Let’s face it. The Walking Dead is a beautiful disaster. On one hand, America loves zombies. This show continues to be a massive hit. Thirteen million people tuned in for the mid-season finale. On the other hand, this show is a mess. The Walking Dead is now half-way through its fourth season and on its third show runner (mostly due to AMC being notoriously hard to work with to be fair). Couple that with the fact that they constantly struggle with deciding what to adapt straight from the graphic novel and what original content they want to do, The Walking Dead has stumbled more times than a zombie with a missing foot. However, we are here to talk about The Walking Dead season 4 and not dwell on its past mistakes. And I have to say, aside from one misstep of a show, it’s been pretty damn good so far.
Fair warning, I’m going to talk spoilers in this review. If you haven’t seen the show, why the hell are you reading a review anyways?! So is the third time going to be the charm for The Walking Dead? Scott Gimple is sure hoping so, as he has taken over as the third Executive Producer for the show after Glen Mazzara departed after season 3. There is one problem with switching show runners all the time, and that it’s that each individual has his own vision for where the show should go. The Walking Dead is a moderately accurate representation of its comic book source material, with a lot of original content thrown in. When Mazzara took over for Frank Darabont halfway through season two it happened. Mazzara had to wade through the disaster that was “the farm” and resolve that situation before he could move on to what he wanted to do in season 3. The first 75% of season 3 is amazing. Unfortunately, the last few episodes of that season are absolutely terrible, as I feel Mazzara was already on his way out. Now in comes Gimple, and he has had to clean up the debacle that Mazzara left behind. And I must say, he has done a pretty damn fine job of it so far.
When I last talked to you guys about Walking Dead after the season three finale, I was really pissed. After taking the summer off to think about it….. that finale still sucked ass. They had followed the books so well up to that point and then changed the finale right when it was supposed to be great. They had to kill of Andrea because she was annoying and awful (which she isn’t supposed to be) and they had already killed off Lori because she was even worse (not supposed to be either). Instead of having an epic showdown with The Governor right then and there and ending that storyline, they had a week ass showdown and let The Governor live. It. Was. Terrible. I wouldn’t have even known where to start to right the ship but Gimple has done it beautifully. The first five episodes this year focused on Rick and the gang at the prison. They were left with a ton of extra zombie fodder last season when, inexplicably, the residents of Woodbury joined them at the prison. To fix that, Gimple came up with a virus outbreak storyline which was great. It added a lot of drama to the show and gave a plausible reason to kill off most of the extra people. It also allowed them some time to reestablish where a lot of the characters were at mentally and in the group. It took some of the burden off Rick, as Andrew Lincoln has struggled to carry the lead at times, and gave more time to Hershel and Daryl (which was needed for TV). It gave much needed screen time to Tyreese as well who is a fan favorite.
Sadly, the next two episodes had to be devoted to The Governor since he was still alive. That’s where the season took its first misstep. Gimple had to do it, considering what he was left to work with, but it was the only spot that didn’t transition well. The first episode where The Governor comes back is PAINFULLY slow. Nothing was accomplished in it. It just shows him as a broken man trying to find his place in the world. Along the way he meets Tara and Lilly and her daughter Megan. They help him to find a purpose again and he genuinely cares for them. Eventually, they run into a new group headed by his old partner from Woodbury Caesar. It was so boring and awful. The Governor is straight up evil. There is no good in him. No purpose. He is a dictator driven mad by what all has happened to him. Thankfully in the next episode, Gimple is again able to right the ship. The entire episode is devoted to showing The Governor slowly slip back into his madness, and be able to obtain a group that allows him to attack the prison.
Finally, eight episodes after it should have happened, we get the season three finale in the form of the season four mid-season finale. And it was absolutely amazing. Andrew Lincoln, to his credit, was amazing in this episode. In his verbal standoff with The Governor before the attack, he displayed acting that gave me hope for the future of this show. The Governor finally sheds any pretense of being a sympathetic character when he finally looses it for good and chops Hershel’s head off. Sad to see Hershel go but it was the right time. Gimple actually did a great job in giving some depth to Hershel’s character for once, so that a death in the show would be met with sadness instead of rejoicing. The tank destroys the prison like it’s supposed to, leaving the group no choice but to go back on the road which is when this show is at its best. It keeps the drama and the zombie kill count high, and prevents them from just sitting around all the time accomplishing nothing. Sadly, the acting of the cast just isn’t strong enough to sustain long periods of down time. Judith is apparently dead, which was needed. All viewers had to know something was going to happen to her. You just can’t carry around a baby in the zombie apocalypse! I wish we could have gotten the book ending there where Lori is shot and the bullet goes through Judith as well, killing them both. It’s an insanely emotional scene in the books that I hate we had to miss, but I understand it. Lori was awful in this show. I couldn’t have suffered through the extra episodes she would have had to have been in till now. And finally, mercifully, The Governor is killed. Stabbed by Michonne and finished off with a bullet to the head from Lilly. Just like in the books. Well done Scott Gimple.
So where do we go from here? For the first time in a long time, I am excited to find out. The group is split. The dead weight (the Woodbury leftovers and Judith) are now just dead. No more watching David Morrissey butcher The Governor character. Carol is gone, but I have a feeling we will see her again. I liked what they had built between her and Daryl and would like to see a payoff to that. For you comic fans there is some really good news. Abraham and Eugene are coming! I absolutely love both of those characters. For the first time, Gimple has a clean slate to work with and he has given me confidence in him that he can make this show special again. Eventually, Rick and the gang will have to get back together. I hope we are allowed to follow them on the road before then end up setting up a permanent (ish) camp again. And believe me its coming. This show isn’t about hope. It’s about surviving and the pursuit of hope. After surviving through this show the past two seasons, I finally can see hope for the future. And when The Walking Dead returns in February, I’m actually excited to chase after it once again.