Originally posted at The Nerds of Color
Welcome to our recap of Season 4, Episode 1 of The Walking Dead, “30 Days Without an Accident,” which first aired on October 13, 2013! Also check out the Storify of our Sunday night live-tweeting!
Don’t click on if you don’t want spoilers. Then again, what are you doing reading a recap if you don’t want spoilers?
Sunday’s episode was exactly what one looks for in a first episode of a season: promises, promises, promises. It was a veritable tapas bar of tantalizing hints for what this season has in store for our favourite zombie survivors; a season that we shall henceforth refer to as “The Fall of the Prison.” Because nothing this good can last.
We return to the prison several months after the events of Season 3’s finale episode, and the premiere’s chief mission was to re-establish the circumstances of the world our survivors are in and how this has affected their mentality (much as the Season 3 opener did as well). And obviously, our survivors have used that intervening time wisely: the outer grounds of the Prison have been cleared and re-fortified once more (after that devastating breach by the Zombie-mobile sent by the Governor), crops and livestock are now being cultivated under Hershel’s skillful eye (who also seems much more comfortable moving around on his wooden leg), and the survivors are now governed by a Council manned primarily by the original survivor groups’ main adults, except Rick. This fulfills Rick’s abstention of power in the Season 3 finale. The Prison is now a fully-functioning co-op, and the survivors have reapplied the same ingenuity and creativity that helped them survive on the road to creating a well-oiled machine for defending Prison — a (super-cool) mechanized gate and stake barriers (a la Morgan) allow the survivors to come and go as they please, while Woodbury’s refugee adults gain expertise in fighting Walkers by routinely thinning the hordes that gather at the Prison’s outer fences.
Most of the survivors have adjusted to the stability of their new life in the Prison, a stability best summarized by Maggie’s final words of the episode: “I don’t want to be afraid to be alive.” Even Daryl has found a measure of redemption: as the community’s main hunter, he is one of the most respected men in the group (something he was clearly insecure about last season). One of the night’s more comedic moments occurs when Carol teases Daryl for being uncomfortable with the newfound admiration, and she watches bemusedly as a new character (whom I referred to on Twitter as “Hipster Kid”) asks to shake Daryl’s hand for bringing back a deer for everyone to eat. Then the moment turns a little creepy when Carol calls Daryl “pookie.”
We see hints of how the other characters have adapted to the Prison. Glenn and Maggie’s romance is rock-solid, and they are now grappling with the possibilities of pregnancy in the post-apocalyptic world. The hope for a safe life amidst Walkers is what leads Maggie to ultimately suggest that a future with children is one she might want.
Michonne maintains a role as a semi-loner loosely associated with the Prison, but spending most of her days outside of the gates exploring and foraging: this suits her fine. Tyreese appears to have assumed an unofficial role of chief of “special forces,” organizing a fighting force to forage at a local grocery store. This is a perfect evolution for Tyreese’s character, and gives him the appropriate dominance he deserves while still acknowledging his “newbie” status in the survivor group; he’s also got a romance going with a woman whose name I didn’t catch (I don’t predict good things on this front). Nonetheless, I still contend that if Rick is forced to resume leadership later this season, there may be a power struggle between Tyreese and Rick that mimics what occurs in the comics. Rick also seems to have accepted his new situation in the Prison: importantly, his abdication of power satisfies him, and he has even given up his right to carry a gun (a right that the Council briefly returns to him for his excursion outside of the gates this episode). He is no longer experiencing hallucinations, although the episode establishes that he now has an uneasy sense of foreboding that there is danger on the horizon — a fear that is likely justified (because otherwise this season would be really, really boring). See again: “The Fall of the Prison.”
Interestingly, it is the survivors’ younger members that are having the hardest time adjusting. In a storyline that references Carl’s struggles in the comic, Carl can’t relate to the Woodbury kids whom he views as children; the irony of this is that Carl is also a budding fanboy, and pesters Michonne to find new comic books on her foraging trips. In the episode, Carl’s conflict manifests when he tells the Woodbury kids not to name the fence Walkers (“Walkers are still people” says one little girl, in a mind-numbing example of naiveté) but then sneaks into “Story Time,” a half-education half-entertainment class run by Carol for the Woodbury kids. That leads to one of the dumbest moments of the episodes, when Carol pivots from book-reading to her educational portion of the class: she pulls out a tray of butcher knives for the wide-eyed children and says something along the lines of “now, we’re going to learn about knives and how to use them.”
