I have been with the Walking Dead from the beginning. It came into my life after Sam and Dean Winchester but before Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. I watched when the show premiered in 2010 on AMC, and I have been hooked ever since. I haven’t read the graphic novels so I’m not a Walking Dead connoisseur. I just don’t want to compare the two, or be spoiled for anything coming down the road.
I loved Season one, in all its six episode glory. It was terrifying, heartbreaking, and entertaining all in one. I immediately took to Rick Grimes (but I confess I developed an instant crush on Andrew Lincoln after seeing him in Love Actually). His portrayal of a man left behind, horrified to learn what happened to the world while he was comatose, and desperate to find his family, won me over immediately. When a group of survivors formed, I found myself caring about them pretty quickly (well, probably not Merle and definitely not Andrea), and by the time the group got to the CDC in Atlanta, hoping for salvation, I needed to know more about everything.
I enjoyed season two, even though the pace was much slower when the group got to the farm. I didn’t agree with “The Talking Dead” nickname (before the after-show of the same name actually aired) that the show had been christened with by online fans. Sure, there was less intense action, but we learned important information about all of the characters’ internal struggles (though what I learned about Andrea made me dislike her even more). Rick and Shane’s increasingly confrontational relationship unfolded at a good pace, and I loved the introduction of farm owner Hershel, and his secret stash of walkers was both bizarre and fascinating.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the show’s history came when Sophia stumbled out of the barn (after Shane released and exterminated all the walkers kept there). It wasn’t so much because of her loss (it was inevitable due to all the time they spent building up a climax to the search for her), but because of the lingering shots we got of the other characters’ horror and sadness upon seeing her- especially Carol, weeping and calling out her daughter’s name.
Season three quickened the pace once the group found the prison, and the cat and mouse chase between Rick and The Governor was fascinating to watch unfold. Watching Lori’s demise also made for some interesting drama. She wasn’t a favorite of mine, but her and Carl’s mother/son moment right before he had to shoot her in the head was extremely poignant. It made Carl’s growing cold-heartedness and subsequent estrangement from his dad more affecting. The real (pleasant) surprise of the season was the return of Merle, believed dead by the group, and the brotherly relationship that started to develop between him and Daryl. When Merle’s valiant act of redemption to (attempt to) take out The Governor and his men became his final one, we knew it would be Daryl who would find and take “care” of him, and when he did, the result was tear-jerking.
The final confrontation between Rick’s group and The Governor was well played out, though Andrea’s death was contrived (Not that I was sorry to see her go). The season finale, despite not being a cliffhanger, left me curious to find out what would happen when Rick, after relinquishing his title as leader, allowed the survivors from Woodbury to come back to the prison with him and the rest of the group.
That brings us to the season four premiere (under the guidance of new showrunner Scott Gimble). What it amounted to, for me, was one big set up for what’s to come in the season. I don’t know what I expected, but I was a little surprised to see Rick had turned into a farmer, and apparently a pacifist, and that Carl has come back from the dark side and now spends his time doing his chores and reading comic books – much like a regular kid.
The introduction to the new characters felt a bit disjointed to me, so it was less than shocking to see a couple of them already go down in this episode. Apparently relationships had been formed (one between Beth and Zach initially seemed like it might have potential) so we will see if that comes back into play throughout the season.
I enjoyed the interaction, although limited, between Carol and Daryl (oh Daryl, please ask someone to cut your hair- soon you won’t be able to see the walkers coming when those long wispy bangs overtake your eyes) before he and some of the group left for a run. It was good to see Maggie and Glenn’s familiar faces, too.
Speaking of these “runs” members of the group do – oh what a source of discontent they have been for me since season two. Apparently the cars never run out of gas, so when you go on a run, take all the cars you have and completely fill them with items from the shelves! And please, for the love of all that is holy, go faster! Don’t leisurely walk around, stopping to pick up everyday objects and gaze at them with thoughtful melancholy. Yes, I know they need to be quiet and not make any sudden moves lest the walkers get wind of them, but they should know by now they always get into trouble during these things.
This time was no exception either, because as they were roaming around the Big Spot, the new guy Bob got into trouble, lots of noise was made, and before long the sky started falling and walkers came pouring down – literally- around them. Interestingly, this season the walkers seem to be shambling faster, and their demeanor seems more menacing. I question if this is just to increase the scare factor or if it means something story wise (like Carol’s comment about the Walkers herding- see below). It also seems each season we have to up the ante on the grossness factor when walkers are killed – for instance in this episode we got particularly close shots of bashed in brains and guts spewing. I have to wonder why the walkers’ guts still seem so wet and cushy, and the blood still seems pretty liguidy – they’ve been the walking dead for a while now, so shouldn’t their insides look more dried up and decomposed? I guess it wouldn’t be as cool to have parts crumbling instead of splattering everywhere.
Back in the woods, Rick’s interaction with crazy lady- as metaphor for all the wrongs Rick wonders if he could come back from- was odd, but I must admit I jumped in my seat when she came at him with her knife. Maybe there’s more to her story than meets the eye, though. Her comment about her undead husband being slow because he wasn’t eating anything alive may have been telling. Anyway, in the end, she stuck a knife in her guts. Poor Rick, even as a pacifist farmer he still has to confront so much violence.
Right now, the show is setting up mysteries for the upcoming season: What made Patrick get sick? Seems it may have been the deer, but why? The pig died, too, so what is wrong with the animals? Will Michonne, traveling the countryside, searching for the governor, be successful in her quest for revenge? Why are walkers showing up in large herds? Is something changing them? They seemed faster in the store to me, but the “slow” comment is out there now. Who, or what is the new enemy this season?
Interesting miscellaneous points about this episode:
– There is a council now, but Rick is not on it.
– Hershel fashioned himself a prosthetic leg (now he is in a better position to take on more walkers).
– The thought ran through my mind, for just a split second, of “walker pig” when Rick looked over and saw Violet the hog was dead (Why are animals immune from turning?).
– Story time has a new meaning inside the prison.
This exchange in the episode stood out for me:
Carl: You’re naming them?
Little Girl: “Well, one of them has a name tag, so…”
Carl: “…They don’t talk, they don’t think. They eat people. They kill people.”
Other Little Girl: “People kill people. They still have names.”
Carl: “They’re not people, and they’re not pets. Don’t name them.” (Interesting considering Rick had just had that same conversation with Carl over Violet)
All in all, this episode provided an interesting introduction (and set up) to what may come next. Many questions were raised, and I’m already eager to get some answers.