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

Published 11 months 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.]

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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.

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

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  1. No

  2. Isn’t that the point?

  3. no i thougth it was awsome

  4. Is a show about zombies supposed to be lighthearted or something? I mean come on. If you want rainbows and kittens watch something else, you won’t and shouldn’t find such things on a show about the undead.

    • Screen Rant

      Zombie show doesn’t mean watching a plague movie. For some people that might’ve been extra bleak, plague on top of zombies. And there can be kittens on a zombie show. Rainbows too.

    • I think the entire landscape of TWD has been pretty darn bleak since day one and this recent turn of events is just another layer of the rotten onion.

      So yeah, it’s bleak, but too bleak? I don’t think so. Others may disagree, but I don’t watch the show to giggle and squee. ;) And yes there could be kittens and rainbows, but the kittens would likely be feral and at the end of the rainbow you’d find a pot of zombie brains. :P

    • You lose Screen Rant

    • Michael Greggs

      some people just cant handle a little blood and guts and are ther for cowards

    • If people think it’s bleak now just wait until the show introduces Negan and Lucille. :O

      • LOL, right

    • Michael Greggs

      who are Negan and Lucille.

    • A villain that makes The Governor look like a b****.

      • Meet my boomstick LOL

    • From the comics. If introduced will take the show to an even bleaker place. And that will come after a run-in with cannibals, if the show takes that route of course. It is cable and not HBO, so… It’s anyone’s guess as to how dark things might go / how closely they’ll follow the source material.

    • Michael Greggs

      i never read the comics

  5. I’ve lost interest this series, not sure why but I don’t look forward to seeing the next episode like I used to

  6. Gerardo Flores Lopez

    Great episode last night.

  7. Benjamin Minter

    What a stupid question. Shame on you.

  8. Its a show about a zombie apocalypse if it was anything but bleak people would cry foul. Quite frankly it can be as bleak as it wants so long as it stays this compelling.

  9. Gregory Nicholas Perkins

    With a show called The Walking Dead, doesn’t the title tell you what to expect? It’s a horror cliche, but an effective one.

  10. What about the zombie apocalypse is not supposed to be bleak?

  11. I haven’t watched this season at all. Same old, same old.

    • Jose Hinostroza

      You’re missing a really good season so far.

    • In fact it’s the weakest season so far.

      • This, people, is a rare sighting of the elusive, wily Season Two Lover. Notice the romantic stance, the melodramatic facial expression

    • Miikell Mcdermott

      People who hate the show can spend their money reading the comic book. Goodbye!

    • Then why are you here commenting?

    • Nop, the weakest season was the farm, by faaaaaar

    • If you haven’t watched it, how do you know it’s the same?

  12. I thought this season started a bit slow. The flu isn’t a very compelling enemy. But this episode was pretty good and if the Gov’na is finally coming back, **** is about to get real.

  13. Benjamin Camden

    Bleak? Have you read the comics? LOL

  14. I agree with romero Typical soap opera stuff the zombies are just an after thought

  15. Sean McNally

    It’s the zombie f-ing apocalypse, it’s supposed to be bleak.

    • Screen Rant

      Bleak vs. TOO bleak.

    • Sean McNally

      Ok, point taken. I guess I’m just not differentiating between levels of bleakness. The season is a downer in that there isn’t the physical threat of other (living) people (until last night of course). But personally I like the idea of the virus as it is a metaphor for the lack of control these people truly have even in their (somewhat) secure home, and as an effective device to kill off the majority of the newer cast and keep the core the focal point.

    • You lose Screen Rant, you lose.

    • Sean McNally

      Screen Rant, please note I’m not being glib. I also love the podcast. Ricky, that was funny man.

    • Curtis D Minnick

      Ricky Rivera ..Have you always been a dripping puss filled asshole or is that new ?

      • @Curtis D Minnick

        I don’t see why you gotta call him names. use your words, if you want to say something. names are just a short-cut to thinking.

  16. Another riveting episode that helps confirm the show’s position as one of television’s best. Even the sometimes skeptical reviewer here at Screen Rant acknowledges “compelling character turns” with swifter pacing and story lines that are “more urgent” and as I have said all along “more entertaining”. I also detect some recognition of the fact that the “worrisome” flu plot was well handled and the show avoided getting mired down in it. This was a riveting, tense and well paced episode that if nothing else will get my favorite naysayers to breathe a sigh of relief as their much maligned flu plot is resolved as well as the persistent need to get to the governor already has occurred. Lots of excellent character work especially from Scott Wilson as Hershel.

