be amazing and all to real… hopefully, kofi, this show will be good thoughout the next, i dont know, ten years?… and if its as good as you say it is, then 20…

    by the way, kofi, have you seen that new show on IFC called dead set? I seen it twice and thought that it was very good… a bit shaky, but very good…

  11. I just watched this show and I really liked it but why is it the wife has moved on in 3.5 seconds? I mean can’t they give her character a little more integrity? Just saying. I will definitely watch again.

  12. Dear lord, that was awesome. They’ve captured all the things I love about Walking Dead perfectly. It’s perfect. I can’t wait to see more of Glenn. :)

  13. the walls have been beaten down,i belive t.v has changed for the better.its like somebody crawled in my head and made a show just for me better than what i could of.it was as good as any big budget zombie movie to date.the gore was fantastic and risky, the acting was stellar,full of drama and genuine human emotion.the scale is epic and the plot has places to go.the suspence was kick ass!!! the scene under the tank made my skin crawl.please for the love of god support this show!!!! AMC now has my undivided devotion.finaly something else to watch other than crap reality t.v!!!

  14. I like the show. It is just different enough for those that have read the series.

  15. I’m hooked.

    Vic

  16. “Make sure you got one in the chamber and the safety off” Sure glad the writers know their guns LOL. Glocks have no external safety. Basically its on the trigger, but since you have to squeeze the trigger in order to fire. Don’t put your finger in the trigger guard. Yes this was a nitpick on my part. But the show all in all is FREAKING AWESOME!!!

    • Did the deputy have a Glock? I didn’t pay attention.

      Vic

      • One deputy had a Glock – the other a revolver. Neither has a safety. Amazing how often writers get that wrong – I suppose they just assume there must be such a device (or perhaps he was speaking generally – one guy did have a shotgun). But the show – bloody outstanding! Rick Grimes is the man. A very cool scene with him riding his horse into Atlanta (where I live!) and nothing there… Very strange to see a big American city empty. (but not for long – tough break for the horse!)
        best
        Talbot

        • That’s one of my pet peeves in general. I’ve seen a lot of films/TV shows that will have a character pull out a Glock out and i will hear that little sound of a hammer being cocked…

    • On that “no safety on the Glock” point. I’ve read that around now. It really is a niggling point, but I can understand it’s irksome to some. I don’t know much about guns, but I hate whenever someone raises a gun in a tv show or movie, the cocking sound immediately happens. They cock rifles and shotguns. Doesn’t this shoot a wasted cartridge away if they do it more than once?

      But that’s not my point. ON a Glock, on the left side, theres a little switch that goes forward or back along a ridge. Isn’t that a safety? If it’s not, what is it? I know all about the trigger safety and the Glock recall, but what’s that thing up there just below the slider?

  17. Loved it — especially the guest star, Lennie James (loved him in Jericho) and his kid. However, the stupidity of the cop was irritating. However, it takes dumb actions to add interest.

    SPOILER ALERT —–
    The cop should have NOT gone into Atlanta after so many signs that it was not safe.

    1. Nobody responded to his radio call. If Atlanta was safe, he would have gotten a reply.
    2. No signs directing him to the safe area. Zombies don’t read but the living would have put up directions to the safe area.
    3. All cars going OUT of Atlanta but none going in. This would have been the final warning for me.
    4. Totally desolated until he sees a couple of Zombies. If it was a place to be safe, survivors would be picking off the strays.
    5. He sees the tank with the dead soldier but keeps going into the city. At that point, I hoped he only approached the tank to stock up on ammo and take off.

    I’ll continue to watch because it was lots of fun (poor horse).

    • he kept going because that was his best shot at getting his family. and it didnt matter what the signs said.

  18. Ok I watched this, I agree the main (cop) character was stupid but it was entertaining.
    I can see this show going on for a few seasons easy.
    It reminded me of Jericho with a 28 Days/Resident Evil twist.

  19. I watched it. Lets see the chance of finding your wife and son alive trumping over common sense? Love trumps common sense most times. He figured he was generally safe as there was no signs indicating otherwise until of course he turned the corner.

    I see people mentioning story lines being followed etc. Don’t be surprised if they are not as fleshed out as the comic.

    For example…. SPOILER POSSIBLE—

    Shane may not get shot by the son. Lori may not die. Rick may not loose the hand, etc.

    They have already stated they will be following the books loosely.

