It’ll never stop. As long as there are people, there will be new walkers. New undead adversaries to make the lives of Rick and his ragtag survivors a constant, miserable struggle. The Walking Dead has thus far always been about getting past the next obstacle, whether it’s finding family, searching for a lost girl, or fighting a one eyed, decapitated head-watching monster. The premiere of the fourth season takes on a completely different theme. What do you do when you’ve found a relatively safe haven in a world where the walking undead exist?

The prison is a much more benign place than last season. Since Rick’s crew opened their doors to the leftover people from the Governor’s camp, there’s a much more community feel. There is a farm, cookouts, story time for kids, and even batteries for music players. The security of the prison is better than ever before and a system in in place to ensure that everybody is fed, happy, and even reading new comics every once in a while.

Daryl is a continued provider, earning the eternal love of Carol and new kid Patrick. Glenn is morose, but still entwined with Maggie, who was afraid she was pregnant. Michonne smiles now, happily interacting with Rick and Carl. Carol is reading to the new children, before covertly teaching them how to protect themselves, perhaps remembering how unready her own daughter was to face the harsh realities of the world.

Carl’s story is fascinating. He’s such a kid, with his being naïve enough to name the pig who is clearly being fattened for the slaughter and enthusiasm for new comic books. But he’s so desperate to be seen as an adult that he yells at the younger kids for naming walkers. He doesn’t see why they would consider the cannibalistic monsters as people, all while naming a pig “Violet.” Seeing him sneak up on story time only to find out that it’s a front to show them how to fight with knives was sad. He wanted a moment to pretend to just be a kid, but even that wasn’t innocent anymore. This is a good direction for a character that was often the butt of many of the fan’s jokes. Carl isn’t a kid anymore, but it’s good that he wants to be.

Rick’s storyline is the most hopeless. While alone in the woods, he ends up face to face with a skin-and-bones foreign survivor, Clara, who is starving and desperate to join Rick’s group. He tentatively agrees if he can first meet her boyfriend and then ask them three mysterious questions. As he tells her, you need people to survive in this world. Little does he know, that’s exactly her downfall. She had one person, who she depended on for everything. When he became a walker, and eventually just a head without a body, she gave up. With nobody to protect her or to live for, she essentially became a shell of a person, luring people like Rick to feed to her boyfriend’s head. In the end she takes her own life so she doesn’t have to live with what she’s done.

Clara not being able to live with her actions is interesting given Rick’s three questions that he asks prospective new prison community members.

#1. How many walkers have you killed? (Clara: Eddy killed them all.)

#2. How many people have you killed? (Just me)

#3. Why? (You don’t come back from this.)

They’re great questions. Rick understands that you have to kill people in this world. He just wants people to be upfront about it and explain why it was necessary. But question number one is fascinating too. He also wants to know that you’ll be willing to do what you have to survive. Has Rick turned people away who haven’t been willing to kill walkers? Maybe not, but the question hints that he might stop somebody from eating the community food and sleeping under the prison roof if they’re not able to kill to endure.

Although The Walking Dead season 4 begins yet another showrunner’s tenure on this show. Scott M.Gimple, who has worked on the show since the beginning, does a fine job setting up the season and the characters. However, I’m still dubious about the revolving door of head writers. Anybody want to bet how long this one lasts?

Other Musings:

  • I hate when I’m gardening guns and a horde of zombies keeps me from concentrating.
  • According to The Talking Dead, it’s been 6 or 7 months since the season ended.
  • Something is wrong with Violet the pig. Either there’s a toxin in the air that’s hurting her or it’s commentary on the fact that Violet once had many piglets around her and is now alone. Maybe Violet gave up just like Clara.
  • “Feel better Violet.” Before we eat you.
  • Oh Patrick. I liked the character right away. He was clearly a little bit in love with Daryl and a friend for Carl. I loved that he admitted to being really immature and loving story time. So, of course he’s dead by the end of the episode. Is there something toxin in the air? In the food? Or did he just die of some sort of pneumonia from living in a cold prison cell with inadequate health care? Either way, there’s a walker within the walls of the prison now.
  • Anybody else get nervous when the new black guy wanted to join the group leaving the prison? New and black? He might not last long in the world of The Walking Dead.
  • Anybody else think that it looks like Michonne is being set up to be a close family unit with Rick and Carl? She smiles around them. It’s nice.
  • The second chubby Kyle Gallner showed up as Beth’s new boyfriend, Zach, I knew he was a goner. It’s a joke in the horror community that he always dies in horror movies. He didn’t even last a full episode.
  • It literally rained walkers.
  • Beth’s reaction to Zach’s death was the saddest thing. She has a 30 Days Without Accident sign. When she finds out he’s dead, she barely reacts. Just changes the sign to zero days.
  • Beth: “I don’t cry anymore, Daryl. I’m just glad I got to know him.” Daryl: “Me too…I’m just tired of losing people.” Beth: “I’m glad I didn’t say goodbye. I hate goodbyes.”