TV-MA, 16 45-min. episodes
Developer: Frank Darabont
Directors: Greg Nicotero, Guy Furland, Dan Sackheim, Tricia Brock, David Boyd, Michael Uppendahl, Jeremy Podeswa, Ernest Dickerson, Seith Mann, Julius Ramsay, Michael E. Satrazemis, Michelle Maclaren
Writers: Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman (also graphic novels), Tony Moore (graphic novels), Charlie Adlard (graphic novels), Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang, Matthew Negrete, Channing Powell, Nichole Beattie, Curtis Gwinn, Seth Hoffman,
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohen, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, Emily Kinney, Chad L. Coleman, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Alanna Masterson
Guest starring: Melissa Ponzio, Kerry Condon, Kyle Gallner, Vincent Martella, Sunkirsh Bala, Brighton Sharbino, Robin Lord Taylor, David Morrissey, Audrey Marie Anderson, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Meyrick Murphy, Kirk Acevedo, Enver Gjokaj, Kyla Kenedy, Juliana Harkavy, Sherry Richards, Aldis Hodge, Brendan Fobbs, Michael Cudlitz, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Jeff Kober, Marcus Hester, Denise Crosby, Andrew J. West
What could’ve been the season where “The Walking Dead” jumped the shark, the show runners pulled back on where they were headed and brought the series back to the basics of the zombie genre. Things got heated in season three with the introduction of The Governor, which was an interesting line of exploration but took focus away from what the zombie analogy is really about. Characters skittered on the edge of betraying everything they were about, but season four focused them in a deliberate manner.
The season is delivered in two distinct halves. The first finds our group finally making it work in the prison colony. With more members, the confrontation with the Governor behind them, and Rick taking a well-earned break from the role of leader, everything seems to be looking up for the first time since the zombie apocalypse. Then something as ordinary as a virus threatens everything, and the Governor resurfaces, using his charm to recruit another group of people to exact his revenge, which is brutal.
Of course, what the zombie analogy is all about is the inevitability of death. This is why Simon Pegg believes that zombies should not be the quick monsters seen in many modern zombie flicks. They represent death, and the threat of the virus turning people into zombies when the group has otherwise secured their lives is a brilliant writing move.
The second half of the season sees the group split into several smaller groups and the themes turn toward character—the core of what makes these people who they are. For the most part, the conclusions seem to be that people don’t change, although it’s clear through flashbacks and the way characters like Daryl contributes to current situations that show some people are certainly capable of change. Rick on the other hand must accept his new role in this world as the brutal protector of these good people. In doing so, he delivers perhaps the most invigorating final line of a season of an ongoing series I can remember of late, “They’re messing with the wrong people.”