‘The Walking Dead': Is This the Bleakest Season Yet?

Published 1 year ago by

Lauren Cohan in The Walking Dead Internment The Walking Dead: Is This the Bleakest Season Yet?

[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]

Since Scott M. Gimple officially took over, The Walking Dead has been on something of a bleak streak, taking Rick and the other survivors down an ever darkening and seemingly hopeless path, and putting familiar faces in a whole new kind of peril – the kind where people in an already pitiless world choke to death on their own blood before trying to chomp down on their former caretakers and eventually forcing an old man to break down and cry in the prison cell that’s become his temporary home.

In terms of giving the storyline a sense that something is truly at stake, while demonstrating the writers can also generate a different kind of conflict for the survivors, season 4 has certainly been a success. The flu, the quarantine, and, certainly all the choking on blood has been a new trick for the series this season, and it has managed to give several different characters a brief moment in the spotlight. And sure, there’s a pervasive darkness to the show that simply needs to be there all the time – otherwise it wouldn’t be called The Walking Dead, right? The only question, then, is: How much longer can the series sustain this level of darkness before even the most ardent fan begins to cry out for a shift in tone?

That’s definitely hard to say, as season 4 began with some of the best character work (and ratings) the series has ever seen, and, even through all the bleakness, it has still managed to deliver some compelling character moments from Rick, Carol, and Hershel that will hopefully lead to more from them down the line. So, maybe shifting the setting back and forth from the prison to the veterinary college, and focusing on a more diverse group of characters in a more evenhanded fashion has helped some to overlook some of the tonal issues that have sprung up in the last few episodes. One thing’s for sure: the storytelling is certainly improved this season, but like the fence Rick is constantly trying to mend and fortify, a new weak spot has emerged in the form of its relentlessly bleak tone.

Scott Wilson in The Walking Dead Internment The Walking Dead: Is This the Bleakest Season Yet?

On the plus side, despite their dreariness (and the occasional questionable actions of one or more characters), the episodes so far this season have all been constructed in such a way that the pacing feels swifter, more urgent, and certainly more entertaining. The flu that swept through the prison was a worrisome plot for the show to develop, as bringing in something like a deadly flu virus could easily have become a plot sink the series had no intention of resolving until after the winter hiatus. So, in that regard, season 4 has legs where perhaps seasons past might have become mired in dealing with a viral outbreak inside a confined and terrifying space.

And now that Team Daryl has made good on securing the necessary medicine for the survivors in the prison, it’s time to move on to the next soul-crushing storyline, as ‘Internment’ ends with a not-so-subtle tease of the Governor’s return. From the looks of it, Philip didn’t find his smile while he was away, so The Walking Dead can get ready for a different kind of drama to rain down on the prison and the former citizens of Woodbury.


The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘Live Bait’ @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below:

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  1. it seems there are some who simply want a marvel studios humor washing to any and everything on the small or silver screen. from the dc cinematic universe, and now the walking dead, some want little to no deviation from the humor heavy productions of iron man and thor. I prefer variation and the tone of the walking dead is fine by me. excellent in fact. I’ve loved this season, from it’s pacing, to it’s character moments, to the horror and tension experienced by the cast and projected onto viewers.

    if anything, things could and should be much worse in their world. after a year and a half, should there be a polished wally world being erected? or joy and cupcakes over being a malnourished survivor with a severely weakened post apocalypse immune system ready to reanimate once death knocks? a year and a half is little to no time when the earth has gone to holy hell.

    i’d take Hershel on my team.

    • Well said. I agree completely, especially regarding Hershel.

      • Wow, this is just the beginning. Things will only get worse from the Hunters to the Safe Zone. I mean Negan (if done right) is another set above the Governor where he is more like Rick in a methodical sense but is also very sadistic. It’s only going to get more bleak from here on out

  2. The show has been kind of bleak since Rik shot that little girl in the head during the first season. The Zombie Apocalypse thing is kind of a bummer too…..

    • I guess some folks are still waiting for that musical episode where everybody sings!

      • Frankly, though I take your meaning, I wouldn’t be against it.

  3. Grim or not, I really wish they’d leave the prison. And Darryl didn’t even tell Rick about the radio voice? Really? Possible survivors? Oh but we have seen Rick doesn’t really care about survivors as he has left them on their own before.

    This season is dark and bloody, big yes to that!

    • They are probably still at the prison because it is cheaper and easier to handle the extra characters they added from Woodbury (my guess is that after this flu and the Governor’s return that will not be an issue for long). As for the voice on the radio I am sure it will come up, but to be honest seeking out more people who may or may not be a danger to the group really would not make sense and would come off like a re-tread of the Woodbury story arc.

    • Things hadn’t calmed down enough after the chaos of the previous night and the arrival of Daryl & co. with the vaccine before the episodes conclusion. It’ll definately be a major point next episode (unless we get an episode concentrating on what the governor has been up to these last few months).

  4. the thing with the prison is, we all know they won’t hunker down there forever. it’s been consistent with the nature of the show. the camp, the cdc, the farm, all have gone to manure. just me, but i’m fine with whatever point of this season they eventually flee. and i’m fine with the prison, as it kind of remains as a selling point to the governor’s continued existence and the horror he’ll eventually unload on any and all. in addition, the fact that many of the mainstays have survived to this point in the face of all the death that has come this early doesn’t bode well for the group the further we get into the season.

  5. What I do like about the show vs the comics are things like this flu. Inevitably you know this will happen because people get sick and without medicine, the symptoms could kill you.

    But then they miss things like how gasoline goes bad so after even as little as a year, it will be difficult to keep cars running (or even start up old cars that have been sitting around with bushes growing all over it). Where are they getting gas from as they do use their vehicles quite a bit (esp during that time when they were a mobile caravan)?

    Adrian’s Undead Diary touches on the more realistic things like this (although there are some things very unrealistic in the core of the storyline itself).

    But I understand that some details need to be ignored to concentrate on the core of the story, which TWD is doing pretty well in my opinion. At least this season they are keeping the threat of the zombies ever present (which can’t be said for the comic).

    • Totally agree with cars as well as ammo … later in the comic book (Alexandria Safe Zone) it is shown that ammo is very rare and that Rick’s group obviously got totally lucky to have enough. The Hilltop for example got out of ammo long ago and started to built archaic speers. Car’s are very thrifty used in the comic book, contrary to the TV show … didn’t they find a gas tank in the prison? However, as much as they use their cars their gasoline should soon be gone.

      Daryl’s crossbow and arrows are also a very funny thing to me, which I just accept. Even if he would return every arrow and none would get lost or damaged, he hasn’t so much and it’s a very special crossbow … he would soon be out of arrows. It’s just a weapon for the special accent of the character, but it’s much smarter to use a sword like Michonne.
      Same for their cool clothes on TV … well, I guess, it was the same problem with LOST … we generously turn a blind eye on this. πŸ˜‰

  6. I agree