    With that out of the way I thought it was…. a little slow. I didn’t like the way they showed him and the little girl right off the bat. That already told you he was not with his family.

    Waking up in the hospital talking to Shane should of had him close his eyes and pick up in the Police car… I mean yes I already knew he was without his family from reading the books however my wife had already figured that out and the Shane Lori angle. So they may have made that to obvious also.

    Anyho it was still VERY enjoyable… Cant wait til next week.

    • Same here Aknot. I loved it, my only gripe was the one I mentioned earlier above.

  20. DVR is already set! Loved it and can’t wait to see how this all plays out!!

  21. As a reader of all the Graphic Novels, I was very pleased with this take on the pilot episodes. Some of the acting was very high caliber, especially the Brit, who couldn’t shoot his wife. That guy was AWESOME! It has a slow burn feel to it, and that is ok with me, because the books are like that as well. You need to slow down before you speed up. Overall, I loved that AMC is making this happen, and after years of writing HBO and showtime, finally non-graphic novel readers will be treated to these stories.

  22. Loved it, even though I am not a slasher,grosshorror fan. This one had heart, as mentioned in the above scenes. Who would have thought one could feel sorry for a grass crawling, half zombie? It seemed she said “help me” or that was just in my mind. Was’t that a helicopter being reflected in the building? And who is that voice on his walkie talkie? I will be back next week because the script actually gave me a reason to. Good job, AMC!

  23. all amc needs is a cartoon and a comedy and i wont watch any other channels, except maybe espn

  24. I enjoyed the show, it was a good Zombie film, but I was very disappointed with the opening, from the start to Rick waking up in the bicycle girl. The film makers were to eager to show off the Zombies, and to show how cool of a make up job they did.

    I would have left the flash forward completely out, but if I had included it, I would have cut to Rick in the patrol car just before the zombie girl turns around to show she is one of the Walking Dead. By showing her as a Zombie, and being put down completely removed the Tension of what was going to happen to Rick when we joined him in the patrol car. Instead of the regular series opening credits, they missed a perfect opportunity of having the opening credits roll against a blue sky, the POV as he lay on the grass, dying, which could towards the end have the sound of the siren of an ambulance. The ride in the ambulance, the doctors in Er, the start of surgery before going under the anesthesia, and then the visit from Shane before the wakening up in the hospital. For the Bicycle girl, the cut of the close up of her face, after her always being in the background, facing away from the camera more felt like a “look at our cool Zombie make up” then anything else. If to have done the close up of her eyes opening should have at least included Rick in the background, though having her come alive in the while she was in the background could have created a more disturbing feeling.

    But from the moment on, except for a few minor touches, the show ran well and was quite enjoyable.

  25. This is to be something I will surely look forward to watching each week!! BRAVO AND WELL DONE GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love the way you are using the comic to guide the show.Everything is perfect so far you get a little of everything every emotion. I might ad that I am a 40 year old male who has been a fan of horror my entire life and at first I was thinking this would be lame and boreing but WOW very realistic..the make-up guys will surely win some awards here as with both the director and producer.I am not a person to become wrapped up in TV shows but I think I will with this show, in fact I know I will!
    Thank you for FINALLY PUTTING SOMETHING ON TV THAT HAS WORTH AND INTEREST!
    It is now early Tuesday morning here in Philadelphia and I have watched the first episode 5 times already as with the extras that are “ON DEMAND”
    AMC PLEASE LET THESE GUYSKEEP DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND LET IT RUN AS LONG AS POSSIBLE!!!! -Shawn in Philly

  26. I’ve got to agree with Wailwulf. I didn’t like the sensationalism of the zombie child kill either.

    I haven’t read the comics – like most of the worldwide audience I come to this show with virgin eyes. Unlike most of the worldwide audience I’m horror folk. That means I’m harder to please than the typical couch potato.

    This mini-series has one more episode to establish itself (like The Wire) otherwise it descends into mainstream soap opera mediocracy like True Blood.

    • I’m not a huge horror fan, but I like a good show and this could be if it doesn’t get all soapy. I agree that the little girl could have been done differently, maybe with the camera staying on him to show how he felt before, during and after he shot her. But the girl was necessary to reinforce what Morgan Jones’ wife showed: That the zombies have some semblance of memory. The little girl picked up the teddy bear and Jones’ wife (the only zombie that did) walked onto the porch and tried the door. I haven’t read the comics, so I don’t know if this is an integral part of the story, but it sure could be interesting if it is.

