The fourth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead kicked off last night, drawing in over 16 million viewers and dominating the ratings for everything not football related. The episode drew more than six million viewers than the season three premiere, and nearly four million more than the season three finale, continuing the trend of The Walking Dead being the highest rated show on cable. Scott Gimple takes the series’ helm starting with this season. He’s the third show runner for the series; replacing Glen Mazzara, who’d just taken over for Frank Darabont after season two. Gimple was responsible for writing some of the best episodes of season three, which managed to find a nice balance of emotional, character driven stories and gory zombie goodness. If this episode is any indication of how season four will play out we’re in for some good times. Now, with a healthy dose of spoilers both television and comic book related, let’s get into the story…
ASIDE FROM THE HORDE OF MARAUDING GHOULS, THIS IS ACTUALLY QUITE PLEASANT: The fourth season opener “30 Days Without an Accident” kicks off an undetermined number of months after the end of season three. Our gang of survivors have fended off the Governor’s attack on the prison and created a somewhat cozy little life for themselves on the inside, which stands at a stark contrast with the bloody horror show that was the Woodbury/Prison Survivors showdown in the comic book series. More survivors from Woodbury and other locations have bolstered the prison’s ranks, with everyone contributing something to the community. Rick & Herschel tend to the garden and farm animals, which it’s said will soon be able to produce enough food that leaving the prison to search for more rations will no longer be a necessity. Carol is reading stories to the younger children and teaching them proper zombie stabbing techniques. Everybody loves Daryl, much to his discomfort. Beth, Herschel’s daughter that’s not Maggie, even has herself a new boyfriend. Everybody is safe, well fed, and reasonably happy…at least for a little while.
A KATANA WEILDING WOMAN ON HORSEBACK, HELLBENT ON REVENGE: Michonne is still on the hunt for the Governor, unable to find him after having searched thoroughly around the prison. When she suggests he may have retreated toward the next largest city, Macon, GA, Daryl asks if it’s worth risking a journey that far just to kill one man. She insists that it is.
CREEPY WOODS LADY: While clearing the animal traps & snares around the prison, Rick encounters a creepy as hell lady in the woods. She asks him for help taking a dead animal carcass back to her starving husband. Rick asks her to lead him back to her husband and, provided they can answer his three simple questions, they’ll be invited to join the prison community. Ultimately, Rick discovers that it was all a ruse by the creepy woods lady to feed him her zombie husband, who is now just a head in a sack. She refuses to let him go, refuses to accept that the man she once loved is dead and all that remains is a vicious, flesh eating corpse. She stabs herself in the stomach. As she starts to bleed out, she begs Rick to not shoot her in the head, to let her turn into a walker so that she can be reunited with her husband. He grudgingly obliges. Let’s hope that this unusual decision to leave two walkers alone doesn’t literally come back to bite Rick in the ass.
THE THREE QUESTIONS: Apparently, the test for being accepted into the prison community is to satisfactorily answer three simple questions: 1. How many walkers have you killed? 2. How many people have you killed? 3. Why?
DON’T GIVE THEM NAMES: This idea was touched upon a couple of times in the episode, before it came to a head (pun intended) with Rick’s encounter with the Creepy Woods Lady. Carl has named some of the farm animals, calling one of the pigs Violet. Rick insists that he not name them, that they’re food and he shouldn’t form any type of connection with them. Carl later parrots this idea back to some other children gathered by the prison fence, assigning names to different walkers. No matter who they were, they’re not that anymore. They’re not people, they’re flesh eating monsters that will murder you. Don’t give them names.
IT’S RAINING ZOMBIES: A team from the prison makes a supply run to a nearby department store, but it doesn’t take long before all hell breaks loose as part of the roof caves in and walkers start falling from the ceiling. Everyone makes it out okay, except for Beth’s new boyfriend Zach, who gets eaten alive. When Daryl delivers the bad news to Beth, she shows no emotion whatsoever. She just casually walks over to a “Days Without an Accident” counter, which sits at 30 and flips it back to zero.
NOTHING’S COMING UP MILHOUSE: A new kid who’s living in the prison, I don’t remember his name but I do remember he looks like Milhouse from the Simpsons, comes down with a mysterious illness and drops dead in the shower. Of course, he turns into a walker. Everybody turns after they die. But what was this illness and how did it kill him so quickly? How contagious is it?
All in all, it was an enjoyable episode. We’re seeing a lot of progress with the survivors having mastered some of the threats they’ve been facing over the first three seasons and having to deal with new ones. Judging by the preview at the end of this episode, things get really bad really quickly. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this season.