The Walking Dead has taken the world by storm, against all odds becoming the highest rated cable show (and one of the highest rated overall shows) during its third season. Between the timeless appeal of zombies and the psychological complexities exposed by humanity in the absence of civilization, The Walking Dead has something to appeal to everybody--assuming that everybody has the stomach for the occasional evisceration or two.
The much-awaited premiere to the fourth season, an episode entitled "30 Days Without an Accident," aired last night in the United States. There were zombies, there was psychology...and yes, there were a few eviscerations. After all, this is The Walking Dead. (Spoiler alert: the second episode is not going to be called "31 Days Without an Accident.")
Warning: Do not read if you have not seen the season premiere. This will spoil you. A lot...
Recap: On The Home Front
Season 4 opens with Rick rising with the sun, choosing to tend crops before the rest of the prison wakes. He discovers a handgun that has been buried in the dirt and that I am mentioning in case it ends up being the key to the entire season. Shrugging, Rick tosses the gun into a wheelbarrow and continues with his hoeing, all done against a backdrop of Walkers struggling against the chain link fence as they try to get to him. After the credits, he meets up with his son outside of the pigpen that was definitely not there last season, where a deep-voiced Carl notes that "Violet" is not looking so good. Rick scolds Carl for naming the pigs, reminding him that these animals are being raised for food, not pets. Rick relents after a few moments, however, no doubt taking into consideration Carl's recent hit with the puberty stick.
Meanwhile, as the Grimes men debate the merits of anthropomorphizing livestock, Daryl is heading into what looks to be the mess hall for breakfast. Enthusiastically greeted from all directions, Carol teases a slightly uncomfortable Daryl about his newfound celebrity. "Just so you know," says Carol, "I liked you first." It's very cute. Less cute, however, is what Carol shows Daryl as they tour the prison yard: dozens of Walkers--many more than were visible in the scene with Farmer Rick--are pressing up against the fences, which are beginning to sag alarmingly. Therefore, Carol says, they will need more people at the prison than expected and that Daryl will have a smaller group for the planned supply run. Daryl, knowing that he is the most competent person still alive as well as second-billed on the show, isn't too upset by the news.
Elsewhere, sleepyheads Glenn and Maggie wake up, and Glenn guilts Maggie into agreeing not to go on Daryl's supply run, giving the first vague hint that Maggie might be pregnant. Considering their antics last season, Glenn probably shouldn't be so astonished by the development.
In the prison yard, new characters are stabbing Walkers through the fence. Among them is Karen, a Woodburyite from Season 3 who has begun a relationship with Tyreese, who admits that he hates picking off the undead from behind a fence. For this reason, he says, he will be going with Daryl. Or else he's lying and just wants to hang out with Daryl.
As Daryl and newcomer Zach prepare to leave, the smitten Zach gets a kiss from Beth, who is agreeable enough but not so despairing of his venture beyond the fences that she thinks to compliment him on not wearing his red shirt that day. Or to say goodbye. Michonne appears, riding up to the prison on horseback like the second-most competent person still alive, katana slung across her back and a smile on her face. She spares a few friendly words for Rick and Carl before joining Daryl on his supply run. Rick heads into the woods to check their snares for captured animals. Before he leaves, he tells Carl to play with the other kids and try not to be such a psychopath all the time.
Later, several children stand at the fence and taunt the Walkers, calling them by invented names. Carl is apparently more touched by the thought of the sick pig than he is the plight of the undead dead, and he yells at them for thinking of the Walkers as people. The other kids make plans to meet for "story time" later, and I get the impression that bespectacled young Patrick is thinking that his chances with the ladies might have really improved with the lack of competition. Who says that everything about the zombie apocalypse has to be bad? Anyway, Carl rightly says that story time sounds lame and that he will not go. Nevertheless, he slinks into the room and spies, watching as Carol awesomely shifts from reading aloud to giving a crash course on knives. Patrick asks to be excused, saying that he doesn't feel well. As this is a lesson about stabbing zombies rather than algebra, his illness is probably genuine. Carol lets him go.
That night, we learn conclusively that he had not been faking to get out of knife homework. Coughing violently (in a prison that is apparently filled with scores of heavy sleepers), he staggers down to the makeshift shower to try to perk himself up. Instead, he collapses and dies. The final shot of the episode is on poor dead Patrick's face, covered with blood as he becomes a Walker.