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The fourth season premiere of The Walking Dead, entitled “30 Days Without an Accident”, is a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, there are some excellent zombie kills in addition to several promising character developments, but the Rick storyline is a jumbled mess that drags much of the entire episode.
A great deal of the episode is framed to make sure we all know that the series has jumped ahead a bit from last season. Tyrese has a girlfriend. Michonne has a personality. Beth is dating a guy she doesn’t seem all that invested in. Heck, Herschel even has a prosthetic leg! Time is marching on for our heroes, and there has been no sight of the Governor since his murderous rampage at the end of season three.
But the biggest change this season (and, frankly, the most welcome) is the expanded roles for the series’ female characters. Considering the series offed their two most prominent female characters (Lori and Andrea), it was clear that the remaining woman would have to step up this year to fill the void left. More importantly, the show would need to find a way to make these women likeable (or, at least watchable), particularly in light of how the series turned both Lori and Andrea into the show’s two most hated characters during season three.
So far, the show’s doing right by Maggie, Sasha, Beth, and Carol. Maggie tells Glenn she doesn’t want to stop living just because of their situation- something Glenn really needs to hear, since he’s spent a great deal of time doing everything in his power to protect Maggie (let’s not speak of his ridiculous tantrum last season regarding Maggie’s safety). I’m thrilled to see her nipping Glenn’s latest protection plan in the bud.
Similarly, Sasha has emerged into quite a leader. She’s far more poised than her brother Tyrese these days. Her take charge nature looks like it will be a true asset to the group, and is already paying dividends with her work in the Big Lots attack. And, I have a feeling her wariness of Bob may prove to be the correct emotion where he’s concerned.*
*I’m familiar enough with the comics to know the basic outline of the major characters. That being said, I’m going to treat the show as a separate entity from the comics and not compare the two. As the show has already proven, it’s not going to be a carbon copy of the comics, so there’s no reason to treat it as such. I know Bob in the comics has a certain backstory, but I’m going to assume this Bob is different until proven otherwise.
Beth has also really come into her own. Gone is the young teen who reads Bible passages and sings around the camp fire. I really like this new Beth. She’s built in a similar vein to Carl, as she has clearly been hardened by what she has seen over the past several seasons. Her trying to comfort Darryl was pretty funny (although, I’m sure some of it comes from her crush on the taciturn man).
Finally, Carol looks to be our new badass lady (although, not nearly as badass as Michonne can and likely will be this year). Taking it upon herself to teach the kids about weapons and how to protect themselves will almost pay dividends. Considering that she lost poor Sophia, I’m not at all surprised to see her taking steps to make sure the kids can protect themselves. I’ll be interested to see if Carl decides to tell Rick. I’m sure he can’t be too happy seeing the other kids learning stuff that only he knows about.
Another one of the episode highpoints is the great walker battle in Big Lots. It was excellently executed (seeing the various walkers fall from the ceiling was classic Walking Dead). Moreover, it allowed us to see that Sasha is a pretty excellent shot, while Tyrese is clearly over the whole “zombie apocalypse” situation and doesn’t seem nearly as focused as he once was.
Now that we’ve covered the good, let’s get into the episode’s weakest section: Rick and the crazy lady. It is pretty clear that the woman is meant to show Rick who he could have become (something that was evident even before they hit us over the head with it during the Herschel/Rick tete-a-tete). But, considering that Rick turned over a new leaf at the end of last season (and continues with it to the present), I don’t think we even needed this storyline at all. We were all there last year, I think we all agreed before the season began that Rick had moved past his crazy times.
This storyline was unnecessary and it could have been spent dealing with other items. Like, perhaps explaining who the new characters are? I’m sure they mentioned it, but I have no idea what Tyrese’s girlfriend is named. And I didn’t know Beth’s boyfriend’s name until he died (I was too busy being distracted by his atrocious attempt at a Southern accent – at least I think that’s what it was). If the show doesn’t want us assuming the newbies (save for Bob, who is played by the excellent Lawrence Gilliard Jr. from The Wire) are simply redshirts destined to die, the show needs to make us care about them quickly.
All-in-all, it is clear the show has made some strides from last season. But it needs to deliver consistent episodes, with strong character development, to avoid falling into the same traps that have plagued the series for the past two years. I’m cautiously optimistic that things are off to a good start.
-- Carl is still in a very creepy place. I understand he thinks he knows everything there is to know about the world, but he needs to check the attitude. And for all Rick’s attempts to be a better father, he’s spending almost no time with his son. That can’t end well.
-- I can’t figure out how the boy with the glasses (sorry, I can’t recall his name either) got infected. Maybe Daryl’s deer?
-- Yes, the show is setting up a mystery regarding the excess number of walkers (someone is drawing them to the prison). They clearly aren’t super worried about it though, which means they’re going to have a serious walker problem soon.
-- If I could ask for one thing, I’d ask the show to make sure fun and feisty Carol stays. She’s just awesome.
-- I checked around and found out the names of our three potential redshirts: Karen is Tyrese's new squeeze, Patrick is the sadly deceased boy with the glasses, and Zach is Beth's now deceased boyfriend.
-- I’d love to find out why Michonne is suddenly talking and smiling. But, like finding out about her time with Andrea on the run, I’m betting we never get the scoop on the personality change.
-- Speaking of Michonne, yes she works best as a loner. But I don’t like the idea of splitting her off into her own trip to find the Governor. I’d rather everyone stay together in one place for a while. Remember how bad splitting up the group worked out last year? If you don’t ask Laurie Holden (Andrea). Splitting them up resulted in the character of Andrea turning into an unlikeable shell of her former self.
-- Finally, as lovely as Maggie and Glenn’s hypothetical baby would be, I don’t want to deal with another pregnancy storyline. So, no on that please.