We’ve finished watching The Walking Dead Season 4, finally, and generally speaking, i’m really glad we picked that up again. While Zombies are quite overdone by now, depictions of the Zombie apocalypse are so much more than just that- traditionally, movies and series of this genre say much more about humanity as their post-apocalyptic setting suggests.
Here might be Spoilers. Also PG-rated, as i’m writing about The Walking Dead (no harsh pictures, though).
To give some perspective, since this might just be the first post i’m writing about something other than MMORPGs, the Zombie adaption i like the most, The Walking Dead notwithstanding, are the 28 days/weeks later movies and i’m still hoping for the third one to arrive at some point. In terms of tv-series, my all-time-favourite has to be The Wire. With those movies, i like their direction, the soundtrack, the color scheme used in each of them. I like the fact that the Infected, in this case, can starve- they’re not Undead. This allows for developement of the story- from the downfall of civilization up to rebuilding it. The Wire, on the other hand, is a (mind you, i’m european and have never been to the US, so i might be wrong) nice picture of how i imagine the US society to be- it involved looks into different areas of life- from the drugdealing, middle-class up to politicians and press. So i like my tv-series/movies to be entertaining, but not devoid of some kind of depth. That’s not to say i won’t watch movies without conceivable depth, but i won’t rate them very high.
The Walking Dead has a lot of potential- here, we can take a look at the downfall of civilization as well as how people cope with it and, maybe, rebuild some of our former glory. Generally speaking, that’s where TWD is failing in my point of view- at least in the first four seasons- there’s no sense of rebuilding. It’s always about finding shelter, meeting other, usually bad, people, shooting each other, losing shelter, finding new. We’re stuck in survival mode- it’s a bit like playing 7 days to die over and over again on different maps. Season 4 is quite the same here, actually- we’ll start in the prison, we meet the Governor (Brian) again, the two groups fight each other, both lose, the prison’s overrun and inhabitable, the survivors of the group go looking for another place. And i don’t believe for a minute that Eugene knows what caused the outbreak and that he’s able to “save the world”- it’s probably just a ploy to get protection.
The strong side, in my opinion, are still the characters and the interaction between them. Honestly, it’s mostly about the interactions, as there isn’t really even one character i particularly like with Michonne coming closest.
And while we usually meet other people just to go to war with them, we can also see the application of different strategies of survival- sometimes idealistic, rebuilding and protecting a village- sometimes practical, as in living in a prison. All characters have been through different hardships in their quests of survival, so you can also see different outcomes in how they are influenced by their own actions and their past losses.
So with all that out of the way, we begin Season 4 in the prison, where life seems to be as comfortable as it possibly can be in the Zombie apocalypse. Instead of being fighters, the group is slowly changing over to being farmers and scavengers. I can tell you that by episode 3 or 4, i was very willing to give the prison up- while there was some developement in the prison society, all in all they were still quite the same. I don’t know what i’d expect, but i imagine that a group of people would try and rebuild a “good” society- and sure, farming would be the logical first step in doing this. But Farmer Rick was not convincing.
He seemed like someone who was just waiting to pick up a backpack and a gun again and run off into the woods. Later, when the prison is lost, we’ll see that most of the people in there are remembering their time in the prison quite fondly- but there’s almost no hint of happiness and optimism in these early prison episodes. Then comes the flu, several prison-people get sick, die and return. A team drives about 50 miles to get some antibiotics and save the group. It’s when they’ve returned that we’ll see the Governor attacking the prison.
There are two episodes telling the story of the Governor from Season 3 and what he was up to in the time before the attack on the prison. He loses his will to fight, regains it when he meets a family, protects that family, takes them with him to find a “better place”, takes leadership of that group they meet and decides to take the prison for this new group and his new family, in particular. He calls himself Brian now; i’m not sure if this was his real name, and he’s changed- at least seemingly. I’d probably know if i had watched Season 3 recently, but the last time we watched TWD was when Season 3 was the newest Season. But my impression was that in Season 3, his motivation for doing things is gaining/retaining power and a certain lifestyle- in Season 4, it’s to protect his new “family”. His behaviour doesn’t change much, though, as he kills a few people and goes to war with the prison-people.
The episodes up until this point weren’t groundbreaking, but watchable. The episode showing Brian’s attack on the prison and the resulting chaos/escape is interesting and good. Brian asks Rick’s group to leave the prison until sundown- and he has the upper hand, as he took a tank with him. Rick declines and tries to persuade Brian’s group that there’s no need to fight, they could simply come in and share. Brian, of course, doesn’t like that much, kills Hershel, whom he had abducted earlier, and the shoot-out begins. The tank takes the prison-fences down and there you have it: lots of “Walkers” inside the prison walls.
After their escape, the survivors of Rick’s group are divided into a few smaller groups of, well, 2-4 characters we know. They’re back to survival, to finding shelters for one night instead of homes to rebuild. And of course, there’s promise of more: on railroad tracks, they see signs of a sanctuary- “Terminus”. And of course they’ll all decide to go there- i mean, i’d do the same; it’s the promise of other people, security and maybe even other survivors from the earlier group.
Well, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. And there was something feeling off in Terminus when the groups finally arrived there- it seemed too peaceful, too accepting- it was too easy. Rick then recognizes a watch and some clothes from other members of their former group and pulls his gun. The Season ends when we see the people who arrived at Terminus locked in a train wagon.
My first thought when we saw the first people arrive in Terminus was “Cannibals”, and i’m pretty sure that’s the right guess. I mean, it would be kind of funny- “The Walking Dead, now with living people eating people”.
I’ve found quite a few episodes to be utterly boring- to be precise, almost all the way from prison to Terminus. Sure, there were highs and lows and i’m still complaining on quite a high level, as The Walking Dead still is character-driven and quite ok in this regard. But story-wise, i wish we’d move on from the survival-shelter-new home-war-loss-theme we’ve had since the series began. As i said, i don’t really know what i’d expect, but it would be something else, story-wise. And we all know, TWD is in its 6th season now, it will soon end, possibly with Season 8 or 9 (US-tv-series rarely make it into the double-digits). It would be nice to see something different than the same struggle for survival until Rick dies. I’d like to see another theme here, a grander vision for human behaviour in this situation. Well, we’ll see where S5 will take us.