The Walking Dead: "30 Days Without an Accident" (Season 4, Episode 1)

Flabbergasted

Let’s see, a bucolic life in prison, it’s raining zombies, and twin tragedies to round all that out. All in all, a quite effective hour of television to launch the medium's gross savant of a series.

We open with a lovely picture of some plants, birds sweetly chirping in the background. Rick splashes his face with water from a barrel. Then he tends the soil. It’s a minute of paradise until he takes off his headphones and hears all the walkers snarling along the outer gate of the prison yard. The contrast is nicely staged.

Things are going well in the prison. Crops, livestock, lots of new faces rescued from outside. Romance everywhere you turn. Glen and Maggie are together, Tyreese has a new girl friend, and Beth, Maggie’s sister, has a new boyfriend. It’s springtime in the zombie apocalypse. I’m charmed enough to not even ask what they’re using for a sewer system.

Of course, one chore still sucks. That would be donning gloves and a big apron and walking along that outer fence, sticking sharp objects through the chain links into walker skulls. Ugh. Seems like the walkers are concentrating in herds along the fence now, making this particular chore a daily regular. But we’ve still got Michone coming in on horseback with old comics (in plastic, no less) for Carl. Life is good.

The downers this week are two-pronged. First, Darryl takes a group out to sweep for supplies. Second, Rick goes to check snares for fresh meat.

Sasha, Tyrese’s sister, doesn’t want to take newbie Bob out on the run. He wants to help, though, and she’ll regret that. Beth has a fun moment with her young man, Zack (by the way, don’t get to attached to him). They ultimately sweep a Big Spot superstore, unaware that it’s got a crashed helicopter on the roof and a swarm of walkers milling about up top as well. Well meaning Bob stops to stare at a bottle of wine. He puts it back on the shelf. Of course the shelf collapses, starting a chain reaction that brings a cabinet down on him. The walkers up top hear that and…

It starts raining zombies. Literally. They’re attracted to the noise Bob made and start shuffling that direction. Which just happens to be where the ceiling is ready to collapse. So bam, bam, bam! Walkers drop through everywhere. Some eliminate themselves with gruesome head first splats. One actually hangs by his guts from the ceiling like some macabre paratrooper. The rest, however, are moving fast among the murky aisles. It’s a wicked set piece professionally done. Poor Zack meets his maker, continuing Beth’s unfortunate history with boyfriends.

Rick has a more quiet moment of despair. Out in the woods, an awful shape appears behind him. She’s not a walker, though, just a dirty filthy shell of a woman desperate for some food and company. She asks him to come with her to get Eddie. Alas, she’s insane. Life in the zombie apocalypse has taken its toll. Eddie is a walker head writhing under a blanket. She tries to kill Rick with a knife, then stabs herself so she can be with Eddie. She says you can’t come back from the things you’ve had to do, a sad little coda to last season when Rick almost went around the bend for good.

The hoot of the hour is Carol doing story time for the kids. Once the story’s over, we get this: “Today we’re going to talk about knives. How to hold a knife, how to stab and slash.” It’s only a few puns away from a Monty Python skit.

The ending is ominous. A young guy with glasses we’d seen gets sick wakes up in the middle of the night and makes his way to the bathroom to throw up. He coughs a lot. Then he collapses. We don’t know if the sickness killed him or if he cracked his skull on the floor. But time goes by until our last shot is of his glassy, empty eyes opening.

A walker has found its way into paradise. Damn the luck.

Will conservatives like these episodes: Who doesn’t like a farm? And while it’s gross, raining zombies is about as cool as it gets. One simple sequence on TV blows away anything World War Z the movie had going for it.

Tags: