Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 1 “30 Days Without An Accident”
The first episode of the fourth season of The Walking Dead asks the question “Do you get to come back?” If you have done terrible things to survive, can you ever get back to living a normal life? It’s a question worth exploring on a show about survival. It’s also a question fans are probably asking about The Walking Dead. After last season’s dreadful finale, can the show redeem itself? Can it come back from the Season of Andrea? Is Scott Gimple the guy who will finally make The Walking Dead a TV show that lives up to its wasted potential?
Based on the first episode, the answer to that last question is definitely “no”. 30 Days Without an Accident (a title which makes me think of potty training) is no more coherent than anything from last season. But it was pretty entertaining all the same.
The episode opens with Rick farming. He has on ear buds and is rocking out hard enough that he can’t hear the noisy zombies on the other side of the fence. Probably not advisable post apocalypse. Fence or no, you probably want to be able to hear zombies just in case. Rick should probably ditch his iPod. But instead, Rick has ditched his gun. Hershel will specifically tell us this later in one of the many bits of expository dialogue that fill the first half of the episode. But to illustrate the point, Rick digs up a gun while tilling his crops. Was it dropped during the Governor’s assault on the prison? Did Carl try to plant it to grow a gun tree? We don’t know. But Rick tosses it aside like a stone. He’s a farmer, not a sheriff dammit.
After the opening credits, we take time to check up on everyone in the prison. There are a LOT of people in the prison now! Lots of new faces and names to learn. But don’t worry if you can’t remember some of the newbies. They won’t be around long. It’s time to play Pick the Red Shirt. If you guessed Patrick and Zack, congratulations! You’re able to read foreshadowing!
Time has passed since the Governor lead the least effective assault in the history of assaults and then shot and killed all his people for no apparent reason. Which is probably a good thing. It lets this season start fresh – or at least as fresh as it possibly can given that last season’s finale resolved absolutely nothing. To bring viewers up to speed, all of the characters engage in very convenient conversations in which they say things that they already know but which we viewers need to be made aware of. There are a lot of ways to handle exposition. So naturally The Walking Dead picks the most heavy-handed approach and uses it exclusively.
It turns out love is in the air at the prison! Daryl and Carol are still engaged in their eternal game of “are they a couple or what?”-style flirting. I am waiting for the revelation that these two actually got married in season 2 and just never told anyone. Maggie and Glenn are more lovey dovey than ever now that Glenn is over his alpha male prick thing he had going on last season. Tyreese was volunteering for fence duty so he could spend time with a hot chick who based on what we have seen of her apparently spends all of her time at the fence killing zombies. Even little Beth has a boyfriend of sorts. Although she doesn’t seem all that into him.
I forget. Did Bob and Sasha have a thing going on? You may be asking, Who the hell are Bob and Sasha? Sasha is Tyreese’s sister. You may not know that because I don’t know if anyone has ever said her name on the show. Bob is a new character who we are told in that unique expository style was a field medic for the army. If you read the comics, you would also know that Bob is an alcoholic. If you don’t read the comics, don’t worry. The TV show is going to make that character trait really damn obvious pretty soon.
Through the wonders of exposition, we learn that the Ricktatorship has ended. Instead, the prison is run by a council of elves. Well, not elves. But Hershel, Carol and Sasha. Presumably these three are on the council because they weren’t doing anything else. And there were no elves. Little Carl isn’t a psycho anymore, but he’s too cool for story time. Rick won’t carry a gun anymore (just in case you were unsure what the cold open was getting at). Michonne is still looking for the Governor in spite of the fact it would be perfectly reasonable to assume he was killed by his men. Because if his two remaining men didn’t kill him at their first opportunity, they are even dumber than Andrea.
We also discovered in no uncertain terms that Zack was a dead man walking. The kid was too nice and likeable. Beth refused to give him a goodbye kiss. That’s the equivalent of having Meg Ryan show up as your adorable wife in Top Gun. Right then you knew Zack’s goose was cooked (yay Top Gun joke!). Just in case you thought Zack might live, he engaged in some banter with Daryl right before their dangerous supply run. Bad move, Zack. You just got T-Dogged in your first episode!
Glenn asked that Maggie not come on the supply run. The tone of their naked conversation suggested that Maggie might be pregnant. But The Walking Dead doesn’t like to take chances that viewers might miss subtext. So Glenn picks up a camera, strokes it lovingly and then gazes at an ad with pictures of children. I’m surprised he didn’t turn to Tyreese and say, “Hey, do you think I should bring back this camera just in case my girlfriend is pregnant? I’m so conflicted!” To which Tyreese would say nothing because if he had too many lines he would be killed T-Dog style. Aw hell no!
Meanwhile, the new black male on the show stopped in the liquor aisle. I actually really liked the scene in which Bob struggled with the question of whether or not to grab a bottle and hide it in his bag. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. really gave the scene an emotional resonance that the show can rarely claim. Not knowing what to do with emotional honesty, The Walking Dead decided to hit audiences over the head again. The liquor cabinet fell over on Bob and pinned him to the ground while zombies started dropping from the ceiling.
If that isn’t the most heavy-handed metaphor for the dangers of alcoholism, I don’t know what is. Does that even qualify as a metaphor? I guess Bob could have said something like, “Alcohol is going to be the death of me someday.” But short of that, I don’t know that it is possible to dumb things down any further.
