Tonight, AMC will air the second episode of season four of The Walking Dead, “Infected.” While the season premiere wasn’t instantly satisfying, it did manage to do a few things differently from past episodes. The series tone seems to have shifted into something more melancholy, as if the characters have accepted the world they live in and now want to start building a life rather than just surviving day-to-day. It also established a new way for people to die and become “walkers.”
AMC released a gallery of new promo images from “Infected.” If you watched the debut episode, you know the title speaks to the new threat to the group. At the end of season one, Dr. Edwin Jenner secretly told Rick about the research taking place at the Centers for Disease control in Atlanta. That bit of information wasn’t revealed until the end of season two, when Rick finally told the group that everyone is infected. The series now lives in a world where anyone can die and be turned into a zombie, regardless if they were bitten.
With the revelation at the end of last week’s season premiere, something unknown is killing the people at the prison. The new kid Patrick and Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) pig Violet both died at the end of the episode from unknown causes, while the former immediately returned from the dead. In fact, one of the images released from AMC reveals Patrick as a newly resurrected “walker.” Will the new episode reveal how exactly Patrick and Violet died? It just seems like this is a smaller piece in the bigger picture that will end up being season four.
Last week’s premiere also gave the characters some opportunity for levity. One of the main criticisms of The Walking Dead is that no one really acts like a human being on the show, that they’re all big clichés, and the lack of humor on the show really brings that point out. In “30 Days Without an Accident,” characters interacted with each other with some level of comfort. Zach joked about trying to guess what Daryl used to do before the zombie apocalypse, and Michonne actually cracked a smile at his response. This shows that there’s at least an effort to connect the audience to the characters before they eventually die off. It’s refreshing to watch after three seasons of humorless TV.
But it doesn’t particularly matter what critics think of the series quality. The Walking Dead is the hottest TV show on cable with ratings as high as over 16.11 million viewers. That’s almost NFL Football numbers. The ratings for the season premiere of season four is more than 4 million viewers more that the season three finale, which banked 12.42 million viewers. Considering that the series premiere back in 2010 took in 5.35 million viewers, you can tell people just love The Walking Dead regardless of its flaws. So whatever it is the writers and producers are doing on the show, it seems to be working, at least on a network level.