Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mid-season report: AMC's THE WALKING DEAD – season 4

Saturday, 7 December 2013

MAJOR SPOILERS! So far, this fourth season has continued the good work of the third, before it started wheel-spinning and The Governor (David Morrissey) morphed into a maniacal cartoon baddie. I've often grumbled about the lack of interesting characters on The Walking Dead, but I've been pleased to see the writers make more of an effort in that respect. We had some new faces mixing with the old guard, a few of the show's underwritten characters were improved (especially Carol, who developed a controversial hard-liner attitude), and I liked how the season threw up interesting dilemmas (such as the prison's viral outbreak that started decimating the population and creating zombies-from-within). And then, of course, The Governor returned...

I know not everyone was happy with the return of the show's one-eyed villain, but the new showrunner had no choice but to tie up that loose end. It was just an odd choice to spend two full episodes rebuilding the broken and defeated Governor to exactly what he was before, as it hit the rewind button too heavily on his character. It felt like they wanted to dramatise The Governor's resolve and underline the fact he's a manipulative leopard that can't change its spots.

This year's storyline gave him a replacement "wife" and "daughter" who were tangible presences, which they weren't in season 3. This in turn gave him something real to fight for; or a warped excuse to be despicable for his perceived "greater good". It also gave us an idea of how The Governor perhaps rose to first lead the good people of Woodbury, which we never got to see last season. So I can see why the writers couldn't resist bringing him back; even if it ultimately seemed intended to give fans a thrilling 'prison attack' sorely missing from season 3's finale. This year's mid-year farewell also gave us a few unexpected deaths: from the long overdue but sickening (Hershel's nasty decapitation), to arguably the show's most harrowing (the off-screen death of Rick's baby daughter). Unless they're going to pull a fast-one because there was no body, which would feel like cheating.

As often happens on The Walking Dead, it leaves you with the promise of better to come. The Governor has been killed, Rick's been dealt such a devastating blow it's hard to imagine him bouncing back from losing a baby (oh joy, another half-season of a downcast Rick?), the gang evacuated the prison in all directions during The Governor's assault, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has lost her father, and the prison's been half-destroyed and overrun with zombies—which should mean a new location soon, or perhaps more of a nomadic lifestyle. Whether or not any of this will mean more improvement when the show returns in February is anyone's guess, but as someone who was bored with the prison I'm hopeful the show will break free of the "base camps" it's settled on since it first began. Maybe the comic book's readers know for sure, but I don't invite spoilers.

What did you think of season 4? Did it start well but lose courage when The Governor returned, or did you like his return because it at least heralded some big changes to come?