Don’t Look Back: The Walking Dead Season Four (Mid-Season)
Don’t Look Back:
The Walking Dead
Season Four (Mid-Season)
“You’ll never have to worry again about whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing. Because we will do the only thing.”
—The Wit and Wisdom of The Governor
Season 4 of AMC’s The Walking Dead has taken a break mid-run (there will be a total of sixteen episodes) and resumes with the second half in February, 2014. So I just want to give a few moments to enthuse about a series that has held to a consistently high standard; and which definitely shows no signs of slipping yet. Certainly not with these first eight cracking episodes anyway.
I’m not going to go into any detail as I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t seen it yet– and those of you have been with it through three seasons won’t need a recap– but right from the very first moments of this very first episode you will know that you are in for a good show.
We first see Rick (Andrew Lincoln) digging just inside the prison fence. He’s oblivious to the usual assorted zombies outside, moaning and groaning and trying to get in, because he is wearing earplugs and is listening to a song. The lyrics are of that country- simple kind that seems to breathe a kind of folksy wisdom; but in this case they are also portentous:
“As I travel down Life’s highway/ Knowing not what the years may hold…
The music is interrupted, though, when Rick removes them to look more closely at a gun that he has just uncovered. Suddenly the raving cacophony of the zombies crashes in on him and us both, the hellish punctuation of this apocalyptic age. Then he replaces them and a kind of peace is back once more.
‘I’m Tired of Losing People.’
It’s a neat re-introduction to a world where Death never seems to be more than a few feet away. Without a word of dialogue I knew that we were in good hands (the writer of this first episode is Scott M. Gimple).
Rick and the Gang have gotten well settled in to the prison since we saw them last. They have some nice plots of vegetables going, as well as keeping some pigs for food, and are in the main looking pretty good for a change. They should have been listening to the words of that song, though. Or maybe checked out that ominous sign hanging up near Hershel’s head: SMOOTH SEAS DO NOT MAKE GOOD SAILORS.
Do you think that someone hung that there for the good of their health? Give me a break. This is The Walking Dead.
The deal is sealed with the passage that Carol (Melissa McBride) is reciting to the children during Story Time. Showing that one of my favourite characters has exquisite taste, it is from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:
“The children fastened their eyes upon their bit of candle and watched it melt slowly and pitilessly away, saw the half inch of wick stand alone at last, saw the feeble flame rise and fall, climb the thin column of smoke, linger at its top a moment, and then—“
With those words and that abrupt ending (which I admit had me scratching my head for a moment) it is obvious that a peaceful interlude has come to an end—and how! In fact, even this first half-season’s episodes must surely make this the goriest and most unpredictable bloodbath yet.
Whilst I’m talking about Carol and her Story Time sessions, this is as good a point as any to say that I found Rick’s treatment of this remarkable woman irritatingly self-righteous in the extreme during some of these episodes. In fact ex-Officer Grimes is a character that I’ve never warmed to. I always put the fact that he gets on my nerves down to the resemblance that he has to someone I knew some years back and who wouldn’t be on my Christmas card list. It’s more than that, though. The actor seems to get increasingly mannered as time goes on; as to his character, now that Rick has resigned from making any decisions in order to become a farmer, he has—at least at the start of the new series– also renounced his guns and doesn’t seem to want his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) to be able to defend himself either. I mean, I’m not a big gun-lover myself but this is the Zombie Apocalypse we’re talking about here!
In other words Rick has turned into a reboot of his late wife Lori; and let’s be honest: I’m pretty damned sure that I wasn’t the only one not crying bucket loads when that misery-guts exited stage left.
Compare Andrew Lincoln’s pauses and stop-starts with the naturalistic acting of Norman Reedus, who plays my other favourite character, reformed redneck Daryl Dixon. OK, maybe it’s just a question of taste but to me there is no comparison.
Carol has grown almost beyond recognition from the worn-down, bruised and battered survivor of domestic violence who, just to remind you that God isn’t all that kind and loving, also lost her only child to the zombies. Now she is a tough and capable woman, able to dispatch a threat as quickly as she can put a dislocated shoulder back in place. I think that she’s great; and I definitely agreed with her when she began using Story Time as a cover for teaching the children in the group the use of weapons. Why she felt that she had to skirt around Rick though, is beyond me. As far as I’m concerned he had willingly given up the right to be moral arbiter. It doesn’t stop him later on though, when he finds that Carol has done something that he sees as crossing line. His reaction to it, though, had my jaw on the ground. What an asshole. And sorry, no spoilers; you’ll just have to make up your own mind.
Just Call Me Brian the Family Man
I will tell you though, since it’s hardly been kept a secret, that The Governor is back. In fact actor David Morrisey, who is beginning to look and sound more like Liam Neeson with every passing moment, proves a strong enough character to carry two episodes on his own.
He doesn’t want to be called The Governor anymore, though. Now he just wants to be good old family man Brian. And he tries; he really does. But let’s be honest here: can a scorpion do anything about its nature? Nah.
He can call himself Brian until he’s blue around the eye patch, but sooner or later that guy is going to be standing on a tank, threatening hellfire all around him. And we wouldn’t have him any other way.
And so, after The Governor’s renewed assault on the prison, things will never be the same for the survivors. It’s a series where you can’t really get too close to any character because any of them can die. At this half-way point, though, all have learnt one thing that they can’t do. As one survivor puts it, in the final words until February:
“Don’t look back.”