With Season 4A over, the show has pretty much stuck to its pattern of brief moments of potential followed by either botched execution or a regression once more in the wrong direction, although such mistakes are becoming less commonplace. There’s a general feeling of greater confidence and comfort in everything The Walking Dead does even if it doesn’t always hit. It might have taken four years to get there but better late then never. It should be commended for emulating Season Two’s domestic approach but this time making it far more engaging and even exciting at times.
The show’s cast has been slowly expanding over the past couple of seasons. This hasn’t really felt particularly beneficial until now, where the added variety has been pretty key in maintaining a sense of freshness, something which The Walking Dead always seems to need. This has allowed the more single note character dynamics (the show really needs to find something new for Maggie and Glen to do other than be concerned for each other) to fade into the background. Chad Coleman’s Tyreese and newcomer and fellow Wire graduate Lawrence Gilliard, Jr were both given some solid screen time and development. Congratulations to the creative team for overcoming their anxiety of having more than one living and fleshed out black character on the show at the same time. Jesus, that was ridiculous.
It also seems like the creative team were paying attention to Telltale’s wonderful first season of the video game (which managed to outclass the show in practically every way) because new addition Lizzie bears a lot of similarities to the hardened child Clementine seen in the game. In general, they’ve gotten better at handling the younger characters on the show in large part due to them not really behaving like kids, having been rapidly matured by the necessity of continued survival.
The massive hanging thread from last season, The Governor’s escape, served as a nice break from prison life, something which could have and indeed nearly did fall into the mundane. I felt that the decision to not bring his story to a definitive conclusion last year was a huge mistake but I was glad to be proven wrong since his participation allowed for the season’s most intriguing episodes. Prior to these, the explanation and exploration of just who The Governor is and what makes him tick was muddled in the extreme. While I wouldn’t say they completely turned things around, the character is far better off for these couple of episodes with their extreme focus. I said in my breakdown of Season Three that the show is at its best when it exercises this type of narrow lens and drills down singularly into just one or two characters at a time. This theory gets even stronger now in light of the handling of The Governor and I really hope the writers have finally realised where the show’s strengths lie.
Carol suddenly became one of the most compelling elements of the show. An impossible task I would have thought but there you go, miracles do happen. I suspect we’ve haven’t seen the last of her.
Speaking of possible reappearances, I would be extremely surprised if Judith is actually dead, not only because it happened off-screen but because I’m not convinced the writers would kill off (or rather, be allowed to by AMC) a baby. If it isn’t a stupid piece of deceit then credit where credit is due.
I don’t think The Walking Dead will ever be a drama with a real degree of consistent quality but where it’s at now is good enough that its flaws don’t detract too much from its enjoyability, certainly not as much as they have in the past. We’ll see how things wrap up in a couple of months.
The Walking Dead returns for eight more prison-less episodes on February 9th.