Okay, I’ve got something to confess. It wasn’t until recently that I sat down to watch the fourth season (well what has aired so far) of The Walking Dead. I know, I know, I’m a terrible person. From last March I waited for months to see what would become of The Governor, after he slaughtered his own armed forces and drove off with his two henchmen. I did have a valid excuse for not watching the show week-to-week at first, as my end of year exams were happening at the same time, as when the show returned for its fourth season, once again bringing a new show runner. But why has it taken me till the month of January, a full month after the latest episode had aired, to watch a show, which I consider one of my all time favourite. It’s that darn prison! When I found out the the first episode back, titled “30 Days Without An Accident”, would be set three to four months after the Governor last left, and Rick’s group of zombie killing survivors were still at the prison, I didn’t know if the show was heading in the right direction.
Nevertheless I moved forward, to examine what change Scott M. Gimple, the previously mentioned new show runner, had brought to the show. My verdict is a lot and a little both at the same time. Going into the season I felt comfortable with Gimple taking the lead. This is the guy that wrote the critically acclaimed mid season finale of the second season, “Pretty Much Dead Already”, which saved the season, up until that point, from being a total mess. It was also promised going into the season that the zombies would pose as more of a threat, unlike season three, where everyone was walking between Woodbury and the Prison, surrounded by zombies like it was no problem at all.
What was meant by zombies being a new threat, was the virus that went around the prison, not the deadly bites one could receive. This was the major plot during the season, but due to the return of the Governor, we only saw its development for the first five episodes, and at times it felt extremely crammed. Although I liked the extended flashback for the Governor during episode six, it took away from the story we had been following for the last five hours, and then to do another whole episode on Phillip/Blake/Governor/or what ever the hell we are going to call him, took a massive chance on what viewers want to see. This season we were promised more character development, and I have a feeling this will be delivered in the back eight, but in the first half of season four, there wasn’t much of it. The character that saw the biggest arc and development, Carol, was exiled in at the end of the fourth episode, “Indifference”, and hasn’t been seen since. She went from a weak woman, who was beat by her husband and didn’t have the courage to do anything of it, do a lady who will do whatever it took for her to survive, admitting that she had become strong. We also saw minor development from Rick and Michonne, and a glimpse into Bob’s alcoholic back story, but with five episodes focusing on the prison (two were spent with Phillip, while the season finale was action packed) there wasn’t much breathing space. I became to appraise Hershel, a lot more this season, and of course the moment I begin to like a character, their head will, quite literally in this situation, be chopped off. But I understand why it had to happen. On The Walking Dead, deaths shouldn’t happen for shock value in the face of viewers, but to further the plot, and this is exactly why Hershel, and his old pony tail, had to go. Hershel, after the death of Dale in season two’s penultimate episode, became the moral compass for the group, and with the group being on the road in season four part two, which is hard enough in itself, will be even worse without Hershel guiding the way.
The major part of why I loved the mid-season finale, was not due to the incredible amounts of action and violence (although the fist fight between Rick and the Governor was pretty awesome), nor the audience finally seeing the end to Governor, or the fact that they left the prison. It was due to the fact they left the prison, with nowhere to go. The group has faced this before, having to flee the farm, but they had the prison gates waiting for them. This time everyone is on the road, in small groups made up of people that aren’t always seen together. Rick managed to get out alive with the help of Carl, although both were mentally and physically broken after the war and seeing the baby crib without Judith. By the end of this season, I think, Carl, out of all the characters still alive, will have seen the most development. He went from a young child in seasons one and two, then became a child solider, after being responsible for Dale’s death, only for Rick to stop his exposure with guns before he became “too far gone”. Now in the back eight we are told he is in for another major change. Michael Ausiello, founder and editor in chief of TV Line, revealed last month that the mid season premier is Carl’s coming-of-age episode, and that after we will never think of Chandler Riggs “as just a good kid actor – his work here is exceptional”. Daryl ran off with Beth (side note: has Gimple been reading fan fiction?). This pairing excites me. The scene they shared at the start of this season, after Beth’s boyfriend had just died, was incredibly well acted. Regarding the pairing, Norman Reedus teased readers of Entertainment Weekly, saying “Well, you definitely saw them leave the prison together. Whether they stay together is yet to be seen”. Tyreese left with the child warriors. The introduction of Lizzie and Mika was nice, and maybe in this next block of episodes we can gather more information of who was dropping rats on the prison fences. Tyreese on the other hand, I don’t care as much for. As someone who is half way through Volume three of the comics, Tyreese is one of my favourite characters. But on the show, something isn’t the same, maybe it’s due to there been limited screen time for his character. Glenn and Maggie got separated, leaving Glenn on the bus with people who we don’t see or care about, while Maggie is with Bob and Sasha.
The back eight episodes excite me. We already know of the introduction of comic characters Sgt. Abraham Ford, Dr. Eugene Porter, and Rosita Espinosa. The first hour back, titled “After”, is most likely to focus of just Rick and Carl, and Michonne, while the episode after, titled “Inmates”, might see where the rest of the gang is at. So many questions are left to be answered. Like where Carol been and when will see catch up with her prison pals (my bet is on her running into Tyreese)? Which major character from the comic books will be dying, as previously revealed? And will we ever see Morgan again? Another point of interest is which way the show will follow from the comic books. Maybe The Hunters will pop up, but how long will they wait to arrive at the Alexandria Safe-Zone? The season final, titled “A”, is said to be a very ambitious and leads well in season five. So many questions to be answered. It looks to be an exciting end to a strange (structurally) first half. I look forward to see what Scott Gimple has in store, cause looking back on TWD’s production history, he won’t have much more time to show what else he has.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Febuary 9th at 9 p.m. ET on AMC