Plot: Following The Governor’s (David Morrissey) attack, Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) group in the Prison has become a thriving community. The new members from Woodbury are pulling their weight and there seems to be a peace amongst them. Rick in particular has “retired” to being a farmer, leaving the big group decisions up to a council lead by Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yuen). However, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) has noticed that the walkers are piling up on the fences, and an unexpected force puts the survival of everyone in jeopardy.
I don’t know about you, but the break between the tragically disappointing Season 3 Finale to this Season 4 Premiere went by in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t even feel like several months have gone by since The Governor vanished and Rick saved everyone in Woodbury. That finale didn’t live up to all the hype leading up to it which honestly left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Plus, it used Andrea (Laurie Holden) as the real dramatic vocal point and no one liked her. In more ways than one, I was looking towards this new season under the guidance of a new showrunner (Scott M. Gimple) to bring the show to better graces. The recent announcement that three comic book characters, Sgt. Abraham Ford, Rosita, and Eugene, were cast and are set to appear some point during Season 4 was enough to get me excited for what’s to come. Thankfully this premiere, titled “30 Days Without An Accident,” was really great and set up beautifully what’s hopefully to be one hell of an adventure.
Season 4 took cues from Season 3 by leaving a significant time jump between what we previously saw and what we’re currently seeing now. That worked incredibly well last year and it more or less had the same impact this time around. The people from Woodbury have meshed in well, Rick has almost nearly embodied the life of a farmer (minus the overalls), and Carl is no longer constantly angry at his father. Daryl has stepped up to become the new overall leader too which is amazing. Watching people treat him like a rock star was spectacular because, let’s face it, everyone loves Daryl the most. We’re also able to jump right into the conflict without issue with the walkers becoming more dangerous with each passing day. During this several month time gap, the walker numbers have grown exponentially. Sooner or later their shear weight will bust the Prison fences down, a fact that Carol is all too aware of. Some relationships have even formed between Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Karen (Melissa Ponzino), Beth (Emily Kinney) and newcomer Zach (Kyle Gallner), and it looks like Carol and Daryl are a lot flirtier now. These are big changes which give the new season a real fresh feel.
The big conflict tonight in the supermarket was exciting as well. The Prison group frequently sends small groups out to collect supplies and this time Glenn, Tyreese, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Greene), Daryl, Zach, and recent addition Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) went to earn their keep. Little did they know, walkers have gathered on the ceiling and a crashed helicopter plus water damage has made the roof very weak. Once Bob accidently knocks over a shelf of wine and gets stuck, the walkers take notice and proceed to fall through the roof one by one. What followed was a race against time as the helicopter is slowly falling through and the dead far outnumber the living. It was a really well done scene that kept me on the edge of my seat, despite knowing that the only real person on danger was Zach. Sure enough, he didn’t make it out alive, fulfilling his obvious role as Expendable Character #1. His death completely unfazed Beth though which made that entire story end on one shocking note.
Rick has his own little adventure this week when he encountered a crazy woman while inspecting his animal traps. I too thought she was infected from the get go but it turns out that wasn’t the case. This woman, Clara (Kerry Condon), was just completely insane. Then again, being alone in a zombie apocalypse will do that to you. Clara tells Rick she’s alive because of her friend Eddie, and Rick decides to give her the benefit of the doubt before he invites her to the Prison. He must ask her the Three Questions first too: How many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed, and why. That’s the new trial to Prison life now. Turns out, Clara was too far gone and Eddie was actually a severed head in a sack (which we never see, but can assume). Clara ends up killing herself saying you can never run from your past mistakes, a fact which haunts Rick at the very end. It was another one of those “I could have ended up like that moments” which we saw plenty of last year. I thought Clara was an interesting addition but the payoff was disappointing as it didn’t really change anything. Rick saw his possible future so many times last year, with Morgan (Lennie James) for example, and seeing it again doesn’t make a difference.
The ending cliffhanger tonight was great though. Before the Season Premiere, the fact that the group was going to face a new danger that can’t be stabbed was really hammered into us. It was in almost every single article and trailer. A lot of people theorized that this would be some disease, and it turns out they were right. One of the new kids named Patrick (Vincent Martella) succumbs to an unknown illness in the Prison and dies on the shower floor. Naturally he turns into a walker, an addition which will totally ruin this fragile peace within the community. The source of the disease is completely unknown but part of me believes it’s in the water. Regardless, people dropping dead of unknown causes WITHIN the Prison walls does not bode well for the group and I can’t wait to see what this will lead to. Perhaps this could be the driving force out of the Prison!
One thing I was upset with during this premiere was the total absence of last season’s big villain The Governor. Morrissey was promoted to recurring character status (a fact that upset many people), but The Governor has been the most hush-hush factor of this new season. No appearance in trailers, articles, and no one is even talking about him. His name wasn’t even dropped in the premiere either though we can assume Michonne (Danai Gurira) is searching for him. It just seems really weird to me that the big bad from last year, whose survival was a hugely divisive cliffhanger, got no follow up. Instead we got crazy Clara and an “already seen before” resolution. I hope The Governor returns sooner rather than later.
A lot of people were upset with the Season 3 Finale (myself included) and Season 3 as a whole (not myself included), but this Season 4 Premiere is enough to give people hope. The action is still as good as ever, the zombies look even scarier, the new threat is intriguing, and all the changes are welcome. Did I mention that previously quiet Carol is teaching kids how to use knives during her book sessions? That’s right, even Carol is cooler now. Gillard Jr. is a great addition to the show too as he portrays former Army medic and clearly recovering alcoholic Bob Stookey very well. All in all, I’m very happy with this premiere and I can’t wait to see what comes of the big cliffhanger.