  17. Uhhhh animal cruelty? Kill the humans but protect the infected pigs instead? BTW this may be news…but its not real…its movie magic.. lol. I guarantee you would do the same if it were u ..and the pigs were likely sick. Why do good causes go overboard and get so perverted by zealots today?

  18. Jose Hinostroza

    S4 is great so far.

  19. Wow that shot of David Morrissey standing around in what i can only presume it’s a burning Woodbury was pretty badass, i just hope the drama can catch up. If anything the last episode missed some character reactions to Rick’s decision because Daryl’s group got to the prison pretty late.

    • It didn’t miss them…They just haven’t happened yet. This episode had a different story to tell. Reactions to Rick’s decision are sure to come.

      • Yeah, I think Hardwick was trying to not spoil the reveal but yeah, it’s coming up, LOL

  20. In my opinion all the walkers action in this episode is just masking that this whole episode again was just a filler episode …

    Moreover it’s again so senseless set up … the walkers outbreak in the flu cellblock: I mean for what are the sick people contained there, if they aren’t really contained. Hershel is portrayed totally naive … we already had this development of his character, maybe the new writers should read the former scripts.
    Also the overrun of the fence by the walkers … you watch this episode and there are so many plot holes or implausible things happening, so you constantly asking: the break of the fence was foreseeable …why not killing the walkers (as Rick and Carl did … just the two!) from the very first? Why are there suddenly so many walkers? A good written episode wouldn’t raise questions about implausible settings …

    And the Governor doesn’t need an army to attack this bunch of totally broken people. He could just walk in and kill them all … maybe they would survive … but not because of they are smart, just because they have so much luck.
    The portrayal of Rick’s group on TV as a group of total losers is annoying! Ok, even in the comic book they do stupid things (it’s a bit part of the story to go on … fine!) … but on TV they really are portrayed as losers and shmucks who survived just because of very, very much luck!

    At the moment I really watch The Walking Dead just because I really hope it will get better again when the prison story arc is over. Hopefully soon. I can’t stand much more stretching and filler episodes.

    • Very disappointing comment from you my friend. So NOT a filler episode. Plotlines resolved, new complications introduced, compelling character drama, your complaint about us already seeing Hershel’s character development in this regard isn’t repetitive , it is reinforcing (and if this consistent behavior didn’t occur you’d be complaining about how his character act inconsistently). The walker action was organically interwoven into the events of the story and TOTALLY plausible. Hershel is not naive…he has strong moral convictions that if you were paying attention you would see were brought into serious conflict within him and shaken. Listen, you are right because in the framework of opinion there is no right or wrong there is only what we like or don’t. So for you, you can only be right. In the bigger picture of overall opinion though you are in the not so silent minority.

      • Lol at very disappointing. Sorry Dad!

        What was the compelling character drama? What plot lines were resolved?

        Just asking because you completely went after someone who explained why they didn’t enjoy the episode and then you list things that I certainly didn’t see.

        He means it was a filler episode because you could have missed it and not be out of the loop next week. Which is true.

        Darryl and Rick haven’t had it out about Carol yet.

        Glenn is still just sick. Sasha is still just sick.

        Michonne Tyreese Darryl and alcoholic just got back at the end, so no more talk about the radio station.

        Carl is still a little twerp (Just my opinion, not fact… well).

        Secondary characters that had little to no development died.

        The only really character development was Herschel and it was nothing new.

        Sounds like filler to me. An alright episode but your comment was unwarranted, friend.

        • While you two may be write with your definition of a filler episode, I disagree that this episode was one (using your definition). Pacing is too important to story and character development, and if a show is bouncing between too many characters and locations it takes away from the tension and drama. Look for those loose ends you mentioned to be answered in the next couple of episodes.

          As I mentioned in another post, they didn’t use their guns to unload on them earlier because there is the potential to attract far more walkers from that kind of gunfire.

          Obviously, the group needs to leave the prison (and to me, that is where the show runners are taking the group). That was the point of the episode; the prison was facing both external and internal threats.

          • Right* my god, twice now I’ve had to do this. SR needs an edit button.

        • Who didn’t watch the episode? Flu plot line resolved Glen recovering,,,Sasha recovering…Governor back…And Frobin and I have a respectful back and forth debate on each episode so I didn’t go after him… we respectfully agree to disagree and sometimes find common ground. Show me where I went after the poster…I disagreed…didn’t call names…question intelligence…ridicule the remarks…debate is what the deal is here. Chill!

        • Thanks! You can miss this episode and wouldn’t miss essential story lines.

