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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead, "30 Days Without an Accident"

Season 4, Episode 1

Grade: C
Verdict: After a third season with its fair share of ups and downs (significantly more downs than ups), the fourth season of The Walking Dead begins with more of a whimper than a bang.  Much of the episode is centered around showing us how much these characters have changed as their surroundings have evolved, but it ultimately feels like nothing more than a bunch of people walking around, doing chores, and talking about how, surprise, life has been hard in the zombie apocalypse.  One sequence in particular brings a ton of originality and engagement, but is utterly ruined by a climax that feels fake.  Not an example of the worst this series has offered in the past, but definitely nowhere close to the best either.

As the third season of AMC's hit show The Walking Dead was coming to a close, there was honestly very little to truly motivate someone to come back.  The series had definitely not lived up to the potential of its source material or its first season, but that minor hiccup could have been ignored had the series not grasped so firmly onto its pattern of meandering, overdrawn plots with only spotty performances.  In fact, there was almost nothing to entice someone sitting on the fence with this show to come crawling back (pun intended).  Call it being in the mood for zombies because Halloween is under 3 weeks away or call it nothing else was on, but this reviewer sat down for the opening of season four of The Walking Dead.  Who knows, maybe things would change...

Taking place several months after the end of the third season, Rick and the gang have made life at the prison feel like a bit more of a community, providing a steady stream of food, shelter, education, and work for the survivors of Woodbury.  As always, things go poorly when a newer recruit is taken on a trip to gather supplies.  Meanwhile, Rick runs into a mysterious woman while checking traps who would like to join their community, but not before she can answer three simple questions.

For those who have followed The Walking Dead this far, the idea of an episode with not a lot happening is pretty familiar territory.  With seasons of this series now pushing 16 episodes, there never seems to be enough plot to last that inordinate length, making for a ton of filler.  In that respect, this episode falls right in line with many others in this series: by the end, it feels like nothing was truly accomplished.  Were this anything other than the season premiere, such a move would have been somewhat understandable, but, considering it has been around 6 months since a new episode of The Walking Dead, those who still genuinely enjoy this show deserved something better than the blah premiere we got.  The episode opens with several extended scenes, showing how life has changed at the prison with the addition of the people from Woodbury, and how virtually everyone we have gotten to know since season one has stepped up in some sort of leadership role.  By the time the episode hits the 20 minute mark, however, one realizes absolutely nothing has happened thus far.  Except for one sequence (more on that in just a bit), this an episode which thrives on doing absolutely nothing.  Boring your viewers right out of the gate in a new season is not a good way to hold onto ratings.

Half of this episode centers around yet another meandering story surrounding Rick.  Fortunately, his days of being a poor man's Shakespeare character seem to be over.  This time around, Rick runs into a mysterious woman who desperately wants to come live at the prison.  Holding onto his understandably suspicious nature towards strangers, Rick will not agree to allow this woman and her companion to join them without a few questions.  On the one hand, it seems like the writers give us this plot to show how Rick has evolved from seeing new people as a risk to more of an asset, becoming major players in the war against the walkers.  It is an interesting idea, but it is not one that really sticks its landing here, especially once the climax of this plot thread is reached.  As can be expected, the frightened foreign woman has ulterior motives once she and Rick reach her camp, and she is swiftly dispatched.  Though we do get an answer to the maguffin of Rick's three questions, this plot meanders into nowhere, much like the rest of the episode.  Rick receives zero development from this story as it all ends with a pep talk from Hershel that was bound to happen even if Rick had stayed and picked tomatoes instead.

Truly the only moment where this episode reaches anything resembling engagement with its audience is a scene involving Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, and a few others looting a store for supplies.  We get some exposition that they found this place guarded by walkers a while back, but it is abandoned now.  Initially this scene seemed to be wandering just as much as anything else in the premiere, even including a seeming gap in logic as, at least 1.5 years into the zombie apocalypse, this store was still fully stocked.  Nevertheless, things finally get interesting when, after one of the expendable cast members causes a big noise, zombies on the roof begin to move...and subsequently fall through to the floor.  It is a scene which goes from flat-lining to utterly pulse pounding in a matter of minutes as each new walker comes pounding through the ceiling.  Let it never be said that this show is lacking in creativity with its monsters, this is a sequence that is on par with some of the better horror scenes done thus far in the series.  Unfortunately, what could have been an incredibly, noteworthy zombie sequence to begin the season is ruined by its finale.  As the survivors run to escape, it becomes clear that a helicopter is about to come crashing through the roof as well.  When this happens, the resulting crash looks so fake, the use of green screen so obvious, that it utterly takes the viewer out of an otherwise pleasing experience.  Excellent build up wasted by a laughable conclusion.

Though it would seem from this review that this episode was utterly unwatchable, that is not necessarily true.  This is definitely not the worst episode of The Walking Dead ever, but it is also most definitely not one of the better ones.  If anything else, season four's opener shows that this series is good at falling back into its old patterns of episodes which may have one or two intriguing concepts, but everything ends up meandering so slowly that one does not care once a climax is reached.  Far be it from this reviewer to tell someone how to make a television show, but it seems that a season premiere should have something a bit more note worthy than zombies falling through a roof and a dead pig.  A creative action sequence almost saves the entire thing, but it too ultimately devolves into a boring sigh.  Welcome back, Walking Dead.  Perhaps some things will never change.
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1 comment:

  1. The stranger was most definitely not Hispanic. She spoke with an Irish accent. Small quibble...but noticeable.

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