The Walking Dead finally returns with season 4, and the first episode offers something for everyone! It has an involved storyline with deep character development as well as tons of zombie action for the Walker enthusiasts. The episode is filled with great special effects and quality acting. It's a great first episode, which promises to deliver as the season unfolds.
The episode opens with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) tending to the new farm (actually, we first see Rick wash his face with water - a hint to how the episode ends!). The residents of the Prison are now pretty much self-sustaining with each member pitching in their share. Music is playing while Rick farms, which seems as if it's just filler music, but no, Rick is listening to a song, and when he takes out the ear piece we see why he is trying to shut off the outside world: The zombies seem louder and hungrier than ever! Rick still seems a troubled soul, but throughout the episode there are hints of recovery.
From there, Carl (Chandler Riggs) chats with his dad about naming the pigs. We see Rick tells his son not to name them as they are not pets, and we also see for the first time possibly the "infected" (the title of the next episode, as well) with the sick pig. This particular scene seems to play out later in a couple of ways. We see Carl mentions the same when he talks with the girls who name the zombies, and in a way (at least I felt), by Rick not letting Carl have "pets," this seems to solidify Carl not having much of a childhood, which ironically enough, Rick tries to instill by telling Carl to go to storytime (which seems in part to lead in to Carl's reaction when he does).
Next, fan-favorite Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) have a flirtatious discussion where we are first introduced to Patrick (Vincent Martella - also the voice of Phineas!) who could be argued is the opposite of Carl. Patrick is a geeky type who looks upon Daryl as a rock star. He's polite, says "sir" and is very respectful. It seems as if Patrick has been sheltered throughout the entire zombie apocalypse. As Carl doesn't go to storytime, even though Patrick is a bit older, Patrick still takes part (which is interesting because if he has been a regular, he didn't tell Carl what Carol was really teaching them). Regarding Carol's character, she has really come a long way and is more the "mom" of the group. She lets Daryl (fast becoming the leader) know the zombies are herding along the fence again. We also see that the group has fortified the Prison, but just a bit. The entrance now has a working metal barrier with wood spikes. I think I would have liked if the outside of the Prison was further fortified (a moat?); however, I supposed it could be argued the perimeter is a large place, and there are two fences, as well.
Glenn (Steve Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) then share a small scene where Glenn says he doesn't want her to go on the trip outside the gates. We learn later why that is - because she might be pregnant (she's not). This leads to discussion about raising a family in this kind of environment with Glenn happy that she is not pregnant, while Maggie says if she was pregnant she would be okay with it.
Tyreese (Chad Coleman) is shown at the Prison gate with Karen (Karen Cox) where Tyreese says he needs to be outside to kill the zombies as it's based on instinct. He says it doesn't feel right to him killing the zombies through the fence.
We then meet another newcomer in the form of Zach (Kyle Ganner), boyfriend to Beth (Emily Kinney). Zach and Beth have a "romance novel" moment together with Beth refusing to say goodbye to Zach as he goes out on a run with the group.
Forward to the intro of a third newcomer to the show with Army medic Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). Bob wants to pull his weight and wants in on the run into town. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) is reluctant because Daryl found Bob (in-between season 3 and 4) out in the woods by himself. Sasha is unsure how Bob would work in a group, with the others bringing up the fact he's in the Army. Bob gets to go.
Michonne (Danai Gurira) finally shows up riding on her horse. This is when we see the new security features for the entrance. We see perhaps a bit of a moment between Rick and Michonne. Rick actually seems happy to see her with Carl the same. It's insinuated that Michonne doesn't like to stay within The Prison, where we see her quickly volunteer to go with the others on the run for supplies.
There is short scene with Rick and Hershel (Scott Wilson) where Hershel tells Rick to take his gun with him on trips outside the Prison walls. Rick mentions he has his knife, and that six bullets wouldn't help him as it is. Hershel pleads with Rick to take his gun. We then see Rick (with his gun) out in the woods. He's killed a rabbit for food when he comes upon a dead animal carcass. Then he sees a zombie! The zombie goes for the carcass, and as Rick attempts to sneak away he steps on some branches with the zombie taking notice! It talks! The Walking Dead pulled a fast one on all of us?! No, this isn't some new breed of zombie that can speak, but it's a woman who has been out in the woods by herself (and out of her mind!). "Pleas help me!" she says in the creepiest voice you can imagine (as heard on this teaser). Rick offers her food, and she wants to go back with Rick. He's reluctant, but says she can. It's learned that there is another back at her camp, Ed. Rick needs to talk to them both, first, before bringing them back with him. The group, whenever they come upon a new comer, needs to ask three questions. If they feel the new person is telling the truth, they get to go to the Prison. The three questions are: How many zombies have you killed? How many people? Why? The woman takes Rick back to her camp - when she tries to kill him! Ed is dead and all that's left is his zombie head! The woman says she needs to feed Ed fresh meat! Rick dodges the knife and brings out his gun. He doesn't need to use it as she takes her own life. We then see a bag moving in which resides the head (though it's never revealed)!
