‘The Walking Dead’ Season 4 Premiere Review

Published 1 year ago by

Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead Season 4 The Walking Dead Season 4 Premiere Review

Let the Scott M. Gimple era of The Walking Dead begin. With all the creative and behind-the-scenes changes the show has undergone over the last few years, wondering what will be different under a new showrunner has become one of the primary talking points for a show that is only now entering season 4. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; the show has run into its fair share of storytelling issues, and bringing in a new showrunner gives the audience that same feeling devoted fans of a beloved, but beleaguered, sports team get when a new coach is announced.

Sometimes a little fresh blood is all that matters, and as we see in the early parts of the season 4 premiere, ’30 Days Without an Accident,’ fresh blood isn’t only welcome and promising from a behind-the-scenes perspective; it can give the onscreen story a sense of vibrancy as well. There are so many new faces being introduced and the setting of the prison just carries with it such a different vibe that watching Rick (Andrew Lincoln) quietly tend a garden while listening to an old country song is the least conspicuous tonal shift the premiere brings to the table. But along with slowly demonstrating Rick’s aversion to violence, Gimple and his crew also go to great lengths to make all the new faces and shifting circumstances feel pleasantly familiar. This is not a radical re-imagining of something that had stumbled at times creatively; it’s simply a necessary progression.

Instead of ghost Lori wandering around, there is a sense that last season’s superlative episode ‘Clear‘ is the real lingering presence on the show. Season 3 ended with a long shot featuring a busload of Woodburians walking solemnly into a prison. Many a discussion was had about the subtext of that image, in relation to exiting showrunner Glen Mazzara and what his feelings about the series and his situation with the network might have been. Whatever the case may be, Gimple’s first episode as new showrunner also seems interested in talking about the show, with more than one allusion being made about the past – and particularly, how the path Rick was headed down was a little wide of the mark. Interpretations aside, Gimple’s effort here is clearly intended to reiterate some of the ideas presented in ‘Clear,’ but tweak them just enough in the delivery that Rick finds himself looking for that speck of light at the end of the tunnel, rather than the endless expanse of inky darkness threatening to swallow him whole.

Chad L. Coleman in The Walking Dead 30 Days Without and Accident The Walking Dead Season 4 Premiere Review

That idea is felt in the scenes around the prison, too. This time, rather than a sense of despair in the survivors, the desperation is felt most strongly in the throngs of walkers crowding the fenced perimeter of the prison. For those inside, it’s a combination of pragmatism and cautious optimism. Beth’s (Emily Kinney) new squeeze Zach (Kyle Gallner) tellingly gets a kiss, but not a goodbye when he heads out on an ill-fated supply run with Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and fellow newcomer Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). When Daryl returns with news of her beau’s demise, Beth observes the occasion by methodically setting the ‘days without accident’ board back to zero – a not-so-subtle shift in tone for the series as a whole. Zach was one of the first new characters in a long time who managed to instantly ingratiate himself, and feel like he could be a welcome addition to the cast. Instead, his death is a reminder that whatever changes have been made, The Walking Dead reserves the right to eliminate anyone at any time, regardless of how the audience might feel about that individual. Zach wasn’t around long enough to wind up on the audience’s hit list, but his immediate removal suggests the series isn’t interested in only getting rid of the characters nobody seems to like.

However, Beth’s reaction is also a sign of how repetitious story points and endless nihilism can just wear a person down – whether they’re in the story or just watching it. At a certain point, the show is going to have to offer up some sort of new wrinkle to make the stakes of the narrative engaging beyond the notion that anyone is potentially on the proverbial chopping block. Watching zombie heads explode is popular enough that it’s practically become a mid-October Sunday night pastime, but without some sense of hope in all that bleakness, the law of diminishing returns goes into effect on even the wildest of kills. The collapsing roof of the big box store made for a terrific set piece, as it provided some intense action – and the sight of zombies raining down from the ceiling was a nice bit of nightmare fuel. While it adequately demonstrated the continuing hostility of the show’s setting, it was, ultimately, another example of how hopeless the overall situation actually is.

Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride in The Walking Dead 30 Days Without and Accident The Walking Dead Season 4 Premiere Review

…Which is why Rick’s encounter in the woods works out to have some importance beyond underlining the character’s fluctuating mental health by demonstrating where it is he could end up (a point that had already been expressed far more poignantly in ‘Clear’). At any rate, when the despondent woman attacks Rick, she mentions how her zombified companion Eddie has begun to slow down on account of not having anything living or “fresh” to eat. While this detail may seem innocuous, it ties into the aforementioned notion of the living impaired being on the verge of desperation, and it gives the series that one tiny glimmer of hope on which it can pin its future.

Maybe these beings aren’t running on an endless battery. Despite their unexplained existence, perhaps even these walking dead have an expiration date. If that’s the case then it gives the idea of merely surviving, or simply getting by, more meaning. It’s a small hope that is still buried under an incredible amount of danger, suffering, and loss, but in a world in which hope is almost entirely absent it means everything.

It also makes spoiling that feeling of hope and calm – by killing off and resurrecting Patrick inside the prison – feel far more important and significant than it would have been, otherwise. Hopefully, that notion of creating calm and then shattering it to see what comes of the pieces will continue throughout the season.

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The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘Infected’ @9pm on AMC.

Photos: Gene Page & Frank Ockenfels/AMC

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  1. So far so good. Great start and the writing has improved which is great(so far)

  2. Why is it nerds never last on this show? *Spoiler Alert* Glenn manned up, Milton got zombified and now this dude.

    • How the hell are those people nerds ???

      • Well, nerdy compared to everyone else. Glenn was cracking portal jokes, Milton was the only science geek and this Patrick guy was kinda nerdy. I’m not saying they’re Napoleon Dynamite super nerds or anything just a bit geeky compared to the other characters.

  3. Anyone noticed the Macon reference

    • I want some overlap with the Telltale game now!!!

      • Can we say “Clementine”?

  4. Excellent premiere. You can already tell that season 4 has a different feel to it. Loved the zombies falling from the roof that was intense. Also did anyone notice that the dude who died at the end patrick or whats his name, the dude with the glasses, that he looks like harry potter? lol. Plus his a dumb ass comon he contaminated the water supply <.<

  5. As soon as the girl started talking to the ground at her camp I immediately shouted “THE GAME, THE GAME RICK!” For those who played it, you know what I mean.

    • I thought the same thing. But I thought that whole ending was telegraphed from the game before they got to the camp.

  6. I thought season 3 was good up until the last episode and thought season 2 was great after the barn episode, but with last seasons finale and this my hope for this show has gone through the basement. Ill give it another episode or two before I truly write this show off.

  7. Macon, Abraham, back to the season 1 formula…yeah, I’m all in now

  8. Interesting take. They are actually addressing a change in the Walkers? I didn’t give it any importance, as the Walkers are really just the natural disaster element the show uses to frame it’s melodrama in. If the show is actually going to USE the Walkers as a story element, I’m excited.

  9. Patrick’s untimely demise… Cholera? H1N1 (don’t forget Violet the pig)? What do you think? I liked the episode but found it unrealistic that Rick would follow crazy Clara into the woods. I especially liked the ongoing decay of both the walkers and the buildings which made the “raining walkers” scene possible..

    • Remember when they said Daryl found strays out there as well? It’s possible….kind of lol

  10. this show is just getting worse and worse, its all promotion and money not story telling Im done

    • LOL, 1 may go down but 3 are gained. 2 coworkers just became fans of the show. Another one said on the radio that they just started watching it and they are hooked. I think Kirkman realizes that they might loose some fans but they also realize they will make new fans as well

  11. Pretty good episode, much better than most of season 3′s episodes if I may say so. This got me excited for the rest of the season.

