Note: This recap contains spoilers from “The Walking Dead” season four premiere.
All seems calm for the prison community in the season’s first episode of “The Walking Dead.”
The long struggle between the survivors of the Governor’s Woodbury and Rick’s hodgepodge prison community is over. The survivors are now trying to create structure and normalcy in an unstructured, abnormal world. There is a community garden, a decision-making council, communal meals and farm animals — including a pig Carl has named Violet.
The episode starts with Rick hacking away at the earth, choosing to ignore a mass of walkers along the fence. But when he unearths a pistol during his work, he can’t help but to regard them with the deadpan expression we’ve come to know. He seems to be reflecting briefly on his life as a police officer and zombie killer before tossing the gun aside to continue farming.
Outside the seemingly idyllic setting of the prison garden, the mass of walkers is bigger than usual. More people have to volunteer to stab and kill the walkers along the fence, Carol tells Daryl at the beginning of the episode. They wear aprons like butchers. It’s unsettling, even for people used to seeing walkers every day.
The group has clearly been working to sustain themselves on the food they can grow alone. But they are not quite there yet. And the only way to supplement is to leave the prison, set traps, hunt and loot various big-box stores and grocery shops. On this day, Rick volunteers to check the traps, while a group lead by Daryl amasses to raid a local shop.
In “Walking Dead” fashion, the store raid goes horribly wrong. What would the season premiere be without a zombie fight? The group of Daryl, Glenn, Zach, Sasha, Micchone and another new arrival, Bob, don’t realize a seemingly empty store is overrun with walkers on the roof. They literally fall from the sky (through a rotting roof) into the store, starting a battle that ends with Zach being bitten in the leg.
Rick’s excursion into the woods is only slightly less eventful. While he does not come across a swarm of walkers, he does meet a nameless Irish refugee who begs to join the prison’s ranks. Rick agrees if she and her husband will answer three questions first.
The husband praised so highly by the Irish refugee turns out to be a walker — one she couldn’t let go of, much like the Governor in season three. She refuses to let Rick end their lives, instead stabbing herself in the stomach to be with her husband as a walker. Despite admitting, as she fades in front of Rick, that her husband had done most of the horrific things for their survival — killing walkers and other humans — the guilt was too much for her to bear.
As for the three questions?: “How many walkers have you killed?” “How many people have you killed?” “Why?”
It was a poignant moment for Rick, who understands and is grappling with the difficult choices that must be made to survive. How far can one person go?
At the end of an emotional day and back at the camp, the horrors aren’t quite over. Violet the pig gets another moment in the spotlight when Rick seems to notice it she more sickly than before. Perhaps even dead — I couldn’t tell.
And another newcomer, Patrick, goes from feeling queasy in a community-run reading class earlier in the episode to stumbling, very ill, into the shower. The episode ends with him collapsed in the shower, blood caked on his face and his eyes tinged red and yellow.
Romance report: With a group set to venture out for the raid, the show hits a softer side with three different couples contemplating the day’s adventure for supplies. Maggie and Glenn have a brief scuffle over who will leave the prison — Glenn wins that argument. We also see Tyreese tell Karen he will be heading out, and Beth’s refusal to say good-bye to her boyfriend and show newcomer, Zach. Beth is clearly exhausted with loss and grief, and does not even shed a tear when she learn’s of Zach’s death.
Newcomers to watch (or mourn):Bob, a former Army medic, causes the commotion in the store that attracts the walkers’ attention while he is deciding whether to pilfer a bottle of alcohol. When he sets the bottle back down, the entire shelving unit collapses, with glass shattering everywhere and trapping his foot. Despite being the one to get trapped, Bob survives. It is Zach that does not. And as for Patrick? We’ll have to wait until next week.
Lingering questions: How did Patrick get sick? Are Daryl and Carol kindling some romance? What internal battle is Bob facing that made him take a bottle of alcohol?