After six long months, the zombies have officially returned to Sunday evening with tonight's premiere of The Walking Dead. A lot went down last season, culminating in a finale that 1) went out with a fizzle rather than a bang, in my opinion, but 2) expertly set things up for season 4's greatly increased prison population.
After three seasons of the show mostly sticking to one close-knitted group of survivors, what's it going to feel like with 50 new characters? In what variety of gruesome ways will their peaceful new corn-not-killin' community implode and thus destroy the group's hope for a respite from the apocalypse? Will any of the new people be as annoying as Lori or Andrea, please god NO?
Let's talk about tonight's Walking Dead, titled "30 Days Without An Accident." Spoilers ahead!
We start off in the prison, where things have changed quite a bit. The perimeter has a fancy new gate system surrounded by zombie-spearing booby traps. The community has taken up farming, as evidenced by a number of crops and one sickly pig. Rick nicely demonstrates the dichotomy between their precarious bubble of safety and the savage world that surrounds them by removing his earbuds during his farming duties in order to briefly soak up the aural cacophony created by the moaning, hissing zombies pressing against the fence. (Am I distracted by the notion of a charged electronic music player in Walking Dead-ville? Yes I am.) Tyreese has a girlfriend, Beth has a boyfriend, Carol is still sort of flirting with Daryl, and Glenn's super worried about a maybe-pregnant Maggie.
The group has made some civil advancements as well: they have a council rather than one Lori-hallucinating leader, and they've got a fairly efficient method figured out for dispatching the zombies that make it to the fence. Once again I question the ease with which knives and hunks of rebar slide in and out of the thick bony structure of a human skull, but fine. Fine, they have solar-powered iPods, FINE, walker skulls are probably rotted and squishy. Disbelief suspended!
Daryl puts together a team to make a supply run to a nearby big box store. They've set things up ahead of time by luring zombies away from the main part of the store, but somehow in all their scouting they've collectively missed the downed military helicopter on the roof and the swarms of walkers. D'oh! Well, those walkers have been staggering around for a long-ass time, I'm sure it's perfectly fine.
Inside the store, we get confirmation that Glenn suspects Maggie is pregnant when he makes moist doe eyes at a baby photo display. Also, it appears newcomer Bob Stookey has a little problem with booze, based on his epic internal struggle in the beer-and-wine aisle. When he finally overcomes temptation and puts the wine back, though, the whole shelf comes crashing down, trapping his leg. Sons of Anarchy crossover moment: another fine gentleman brought down by the bottle!
The glass-crashing ruckus gets the roof zombies all worked up, and pretty soon they're shuffling across a weakened part of the structure, which falls apart enough for one walker to come flying down into the store only to get hung up by its entrails. Now the roof is straight-up collapsing in awesomely dramatic zombie-raining chunks, and as gore and body parts splatter everywhere, Daryl and the gang start taking out walkers left and right. Bob's in a panic since he's still trapped by his metaphorical addiction, and the living dead are like, Tonight is the night, we’ll fight 'til it’s over / So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us!
Finally everyone escapes, with the exception of Beth's boyfriend, who is gnawed all to shit before the whole building collapses. Man, that would have been a primo time for a mercy shot by Daryl's crossbow, but ... well, sorry, Beth's boyfriend. Best of luck with your new existence as a zombie who's eternally stuck under half a roof and a frigging helicopter.
Elsewhere, Rick leaves the prison boundary to check on their snares, and runs into the adult version of that freaky little girl from The Ring. She's apparently an Irish woman who's somehow managed to survive in the woods with her husband, but come ON. She's so unsettling to look at there's no way she can't be bad news. Rick follows her all the way to her camp as she explains how she's had to do really bad things to live and boy, I almost wish Dead Lori would give Rick another call on the Ghost Phone just to tell him to RUN LIKE HELL.
At her camp, it turns out her husband isn't exactly "alive" in the strictest sense of the word, and the woman wants to feed Rick to him. Rick easily overpowers her, though, so she then stabs herself in the stomach so she can be with her zombified husband. She bleeds out while whispering to Rick, “You don’t get to come back from things. You don’t.”
Back at the camp, Violet the Pig Who Wasn't Supposed to Have a Name is dead. Darn, that's too bad, but maybe bacon for breakfast? Daryl tells Beth about her dead boyfriend, and she sadly takes it in stride, telling Daryl she doesn't cry any more. Hershel counsels Rick that you can come back from the bad things -- why, just look at Carl, who was totally a psycho killer last season, but is now naming pigs and whatnot. Maggie tells Glenn she isn't pregnant after all, but she's open to the idea, despite Lori's horrific birth outcome. “I don’t want to be afraid of being alive,” Maggie says.
Speaking of shit that can go wrong when you're alive, Patrick the new guy isn't feeling so great, and goes staggering into the shower before succumbing to something and dropping to the floor. Our final view is of Patrick's face, blood-coated ... and zombified.
All in all, a fun start to the season! Let's talk about Patrick: what do you think happened there? Is there a connection between the pig and Patrick's illness? (Swine flu?) Didn't it seem like the camera lingered on that basin of water for the shower -- maybe the disease is carried by water? And what was with that zombie at the fence Rick kept looking at, did it look as though it was bleeding from the eyes, just like Patrick was?
Image via AMC