  12. I have always been a fan and honestly, an apologist, of this show. This episode was great. The action and effects were great as ever and the writing has actually improved. EX: In Season 2,or even 3, Maggie would have announced at the beginning of the episode,”I think I’m pregnant”. Glenn would have freaked out and wandered through the camp telling everyone, all of whom would have very existential things to say. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy those or that those moments in other seasons didn’t build character, but in this episode, that storyline gets maybe five minutes of screen time, part of that being a shot of a baby naming sign that tells you what’s going on through subtext (SUBTEXT!!!), and it’s a complete story. There were arcs in this episode for Rick, Carl, Daryl, Tyreese, and Beth. In a premiere! It makes me excited for the kind of development that they can fit into a season.

  13. I think it went into the right direction !
    More character driven,more talk,less action ! It was all well balanced out !
    Great Start !

  14. I love this show however I think it needs more goal oriented plot points. The introduction of disease and sickness is a realistic outcome that should have came about when little to no food was to be found. Now with fresh meat and pigs -swine-feral hogs a swine flew is introduced. Unless it is some sort of chemical weapon or super virus. I can only assume with the bleeding eyes that is will push the group from the prison. With no antibiotic or access to medical care other than Hershel. However Hershel is not featured on the season 4 promo pictures. So I can only assume that he will meet his maker soon enough. As Tyrese and other members will serve as the groups moral compass. Or perhaps they will loose that center as the season unfolds.
    I really do hate how they split the seasons of the Walking Dead into two parts. As Michonne gets obsessed with revenge and the Governor. I also think we got our first glimpse of Cannibals which also shows that mental health from tragic loss and possibly from hunger can lunge people into a world of human anti-evolution. Eating rotten road kill and rotted fruit. Living like an animals. Luring the living into the unknown. However I hope we get to at least hear the sound of Hershel telling Rick, and the group about the dangers of Cannibals hunters hungry for human flesh.
    Also does it bother anyone that more of en effort is not made to find toilet paper ,tobacco or clean clothes. Also no one ever seeks out any answers or searches for what happened. Perhaps all these questions and truth will find it’s way forward. Season 4 really needs more action, more plot driven goals, more answers

    • My thought exactly about canniblism especially how she looked like death.

  15. I had just about given up on this show, but this episode was actually good. Season 3 was just awful (as bad as the last few seasons of Dexter). They’re bringing in new characters and developing them instead of just making them zombie-fodder. Hopefully it keeps improving and can somewhere close to the quality Darabont brought to the show in season 1.

  16. its really going to hit the fan. i don’t know what it is but i feel like the body count is going to be pretty high this season. I wonder who will bite it (I made a Pun :))Patrick a Hybrid Zombie? that would be very intriguing indeed. good start to the season

  17. After season 3 (Which I enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong) I was thinking to myself, “am I even excited for season 4?” But this premiere was very good. It had a completely different feel, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

    • While I moderately enjoyed season 3, I too wasn’t very excited for season 4. It may be because the last episode didn’t really leave much of a cliffhanger or anything lol. Sure there were loads of people joining the prison and all but nothing to get excited over I guess. Season 4 premiere got me excited though, a great episode.

  18. I am not a hater at all…I love this show, but I just didnt think it felt like the same show….I dont know if it was all the new characters or what…it just didnt feel right to me….I know I will be killed but oh well.

  19. Good start to the season so far. Patrick might have died to the swine flu. Dead pig and boar suggests so, and the show gave extra attention the zombie with the bloody eyes, which is probably a parallel to blood leaking from Patrick’s face. So it’s probably some crazy airborne virus mutated from swine flu.

  20. there was actual backstory to the role players. incredible. see mazzara, the same could have served tdog and others through seasons two and three. plus the added search parties serve to divide the group and give room for further character exploration. I felt this was a balanced episode, and feel a load is going to drop on the survivors soon.

    • I agree. It seems like Gimple is going back to the Season 1 formula mixed in with season 3 action. So far the backstory is great and the little references to future episodes are beautiful. I also liked the fact the Gimple said that they are taking a season 1 approach in character backstories. If the first episode is a sign of what’s to come then it’s going to be a very successful story. So far it’s all everyone is talking about at work.