      • Yes, but they should have cut before she turned around, ran the story up to the use of the CB, and instead of cutting to Rick walking down the road, cut to him saying “Little girl, it will be all right” and then she turns to show she was a zombie.

        The placement in the film showing her to be a zombie in the first few minutes and killed was just showing off they were doing a zombie movie and wanted to create a shock. Holding off, it would instead help create the tension that everything has gone horribly wrong (or will go horribly wrong when we join Rick in the pre-zombie world).

        Its not the killing of the zombie that bothers me, it is the placement in the storyline that does. They went for cool shock, not tension, horror, and sadness.

        • I have to disagree. I think the shock factor of the little girl was important for the opening scene of the pilot. You have only a few minutes to convince new viewers to stick around. Since the dialogue and character development is so intricate much of the audience would have never stuck around to see how great the show was because of the grainy old film style and lengthy beginning dialogue. The zombie kill in the start gave them a feeling of anticipation and provided a good reason to wait through the character development. I’m a big fan of Mad Men and Breaking Bad but both of those shows turn off certain types of viewers in the beginning because they required you to sit through seriously long character development before getting drawn into the story. The Walking Dead solved this problem with a 60 second starting clip.

  27. Well if you havent read the comics or trade paperbacks (I dont thing there are any Graphic Novels out there yet?) you would know it is a character first, character second and then a zombie show.

    It is not meant to be a horror show with regards to the dead zombies but a nod to the other zombies…. the true walking dead.

    ;)

    • It’s not meant to be a horror show? It’s meant to be a drama with horror in it?

      Uh-huh.

      You ever heard of Dracula? That love story with vampires in it?

      • That is correct it is not meant to be a horror show. The comic writing was always about the characters first then the horror aspect second. From what I understand they will also try to carry that over to the show.

        The zombies could be replaced by aliens, vampires, etc and you would still have the issues of what happens to the characters with regards to the way they change throughout the story as time progresses on. The zombies were always secondary.

        Have you ever heard of any of Romero’s work? (after reading your blog I will guess you have) While based as horror he is still trying to bring home a point.

        Just because it has flesh eating zombies does not mean it has to be a horror show.

        And right from AMC:
        The Walking Dead is an epic, edge-of-your-seat drama where personal struggles are magnified against a backdrop of moment-to-moment survival. A survivalist story at its core, the series explores how the living are changed by the overwhelming realization that those who survive can be far more dangerous that the mindless walkers roaming the earth. They themselves have become the walking dead.

        So yes it is not a horror show.

      • A.Jaye,

        Aknot is correct. It’s a drama that takes place in a world with zombies. This isn’t a George Romero flick. (and yes, I realize there are dramatic moments within his films)

        Vic

        • Aknot,

          Don’t quote AMC. Whatever they put out – agreeable or nay – is marketing. However your point is valid. Halloween is a great horror movie even though its primary point is horror. The Wicker Man is a great horror film because of the drama.

          Having read my blog you’re aware I’ve heard of Romero. My contention is greater horror comes within context eg the original Dawn of the Dead. To wit what I call horror is the vessel as well as/or not the substance. It is where all the dramatic scenes build to a horror denouement.

          You say kids I say nippers but we both love our children.

          Vic,

          The best horror is always horror-drama as opposed to horror-thriller. Juno is (a bad) drama. The Walking Dead is horror.

          • The Walking Dead is not Horror. We are not discussing the aspects of Horror-Drama, Horror-Comedy, Horror-SciFi.

            We are discussing the fact that The Walking Dead is NOT a horror story/show/comic. It never was from its beginnings in 2003(?) nor is it now.

            You may think it is horror however it is not intended to be horror and should not be solely viewed as horror.

            As for quoting AMC… I dont understand why I wouldn’t quote them. Considering it would be kind of foolish for them to promote something that it is not. Common sense would dictate they promote it as a horror just because of the percieved subject matter… However it is not promoted as a horror since it is not a horror.

            However sense a horror movie is meant to scare..

            “What I meant by that comment is that I’m not trying to scare anybody… if it happens, bonus… but this is about Rick Grimes and his adventures in the messed up zombie filled world and how he and the people around him deal with extreme situations. ”

            This is a quote from the creator/writer himself Robert Kirkman. Sounds like drama to me.

          • A. Jaye,

            I get what you’re saying. I guess I would say there’s a sliding scale:

            Pure Horror — Horror with Drama — Drama with Horror — Pure Drama

            I’d say Walking Dead is center-right on the above scale.

            Vic

            • Well said.

              • yup it is drama with horror aspects. However is not a horror as you so claimed here and in your blog.

                • Seems like horror to me. They go on to cover themselves with gore, and are chased by undead creatures who are trying to eat them. That’s a horror show. I think your gears might be jammed because most horror movies don’t really do the dramatic aspect that well. This show does that, thus far. Dramatic Horror televison. I don’t see that there’s gonna be lingering love affairs and that kind of thing in the show. React and plan and survive, and care about each other.

                  The comic doesn’t do drama that well either. SMouldering grudges that end tragically. They’re pretty good at those. And Shane’s story arc was pretty broad, I would say, and threatens to be in the show too.

                  • ….and, in hybrid shows, it’s good to look at removing one component or the other to see which one the media relies on.

                    Remove the Undead flesh eaters from the story. What do you have. A guy who was in a coman and his partner took up with his wife. They now live in a small trailer park community, and there are various people there being all angsty.

                    GAK!!! Who’s watching that? True Blood fans, I guess.

                    GO the other way. The Dead begin to walk. All the characters are in place, but they all approach everythin that comes at them like Jerry Orbach from L&O. No romance, no interplay. Got us some dead to get past,and we better come up with a plan. Do we have a show?

                    I’d say yes. I’d watch that show in a second.

                    It’s a horror show.

  28. I just watched “The Walking Dead” last night and I really enjoyed it. I find the lead a cross between Josh Lucas and Aidan Quinn.

    I didn’t get that the opening scene was a flash forward. I thought here they all are living amongst the dead but they’re not taking a whole lot of precautions. But I knew he “wakes up” having no memory of the living dead so I was a bit confused. My friend had to explain that we’d probably see the Rick come to that scene later in the episode.

    I did keep thinking that clearly this man has never seen “Zombieland” or “Shaun of the Dead.” If he had, he’d know that the double tap is a good rule to follow and that zombies won’t bother you if you act like one. :)

    The cross between Romero’s slow-staggering zombies and Danny Boyle’s sprinting zombies was really nice. I wonder if there’ll be some zombies who are smarter than others in this series? (I haven’t read the comic so I’m not sure how it’ll all progress.)

    • Zack Snyder was doing an interview on AMC as part of promoting ‘The Walking Dead’ and he made a good point: that whenever “slow walking zombies” get close to their prey, they suddenly speed up. So really I think the show just (snicker) ran with that idea. And if you look back, there really it’s really hard to argue the slow-moving zombie angle – even in Romero’s films they double-time the pace to get that brain buffet.

      • At one point I think the writer also mentioned (again I could be incorrect) that newer zombies could/would move faster and older zombies due to decay etc woudl move slower.

        Or maybe he was messing with that idea…. I dont know I could have dreamed it.

  29. people please be real I am 35yo I am watching horror movies all my life I watched the return of the living dead a 1000X

    see my notes
    1-the awaking in the hospital after comma exact 28 days later
    2-every one dead in the hospital and trashed and they miss his room he will not resist because he was sleeping
    3-brief talk with the strangers the first thing any man will ask the only sane people why we have zombies all over the town sure they will tell us later but so not logical to be later
    4-why long road completely empty of cars at least put some trashed cars

    still acceptable picture and sound and nice trap in the city but far far beyond greatness

    I will give it 3 out of 10 but I will continue to watch it because it’s my love “the horror”

    • Kirkman wrote that scene from the Walking Dead before 28 Days later came out. Walking Dead was first published in 2003 which means it was written around late 2001.

      28 Days Later came out in 2002 – so unless Kirkman saw the script before the movie was in theaters your argument doesn’t hold up.

      You’ll find out soon enough that the zombies are easily fooled by things like sleeping people or people who act like them.

      The first thing you’d ask, actually is “Where is my family” and Rick obviously thought he was dreaming / hallucinating – Because he SAYS SO.

      Hmmmmm… why doesn’t a country road have cars all over it? Maybe Because it’s a backwoods COUNTRY ROAD.

      Sorry you didn’t like the show – but your arguments don’t seem to hold much water.

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