The Walking Dead has seen a lot of ups and downs in its first four seasons. With season one the show began as top-notch event programming while under the direction of The Shawshank Redemption helmer Frank Darabont. However, Darabont’s departure left season two as a rudderless mess that found a way to make the majority of its characters unlikeable blank slates. The Walking Dead once again found its form with season three as the incredible plotting from new showrunner Glenn Mazzara turned out to be a lifesaver for the show. With yet another showrunner change preceding it season four turned out to be one of the shows down seasons. In fact, season four may have been the worst season of the show yet as the pace slowed to screeching halt while the writing staff tried (and failed) to further establish characters (some of whom were way beyond saving).
Season four of The Walking Dead picks up with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) trying to adjust to a life of tranquility now that the community at the prison has been fully established. However, that tranquility might not last for long with a mysterious disease lurking and the vicious Governor (David Morrissey) still out on the loose. Scott M. Gimple (who wrote the well-received season three episode, “Clear”) took over the showrunning duties for the season as Greg Nicotero (also the show’s makeup supervisor) led the directing team.
Once again it appears a showrunning change has caused major problems for The Walking Dead. Whereas an abrupt change delayed Glenn Mazzara’s chance at consolidating his plan for the show during season two, season four saw a writer in Scott M. Gimple that was just too inexperienced take over the job as showrunner. Gimple received well-deserved acclaim for his work on the season three episode, “Clear”, which was pretty much a bottle episode that further established the characters of Rick, Michonne and Morgan. However, it is this acclaim that unfortunately might have ruined season four as Gimple adopted the model of that episode and used it for the entire season. The problem with this is that The Walking Dead only has a handful of good actors (Andrew Lincoln, Lennie James and Danai Gurira are three of them and that’s probably why “Clear” worked so well) and an even smaller amount of interesting characters. So when you end up with episodes that focus almost solely on Carl or episodes that focus on Carol (who has changed from a victimized wife to a psychopathic survivor at a completely unbelievable rate), the episodes fall under the weight of an actor or actress in too far over their heads with material that just doesn’t suit them.
That being said there was the occasional bright point this season. “Live Bait”, which focused solely on the Governor, provided some much needed depth to the character while also keeping the momentum going (which the bottle episodes in the later half of the season forgot to do). “A” also found a way to end the season on a solid note as the group is finally back together and introduces us to what might be the group’s most dangerous foe yet.
Season four of The Walking Dead showed that TV’s highest rated show definitely isn’t its best.