It's interesting what they are doing with Rick in the series as they seem to keep introducing him to characters that he could have ended up exactly like. We saw this with Morgan (Lennie James), The Governor (David Morrissey) and now this character, as well. Morgan went off the deep end after his son was killed (Carl lived), The Governor is the antithesis of Rick as the leader, and this new creepy character says "you can't go back from what you did" as she dies. Looks like the series is setting up Rick to either join this wretched group, or at some point, move on to become the Rick Grimes leader extraordinaire.
Next is the big scene for the episode with the zombies falling through the roof! Daryl, Michonne, Sasha, Glenn, Zach and Bob are in a store getting supplies. Bob walks by some liquor bottles where he hesitates. He wants to take a bottle, and then puts it back. It seems as if Bob might have a problem with alcohol - and then the cabinet falls on him trapping him underneath. The commotion causes the zombies on the roof to take notice. Well, on the roof is a downed helicopter, with the roof not being sturdy. The months and months of rain have taken its course on the roof - and the zombies plummet through! There was some CGI going on here. It was pretty obvious a lot of it was digitized, but that might be noticeable because Craig Nicotero does such a great job with his make-ups. The VFX supervisor for this shot actually worked on Stargate, so overall it was well done. All hell breaks lose and the group has to fight back. Guns, swords and crossbows are used. It looks like Glenn might be done for, but he saves himself. Bob is still stuck under the cabinet when a zombie crawler makes its way toward him. Bob can only hold it at bay by pushing on its head. Well, as it's a decomposing zombie, the skin and facial structures begin to fall off! Daryl makes the save and simply pulls the zombie out of the way (interesting that Daryl didn't bother killing it, which shows just how experienced the group is with the zombies - and perhaps used to them). Bob gets saved, but the same can't be said for Zach! In a most gruesome fashion, his leg first gets bit - and then his jugular! And then the helicopter comes crashing down!
Now the show begins to wrap up as scenes are shown of each of the characters. It's revealed that storytime is really Carol teaching the young children how to defend themselves with a knife. Carl comes upon this and gets upset (for some reason?).
Tyrees tells Karen he doesn't like going out there (outside the Prison) either, referring to their earlier conversation.
Maggie and Glenn talk about the being pregnant.
Daryl has to tell Beth the bad news about Zach. She doesn't show any emotion and tells Daryl she doesn't cry anymore. She then asks Daryl how he feels and gives him a hug - a hug that looks to have a little "something" behind it.
We see Michonne looking over a map, which references an earlier discussion in the episode about Michonne wanting to venture 80 miles or so outside The Prison. She's all up for it, while the group thinks its a bad idea as she could run intro trouble, zombie and human alike.
Next, Rick is with the baby talking with Hershel who continues his role of being a father-figure. Hershel offers that some people are just too far gone. Perhaps Hershel is the only thing anchoring Rick?
Finally, we are given the last scene! Earlier in the episode Patrick mentioned he was feeling sick. Now we see what has become of that! We hear coughing with Bob - the Army medic - taking notice. Then we see Patrick walking with footprints left behind, which seem to be as a result of a sweaty fever. Patrick makes his way to the shower. It has a self-pumping mechanism with the water held in a large uncovered barrel. Patrick turns on the shower and is coughing continuously, apparently contaminating the water. He collapses! It looks as if he's hit his head and/or dies from the infection. Patrick is now a zombie and is inside The Prison (see below)!
Overall, episode 1 of Season 4 for The Walking Dead was really good and gets no complaints from me. I suppose the only possible complaint could be the newcomers come off as "red shirts," but it's nothing I am going to nitpick over. New showrunner Scott Gimple seems to have a plan laid out for the remaining episodes, which this first nicely set up. Greg Nicotero directed this episode, which has been one of the better ones that I can recall for quite sometime. The "infection" was done better than I expected. My initial thoughts about that was the infection was kind of lame, but I felt Vincent Martella did a great job selling it as did the build up of the entire episode.
Things I look forward to this season:
More from Tyreese.
Rick getting over his depression.
The death of Hershel (you heard it here, first!).
The group leaving the prison (I can hope!).
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC. Check out previews for episode 2 "Infected."
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