Season four of a character-driven show and here we have all our key characters. It’s amazing to think how few of them have been around from the beginning. With regular shows like Star Trek TNG or Friends or other series, the same characters are around for the shows’ entire run. There may be the occasional loss like Tasha Yar on TNG or an addition to the cast like Ensign Ro. (Oh my god I’m a geek.) With the Walking Dead we have an amazing case of development where we continuously lose and gain main characters and where, apparently, no one is safe.
And here we have the cast of LOST. I’ve made allusions to the similarities between these two series sever times. They are both survival stories, people desperately trying to get by in a mysterious or hostile environment totally outside the norm. Though there are a few interesting similarities between the two shows and I keep finding more, like these two promotional images, or how in season four we get the hunky hick playing “Never Have I Ever” with the a cute girl in the woods, I think it’s more a result of the conventions of writing a show like this for television than anything else. The similarities pop up because there are certain conventions of story telling that repeat themselves and get used a lot because they work. But look at Beth in the top image and Clair in the bottom image. Kinda spooky similar right?
The Story: Just to be clear, this season is really two short seasons put together. Season 4A is the story of the fall of the prison, and 4B the story of the survivors on the road coming together and looking for sanctuary in a place called Terminus. I thought I’d break up my review into two parts but decided against it as the themes in each half of the season are consistent throughout the whole story.
Rick’s encounter with a crazed Irishwoman at the start of the season lead to some interesting questions. Like the questions Rick asks people to see if they are “our” kind of people or not:
– How many walkers have you killed?
– How many people have you killed?
The conversation with this woman and the way the encounter end, set up the idea of redemption. For as bad as things get, through all the things that go wrong in all this hell, there is still hope, we can still come back from it all. (You’ll hear those words said again and again throughout the season, from Rick, the Governor, Martinez.) The obvious irony is that we have a world of people who have “come back” and now it’s the survivors wondering just how they are ever going to “come back” to themselves. You know by now that the survivors are The Walking Dead, since they are all infected. If they, the walking dead, ever get to return to their lives as normal people it’ll be a miracle.
Carol: Carol’s journey this season was incredible. The problem I have is that she killed people in her own group. She killed Karen and David because they were sick. Yeah, in hindsight, I can totally let all of that go. But at the time it happened? It was bad enough for Rick to kick her out of the group. It was bad enough for him to do it even though he wasn’t in charge. It was bad enough to call down Tyrese’s wrath. What she did . . . it took a hell of a lot for everyone to come around to being ok with her and for her to fess up to what she did. She wasn’t comfortable with it.
Episode 14 really nails home the message that this woman is on a difficult path and is being brilliantly portrayed by Melissa McBride. Tyrese and Carol have to deal with Lizzie and her sister and how crazy Lizzie has become. It’s a hell of a thing for a person like Carol, having lost her own daughter. What she has to do , what she has to put up with to take care of the girls and to finish their story is heart breaking.
Rick: Rick’s redemption comes in the last episode. We finally see him broken, defeated, even Carl turns against him for a short time. But finally, he steps up; in the most amazing way. In part it comes down to a father’s love for his son. When Carl is threatened, and nearly raped by another group of survivors, Rick shows he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep Carl safe. He does the one thing we’ve never seen a human do in a zombie world. He bites. He bites, just like a walker, he chews up and spits out the threat. It’s ugly as hell. What they wanted to do to Carl certainly, what Rick does to them for it, absolutely. But it’s ugly in all the best ways. A short time later when he gets to Terminus, we know just how deep that change goes. All doubt and second guessing is gone. He’s absolutely sure of his people. This is a Rick Grimes we can believe in.
The Governor: We got a little break in the story this season in that the action suddenly swung away from our survivors and gave us two full episode and then some about the Governor and what he’d been up to. This went a long way to further humanizing him and making him a much deeper more complicated character. He too was looking for redemption, having done every conceivable evil he could, we also see him doing a bit of good. It makes you wonder about him as a human being and about what salvation would actually be for him. Would it mean having a family again and settling down? Can he ever really find it? I’ll talk about that a bit further down though.
Tyrese: I saw comments and people complaining about him getting out of a very bad situation where he was surrounded by zombies and should have bit the big one but somehow bad assed his way out of there. This didn’t bother me so much when I watched it and after reading the comics I liked it all the more. Terese in the comics has a moment at the prison when he is surrounded by a massive group of walkers in the training yard. He gets locked in there when the others are overwhelmed. Everyone assumed he was dead, but the next day, there he was having bludgeoned his way out of the situation.
I don’t actually have much bad to say here so I’ll do what I can.
Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinoza, Eugene Porter: Despite the fact that they are fan favorites, and despite the fact that I love them in the comics. I don’t like any of these characters on the show. It’s like they took three characters that are completely two-dimensional and cartoony and dropped them into a show that is played extremely realistically. They don’t fit.
Abraham is a huge powerhouse in the comics and although I like the actor playing him on the show, he seems a little soft for the character. Rosita is incredibly hot, but she looks like she’s completely untouched or affected by the events going on in the story. She seems like a fanboys wet dream. And Eugene, BRILLIANTLY played exactly as he appears in the comics, is as obvious a fake as you could possibly come up with. The idea that anyone ever believed these people were gong to save the world is preposterous.
It’s raining zeds: I guess the producers felt they needed to go all out with some truly nasty over the top craziness in the season opener, so having a group of zombies literally rain down from the ceiling of grocery store and start popping all over the place was a pretty amazing way of doing that. The production quality of the scene and the incredible gross out effects really were movie quality. The CG when the roof finally collapsed wasn’t all that great which put me off but still, WOW opening.
I’m not sure how believable the popping of heads is though. A number of walkers seem to get their heads popped very easily. A little too easily. I don’t really mind as it makes for good gore but it’s still a bit much.
Terminus: Those who arrive, survive. This was the big lead up to the season finale. A settlement where people were welcome and safe. Anyone who shows up would be welcome. Sounds too good to be true? You’re god damned right it is. But you knew that didn’t you? I mean, you suspected it? Because that’s the thing about the Walking Dead; it keeps you from trusting, it crushes your sense of hope. It doesn’t allow for the happy ending and when the happy ending comes you know it’s just one more stop on a long road towards a larger problem.
(And the ones we lost.)
The Irish Chick: A freaky moment ensues in the first episode when Rick comes across a walker in the woods who isn’t a walker at all, but a filthy diseased woman. Look for her again at the end of the season when the prison falls and you’ll find her stumbling through the prison yard.
Patrick: I didn’t like this character. The kid playing him would have been better suited to a sit-com. His acting is fake right from the get go and he just doesn’t cary the realism of the other child actors on the show.When his character was killed off pretty early I didn’t feel bad. Just compare him to . . .
Lizzie: This girl is scary and the little girl playing her did a brilliant job of it. I was constantly and continuously freaked out watching her. From an acting standpoint she’s amazing. The character is a creepy little psychopath though. Lizzie Borden? So as creepy as she is, she’s in the right place and a great part of the show. Her death, and the death of her sister were well used to address the issue of dealing with mental illness in a world like this and in particular dealing with children who commit unspeakable crimes.
Zack: The season opens by letting us know some time has passed and relationships developed in the time we haven’t seen depicted on screen. Beth’s boyfriend buys it early in the first episode from a walker with incredibly sharp teeth. He’s not a character we really care about except for his effect on Beth. He’s really only there for her character to reflect off of.
Martinez: A major player he was the leader of the camp the Governor came upon when he was wandering. But there was no way The G would ever let one of his former subordinates lead him around.
Herschel: This HURT. I hated seeing father Christmas go. And the way he went, it just killed everyone watching the show. His death sparked a VERY strong fan reaction. “You step outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. And nowadays you breathe, and you risk your life. Every moment now…you don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you are risking it for. Now, I can make these people feel better and hang on a little bit longer. I can save lives. And that’s enough reason to risk mine.”
The Governor: The Governor supplied maybe my favorite visual this season, when he was thinking about what to do next, in episode 7. We only see it for a moment, but there he is, a tank on one side and a camper on the other. Torn between war and home. What to do?
Well, we know how that choice went. He needed to die, his story had run its course and he’d had every chance he deserved. Even Rick offered him another chance in the end. (Whether Rick really meant it or was just buying time for his people is, of course up in the air but there it is.) We get to come back he said. But as we know, for the Governor, there was no coming back. A tiger don’t change its stripes, and some scars go too deep. It’s a shame to see him go because the character was masterfully played by David Morrissey. (By the way did you know he was on Doctor Who?! So cool.)
Judith: During the attack on the prison in the comics both Lori and Judith are gunned down. It was’t such a surprise to me as I’d already seen Lori die on the show but the way the two of them go together was disturbing. I hate seeing kids hurt and little Judith was really just a baby.
On the show we finally see her bloody car seat in the aftermath of the attack on the prison leaving the question painfully up in the air: Did she make it or was she devoured? Fortunately we get the answer pretty quickly in the second half of the season. This was a good tease for the fans and left us wondering what it’s going to be like for her growing up.
One final note, on the final moment of the season. It was a hell of a good ending, the one we really wanted. Our groups came together, reached their goal and yeah, it’s the Walking Dead so of course things go from bad to worse, but damn it, it’ good to see Rick riling the troops.