Season four of The Walking Dead, AMC’s television adaptation of the Eisner Award-winning Image Comics series created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and drawn by Charlie Adlard, has returned from its mid-season break. ComicsAlliance’s John Parker is back again to see who lives, who dies, and what fire does to zombies.

As the rest of the survivors struggle with hope, a familiar face returns, some new faces appear, and other faces do stuff. It's pretty face-heavy.


Who are you, really? When the chips are down, when you’re stripped of your choices, when your life is broken down and unlivable, when that prison that was keeping you safe from the limitless hordes of undead gets blown to smithereens and you’re back in the woods in the cold night, what do you believe? Do you think you’re the only one that made it, and run screaming through the fields of your love and memory, pulling a scorched earth on everything that used to matter? Do you forsake all that mattered and become an arrow pointed at the future? Or do you keep hope in heart, and believe that your loved ones are out there somewhere, looking for you too? Do you survive just so that you can keep going, with no hope?

Those were the questions all the remaining survivors from the prison had to ask themselves tonight. While Rick and Carl went through a lot of father-son stuff, the rest of the remains actually took a moment or two to think about the rest of their compatriots, and whether or not they might be alive. In neatly-defined A, B, C, and D stories, the rest of the lost tribes of Cell Block C all went through their struggles with hope and belief.

For story A, we have Beth and Daryl, who show up in one of my favorite opening scenes of the season. While narration from Beth’s diary details their discovery of the prison and the seeds of hope that had been planted in her heart, she and Daryl run through a gauntlet of walkers and collapse exhausted in a field just as Beth recounts Hershel’s question and the theme for the episode: “If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living?” That was a decent start. Looking up to see scavenger birds circling for carrion made it a great one.

In the division of those who believe and those who don’t, those who have hope and those who have given up, Beth and Daryl lie on opposite sides of the line. For a moment, it looked like we were going to get a taste of vintage, pessimistic, hateful, pre-Sophia Daryl, with the former scumbag staring into the fire, catatonic as The Governor was while Beth goes off a-trackin’. It feels like that scene was there to remind us that, as pessimistic as Daryl is, he’s a good man despite himself, and nothing like The Governor. That’s why he follows Beth.

While Daryl and Beth are tracking somebody who made it out of the prison, the camera takes a moment to very subtly pause on a few mutilated rabbits long enough to make it not subtle at all anymore. It’s another bread crumb in the ongoing mystery this season, which isn’t really that mysterious at all. Who was the psycho in the prison? What nefarious scoundrel could have been feeding rats to—oh yeah, it was that kid, Lizzie. So continues the Dexter subplot.

After Daryl says something really Daryl-like to Beth about hope not helping out Hershel, they find a clutch of walkers by the railroad tracks, eviscerating their way through zombie-chawed intestinal remains. Whoever they were on the trail of (probably Lizzie) looks to have met a grisly end, and Beth breaks down. As she tears a page out of her diary to start a fire that night, her hope is shattered, and her narration reveals that she didn’t think she could make it if the prison failed. I’ll admit this is really the first time I’ve thought much about Beth this season, as she hasn’t had much to do besides sing Tom Waits songs, but it’s interesting she’s headed this way again. This is the girl who almost killed herself a while back, and here she is, out in the dark, with Daryl Downer for her only companion. It’s hard to keep up hope with Daryl’s volley of depressing zingers coming back at you.


Story B follows Lizzie, Mika, Tyreese, and oh praise Jesus, baby Judith’s still alive. Tyreese is carrying a real heavy load, and yes that is a poopy diaper joke! In some weird, post-apocalyptic re-imagining of Three Men and a Baby, Tyreese is caring for three kids, including the scream-factory and the psycho. While camped out for the night, Lizzie takes her knife to a couple of unnaturally-compliant rabbits tucked away in the hollow log she sits on.

Okay, so we have verification that Beth and Daryl were on Tyreese and company’s trail, that this happened the night before they came this way, and that nobody on The Walking Dead’s writing staff has ever been hunting in their lives. Have you ever been anywhere near a rabbit in the wild? They’re not docile, and don’t sit like drugged chow puppies waiting for you to pet and/or mutilate them. Nonetheless, the two rabbits just lie there sleeping while Lizzie (who has to have been named after Borden) slices them up. They don’t wake up in the middle, they don’t scream, they don’t evade. They’re cool. Bring on the death. I realize this is a show about zombies, but a little realism here and there is a good thing.

As nutty as we have seen Lizzie, what with the power to control wild beasts and the desire to chop them up and everything, we get to see her crazier than she’s ever been before when she nearly smothers an infant. While Tyreese runs off to help some folks by the railroad track, Judith’s screaming attracts walkers, and Lizzie puts her hand over Judith’s mouth and nose to quiet her. It was at this point my girlfriend waved her hands in the air and said “Nope. I can’t do this. I can’t watch this.”

