***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***
With AMC doing their whole standard mid-season split, fans of The Walking Dead are left with a few months to ponder the long overdue prison break our nearest and dearest survivors have now been forced to make. For a second there, it looked like we might have a repeat of the slow-burning first half of season 2, with small children once again threatening to turn the show into a boring test of patience and how much faith we place in the show’s unstable team of writers. Fortunately, chaos saved the day.
Thankfully, the short-lived rebirth of The Governor came along and messed up the happy little disease-ridden community that Rick & co had fortified with neat Zombie-proof traps. Now our team is split up and wandering through the dangerous terrain, which will hopefully bring with it the change in dynamics which this show so desperately needs to stay fresh.
Let’s head back to the first episode though; we kicked off with an outbreak of some violent strain of the flu, killing off a big chunk of red shirts and poor Tyrese’s inorganic relationship with Karen. The progressively cold Carol enjoyed the most artful character development of the season by doing ‘what had to be done’ and burning the infected Karen out of concern for the more vulnerable prison folk; a move eventually met with Andrew Lincoln’s nuanced ‘Rick rage’ and a very interesting exile which now has Carol strolling the street on her own, undoubtedly with her calm nonchalant swagger, as she waits to be written back into Daryl’s life.
So far, Glenn hasn’t really had to do much but get sick and almost die; Maggie didn’t have to do much but be concerned about her man and be the catalyst for Hershel’s amazing “you risk your life” speech; and the emotionally-numb Beth was just there so Judith had a playdate.
More significant roles were given to the forever loveable wise old owl that is Hershel Greene and the aforementioned Tyrese. The former made for one of the best episodes this show has ever produced – “Internment” – letting Hershel shine as the clever and noble “badass” who manages to save all the ones who matter without any conflict. This was the shows way of posturing Hershel as the new fan favourite, right until The Governor brutally decapitated him with Michonne’s katana.
Building The Gov up with a possible redemption, only to take it all away and fill the fans with blood-lust in one giant swing was genius; we were chanting for a dead “Brian” as soon as he hacked away at Hershel in a sad “I can’t look because I’m really emotionally distraught right now” scene; we cheered as soon as Michonne’s katana ripped through The Governor’s murderous heart; and we smiled when Lily – out of heartbreak and regret – turned the gun on Phillip and ended him once and for all.
The cracks in the shows unbalanced pacing were most evident in ‘Live Bait’ and ‘Dead Weight,’ the two episodes which were dedicated to treading The Governor’s manipulative, demented path back to attacking the prison; a suspension of disbelief was required to buy into things like Mitch’s willingness to follow “Brian” after he admitted to murdering his brother, and The Governor’s unchallenged reign over the minds of this new group of well-armed idiots. Regardless, David Morrissey remained an exceptional actor and sold the ominous moves of “Brian” so well that I actually started to like The Governor. More annoying was the acting from the new group, especially Tara (Alanna Masterson) as the bratty tomboy whose gimmicky requests for fist bumps was as cringe-worthy as her awkwardly developed relationship with Alisha (Juliana Harkavy); Also, an uncharacteristically bad performance from the otherwise great Kirk Acevedo (as Mitch).
The Walking Dead has always been a slow-burning drama before it has been a thrill-seeking post-apocalyptic tale, and as such Season 4 has toned down the excitement to showcase its very talented cast and meticulous character development. I’m hoping Robert Kirkman continues to make different choices than he did in the comics; not because the comics are bad, but just so we have two distinctive versions of The Walking Dead story that we can sink our teeth into.
With a promise for Carol’s return; the introduction of new heroes; a possible brief return to the farm; and a Tyrese having to take care of three children and a baby [one of which is a creepy little kook]; I’m really thinking that the second half of season 4 is going to be the best yet, with an obvious heart-breaking death lurking around the corner [I’m thinking Glenn’s time is up, which I hate to say because he is one of the most likeable survivors; and unfortunately for his legion of fans, I think Daryl is going to be given the bat] and brand new dynamics for the writers to play around with.
Also, how awesome would have Shane been pitted against The Governor; I still wish they kept him around.
The Walking Dead Season 4 (Part Two) returns early February