Are we serious? Are we really supposed to believe that eleven-year-old kids who have survived for at least two years in a post-zombie apocalypse world have no idea what a knife is or how to use it? Have they never had to slice a banana before in their lives?
I get that The Walking Dead was trying to establish the innocence and inexperience of the Woodbury kids, and to suggest that perhaps this childhood innocence is something worth protecting even in a post-apocalyptic world. But, come on. There are zombies that have eaten these children’s friends and family. There are zombies trying to eat these children outside the fences. No child could be this sheltered.
Beth, Maggie’s sister, is also now a budding sociopath. Early in the episode, we learn that she has a bit of a romance with a guy I’m going to name Daryl’s Fanboy (because I didn’t catch his actual name; it doesn’t matter, anyways), a portly fellow who is fixated on figuring out what Daryl did in the pre-apocalypse (by the way, “homicide detective” was a dumb guess). We all know, however, that it will end tragically. Daryl’s Fanboy joins a large group of foragers — including a hilariously over-armoured Glenn wearing what seems like an entire car-seat strapped to his body — at the grocery store. It is at this time we are also introduced to Laurence Gilliard’s character, Bob Stookey (aka The Second Black Man), a survivor with limited fighting skills, who is apparently an alcoholic, and whom Daryl found alone on the road and brought back to the Prison.
In the grocery store, the survivors (painfully) slowly forage for food and supplies, unaware that there is a downed helicopter and several Walkers on the store roof that are about to crash through at any moment. Of course, the ceiling caves, pinning Stookey under some shelving. The rest of the fighters fight off the Walkers while Stookey flails helplessly (all the fans who wanted to see gore, guts and Daryl shoot his crossbow were gratified in those moments). Just when even I doubted if Stookey might make it out alive, he is rescued. Instead, it is Daryl’s Fanboy who is bitten and killed.
Back at the Prison, Daryl must break the news to Beth, who is eerily okay with Fanboy’s death. In stark contrast to Beth’s hysteria and suicidal tendencies in Season 2, she barely reacts with news of her boyfriend’s untimely end. This doesn’t bode well for Beth; she’s either lost her morality entirely, or her emotional walls will come crashing down at some point later this season. Or both.
Rick had a wholly different story arc this episode, one that I can summarize as follows: Rick’s wild adventures with the Crazy Irish Lady in the forest.
Crazy Irish Lady asks Rick to help her bring a deer carcass back to her camp for her and a male companion. Rick obliges, despite the First Rule of the Zombie Apocalypse being “Don’t Trust Anyone.” Rick mentions that he has to ask the leader of the camp (presumably this unseen man) three questions. But at camp, it is revealed that Crazy Irish Lady is the lone survivor, and that she is keeping the undead zombie head of her male companion in a box and is feeding him because she doesn’t have the heart to kill him. She brought the deer back so that she could kill herself and return as a Walker to join her friend in undeath. After unsuccessfully attacking Rick, she stabs herself in the gut and asks Rick to let her be a Walker. As she dies, Rick asks her the three questions that we learn are basically the “audition” process for joining the Prison community: 1) How many Walkers have you killed? 2) How many people have you killed? and 3) Why?
This whole exchange and plot device was well-written. It establishes that morality is completely different in a post-zombie world; that the Prison recognizes that people have to do immoral things in the name of survival in the post-zombie world; that in this world, the ends justify the means. Also, that Walkers are not people, which Rick needs to go back and tell that naïve little girl from Woodbury. Walkers will kill you to eat you; people will kill you because they are crazy. Outside of the Prison’s gates, you do what you have to in order to survive. Perfection.
Despite the episode spending most of its time on setting the stage, the final few minutes was a perfect transition to the pending doom that faces our survivors this season. Hipster Kid — whom I totally predicted was going to be sticking around awhile — wakes up in the middle of the night from flu-like symptoms. He goes to take a shower, and collapses and dies with blood dripping from his eyes and nose. No words, and still totally scary.
There was quite a bit of speculation online about what this means. Could the water be tainted, wondered some? Personally, I think there’s a new strain of Walker virus — one that’s more aggressive, and that can kill living people with compromised immune systems. Great climax, because we’ll need to tune in next week to find out more!
Lingering questions: What killed Hipster Kid? Where is the Governor? Will Glenn and Maggie have an official wedding ceremony, or just continue sharing a prison cell “in sin?” Will Rick and Michonne hook up (as many on Twitter also speculated, and a twist I would oppose vehemently)? Was the downed helicopter on the grocery store the same helicopter seen flying overhead in the Season 1 pilot episode?
And, where-oh-where is the Governor?