Simply by itself, the title of The Walking Dead Season 4 premiere, "30 Days Without an Accident," gave off the ominous but predictable implication that somebody was going to end up walker food.
But peace time has found its way to the prison after a time jump from the Governor's defeat in "Welcome to the Tombs." Rick's turned into a farmer that doesn't use guns, the new people that have joined all love Daryl as much as the fans of the show and it seems as if life has settled into something of normalcy, even if hordes of walkers smash their faces against the fence keeping them out.
It's all a little underwhelming (and feels a little similar to the time spent on Hershel's farm in The Walking Dead Season 2), but there are some decent character setups for the season. And lots and lots of blood and gore.
Rick's journey this episode was more reflective and personal. He questioned whether he could come back from all the things he's done, to the point of replacing his gun with gardening tools. And the super creepy woman who was like a combination of Nell and Mama reiterated that theme. And so did Hershel.
The circumstances are extreme and Rick has had to kill countless walkers and sometimes people in order to survive. So can you lose your humanity because of that?
I just didn't really understand why the crazy dirty woman had to stab herself. She couldn't live with herself for trying to kill Rick a la the things that were just too much for her to do? Was that necessary or just there to prove a point to Rick?
Rick can come back from it all, but I've got a feeling that there will be many more tough decisions to come. Life just isn't what it used to be.
Carol has come a long way since her introduction on the show. She's grown to be a strong character in her own right, even trying to teach the children how to use knives in case they need to. And I really enjoy her chemistry with Daryl, whether or not the series chooses to put them together romantically.
Glenn and Maggie, a couple of sexual bunny rabbits, worried about having a child. It's a similar concern to the one Lori had when she was pregnant, but I like seeing those two have some personal scenes.
Michonne is on the hunt for the Governor, a task that I'm sure will backfire, but her interactions with the characters from Daryl to Rick and Carl was a nice touch. It's great to see her show some smiles and emotion with the gang, as well as cut down monster advertisements. She does look pretty cool riding a horse with her sword, too.
It did feel like the characters have progressed since we last saw them (although, Carl just seemed whiny again), but sometimes I feel like the show cares more about designing the graphic ways in which walkers get killed - having them hang from the ceiling by their entrails, getting stomped on, exploding in blood and guts after falling from the sky. The effects used to bring those moments to life always look great, but there comes a point where it's over the top and just not scary.
Yes, there was some nerve wracking tension, but that came from the characters walking around in the quiet store or the walkers slowly pushing the ceiling in with their weight. The anticipation was there, but as soon as it started raining walkers, my only fears were for the brand new characters. You don't have them go along with the main cast on a run to survive. Someone has to get it.
But that's where the premiere really disappointed me: in the introduction and immediate elimination of potentially interesting characters.
I liked actor Kyle Gallner as Beth's boyfriend and enjoyed his question game with Daryl. There was a youthful and different personality that I would have loved to have seen explored. Beth may have gotten to have at least known him, but viewers only really knew him as zombie food.
And while the inside threat was born with nerdy Patrick, I was bummed that a contrasting character around Carl's age was swept away to some sort of sickness. I guess the girls could serve another perspective on the children in this end of the world scenario, but Patrick could have been so much more. It would have been great to see even a friendship between these two.
Which leaves Tyreese's new love interest and Bob. I know the reality's horrors require stripping anything good in life on this show, so I can't see Tyreese's girl sticking around. As for Bob, he seems way too suspicious and overeager to be a "good guy." My guess is he's working for The Governor as an inside man. There was something weird about the way the camera kept panning in on him right before bad things would happen.
And why he couldn't break one of the beer bottles surrounding him while he was trapped under the shelf to use as a weapon was beyond me.
This was certainly a transitional episode from the quietness the characters have endured in the time we've missed them, but there wasn't much that we haven't really seen before. Walker attacks, random characters dying, Rick questioning the killing and choices he's had to make. And yet... there's just something addictive about the show. Maybe it's because there's nothing quite like it on television or there's always the hope that it will find that perfect balance of story and character, scary suspense and drama. Or that zombies are just fun to watch.
Either way, this series is always filled with exciting potential. A fair start to what could be an exciting season (watch out for shower walkers!), it's good to see The Walking Dead Season 4 in action.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.