Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 1: 30 Days Without An Accident

Huzzah! The Walking Dead's back after a seven month absence. That's better than the SIXTEEN month gap between Season 7 and 8 of Doctor Who, but I still think it's too long.

Thoughts (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

• 16 million viewers watched this episode! Wow! That's a new record for cable TV. It even beat the Breaking Bad series finale! Not bad for our little zombie show.

I'm betting the ratings would be even higher if they counted people who watched it online, as I did.

• Another season, another new show runner. Scott Gimple takes over for Glen Mazzara, who took over for Frank Darabont. Geez guys, get a revolving door, wouldja? 

Gimple wrote this premiere episode and did a pretty darned good job of it. If he can keep up the quality of the premiere then the show's in good hands.

• Looks like there's been another time jump since the end of Season 3. I think that's a good idea. It makes the show feel like it's happening in real time (it's been seven months since we've seen our friends at the prison) and it helps explain Carl's rapid growth, neatly avoiding the "Walt Problem" that plagued LOST.

Other changes during the jump: Herschel's got a brand new homemade bionic leg, Michonne's hunting for the Governor and there's now some kind of ruling council making decisions. Hopefully they'll do a better job of running things than our government, amirite? Eh? Eh? Is this thing on?

Oh, and Daryl and Carol may be a couple. Or maybe not. It's tough to tell.

• Rick wears earbuds and listens to music as he tends to his garden. You know, his garden that's a mere twenty feet away from a mob of hungry walkers on the other side of the fence. Does that seem like a good idea? I can't speak for Rick, but I know I'd want to be able to hear anytime I was outside in this world.

• So Team Prison is raising pigs for food now. Seems odd to see animals on the show. That's something we've not seen much in the series so far. Daryl's killed a few animals now and then, but for the most part we've seen very little evidence that animals even exist after The Fall. Maybe the walkers eat them when they can't find human food?

• Earlier this summer the promos ominously hinted that there'd be a "new evil attacking from within." When I heard that my first thought was that it had to be some kind of disease. What else could it be? Looks like I was right. Not sure how a disease can be "evil" though, but there you go.

I'm guessing since pigs played such an inexplicably prominent role in this episode that the disease is some kind of mutated swine flu? And if you get the flu and then die, you come back as some kind of new, souped-up walker? Like the weird-eyed one that Rick kept seeing through the fence?

• At one point Rick and Carl observe the pigs in the pen. Carl worries that his pig Violet looks sick. Rick admits he doesn't know what's wrong with her and says it might be nothing.

Whoops! I guess the writers forgot that Herschel was a veterinarian and ran a farm before the apocalypse. Apparently no one thought to have him take a look at Violet and maybe even treat her. 

• Foreshadowing 101: Among the newcomers to the prison is Nerd Boy, a young and overeager teen who reminds me a lot of Harold Lauder from The Stand. He's seen cooking breakfast for everyone and even shakes Daryl's hand. 

Unfortunately he's infected with the mystery disease. And he just unknowlingly infected the entire prison as well.

By the way, we see Daryl lick his fingers right before he shakes Nerd Boy's hand. Does that mean Daryl's the flu carrier?

• At the end of last season, Carl had seemingly become a tween psychopath who callously killed a Woodbury resident just for looking at him funny. This harsh new world had robbed him of his childhood and threatened to turn him into a soulless killing machine. Herschel ominously warned Rick that his son was becoming dangerous.

Then suddenly in this episode Carl seems to be his old self again. He's got a pet pig, he's getting along with his dad and he even checks out story time with the other kids!

So what the hell happened? The "innocent kid who's turned into a killer by his brutal world" plot thread was interesting and one I don't think I've ever seen on TV before. I was looking forward to seeing how it would play out, but I guess it was none of our business. Carl's psychological problems were seemingly resolved offscreen. Boo! Way to take the easy way out, writers. That must have been one hell of a lecture Rick gave him!

• Newcomer Bob Stoovey goes on a supply run with Daryl, Tyreese, Sasha and a few redshirts. Inside a warehouse store, Bob sees a wine display and takes a bottle off the shelf, looking at it longingly. He then summons up his strength and puts it back (just before all hell breaks loose).

It's a very well done scene. With nary a word spoken we instantly know that Bob has a bit of a drinking problem and is doing his best to overcome it (and it'll no doubt come up again later to bite everyone in the ass). Well done, writers!

• It's raining men! Hallelujah! Well, it's raining zombies anyway.

Somehow the warehouse store's roof was crawling with walkers (and a crashed helicopter yet!) who came crashing through the rotting ceiling at the worst possible time.

Lots of cool gore and makeup effects on display in this scene, as the walkers splashed to the floor like bags of rotten meat.

• Rick goes into the woods to check the animal traps and meets a cuckoo crazy Irish (!) woman named Clara. She begs him to help her and her unseen husband Eddie. 

Did anyone not think that Eddie was a walker and she just couldn't bear to let him go?

We never actually get a look at what's left of Eddie; all we see is something wriggling inside a burlap bag. Somehow that made it even worse. 

• At the end of the episode Daryl tells Beth that her pal Zach The Redshirt died in their supply run. She calmly and dispassionately walks over to her "It's Been 30 Days Without An Accident" sign and removes the 30, which perfectly illustrates her deadened emotional state as well as explaining the episode's title.

• Nerd Boy is sick enough to die, but not sick enough to walk to the shower room. Got it. I'm betting he'll be infecting even more people next week.

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