The Walking Dead Watch: 30 Days Without an Accident

In the Season 4 premiere, life has taken a tranquil turn. But danger is never far away.

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Frank Ockenfels 3 / AMC

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - 'The Walking Dead' - Season 4

At a certain point in most zombie narratives, when the survivors have managed to hack out a small security bubble, human nature begins to assert itself. If the story can play out long enough, and humans start to rebuild civilization, writers have ripe allegorical ground to explore how we — for better or worse — govern ourselves.

Even the title of TWD‘s season 4 premiere, “30 Days Without an Accident,” seems to indicate we’ve entered a new era with a semblance of peace. Half a year removed from the showdown in Woodbury that ended Season 3, and safely ensconced in the prison, our (now much larger) group has stopped surviving and started living again. They’ve set up a governing council; they’re farming in the prison’s small fields; Beth keeps a tally of the days since someone has died using a factory “Days since an accident” board.

Our first glimpse of this new reality is one of the series’ best opening scenes yet. In the subtle opener, Rick steps out into the early morning, tosses water on his face and gets to work tending the ground with a small hoe. Farmer Rick has a very modern method of ignoring the zombies outside the fence: an MP3 player; listening through headphones, he drowns out the snarling horde with the country-gospel classic “Precious Memories.” It’s only when he finds a buried pistol, a remnant of his former life as a lawman and zombie fighter, that he takes pause, long enough to drop the gun’s magazine, and toss the weapon into his wheelbarrow.

(MORE: The Walking Dead: 10 Questions About Season 4)

Rick, we learned a bit later, has gone full-on Cincinnatus — he farms and traps to help feed the ever-expanding population, and as far we know now, plays no role in governing the small community. These early scenes tell us a lot about how much things have changed. The prison is now a well-managed mini city-state, in which everyone has a job. The walkers don’t pose too much of a threat unless they swarm outside the fenceline, but our survivors have a nifty way of dealing with this too: small teams of exterminators armed with long knives or pieces of rebar — stabbing the zombies through their faces, they dispatch them by the dozen. They even wear aprons to keep the carnage off their clothes. There are regular meals; there is story time. Life, it seems, has reached some kind of equilibrium as they’ve learned to manage the threat.

Yet outside of the prison gates, it’s still a dangerous world. There are still supply runs — risky missions behind enemy lines that can go bad at any time. The majority of the episode’s action took place on two of these operations: Daryl’s squad raiding a still-intact big-box store, and Rick’s venture into the woods to empty his traps. Let’s start with the former. We knew this thing was going to go south somehow, but for those of us who love the battles against the walkers, this one was a particular treat.

Daryl and company, having cleverly set up a boom box to lure the zombies away from the main part of the store, somehow, in all of their reconnaissance, entirely missed the fact that there was a crashed helicopter on the roof. When all hell inevitably breaks loose in the form of newcomer Bob Stookey getting trapped under a shelf, walkers literally fall from the sky. It was one of the more impressive zombie battles we’ve seen in a while.

Rick, meanwhile, having come across an Irish refugee who somehow managed to survive in the woods, had a quieter, but no less profound afternoon. He tells the woman that she and her husband can join their group, but first he has to ask them three questions. She takes him to their (amazingly unfortified) campsite, while she worries out loud about the things they have had to do to survive. Her husband turns out to be a walker, but much like the Governor, she couldn’t let him go.

The woman stabs herself in the stomach, asking that Rick not end her and let her turn, so she can be with her husband. As she lays dying, she asks him about his questions. Rick asks her how many people has she killed? She answers, “Just me.” Her husband, it seems, has done much of the dirty work, but she still can’t shake the guilt of what was necessary for survival — leaving people behind, hiding from people that need help. “You don’t get to come back from things,” she says. “You don’t.”

(MORE: The Walking Dead To Get a “Companion Series”)

It’s a devastating scene. Rick has just seen another person die tragically, but he’s also faced with the guilt of all he’s had to do in order to survive. Andrew Lincoln played the scene beautifully, giving some involuntary shock, but letting his eyes do much of the talking. It’s a theme I’m sure we’ll come back to again and again this season: Can our battle-hardened survivors live with everything they’ve had to do just to stay alive?