          But moreover it’s a stretching episode, which means everything that happens just happens to stretch the story and because of implausible, silly circumstances.

          • Just shut up and watch the damn show! The team behind this show is working their ass off just for you to have a good show to watch every week. If you don’t like it then don’t watch it.

      • +1 Robert. Totally agree.

      • Well said. A big chunk of Hershel’s issues in this ep were him making an effort not to have others lose hope. This episode had a theme. It showed people in the most dire of circumstances…one’s that could break people…and yet they toughed it out. They had to stand together to do it though. Being a loner can’t work. It furthered a theme that’s been running through the season so far.
        And I think it’s interesting that they keep burning away social convention and yet finding humanity. Two fathers demanded that their children stay in their rooms…and had those two children stayed in their rooms and not stood up as adults, all would have been lost. There’s no time for innocence any more.
        Leaving the fence thing aside(Which drives me FREAKING BANANAS!! Just idiotic on every level from writing on down to characters) this was, I think, one of the best episodes OF THE SERIES…and it was a bottle episode.

    • Wow!, I think you should replace the writers of this show and lets see how you make a much better story and characters out of it. :)

    • While I do agree that this episode didn’t resolve some issues it looks like things are about to move forward away from the prison. I am thinking midseason finale. Also it seems like it set things up for the Tyreese scene but with Hershel. The first episode clues all comes back in this upcoming episode(Macon, Bob, Michonne). Although I do think the writing of the show isn’t the best, I also don’t think it’s the worst. A lot of people today told me the writing styles reminds them of Sons of Anarchy where there are plot holes, some filter episodes, but with everything happening it still makes the show enjoyable. After thinking about it, I would have to agree with that statement. Both shows have their issues but because both shows are amazing those issues seem less of an issue(general public). I work with some people who told me today(huge fans of the comics) that to the comic fan boys this season has been a massive improvement from S3. The issues in writing is still there but it’s widely improved from last season(hence the 90% approval rating from Comic book fans). There are some issues in which they can improve but like they said, if the ratings still come in strong, why mess with what’s working.

  21. I’ve read all the comics, so the show could never get bleaker than that. ;-)

  22. Aside from the title of the show, the opening sequence and music should gig you a f****** hint

  23. All the walkers action in this episode is just masking that this whole episode again was just a filler episode … this season is so far really weak. They stretch the prison story arc and most of all: The portrayal of Rick’s group on TV as a group of total losers is annoying! Ok, even in the comic book they do stupid things (it’s a bit part of the story to go on … fine!) … but on TV they really are portrayed as losers and shmucks who survived just because of very, very much luck!

  24. Okay, time to take the invincibility cheats off of the main characters now.

    • It’s coming. The end of the episode had a clue of who’s about to go next, LOL

  25. Larry Mckinney

    It should be darker than it is.The TV series is lighthearted and soft when you compare it to the brutality of the comics.

  26. Sooo, why were the sick allowed to roam freely instead of locked in a cell so they don’t die, turn into a walker and kill the whole lot?
    If they had assault rifles, why didn’t they mow down the walkers before they got through the fence, anybody with common sense would know that those sticks won’t hold the fence.

    All the drama at the end was set up by illogical plot holes, making it hard to feel the suspense they were trying to evoke.

    Hopefully, we’ll see improvements with the return of The Governor

    • Have you not been watching? They weren’t locked up because Herschel knew that in order to survive they needed to cling to hope (being separated and locked up is not conducive to hope). As odd the guns, presumably they didn’t want to shoot because it will attract even more (LOTS of gunfire = very loud) especially because they shot off a couple hundred rounds. I have no idea where you see plot holes.

      • As for the guns*

    • Totally agree!
      Hershel was portrayed totally naive as if the character development at the end of season 2 and during season 3 never happened. The walkers outbreak is stupid and just set up to have some walkers action for this filler episode.

      I totally thought the same about the fence. The shooting too loud? Not really an good argument, since they’re coming anyway. Only reason could be, saving ammo. Still they should have killed them sooner.

      Too many plot holes.

  27. Cody Malone

    It seems like screen rant is always trying to find something to b**** about with the walking dead, this season is phenomenal so far, yet the guys at SR still find something that isn’t a problem and b**** about it anyway

  28. The farm season was the worst by far. No fear, no walkers, lots of dialogue and farming. This season is better

    • Season 2, the farm season, was still pretty good. Even if it was slower paced than the others, it had the most epic moments in the series.

      • Aside from the Sophia scene, S2 was a season where you can miss an episode and you wouldn’t miss much. This season, yes, it is slow but I do see what they are doing with the clues they have in every episode in what is set to happen, where they are heading next, the spies in the prison, the ties to the rat feeder, voice on the radio, and even who is going to get Tyreesed.

