Special Effects and Makeup master Greg Nicotero directs this episode with patience and logical understanding. It has been six months since we last saw these characters defeating The Governor and inheriting the entire population of Woodbury. Now Rick is a little healthier. Most of his activities revolve around the prison. Mainly taking care of farming duties and focusing on being a father to Carl while handing off the leader duties to Daryl. This all makes a lot of sense. Rick realized last season that he was going mad and his actions were affecting Carl to the point that he had no problem shooting people without remorse.
After finding that out, I could see his remaining sanity bringing him to correct both Carl’s and his own ways. Is everything fixed due to the fact that Rick does not have all the responsibilities he had before? No. Carl still seems a bit icy and Rick still seems to be still in recovery, but at least now Rick is making an effort to make things right instead chasing after his imaginary wife. It’s progress, but by the looks of things and how Carl was acting, the damage might be beyond repair. But I still have hope.
Now Daryl on the other hand is incredibly confortable as the new leader. He’s got a lot of hilarious moments throughout this episode. Daryl licking his fingers before shaking the nerdy kid’s hand is priceless! At the same time, he’s leading the charge and going out for runs into town with the cavalry which now consists of a few new members including actors Kyle Gallner(Nightmare on Elm Street remake, Red State) and Larry Gillard Jr.(D’Angelo from The Wire) who bring certain dynamics to this episode. However, Daryl’s skills really come into play when the insane climax happens in the grocery store. You’ve got a great setup here. They arrive at a grocery store and break in to retrieve supplies, but one of them notices a crashed helicopter with a ton of walkers around it. So what.
We saw a crashed helicopter in Season Three where The Governor kills a survivor from the crash and snags all the supplies. As far as I could tell, it was more scenery for the world these characters live in. They head to the basement of the store for more supplies, where Larry Gillard Jr.’s character decides to grab some wine. He notices a drip from the ceiling that is falling on the shelf, but he disregards it. Every building has a leaky roof in the zombie apocalypse right? Well unfortunately for him, he makes a decision to put the bottle back, causing the entire shelf to fall over and trap him underneath. All the walkers outside are attracted to the loud noise and approach the store for some fresh meat.
However, to their surprise as well as mine, the ground is really weak above the store due to the helicopter crash and ultimately results in the zombies falling through the ground and landing on top of our characters in the basement below. Now we have all seen zombies do many things, but I’ve personally never seen zombies fall through a roof one by one by accident, resulting in a swarm against the main characters. It was great! It was thrilling! It was goretastic! I loved the little things as well. There is one zombie that falls from the roof and lands on its head that results in a huge bloody splash. The zombies were more surprised than the survivors below. Great stuff.
Alongside of this, Rick has his own problem when he runs into a lone woman in the woods named Clara. She asks for his help and Rick decides to assist her, but only if he can meet the other people she is with and ask them three questions. This is pretty cool. Rick had no trust at all for most of Season Three. If you wanted help from Rick, he’d help you leave by sticking a gun at your face, but since the last episode of Season Three, he has been taking people in and helping where he can. He has made big progress in showing that he wants to help Clara, but this backfires in a big way.
When Rick follows her to her tent and she tries to kill him for her undead husband, an interesting moment arises. She stabs herself and as she dies, she asks him what the three questions are that he asks people in need of help and answers them. “How many walkers have you killed?” “Ten”. “How many people have you killed?” “Just me”. “Why?” “You don’t get to come back from the things you’ve done”. This last comment before she dies starts to haunt Rick. I believe that this will continue to haunt Rick throughout the series and might even break his trust that he has recently started to build up again.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode for reasons large and small. The big reasons are the progression of the characters since the last season and the dynamics of the group that have changed. The format of the episode also won me over. At the soul of it, you have two storylines going on. Rick’s journey through the woods with Carla and Daryl’s grocery store run gone badly. Each differs from each other in a huge way. Daryl’s ends up with a surprise walker swarm that results in the first death in thirty days for the prison. This climax is a badass zombie moment at it’s finest. At the same time, Rick’s journey is a very slow pace story that pierces his soul by the time Carla answers his third question. Can he come back if something goes terribly wrong on his account?
This was all decent, but some could argue that most of this was pointless and only thought up to give Rick something to do so that Daryl doesn’t take over the entire show(though, he basically did a long time ago. Seriously, is there anyone who watches this show who doesn’t think that Daryl is the best character?). I agree with this to a certain point, but this also felt very real to me. It felt like this would happen if you were in this world. In Season two, Hershel had a barn full of walkers that he couldn’t let go because they were close family and friends. It’s not that farfetched to think that someone else would feel the same way. I’m also a big fan of the three questions segment and I’m curious to see if this will have a big effect later on or if it will be brushed off relatively quick.
Most of the small reasons that I loved this episode relied on the comedic bits. As I mentioned before, Daryl is a part of most of these. The handshake scene, calling Beth and Zach’s small talk a “Damn romance novel”, and of course the funny conversation outside the grocery store where Zach says that he must have been a homicide cop before the outbreak and Daryl plays along with it. Damn, why did Zach have to die! I really enjoyed him in this episode. Here I was looking forwarded to seeing Kyle Gallner as a part of the regular cast. Guess you can’t have anything. In addition, I also laughed pretty hard when Michonne saw the random cut out of Buddah and decided to slice it in half. It came out of nowhere, but I thought it was a great moment.
There were couple small nit picks I can make in addition like the lack of The Governor and the fact that Rick doesn’t wants the kids to be taught how to use a knife for self defense which makes NO SENSE, but in the end, this first episode is pretty solid. It’s not going to blow you away, but if you are a fan and you enjoy these characters, then you will really enjoy this Season premiere, even if the pace is slower than you expected. Now hopefully they decide to pickup the pace on the next episode. We already had Season Two that really slowed things down to build up the characters. Now should be when they turn up the volume. Lets hope that The Governor comes into play soon and really shakes everything up.