  21. I don’t get why Rick would start crying over a crazy woman he just met in the woods given his reaction in an earlier season where he blows away guys he just met in a bar and doesn’t shed a single tear. I also wish they’d provide some kind of quasi scientific explanation of the zombies.

    Why would destroying their brains matter if most of whats up there is just mush ? Why do they want to eat flesh ?

    Something along the lines of the original I Am Legend novel, not the will smith horrible movie the book. In that the author provides a sorta explanation of vampirism. I’d like to see that about zombies.

    • Rick didn’t cry because she died. He cried because she showed him just how close he came to completely losing his mind. He was going crazy at the end of last season. Without his other survivors to pull him back, he quite easily could have become as crazy as her. As for an explanation of the zombies, the show is a first person narrative, so, unless they come across another scientist etc. who has one for them, we will just have to keep guessing.

      • They just announced that they’re introducing Eugene this season (along with Abraham and Rosita). In the comics he’s a science teacher who claims to know what caused the outbreak and that he can solve it if they get to Washington D.C. That’s all I’ll say about it… ;)

  22. I enjoyed the premire and cannot wait to see how patrick and violet’s death play out. I agree with several others about a virus and how he stupidly contaimed the water but i know it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I am happy that i am not alone about the possiblity of canniblism being hinted at. I am just amazed they have not hinted at it sooner.

  23. Is anybody concerned about Daryl…they wrote a whole scene just to have Patrick shake his hand…is he “infected” ?!?!

    • I took that scene with Daryl different after the pig dying and Patrick thanking him for the deer he got for them. I was thinking is it now a virus with animals and if so will there be more people to become sick?

      • I think so too, from the dead pig to the deer. They finally have animals and now they may be affected lol sounds like something that would happen in the Walking Dead.

      • Notice that Carol asked him to “take over” preparing food as well at the beginning of the episode?

        • Oh, and Daryl licked his fingers first too! He’s the plague bringer!

  24. Great episode! The only new character I didn’t like was Zach, but that doesn’t matter now :)

    In the season 4 trailer, it was pretty clear that something bad happens to Tyrese that REALLY hurts him emotionally. Before I thought Sasha was going to die, but now I’m thinking it’ll be his girlfriend.

  25. Ive never been the biggest fan of the show, Ive seen every episode though. And this was a very strong premier for a show that definitely lost its mojo in season 3. I really liked how the writers made it clear that the walkers are the main antagonists. And by the end of the episode, I was really on the edge of my seat. This show has a lot of time and chances to make up for its past mistakes, this should be a good season.

  26. zzzzzzz – I forget what happened already.

  27. Why is Breaking Bad so much better than this show?

    • Breaking Bad is one of the best shows of all time lol, doesn’t mean Walking Dead isn’t a good show though.

    • Vince Gilligan is a better showrunner than the parade of token showrunners who presumably have to kowtow to Robert Kirkman? And Kirkman himself maybe doesn’t actually understand how to make a television show?

      I don’t know. This episode had exactly the same strengths and weaknesses it’s always had. A nice action setpiece, a nice bit of creepy business, sure, but the rest of it is still a collection of cardboard cutouts going through the motions of a handful of standard plot devices while rattling off banal dialogue about fairly simplistic themes.

      They still don’t know to make a character like Patrick or Zach at all memorable quickly, which they have to be able to do, given the show’s churn rate. It didn’t help that both characters were played by actors who were clearly at least seven years too old for the part. Having Michonne smile doesn’t make her more than an action figure either.

  28. Poor Patrick, I was hoping he would be the Eddy Haskell of the show after the way he sucked up to Daryl. The way characters are hooking up, I imagine an episode with a wedding similar to REC 3 to occur.

    • Am I the only one who was thinking “Harry Potter”?

      The raining zombies scene was great.

      Still not sure why these guys who go out don’t wear proper lower leg protection ala Adrian’s Undead Diary. All they need is duct tape… did they not learn from Herschel?

  29. I’d just grab a backpack…and ride off with Michonne into the zombie-infested sunset.