Sunday, August 24, 2014

Video review: "The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season"

“The Walking Dead” is one of those television shows that seems to garner affection and resentment in equal (and extraordinarily large) portions.

An avid watcher since its inception, I’ve been both transported and annoyed at the show’s portrayal of a post-zombie apocalypse, based on a popular comic book series. In the past, such as the interminable farm sequence during season two, the storyline has gotten stuck in a quagmire that drags on and on. The survivors talk and quarrel, with little narrative momentum.

(At one point there was actually an episode featuring only a single “walker,” bringing us dangerously close to having an utterly zombieless zombie show.)

Season four, however, largely managed to stay away from these pitfalls. Some of the more vexing characters have been mercilessly killed off – good riddance, Lori! – and the show runners and writers seem to have found the magic sweet spot between gruesome splatterings of undead and dramatic tension.

The first half of the season is mostly concerned with the decline of the group’s sanctuary at a former prison, and its ultimate destruction at the hands of the Governor, the main villain from season three – who also gets his own compelling solo story thread.

In the latter half, former lawman Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the other main characters are scattered to the winds, and must struggle to endure and regroup. Particularly affecting is the plight of Daryl (Norman Reedus), a country boy with mad survival skills and a dark shadow on his soul, who falls in with a band of brutal killers.

We also get to catch up with Carol (Melissa McBride), the timid wallflower-turned-Machiavellian warrior, who was banished from the group last season and takes steps to reconstitute her own little family unit, with breathtakingly tragic results.

By keeping things constantly on the move, “The Walking Dead” realized perhaps its finest season yet.


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