Recurring Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Stephen Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Emily Kinney, Chad Coleman
Whenever the Walking Dead looks like it is about to flop painfully, it does something truly amazing. Rick hiding in a house full of murderous bandits, the finale to the ‘Grove’, Daryl taking on a horde of Walkers in a single room…
When we left off, the group was splintered into several smaller factions. Rick and Carl lost Judith in the fight and wander through the woods, Carl losing faith in whether is Dad is the right guy to get him through the apocalypse. Michonne is tracking the others, but questions whether she even wants to be around other people. Beth has ended up with Daryl, but while she is probably with the strongest survivor, she could have drawn the short stick when it comes to pairings. Maggie is determined to reunite with her husband, Glenn, despite having little chance of meeting up with him again. She drags Bob and Sasha with her, who are questioning whether this is the right course of action. And Glenn, himself, is with one of the Governor’s recruits, who is traumatised by the nightmarish things the Governor made her do. It seems very unlikely that they will ever reunite, until one by one, they catch rumours of a safe haven at the end of a train line, called Terminus. Is it the sanctuary they seek? Or something else?
I spent this half of Season Four debating with myself whether I liked it or not. On one hand, the episodic nature of the show with each episode handling a different character arc, made some of the development that this show cherishes so much more hard-hitting. The first episode both gives us a depiction Michonne’s current state of mind with some beautiful imagery and shows us how Carl’s character has evolved. This season will probably help the show in the long run, because now we are so connected with each cast member that we are closer to the story than ever before. However, on the downside, this season got old really quickly. Every episode began to get a little repetitive. We would check in with a group, they would tackle a theme or a part of their character’s backstory and then they would either solve their inner demons, or at the very least lay them all out on the table. Character-wise, the show didn’t put a foot out of line; every direction they took the characters was the perfect thing to do (Daryl and Beth was a particularly unexpected and interesting dynamic). However, god, did it get slow? After the first half of Season Four, which was the Walking Dead at its very best, explosive and fast-paced, this feels like the brakes have been well and truly pressed to the floor. This is the Walking Dead at its most thoughtful and there are times when it even threatens to plunge back into Season Two territory.
I know that this will probably divide a lot of the readers here, but I felt that the Walking Dead really needed more humour. Yes, I know that the Walking Dead prides itself on the intense drama and wallowing in the misery of a collapsed civilisation, but there are times when it becomes a bit too much. I absolutely love the characters and I understand that their lives are the show’s leading points over actual zombies, but it still is a zombie show. There needs to be something to break up the serious nature of this show and I feel that humour could do that job. Just some jokes to lighten up the atmosphere. Take the episode focusing on Daryl and Beth. This was the worst episode of the season for me, because it had so many chances to take this lighter approach to the show. The main plot of the day was Beth ‘wanting her first drink’, throwing away logic and caution, just wanting to be a teenager. To me, that was the perfect time to embrace a few laughs, revelling in the absurdity of the situation, especially with Beth’s needs going right over Daryl’s head. Sure, I get that this storyline was meant to show us that Beth is essentially a teenager missing out on doing teenage things, but we could still have had the serious moral of the story and character development in the closing moments. In fact, some could argue that they would have come across as even more powerful, as by the time the episode hits its high notes, we have lost interest in being serious. The frustrating thing is that sometimes the episode threatened to be funny (“Your first drink ain’t gonna be peach schnappes!” grunts Daryl), but it never quite understood the concept. And if you think I am barking up the wrong tree, look at the Walking Dead Game by Telltale Games. Their humour is spot-on, helps us appreciate and like the characters more (Carl needs to come across as more likeable for a start).
However, as I said, despite me getting frustrated with the slow approach to the show, it still hit the high points when it needed to. It introduces some intriguing ideas. The addition of Eugene adds something I wasn’t expecting from the show and I cannot wait to see where his storyline will end up. Tara Chambers might not really be as likeable as the characters we already have, but it will be interesting to see how she evolves in the next few seasons. And then there is Terminus. I know where the storyline is going here and the comic books really messed it up. However, the season has already made some decent changes, so I am excited to see how they will handle it. That cliffhanger is jaw-droppingly amazing, especially as after spending a whole season away from Rick, he shows us why he is still the best character with a single, immortally cool line.
Final Verdict: Yes, this isn’t as exciting or as fast-paced as previous seasons, but it still has us gripped from start to finish. A necessary slower season.