Having said that, whoever came up with the idea of zombies falling through the ceiling certainly earned their paycheck that day. And the slime guys had to have put in some overtime. If you’re watching the show for creative zombie mayhem – and really why else would you be watching The Walking Dead – this scene was a pretty spectacular payoff.
Since everyone on The Walking Dead is an action hero at this point, they all manage to fight their way to safety except for our poor red shirt, Zack. Well, at least poor sweet Beth will shed a tear for him, right?
I do want to congratulate The Walking Dead on having introduced a new black male character without killing off the previous one. Apparently this show can have two black males on it at the same time. Who knew?
Meanwhile, Carl is hanging out at the prison with all the other kids. And good lord, there’s a lot of kids all the sudden! The girls have named the zombies outside the fence. While Carl hasn’t killed anyone in a few weeks, he’s not above being the creepy kid who chastises people for naming zombies. And hey! Why are those kids standing next to the zombie fence with no adult supervision? Seriously, how are these kids still alive?
Carl’s best bud is Patrick who wears Harry Potter glasses and is not too cool for story time. I bet he’s also a wicked dungeon master. You know Patrick has a 20-sided dice stashed somewhere. Eventually, Carl decides to check out story time for himself. Carol reads from a book as the kids listen. Then she ends the story mid sentence and begins instructing the kids on proper stabbing technique. Carol, it turns out, is no Mother Goose. She asks Carl not to tell his dad pretty much guaranteeing that Carl will tell Rick at the first chance he gets.
Patrick excuses himself from story time because he’s not feeling well. Kind of like that pig who was very obviously dying of some mysterious disease! Or the dead animals Rick sees in the forest! FORESHADOWING!
Ranger Rick has his own solo story this episode. He goes out in the woods to see if they have caught any animals in their snare traps. But all the animals he sees appear to have died of Patrick Disease (That’s what I’m calling it in honor of the fallen dungeon master.) He’s just about to leave when a female zombie descends on a boar carcass. But then the zombie speaks to him. Turns out, she’s not a zombie. She wants help.
Season 3 Rick would have told Scary Not-Zombie Lady to go fuck herself. But Season 4 Rick has come back from the brink. He gives the woman some leftovers which he carries around with him for no apparent reason. He also hands her a knife. Bad idea? Probably. But this is the guy who wears ear buds in the zombie apocalypse. Rick and SNZL walk through the woods while SNZL regales him with her sob story. She and her husband were on their honeymoon and got stuck at the airport. In order to survive, they did terrible, terrible things.
What kind of things? Well, they ate gross stuff and didn’t always help people. But given their condition, I think we can excuse eating rotten fruit and ignoring pleas for help. All they way back to get the woman’s husband, she seems to be pleading with Rick for forgiveness. Kind of makes you wonder what she’s got planned when you reach your final destination, doesn’t it? Well, not Rick. He’s too busy coming up with three questions to ask her and her husband. Betcha one of them is “What is your favorite color?”
Hope she doesn’t blow the capital of Assyria.
When they get to the camp, of course her husband is a zombie. I mean, come on. She looks like a zombie! How could her husband be anything but a zombie? So she attacks Rick in order to feed him to her husband. But it’s a half-assed effort at best. The woman explains that she wanted to bring back the boar instead, but she couldn’t carry it. Rick, on the other hand, could walk. He’s like Zombie Meals on Wheels.
Realizing that Rick probably won’t voluntarily feed himself to her husband, the woman plunges Rick’s knife into her belly. She asks Rick to let her be a zombie so she can be together with her husband. Is this show supposed to be funny? Because I was howling!
So Rick goes home shaken up about his encounter. He tells Hershel while holding his infant daughter for the five minutes he is contractually obligate to nurture her so that the audience does not forget that Rick has an infant daughter. Rick tells Hershel he’s not sure he could handle it if he lost Carl and little what’s-her-name. Hershel insists that Rick has come back from the brink. So has psycho Carl. During the offseason everyone got better so they can be messed up all over again.
Meanwhile, Daryl goes to tell Beth that Zack didn’t make it. Beth has been on the show since season 2 and so far we know the following things about her:
1. She’s blonde
2. She’s Hershel’s other daughter
3. She’s Maggie’s sister
4. She is prone to unexplained comas
5. She is also prone to sing-alongs.
This episode we learned some more interesting facts about Beth:
1. She keeps a garden gnome next to her bed
2. She writes in a diary
3. She has no tears left
4. She has a big accident board like you would have at a factory and every time someone dies she sets it back to zero which is just about the coldest and funniest thing I have ever heard of.
5. Is she hitting on Daryl?
The episode ends with Patrick staggering into the shower, Man, someone should really be keeping an eye on this kid! He started the day perfectly healthy, felt a little woozy at story time and now he looks like walking death! Plus, he showers with his glasses on which isn’t the way most people with glasses shower. Soon, the dungeon master dies alone in the shower and wakes up as a zombie.
So there is now a zombie loose inside the prison walls. Which just goes to show you that those ear buds were a really bad idea. You would think a single zombie wouldn’t create all that much chaos given that we have seen these guys mow down dozens of zombies without even breaking a sweat. But something tells me Beth’s accident board isn’t going to make it to double digits again any time soon.