Honestly, I was thinking the same thing. The Walking Dead likes to shock; they’re good at it, and it’s one of the reasons I like the show. But killing a baby? On-camera? I have a friend who quit reading the comics after it got to that level, and for a second I was thinking this was going to be the last recap I wrote (try not to dance openly in the streets). But, like the rest of you, probably, I knew they wouldn’t really go that far. This was just an opportunity to show us how truly screwed-up this kid is, because that moment wasn’t just about survival. Even when walkers were surrounding them, and they should have started running, Lizzie was almost hypnotized by her act. There’s a theory going around the web that she is actually responsible for setting fire to the two flu victims, and though I originally figured Carol, I’m swaying Lizzie’s way too. Carol’s timely appearance stops Lizzie, but she cut it close, which brings up a big question…

What are the union rules on pretending to suffocate a baby for film? There were three or four shots of Lizzie’s hand pressed down on Judith’s face. Is there some method to faking baby asphyxiation, or was there a parent on-set who just agreed that it was okay to strangle her baby for three seconds at a time? I’m more disturbed now by the reality behind the scene than the scene itself.

Carol, Tyreese, and the kids – a group set up for all kinds of interesting drama – are told that there’s supposed to be a new sanctuary somewhere down the track, some place that promises safety. And after walking for thirty seconds, they receive verification. Posted on a trestle is a map of a place called Terminus. There have been similar communities in the comics, but unless I have a tumor, there was never any place called Terminus. But Carol, Tyreese, and the three burdens may be the advance party that leads into Season 5.

Story C finds Maggie, Sasha, and Bob together, and the three of them very clear in their opinions on hope. Bob is ecstatic just to have made it out alive, and seems to have a bright new outlook on life, trying to convince Sasha that Tyreese is out there somewhere. Sasha has put hope and Tyreese out of her mind, focused on the here and now, on moving forward, on survival. This is colder than we’ve ever seen her before, but she’s been growing into a strong character in fits and starts throughout the season, and here we see more growth. Maggie, distraught over seeing her father murdered, and being separated from her sister and Glenn, still believes that they’re out there, and will do anything to find them. She’ll cry a lot, and occasionally tip a British accent, but she’ll go after them.

They come across the school bus where Maggie last saw Glenn, and even though it’s now full of Walkers, Maggie insists they go through her rigorous identification process of seeing if it’s Glenn and then stabbing them. After letting one out at a time predictably goes awry, Maggie makes it onto the bus to see someone on the floor who could be Glenn. Black shirt, dark hair, similar build, somber music – it all adds up, and it really could be Glenn, if not for those commercials that showed him clearly surviving. So when it turns out not to be Glenn, revealed by Maggie’s smile-cry, it’s not as powerful a moment as they hoped.


As the teaser tipped, Glenn wakes up in rubble of the prison, just barely out of reach of a snarling mass of walkers. He makes his way back to his and Maggie’s cell block, and only needs to see her picture before he has all the hope he needs. Because he’s Glenn, and he’s officially replaced Hershel as the good-natured heart of the show, the one everybody likes, surely dooming him for heart-breaking eventual death. Taking the picture of Maggie, Hershel’s watch, a bottle of alcohol (Bob’s, probably), and every piece of gear he can find, he makes his way out to the yard, where he finds Tara, sister to The Governor’s girlfriend, and not really a cop.

Even though she’s out of it, and hasn’t fired a single shot (can’t see why Glenn should be upset, considering they would have been aimed at him), Glenn takes her with him as he escapes the prison, using a Molotov cocktail to draw the walkers away.

Wait, what!? Fire attracts the walkers? It doesn’t ward them away, like with Frankenstein or other zombies in popular fiction? It draws them away from sweet human meat? Really? Are they like velociraptors, just following movement? Do they want cooked human meat? Ugh. Not a fan of the fire thing, guys.

Even though Tara seems to have no hope – and considering the miracle she just saw, where zombies ran toward fire, she’d have to have a little hope – Glenn explains that, to him, it’s not a matter of wanting hope. He needs hope; he can’t go on without it. Having taken Hershel’s lessons to heart, Glenn knows that there’s no living without hope. So it kind of sucks that he passed out from walker-induced exhaustion before he got to see a big truck appear out of nowhere. After Tara puts down the last walker, Rosita, Eugene, and Abraham get out.

They don’t even try not to strike a pose like they’re in an action movie. They just go for it. The looks, the brains, and the muscle; just add a wild-card, and you've got The A-Team. The second half of Season 4 is truly underway. And mulleted Hannibal Smith has a plan.

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