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By Carl Stoffers · October 16, 2013
AMC’s The Walking Dead returned to the airwaves with this week’s season four premiere, “30 Days Without an Accident.” In normal times, those “days without an accident” are posted all over industrial facilities to show just how safe said facility is. In the world of The Walking Dead, it’s simply an ominous title that informed fans that there was going to be an accident, most likely involving the flesh-hungry monsters that have stalked the cast since the series began.
The premiere opens with the group living an idyllic life in the prison (as idyllic a life as possible with hordes of the undead lined up at the fence line like there’s a new iPhone coming out in the morning). The Governor (David Morrissey) has been vanquished, defeated in the season three finale while trying to lead an assault on the prison and turning on his own army, mowing them down before barely escaping. The remaining Woodbury residents have moved into the prison and a society is beginning to take shape.
Love is also in the air, as Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) continue their romance and several others, including Tyrese (Chad L. Coleman) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) find time to develop relationships in the relatively serene aftermath of the Governor’s defeat.
But it’s the budding romance between Beth (Emily Kinney) and Zack (Kyle Gallner) where the utopian existence stops. Watching the episode it’s clear that, just like everything else in the world of The Walking Dead, the peace won’t last. The writers do a decent (albeit somewhat predictable) job of setting up just enough of a tranquil feeling in and around the prison to make the inevitable disaster and subsequent gore painful for the viewer.
The other plot line focuses, as most have since the series began, on Rick (Andrew Lincoln). During the previous seasons, we’ve seen the character for what he is: a decent former lawman who struggles to do right in a world gone insane. But one of the subplots the writers of The Walking Dead seem to be relying on too much is afflicting Rick with various forms of instability. After losing his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), earlier in the series, Rick suffered from hallucinations, with the group eventually questioning his ability to lead them.
In “30 Days Without an Accident,” Rick has become something of a pacifist, even refusing to carry a firearm. An encounter in the woods with a mysterious stranger affirms that the writers are again using the Rick character to resurrect a familiar theme in the show: When placed in desperate situations and forced into desperate acts of survival, can you ever be the same? Can the soul be redeemed?
It’s a battle Rick seems to fight with every act, as we know he’s a decent man who was forced to make unthinkable choices after the undead rose. Despite the often-overused Rick-in-crisis plot line, the show’s writers balance his dilemmas and emotional and ethical quagmires brilliantly with Daryl (Norman Reedus).
Initially a loner with a personality more abrasive than sandpaper, Daryl has quietly become a leader among the group. He’s dependable, smart, tough and loyal. The character is easily the most developed and evolved of the entire cast, and his flirtation with Carol (Melissa McBride) only makes him more endearing.
Daryl’s growth and maturity is something that fans can look forward to as season four progresses and the writers would be wise to keep him involved in the main plot lines. His increasing transformation from cold-hearted rebel to a genuine “good guy” serves as a good counterbalance to the constant hell that swirls around the cast of the show.
Overall, the season four premiere delivered what hardcore fans of The Walking Dead hoped for: An up-and-down existence for the group, major characters that are again faced with physical and mental danger, and a lot of gore thrown in for good measure. Nothing particularly new or groundbreaking, but solid and entertaining.