Last Sunday proved itself to be a glorious day in the life of zombie and television fans alike as the season four premiere became, according to Deadline, the highest rated episode of the series thus far. As the clock struck 10 pm ET, it didn’t take long for social media to explode. Within minutes, everyone posted their predictions about the virus and their confusion on Hershel’s new shiny prosthetic leg on Facebook, created parody shorts on Vine, and even created fan accounts of Violet the Pig on Twitter. Just by looking at The Walking Dead official social networks, it was apparent that producers of the show were ecstatic learning, after the finale of Breaking Bad, that The Walking Dead is the show to rave about— even joining in on the trend #VerifyViolet on Twitter.
But what does that mean for this episode and the rest of the season? High expectations. Premieres and finales have a tendency to be the peaks of the season, but if the show maintains 1) a steady exceptional quality and 2) finds the right balance between answering questions and making them, then it is sure to survive.
Although it started a bit slow, it certainly picked up at the very ending of the cold opening where Carl’s friend, Patrick, was introduced as an infiltrated zombie with all the gore we were hoping for. And after a brief son-and-dad moment with Rick and Carl, the prison suddenly erupted into a round from the Call of Duty zombie map, Mob of the Dead, leaving several dead and talk of a possible virus via Violet the Pig.
The next obstacle appears with walkers attempting to overrun the fence and to solve this, Rick turns to slaughtering the camp’s pigs across the field to drawn the walkers away. While throwing the bloody pork chops around does work as a distraction it also eliminates the probable virus spread about by Violet the Pig and the rats (by the fence) that were most likely infected. The interesting thing about that is the direction the season is going. If the virus was eliminated that quickly, is this season’s arc not going to be about getting past an unknown virus, and if not, what will it be? Well, now it looks to be a detective-like season figuring out who and how people are being burned alive. The season is progressing very quickly, but I hope they pace it well like they’ve done in the past and not mirror the second season of American Horror Story where ten different complications arise and two problems are resolved with each episode.
What this episode did most of all is stress the loss of innocence in the zombie apocalypse. We saw some of this in the previous episode, but with Carl acting more like an adult and Carol insisting for the little girl to kill her infected father, it seems that this season will not only focus on a mysterious virus but the loss of innocence as well. Rick’s baby might be the only innocent left now that Carl is trying to become Rick Jr., Beth’s disassociation with feelings, and Carol breeding the girls into heartless survivors. (SPOILER: in the comics, Carol had become almost insane, so I’m curious as to if Carol this season is supposed to get closer and closer to the Carol in the comics.)
As I had mentioned, the opening with Tyreese and Karen was a bit slow, over the course of the episode it became very evident that it was important to keep in— it was meant to emphasize their relationship before the notion of the virus threatens it (and then her death at the end). In light of the season as a whole, this is very positive. What this affirms is that everything has a reason, and essentially it eases my worries about the unfortunately absent Governor.
I can’t really say whether this season will maintain it’s popularity, but I can say it has me intrigued and it’s hard to say which direction they are going with it, but I’ll go along for the ride. This episode was by no means better than the season premiere, as it was meant to resolve the cliffhanger we got in the last episode and presumably set up the future arc of the season; so in a sense it was a filler, but the good thing about it is that it didn’t feel like a filler episode (well, up until the end). Let’s just hope the story of the season becomes a bit more clear in the next episode.