At last, we return to the world of The Walking Dead. After an uneven but mostly strong third season, Season Four finds us back at the prison. Months have passed since the collapse of Woodbury and the rise of Rick Grimes’ prison as a new survivor sanctuary.
Peace has found its way to the prison after a time jump from the end of season 3. Rick’s turned into a farmer that doesn’t use guns, the new people that have joined all love Daryl as much as us fans do and it seems as if life has settled into something of normalcy, even if hordes of walkers smash their faces against the fence keeping them out.
All this made the episode a little underwhelming for me. The prison feels a little similar to the time spent on Hershel’s farm in season 2. I understand this is just the first episode and there was some decent character set-ups for the season to come and hopefully it takes off from here.
Two main story threads developed throughout the episode and one worked for me and the other didn’t. The one involving Daryl and Glen’s search of an abandoned grocery gave the episode its only bits of zombie action, which had a back-to-basics element to it. Not much of interest happens here other than the expected close encounters and a grisly death for a minor character.
One of the more impressive moments that really worked was the SFX-heavy zombie attack on the group raiding the superstore. It was a clever bit of set-up, to have the crashed helicopter on the roof to both unleash a horde of trapped zombies and also weaken the roof itself, I’m not sure how long it’s been since everything started, but it’s been long enough for roofs to start caving in. Having the zombies dropping from the sky made for a fun scene.
What didn’t work so much was Rick’s side plot where he finds a fragile, desperate woman. We’re not quite sure if Rick’s little trip was actually happening or just another hallucination, showing us all things may not look as good as they seem on the surface with Rick. The show does a good job of hinting that Rick’s still having mental problems: he looks several times for phantoms while farming, he doesn’t carry his gun any more despite the fact the fences are crowded with walkers. But pay-off of this plot doesn’t work as well as the set up.
Honestly, even Rick’s willingness to follow a random possible hallucination into a trap doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that, ten minutes into the episode, a Woodbury person dies, were we supposed to care about him because apparently he’s Beth’s boyfriend, but that’s only a little compliant. Did anyone else find her reaction to her boyfriends death really weird and creepy?
This was still a strong start to the season with a great sense of balance between the characters. The episode introduced the beginning of what looks to be a great arc for our characters. 7.5/10.