But before we can ponder philosophical questions, we have to deal with another existential threat (you thought we were going to get off that easily?) At the end of the episode, one of our newcomers becomes violently ill, dies in the shower and turns into a walker. He hasn’t been at the prison long, which suggests that he brought with him some kind of plague. We not only have a new enemy in the form of an illness, but now we have at least one walker loose inside the prison walls. What’s going to happen? Next Sunday can’t come fast enough.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) - The Walking Dead - Season 4 _ Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

And now, a hail of bullets:

Zombie Kill Report: Several dozen, between the systematic extermination on the fence line and the battle inside the store. Like our survivors, the audience has seen so many zombie kills that it’s become harder to get our attention. But this fight really packed in the carnage, from a walker dangling from the ceiling by his intestines, to another who exploded into a pile of goo on hitting the floor, to Daryl getting the Clever Kill award by stomping a zombie head into sticky oblivion. On the one hand, I’m happy to see some ingenious details in these fights, but gratuitous carnage just for the shock value — remember the bloated walker in the well? — won’t keep us happy for very long.

True Romance: Given a respite from the existential threat of violent extermination, life, it seems, reverts to the basic rules of a high-school dance. Everyone has grabbed someone — Tyrese and Karen, Beth and Zach, Daryl and Carol (the jury is still out on this one, but she did call him “Pookey.”) Alas, these romances can sometimes be short lived, as Beth learns when Zach becomes an unfortunate casualty of the store battle. She’s seen enough to know that death is always a possibility, which is why she didn’t tell him goodbye, and she doesn’t seem too broken up about losing him.

A Peaceful Childhood: One of our big questions for Season 4 was whether Carl could recover from the carnage of his adolescence. He seems to be doing okay — we see him reading comics by flashlight, naming farm animals. He might even be compensating too much, getting mad at the kids for toying with the walkers and at Carol for teaching them how to use knives. We hope we see Carl develop a lot more over the course of this season.

Newcomers Step Up and Step Off: We meet three new characters this episode. Zach, Beth’s squeeze, wasn’t long for this world, but he plays an important role in showing how numb she has become to violence, death and loss. Patrick became the first victim to what appears will be a fairly violent plague. The only character to stay with us is Bob Stookey, who we learn was an Army medic. We can guess the meaning of his long, longing pause in the store’s liquor section — at the end of the episode, he’s wracked with guilt. His story will be one to watch in coming weeks.

Zits of Life: Another big item on our to-do list was for the writers to give Danai Gurira more to work with in Michonne’s character. She wasn’t in the episode long, but it looks like we’ll see more from her. Best line, when she hands Rick a razor she’s salvaged: “Your face is losing the war.”

They Won’t…at Least for Now: For much of the episode, Glenn had babies on the brain, until Maggie informs him she isn’t pregnant. But that doesn’t mean we won’t see a little one at some point. “I don’t want to be afraid of being alive,” Maggie tells him.

Setting Details: The writers and production designers did a great job of reminding us that our story takes place is what’s left of central Georgia. Rick and our Irish refugee talk about the sculptures at the Atlanta Airport (I, too, have spent a night sleeping near those sculptures), and in the store’s liquor section there are cases of two of my favorite beers: Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Company and Athens’ own Terrapin Beer Company. One of the falling walkers smashes some of the beer cases, lending the scene an extra level of tragedy.

In Other News: It’s great to see they finally fashioned a prosthetic leg for Hershel. Now if only we could do something about that pony tail.

 

Watch: Man Proposes to Girlfriend While Being Chased by Zombies

24 comments
vrcplou
vrcplou

And here I thought I was the only one that got misty at the thought of all that wasted alcohol!  All in all I thought it was a strong start.  Between this and AHS: Coven I might be able to get over my Walter White grief and go on living.

Mr.357
Mr.357

I was thinking for sure that Bob was/is an alcoholic, which was why he had such a long pause when he grabbed the wine bottle.  There seemed to be some internal conflict going on while he clutched that bottle.  I'm surprised the author didn't mention the sneak peek of next weeks episode where it can be seen that someone is feeding rats to the walkers from inside the gates of the prison, which means the governor has someone on the inside working for him.  With so many new people it could be anyone of them.  Next week's episode should be a fast paced one, especially with the voice of Phineas from "Phineas & Ferb" walking around in search of human flesh.

the_vinci
the_vinci

I have to say it. This was due to the government shutdown. Our stuff in America is so dirty. Pretty much 90% of guys in the men's restroom don't wash their hands when leaving. Plus we have all this antibacterial soap everywhere, which is leading to resistant bacteria.