  29. I’m sorry, but they are MILKING the s*** out of this franchise. Sure, I like the fact that the governor has been “watching” or rather observing to really into their heads. He surely was the one who put the rats in the fence to attract them to the weaker area. Also, I’m sure he was also the one who “poisoned the well” so to speak and ruin the crops and livestock in an effort to watch them suffer, succumb to the struggles and drop their overall numbers to make them most vulnerable.

    Overall though, this could have been done 2 episodes sooner. Everything is now drawn out. WHY are they even still at the prison is beyond me. They heard the radio transmission, they should follow to safer areas, higher ground where they could SEE attacks coming from a mile away. This show’s logic is utterly stupid. Nothing ever “happens” in an episode, it’s practically all rising action or falling action in one way or the other. Seeing Rick and his son mow down zombies was about the most satisfying scene that we got in the first 5 episodes. The acting is still good, thank god and Carl is way less annoying.

    Stop dragging it out and get the freakin’ point already!!!!

    • Totally agree! Episode 4 was so far the best one. This one is just a filler episode. And episode 1 and 2 could have been one good episode. There’s stretching the plot and filler episodes everywhere … but it works … the lionshare of the audience is swallows the stretching tricks. Some walkers action and a bit of personal drama and it’s worth spending an hour … good for AMC’s ad dollar treasure chest. Not so good for viewers for the show …

      • Mistyped. “is swallowing the stretching tricks.”

        • Hey friend, you need to stop putting down those who disagree, “majority of viewers swallowing the stretching tricks” is a bit condescending. We aren’t “swallowing” anything. We simply don’t agree with you on that interpretation. I demonstrate my respect for your take on things but just because it is your take on things doesn’t mean that it’s the case.

          • If you feel adressed … guess, that says everything. In fact you aren’t very critically when it comes to TWD (sometimes I really think you’re on the payroll of AMC … no, just kidding! ;-) ) and you often tend to concede critics to also like the show overall.

            I just stated a fact: the lionshare of the audience totally likes the show like it is. This doesn’t mean that there are many things that can be critizised … and the popularity doesn’t mean the show is perfect.

            • And your criticism doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the show….and we can go on and on and on but making statements like the majority of viewers swallow makes you sound like you know better than everyone else and in fact you don’t and I don’t and it’s all relative anyways. listen, I do listen to yours and others take on the shows quality and I recognize that there are valid points as I recognize that a person’s objectivity can be compromised when they are passionate about something and I’m not always right and your not always wrong. It does concern me that in another post you equated stretching as subplots not in the source material which hints at the fact that you do indeed have a predjudice when it comes to TV show vs comic. The TV show has the luxury based on format alone of adding additional material that the limited format of the comics can’t accomodate. The fact that Kirkman is involved in both tells me that these are “fillers” he is happy to be able to add.

      • I think the whole “stretching tricks” is a common thing in series right now from SOA to Boardwalk Empire to GOT. I think though that GOT is the only one that handles it well enough not to noticed. I think TWD is trying to set things up for what’s to come(I hope). I do agree that they should have moved on by now but if they move on to the eventual hunters arc by the end of the season I will be happy with the intro to Negan end of S5, beginning of S6

        • GOT actually doesn’t stretch the story, but it’s also really slow. But contrary to TWD it’s so slow, because there are so many plot lines to be adapted for TV. Definitely not stretching the books plot.

          And with stretching I also mean adding senseless and implausible story lines and adaptations to the source material, which doesn’t serve the story or character development … just stretching time to have more content to make ad dollars.

          • I get where you’re coming from and as always in anything it’s all about taste really. I love GOT and always will but with that I didn’t enjoy S3 of GOT. I actually thought it was the weakest season they have done. Yes, it stays true to the source material but aside from the Red Wedding(which I expected would be done within the first 3-4 episodes in S3) everything else could have been done within 2-3 episodes.
            I do agree with you though with TWD being very slow this year. The virus storyline could have been avoided and they could have started with the prison/governor attack within the first couple of episodes. If they would have done that, by now they could have been on the road and encounter other “issues”. Like GOT, I still continue watching it because it is compelling at times and very much entertaining for a Sunday viewing.

    • There will be more revealed in the next episode. Last night they gave some clues on there being a spy in the prison crowd. My guess is that there are 2 spies in the prison for the governor and they had a hand in the rat feeding, the virus, along with some other things.

      • Must have missed that. I saw nothing to indicate any of that.