'The Walking Dead' Season 4 premiere recap: '30 Days Without an Accident'

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Life has definitely changed for the survivors of "The Walking Dead" as the AMC series enters its fourth season. The Season 4 premiere, "30 Days Without An Accident," introduces a new threat to a world already populated with the likes of walkers and Governors.

Illness is spreading in the animals around the Prison. Rick saw it happen twice in the premiere episode; one of his pet pigs fell ill, and he found a boar dying in the wilderness. But is that the same illness that strikes down Patrick (Vincent Martella) at the end of the premiere? And how did it come over him so fast? He was fine in the beginning of the episode, but then expressed how ill he was partway through the day and, by its end, had fallen over dead.

As viewers already know, humans who die without major brain damage will turn into walkers regardless of whether or not they've been bit. That means a zombified Patrick is now inside the safe zone of the Prison compound with none the wiser about why he's there or why he's dead. The audience doesn't know much more about what or why this killed him, for that matter, and that's nice for a change.

The threat in Season 3 was big and bad, as AMC was touting the introduction of The Governor well before the 2012 season kicked off. He was nowhere to be seen (or spoken of) in the Season 4 premiere, so it's nice to have a faceless enemy for a change. After all, how does a group of poorly supplied survivors of a zombie apocalypse combat a disease they know nothing about? It's an exciting new twist for "The Walking Dead."

But a new threat isn't the only big change for the group. There's been a big shakeup in leadership in the time between the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4. Instead of Rick as a leader, the group now has a council including the likes of Hershel, Carol and Sasha. How they act as a ruling majority hasn't yet been shown, but it seems like the Prison has found some peace with them at its head.

the-walking-dead-season-4-bob-stookey.jpgRick, meanwhile, has literally given up his gun to stick to farming. It was only at Hershel's insistence that Rick carry a gun beyond the Prison compound that the former sheriff complied, which is a big change from where he was at last season. Carl similarly has transitioned back into a more normal sate of being and seems to no longer be on the brink of becoming a child soldier.

Based on a conversation between Rick and Hershel, that seems to be where the big change in Rick stemmed from. He is concerned that he and his son won't be able to ever come back from the brink of whatever dark place they were at in Season 4, and that concern is exacerbated by an encounter he has with a desperate woman in the woods. She was so dependent on the man she was traveling with that she kept him with her after he became a walker and continued to feed him so he didn't starve. In the end, she killed herself to be a walker with him instead of continuing on living.

This woman wasn't the only character seen having trouble differentiating walkers from people. One of the new chores at the Prison is killing the walkers flocking to the fences, as they're coming in greater and greater force. Tyreese apparently had been doing it for so long that he opted out for future shifts, saying that he can't bear looking at the walkers face-to-face as he kills them.

Then there is a girl in the Prison who has actually started naming the walkers. When Carl tried to argue with her that they were dead creatures who are no longer human, she refused to agree that they shouldn't be given names. After all, as she pointed out, people kill people just like walkers do. 

Is this a sign of the way a new generation is going to come to terms with living in the zombie apocalypse? Hopefully Carol is doing the right thing by teaching them how to defend themselves, and not accidentally arming a generation that will want to defend walker rights.

Odds & Ends

- It's a nice touch that Carl and Michonne are both reading comic books. After all, "The Walking Dead" TV series is based on an Image comic book series of the same name.

- The flirtation between Carol and Daryl has reached a new high. She makes comments to him like, "Just so you know, I liked you first" and calls him "Pookie," but it still doesn't seem like they're actually together. Please, please let them be together.

- Are we alone in thinking there might be some romantic tension between Rick and Michonne? The way he first greets her in the episode doesn't seem like a just-friends sort of thing.

- Maggie and Glenn aren't pregnant -- but Maggie is open to it. She flat out tells Glenn that she'd be willing to have a baby with him because she's not afraid of "living."

- Daryl is a rock star in the Prison group and has earned the respect of the newcomers, and it's awesome. Considering most people offscreen are obsessed with Norman Reedus' character, it's nice to see him getting the same sort of love onscreen as well.

- The group at the Prison learned a thing or two about defending themselves against walkers from Morgan. That defense system at the Prison front entrance is right out of "Clear."

- Beth has become a lot harder as a character, and it's nice to see her continue to evolve, even if it is in such a depressing way. She apparently doesn't cry anymore, even when she finds out that her boyfriend Zack was killed by walkers. Also, her Days Without Accident board is pretty funny given it's not-so-funny context.

Photo/Video credit: AMC
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