For the next two hours, pick up seasons of AMC’s hit zombie series.
Fox Germany’s ‘Walking Dead' ad changes from make up to zombies as you approach | THR
|—||Frank Darabont Rips ‘Sociopaths’ Who Fired Him From ‘Walking Dead’ | Variety|
If you were watching The Walking Dead season four premiere, and chances are you were one of the 16-plus-million that was, you didn’t have to watch closely to catch the prison-sized tip of the cap new showrunner Scott Gimple gave the audience. It was of course, the scene that gave us the context behind the episode’s title, “30 Days Without An Accident,” in which Darryl breaks the news to an almost eerily sedate Beth that her pseudo-boyfriend Zack became a walker’s lunch on their run to the supermarket.
You know how it goes. Beth, like a scoreboard operator at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, simply walks up to the workplace accident counter and changes that 30 to a zero. A living, breathing human’s life became just another tally on what was essentially just a scoreboard (Zombies: a lot, Humans: a little). Beth’s stoicism wasn’t a suppressed grief waiting to claw its way out in a burst of emotion. It was a calculated detachment, something she taught herself to do as a coping mechanism, knowing everything and everyone she had ever let herself get close to was going to, or already had, die a horrific death at the hands of the undead.
And therein lies the reformation needed among The Walking Dead’s audience. It’s not that we’ve become accustomed to dying. It’s that we’ve trained ourselves to not be affected by any of it (the Breaking Bad audience always knew death was a knock on the door away, yet it shocked and dismayed us all the same. Hell, Hank’s death sentence had been written for a week and the moment was still gut-wrenching). So what can the show do to pump the feels back into Beth (and probably many of its other characters’ bloodstreams, who besides Rick’s, weren’t explored in great detail in the premiere)? And more importantly, how will it pump the fear — not of the Governor, or any knowable human, but of the mysterious, haunting, inexplicable undead — back into us?
Well, as it turns out, the show made fantastic strides towards that end in its relatively “uneventful” premiere. New showrunner Scott Gimple, like Glen Mazzara before him, started this season with a time jump of about six months-a year, evolving the characters in ways we didn’t need to see. Rick is a docile farmer who doesn’t feel the need to wield a gun. Daryl is a de facto leader. Glen and Maggie seem pretty solidly shacked up. Carol is half maternal figure/half toddler mercenary trainer. And that we didn’t see the means to these ends is all the better. We can fill in the blanks easily enough.
Because the greater point isn’t witnessing the slow burn that took place for the characters to get to this point; it’s the bonfire about to wreak havoc on them and unravel all the reformation they spent months working towards. The reason many season three deaths just didn’t resonate so greatly with us — Lori, Merle, Andrea — was because the stakes were not high enough for us or for the characters. The pack was a band of rogues with nothing to lose. Inches away from death for an entire winter, they found it in themselves to survive. Eventually they happened upon a false utopia in Woodbury and fought for their lives against the tyrannical Governor.
But what was it all for? That question grew increasingly hard for the show to answer, and it thusly suffered, not giving some important characters the emotional gravity their demises deserved. For the same reason, it’s why the episode in which Rick visits a far-gone Morgan is the strongest from last season. It gave our hero some semblance of a reason to fight for his life — his family, his sanity — and started writing a somewhat tidy endgame for an otherwise messy second half of season three.
Stakes are abundantly clear now. The pack is no longer nomadic. They are hunter/gatherers, domesticated, replete with livestock, irrigation, flora and fauna (and everyone’s favorite gun crop, which is always in season!). People are pairing off left and right. Kids are learning how to read. There’s even a makeshift government. Runs for supplies are routine (well, were routine) and in the middle of the apocalypse, things for this band have become, well, kind of boring. And if you found yourself a little bored during the parts of the episode where it wasn’t raining zombies, for now, that’s a good thing.
Hopefully, this isn’t empty prognosticating and we don’t have another farm situation on our hands, where the payoff deaths of Dale and Shane and subsequent burning down of the farm was nice, but didn’t repent for the half season of low quality episodes. Based on the end of “30 Days Since An Accident,” I think the action will come sooner rather than later. This show wants its characters and audience to never lose sight of what is so scary in the first place and in putting that fear so far in the rear-view mirror, its inevitable return will be all the more satisfying.
BONUS POINTS: Scott Gimple, for utilizing the kind of effective subtlety this show has often lacked by opting not to show the Irish woman’s zombie husband’s head. We knew what was underneath, and like many things that sometimes make this show great, it’s our imagination that does a greater job of spooking us than any amount of makeup could.
Bigger than any network show this fall and topping itself by 3.5 million viewers.
New characters, same zombie apocalypse. AMC is high on spin offs. Just don’t touch ‘Mad Men’, please and thank you.
Poster: ‘The Walking Dead' Season 4 | TV Line
New Image: ’The Walking Dead’: Michonne’s on a horse | EW
Trailer: ‘The Walking Dead' season 4
The series returns Sunday, Oct. 13 at 9 pm on AMC
New Image: ’The Walking Dead’ season 4 includes a masked Daryl Dixon | EW
THE WALKING DEAD Season 4 to Premiere 10/13 | CBM