TV Review: The Walking Dead Season 4.2
The Walking Dead is a conundrum. For the past two seasons, the big, world changing event (and major character death) has occurred primarily in the midseason finale, with the season finale being a mellower, kind of “meh” affair. Last season we got Rick and his team infiltrating Woodbury and Michonne’s battle with the Governor, followed by arguably the series’ low point, the Governor’s retaliation against the survivors at the prison. This season we got the confrontation we should’ve gotten between The Governor and Rick in December, and last night’s season finale, while not entirely giving us many answers with the “Terminus” plot line, has set up some interesting developments for next season, and has finally put Rick back into “bad ass mode”.
I have to applaud show runner Scott Gimple for not only proposing following the different bands of survivors, but for sticking with it throughout production. For as uneven as it was, the second half of Walking Dead’s fourth season deserves a lot of credit for doing something different with the narrative. Where many hugely successful shows would offer up “more of the same”, The Walking Dead’s creative team took a huge risk in splitting up the group, and while it didn’t work at as well for some of the characters, it was a pretty interesting decision, and allowed the writers and producers to do more narratively. If Rick’s group was still in one piece, do you think we would’ve gotten everything we did in this second half of the season? I certainly don’t think so.
However, it’s with this narrative choice that Walking Dead’s second half stumbled too. While some episodes were extremely shocking and moving, asking the hard questions about living and surviving in the apocalypse that the comic book has been excelling at, others could’ve been condensed down. For as much as I like Norman Reedus’ Daryl Dixon, his pre-hunter plot could’ve been cut in half. Same goes for Tyrese and Carol’s baby sitters club, even though they were involved in one of the best episodes of the series, “ The Grove”. The episodes were so spread apart that I was having trouble remembering where people where the last time we saw them. I mean, is Rick Grimes still the main character? Because we barely saw him this half of the season. I really thought that the writers might be gearing up to kill him off and replace him Daryl; he had that little screen time.
The creative team would’ve done themselves a favor if they looked at HBO’s Game of Thrones; another hit series with an even BIGGER cast, but still gives every character and storyline the time they require. Each episode at least checks in with characters, even if they’re not central to the plot of the season. This way, we never lose track of where certain character are at any given point. If Walking Dead is going to continue adding characters like Abraham, they’re going to have to think of some way to make sure everyone gets sufficient screen time.
Speaking of Abraham, Michael Cudlitz looks exactly like the character. His characterization was pretty spot on as well. Every time he wasn’t on screen I missed him, and every time a scene with him ended, I wanted more. I have to give a hand to Chandler Riggs’ Carl Grimes as well for making me completely forget the “Where’s Carl” meme. Carl’s transformation throughout the season has been pretty interesting to watch, and I wonder if they’ll go as far as the comic book has gone with him. Also, as much fun as I have imitating Andrew Lincoln’s commands to Carl (“Caaaaarrrrrrrlllllllllllggghhhhhllll”), I still think he’s great as Rick, and I’m very happy that he’s back in his “leader” mode, as opposed to farming.
It may not have succeeded, but The Walking Dead took a lot of interesting risks this season. I can’t think of too many other highly successful shows that would’ve pushed their main character off for a bunch of episodes to focus on smaller characters, but Walking Dead did. Season four’s second half wasn’t for everybody, but it was nice change of pace from the prison and the formula of the show. At the very least, this cliffhanger is better than last season’s, and we’re back to having a Rick Grimes that isn’t afraid to shoot (or bite) when he needs to.