The Walking Dead: Season 4 created by Frank Darabont (American Movie Classics, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Motion Pictures)

Starring Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Emily Kinney, Scott Wilson, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Chad L. Coleman, David Morrissey, and Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.

*Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons*

Characters Wanted

In previous reviews on The Walking Dead, I’ve worried about the fine line between compelling television and “death pornography”—the tendency for the writers to navigate the show from death to death where the only thing in between that matters is building the tension before the next kill. The inherent danger in such a strategy is its desensitization of the characters. What’s the point in pulling for anyone in particular when everyone will die eventually?

Season 4 does a decent job of developing the human element in this post-apocalyptic story, but I fear it’s not enough.

Finding a Rhythm

The season begins with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) settling into a rhythm at the prison. Eschewing the gun for a hoe, Rick wants to teach his son, Carl (Chandler Riggs) the benefits of agriculture. There’s a sense of rootedness echoing throughout everyone’s dialogue.

The principal bad guy from the last season, The Governor (David Morrissey), is on the run. While Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) continue searching for their foe, many in the prison have long forgotten the threat he has posed.

Yet, the Governor sits at the periphery, scheming for ways into the prison. The results of such strategies lead everyone on a collision course with repercussions echoing throughout much of the final half of the season.

Inside the Mind

The strength of this season lies in character development. Rick struggles with identity and what fatherhood means in a zombie wasteland. We get inside the mind of Daryl and hear about how he’s running from his past life. Best of all, Michonne is more than a sword!

And yet, The Walking Dead continues to tread water. The narrative arcs are now well tread. The group finds shelter; the group begins to hope that they’re settled; conflict dashes their dreams and they are all back in the woods looking to start back at square one.

I continue to watch largely due to inertia. I’m not sure I’d recommend beginning from scratch if you’ve avoided it so far, but there’s enough here to entertain. Sadly, The Walking Dead will always teeter on the brink of “death porn.” The series executes the action sequences with aplomb and the writing is beginning to round out at the edges. But I’ll always wish for more—I’m just never sure they’ll deliver.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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