TV Review: The Walking Dead: Season 4 So Far

Friday 21 February 2014 by

The Walking Dead, AMC, Season 4, Zombies, TV

What is it with zombies that I love so much? They don’t quite have the same glamour that vampires and werewolves do, or inflict the same terror that ghosts and demons do. But there is something so simply terrifying about them – and I can’t help myself.

I’ve already waxed lyrical about the wonders of zombies before – and recommended good reads and what to watch if you want to fulfil your zombie passion too. So we can skip the “I love them a lot” part and the explanation of why The Walking Dead is potentially one of the greatest things on TV, and jump straight to the reviewing.

The Walking Dead: Season 4

If you haven’t been watching the previous seasons (what have you been doing with your life?), then you’re obviously not going to know what on earth is going on right now. But let’s assume you have, and let’s assume you’ve seen the first half of season four…

*here be spoilers*

It felt like forever since the mid-season break pre-Christmas. With the quite-literally explosive mid-season finale, February felt a LONG WAY OFF. (There was a minor panic when my Sky+ helpfully decided to cancel my series record and I nearly missed the beginning – which, incidentally, I have managed to do with Sleepy Hollow)

The prison is gone. And when I say gone, I mean kah-blooey gone. The Governor blew a lot of it up with a tank and then let all the Walkers in. At least he had his comeuppance (although I will miss David Morrissey). Which also means the group are scattered.

So season 4 restarts trying to follow our band of heroes as they not only work to stay alive, but to find one another again… Rick and Carl are alone, with Rick in such a state he can barely move, and Carl filled with rage (fear). Maggie, Sasha and Bob are trying to find the bus of other survivors in the hope that Glenn is still on it. Tyreese is desperately trying to protect Lizzie, Mika and, it turns out, a not-as-dead-as-we-thought Judith. Daryl and Beth look to be just on the run (narrated by extracts of Beth’s journal from their time at the prison for added heart-wrench). Michonne, as ever, is alone.

The first episode back concentrated on Michonne, Rick and Carl, so it was nice to see the recap of some of our other favourites in the next episode – checking in to make sure they’re alive really. We get slapped around the face with all the emotions flying around, and it takes a moment to get your breath back to realise there’s some plotlines going on under all the angst, grief, anger, fear, confusion etc.

The Walking Dead, AMC, TV, Zombies, Season 4, Episode 10, Inmates, Carol, Tyreese, Judith

Photo Credit: Gene Page // AMC

There are three key things that have happened in the first two episodes back. The return of Carol (saving the day with Tyreese and the kids), and the discovery of a new “safe haven” – the “terminus” – are pretty good revelations to start with. After all, who doesn’t love Carol (even if she did murder and burn someone), and nothing quite screams DANGER as the promise of a “safe haven” from a dying man.

But the closing scene of season 4, episode 10 (Inmates), is the most intriguing. Glenn (who was not on the bus but back at the prison) and Tara (mortified by her involvement with the Governor) are leaving the prison when they come across a group of paramilitaries… Cue credits.

… I mean… huh?

They’ve been in the prison a while now, and have never come across paramilitary types before, and if they are that close to the prison, they must have been before. And the safe haven: that can’t be too far from the prison either. Are all the survivors congregating in one small area but studiously ignoring each other (apart from our deceased Governor)? Or is that just me being too simplistic?

Either way, there are some new players in town, and in true TWD style, there is no way we’re going to know how good or bad they are until they’re sat in a room with glass cases of Walker heads, brushing their undead daughter’s hair and going slightly mad.

There was a fairly good zombie ratio to start us off in 2014, but if I’m honest, I feel like they are stepping away from the obvious peril there and trying to concentrate on the dangers of surviving with other human beings a lot more (they did this in seasons 2 and 3 too). There’s a certain amount of navel-gazing and deep-and-meaningful looks that go along with this, which rapidly slows the pace of a franchise that has often been so breathtakingly speedy.

In one sense, you get a lot more invested in these characters who display such familiar emotions, and you gain some traction in creating a “realistic” reality for them to live in. But on the other hand, I think a lot of TWD followers are waiting for the punch of season one to come back. Perhaps less episodes and more drama?

The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 10, Inmates, TV, Zombies, AMC, Glenn

Photo Credit: Gene Page // AMC

It’s hard to say what element isn’t clicking for me this season – I love the characters, I love the world in which they’re set, and I pretty much love all the plotlines the writers can throw at me. But without that adrenaline injection of severe mortal peril (Glenn and Rick covering themselves in gore to walk through the undead to get a truck), we just get angst. Which is where season 2 fell flat on its face for me. Season 3 has improved, and I will say that season 4 is releasing a lot more zombies on us again, but that frisson of fear isn’t there anymore.

As with anything like this, the answer tends to be: kill off a main character. Poor Hershel got the short straw in this case, kicking off the current predicament, but this means that they can’t kill off any more until they’ve rewarded us in some way for sticking with it despite Hershel. (I’m really going to miss Scott Wilson too)

Is this where the paramilitaries come in? The “terminus”? Michonne’s past? Perhaps the writers are trying to baffle us with plotlines until they can get all their zombies in a row, so to speak. All I know is that they need to move fast to take advantage of the exploding-prison melodrama otherwise they may, once again, sink in to season 2 territory. And nobody wants that. Because TWD really IS one of the best programmes on TV right now.

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