222vista
222vista

ohlawdy,

You can clearly make a race issue out of nothing. The author said Daryl and company because of all the characters who went along on the journey Daryl is the most longstanding/main character on the show. Kinda of like saying, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, Michael Jordan and the Bulls, or Barrack Obama and the democratic party. Get over yourself. You are effectively oppressing yourself by finding ways to be offended!

cattyfan
cattyfan

ohlawdy...what article were you reading? Nate covered New Guy Bob, Tyrese, Glenn, and Michonne in the article.  He mentioned Bob getting stuck...but Nate (the white guy) was the only one to die.  Given he had been briefly introduced as Beth's boyfriend, it seems he rated two sentences instead of one.  what exactly did you want?

Yes, PlamarJones, the Irish woman was feeding the head of her beloved Eddie...or Heddie.

Note to Nate:  Carl learned the hard way about toying with Walkers. Remember Dale?

PLamarJones
PLamarJones

I thought the Irish woman was kiilling people and feeding them to her walker husband

ohlawdy
ohlawdy

"Daryl and company...Daryl's squad." 

Nate, I see you're enjoying some of that white male privilege.  You have Sasha, Bob, Glenn and Tyreese in the group (along with Beth's one and done boyfriend), and yet the only one that's worth mentioning to you is the white male.  Why is it so hard for white males to identify with minorities and women?  I first noticed this phenomenon when a writer for a tech site made a list of the 10 "best" characters on Orange is the New Black, which was made up of 7 white men, most of whom have bit parts on the show.  The cast is majority female and racially diverse, yet in his opinion, white men with teeny tiny roles were better than all those female/minority cast members.  Some of you white guys are a real piece of work when it comes to appreciating people who are slighly different than you.

gam81t
gam81t

wasn't he the one that shook Darryl's hand at breakfast?  After Darryl licked his fingers?  Then he dies.  Could Darryl be a carrier?

DanielTosh
DanielTosh

could the plague be swine flu? Remember the sick/dead pig.

cryofax
cryofax

@Mr.357 The kids were arguing about whether the walkers should be named and treated as pets. It's the little girls feeding them.

ohlawdy
ohlawdy

@222vista 

Daryl sure as H--- hasn't been on the show any longer than Glenn, nor is Daryl more of a main character.  The two have been a huge part of the storyline since the beginning of season 1. 

ohlawdy
ohlawdy

@222vista 

That's a ridiculous analogy.  Since when is it a rule that a group of people are identified using the name of the character who's been on the show the longest?  Using your rule, in season 3 the people of Woodbury would've been identified as Andrea's people, rather than as the Governor's people, since Andrea was on the show for two seasons before the Governor came into the picture.  Even you can agree that would be a ridiculous way to refer to them.  Also, Daryl is no more a main character than Michonne, Tyreese or Sasha.  I also find it interesting that your mind registered my complain tabout racism, but not sexism.  Quit defending racism and sexism.

Sluggo
Sluggo

@ohlawdy Sure, let's make EVERYTHING about race.  Some of (actually, most of) you progressives are real pieces of work...

Prisoner_223
Prisoner_223

@gam81t not only that but if that is the case, immediately afterwards the kid was cooking for everyone..

imminent population decimation?

cattyfan
cattyfan

@ohlawdy Who was leading the run?  Daryl.  Which character going on the run is a member of the council? Daryl.  Which character has acutally had long-running storylines and even a singluar episode dedicated to him?  Daryl.  Not Sasha...about whom we know very little...or Tyrese...about whom we also know very little.  Saying Daryl's Group was logical shorthand, not racism.

ohlawdy
ohlawdy

@cattyfan @ohlawdy

Daryl was not leading the run. Sasha and Glenn are both on the council. That was explicitly stated earlier in the episode. Sasha was also giving out orders before they entered the store. Sasha was the one to make the call about whether Bob could join them in making the run. Glenn and Daryl even had to make arguments for it to convince Sasha to allow it. Your racist, sexist view of the world convinced you that Sasha and Glenn are not on the council even though it was explicitly stated earlier in the episode. Your racism and sexism also would not allow you to see Sasha as the leader despite the facts suggesting that she was. You just assume that the only white male in the group (besides Beth's 1 and done bf) is the only member of the council, and is the leader, despite all the facts to the contrary. BTW, Glenn has been on this show just as long as Daryl and his character has had just as much screentime. You see him as less important because he's not white.