Arguably one of the best television series on screen at the moment, The Walking Dead is at its core a study of the human condition, and how far we can be pushed until we break. The fourth season is definitely the shows best, bringing a whole new barrage of issues and choices for our beloved survivors that will take its toll on them emotionally, physically and mentally. But that’s the great thing about this show, it’s no holds barred, take no prisoners approach (excuse the pun), a show that revels in all its flawed beauty.
The season kicks off with our survivors still living in ignorant bliss in the prison, with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) giving up his position as leader to a ‘council’, consisting of Hershel (Scott Wilson), Carol (Melissa McBride), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Sasha (Soniqua Martin-Green). But as is the case with this show, the harmony doesn’t last too long, and a contagious, deadly flu finds its way inside the prison walls, slowly killing survivors one by one. Also looming is the unknown whereabouts of The Governor (David Morrissey), whose one soul mission in life is to clearly give audiences the creeps every time he opens his mouth. After an all in brawl sees the prison uninhabitable and our group split up in all different directions, the latter half of the season deals with the repercussions of finding yourself in uncommon territory, and the groups’ personal journeys in finding their way back to one another.
Considered as the most confronting season yet, The Walking Dead took on a whole new level with just one episode. If you’re a fan of the show you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you aren’t let me break it down for you. Episode fourteen titled The Grove is by far the most gripping, defining episode of any season of any show I have ever seen. This is a huge statement to make, and without giving too much away this episode will simply break your heart. The choices that are made will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression well into season five, but the very fact that showrunner Scott Gimple chose to include such brutal, gut-wrenching decisions that have to be made is not only a testament to the realism of the show, but the raw story-telling that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats week in, week out.
This show wouldn’t be what it was today without the emotionally authentic portrayals by the actors. Fan favourite Norman Reedus is consistently great as redneck turned one man walker killing machine Daryl, whose complexities not only make for riveting t.v., but also allow Reedus to demonstrate his skills as an actor. But the standout this season is Melissa McBride, who as an original survivor way back when in season one has come into her own as the once shy Carol. Her understated performance has always been a personal favourite, and this season sees her stamping out some authority over her fellow cast members and really drawing you in to her personal struggle (see: The Grove).
A show about the undead wouldn’t be worth peanuts if the makeup wasn’t on point, and suffice to say this season will have you gagging into your shirt while simultaneously in awe of the realistic effects being dead for countless months would do to a person’s complexion. How the make-up department turns people into literal zombies is beyond me, but hats off to them because if I didn’t know any better I would think those people really were dead. Eye balls hanging from sockets, countless decapitated talking heads, and skin that hangs from the bone like string cheese is just one of the components of this show. Without it, The Walking Dead wouldn’t be half as gripping to watch, or half as genuine.
You don’t reach cult status without going against the grain, pushing the limits on story-telling in a way that makes audiences stand up and take notice. Season four marks a turning point for The Walking Dead, having most definitely presented itself as a force to be reckoned with among its competition. Every piece of the puzzle is continuously nothing short of perfect, and will no doubt continue this trend into the upcoming season.