'The Walking Dead' Season 4 Premiere Recap: Rick's Crew Face Threats from Every Direction
'The Walking Dead' Season 4 Premiere Recap: Rick's Crew Face Threats from Every Direction
Megan Cole
Megan Cole
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Last season, we said goodbye to three original characters -- RIP T-Dog, Lori and Andrea -- and met a dangerous new foe in The Governor. In the season 3 finale, Rick made a choice to merge his prison group with the remaining Woodbury survivors.

During this week's season 4 opener, "30 Days Without an Accident," we get our first glimpse of how Rick's crew is merging with the new people they have taken in, as they are all challenged with a deadly new threat. Read on to find out if The Walking Dead can deliver the mix of sweet zombie action and rich character development we crave.

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Farmer Rick

Though he already dissolved the Ricktatorship last year, season 4 finds that Rick "Stuff-and-Thangs" Grimes has turned in his leadership role altogether, in exchange for a quiet life as a farmer and father. But since this is The Walking Dead, Rick's days of peaceful living are coming to an end.

Though Rick's decision to step down as a leader is seemingly temporary, it has certainly helped improve his relationship with Carl. For the moment, Carl accepts Rick as the parent in their relationship and follows his advice to join in with the other kids. Carl is still much more mature than his peers, but at least he is trying to enjoy some kid-friendly activities.

But if Rick is no longer in charge, who has been making the leadership decisions in the months that have passed between seasons 3 and 4? That would be the new leadership council, comprised of Daryl, Carol, Glenn, Hershel and Sasha. They have helped create a sense of community and safety inside the prison, at least for the time being.

Michonne, I Missed You!

Since we last saw her, Michonne has become a vital member of Team Prison and forged a close friendship with Carl. She even brings him new comic books, on the promise that he will let her read them when he's done. Yet Michonne does not appear to spend much time at the prison, choosing instead to hunt the Governor. I approve of this plan, but no one else seems to.

Michonne decides to tag along with the team going on a supply run, despite just getting back from her last Governor hunt. The run team encounters some serious trouble when a bunch of Walkers crash through the roof of the store they are raiding. The run team loses one member in the attack, though several others have some close calls.

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Meet Bob

But the run serves a purpose beyond re-enforcing the zombie threat. It also introduces us to Bob Stookey, one of our new players this season. Bob has only been with the prison group for a week but asks to go on the run to help contribute. We do not learn much about Bob in this week's episode, but he does have a moment of temptation in the booze aisle, presumably letting viewers know that he is an alcoholic. Bob lays off the booze this time, but he also knocks over a shelf and brings the roof walkers down on the run team. Bob might be a good guy, but they should probably keep him off any future runs.

Rick and That Random Stranger

While Rick is out checking the snares, he runs into a crazy lady who asks for his help. She leads him back to her camp under the guise of bringing food to her friend, only for Rick to learn that her friend is a walker, and he the intended food. But "Stuff-and-Thangs" gets out just fine, though the same cannot be said for the crazy lady.

This storyline serves two purposes -- to bring up issues for Rick and introduce the "3 Questions" our characters use to decide on whether or not to admit new people into the prison. While Hershel assures Rick that he could never fall as far as that crazy lady, Rick has doubts. He came close to losing his mind last season and believes that it could happen again if he were to lose his kids or the prison.

Given how dark this show gets, I would not be surprised if Rick loses a child and his new safe haven before the season ends. If so, do you think he will be able to hold it together or will he start carrying around walker heads for protection?

Daryl the Hero, Carol the Teacher

As one of the council members, Daryl has really grown into his new leadership position. So much so that he is now somewhat of a hero to the community. Carol has also found her place in the group, turning story-time into zombie-killing lessons without Rick's knowledge. But given how little those kids seem to know about walkers, I think Carol is doing everyone a favor by trying to educate them in the ways of apocalypse survival.

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Nothing Says Romance Like An Apocalypse

Even after everything they endured last season, Maggie and Glenn are still going strong. They have a great moment in this episode when they discuss the possibility of having kids. Fear not, Maggie is not with child, but she is thinking about it. Glenn, on the other hand, believes this world is far too dangerous and they have only survived this long by being fearful. While I understand Maggie's desire to keep living despite the circumstances, I do not know if there is a safe way to care for a baby in this world. And this group already has one baby to care for that we know of.

Glenn and Maggie are not the only ones getting cozy in the new season. Tyreese has begun a relationship with Woodbury Karen. As the only non-henchman to survive the Governor's massacre of his own people last season, Karen is one of the few recognizable Woodbury transplants, so I hope she sticks around for at least a few episodes. Tyreese would surely appreciate it.

Daryl and Carol have also grown closer in the months between seasons 3 and 4, yet they still seem to be keeping things from straying too far into romantic territory. Beth, on the other hand, is in a relationship with one of the newcomers, played by Kyle Gallner of Veronica Mars fame. But since Beth's new boyfriend is the person who dies on the run, there is no happy ending for those two.

Beth takes the news of her boyfriend's death better than expected, telling Daryl she is just glad she got a chance to know him. Is this a sign that Beth is growing up or closing off her heart against the constant tragedy in this world? Would she have the same calm reaction if Hershel or Maggie died?

Poor Patrick, Poor Pig

As to that new threat our survivors are facing, it is what many predicted: infection. One of the new players, a kid named Patrick, starts to feel ill and falls dead later that same day. As Patrick turns into a walker, we realize the people in his cell-block are not long for this world. Is Patrick infected with the same disease as Violet-the-pig? Has the illness spread throughout the animal population and Patrick ate infected meat or is it air-borne?

Though this new disease is sure to be a major threat for at least the first half of the season, it is not the only threat in the premiere. After last season's mostly human-on-human violence, the walkers are finally getting back in on the action, delivering more than a few scares to start off the new season.

One thing made clear is that new showrunner Scott Gimple is getting back to more character-driven story-telling. And though this approach may not be popular with everyone, I think it is necessary in order to achieve real tension and anxiety. After all, why would we fear the walkers if we do not care about the characters who might become their next meal? Why does this new disease matter if we are not worried about our favorite characters succumbing to it?

Zombies are awesome, but the heart of this show has always been found in the characters and the relationships they try so hard to maintain in a world where they might die at any moment. I hope Gimple's era continues to make us care about these people so we can feel the full impact of the dangers they face.

What did you think of the season 4 premiere? Do you like the more character-driven aspects of the show or are you here for the gruesome zombie kills? Where do you fall in the Glenn-Maggie baby debate? Did you have time to get attached to any of the new characters? Let us know your thoughts and theories in the comments section.

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(Image courtesy of AMC)