In exactly one month we’ll be watching (or have watched) the season four premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. If nothing else, there promises to be a ton going on. There are more zombies, new threats, and a bunch of additional survivors for the writers to either use to create interpersonal drama or feed to walkers, most likely both. This new video featuring the cast, crew, and as yet unseen footage, teases all of these and more.
Hailing from TV Line, this feature definitely starts out trying to grab your attention. There are zombies, and lots of them. They’re all over the place, wrecking up the perimeter fence around the prison where the survivors live, and even causing traffic hazards. At least most woodland creatures try to get out of the way of your car. Zombies, on the other hand, just want to bust out your window and chow down on your sweet, sweet flesh. And you can’t just drive through them, they don’t care, as you can see here, they’ll hang out there until the pile is so big and slippery with zombie guts that your tires can’t get any traction. They’re like mobile mud.
Listening to the producers and stars talk here keeps the slight optimism I’ve developed alive. They keep saying all of the right things. We learn that six or seven months have passed since everything went to hell at Woodbury. This is longer than I expected, but in that time, the survivors, old and new, have created a sense of normalcy around the prison. There are other kids for Carl (Chandler Riggs) to play with, they’re farming, and hell, they even have story time. But as comic book creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman says, this is The Walking Dead, “Things are only going to get worse.”
Their sense of security, which is primarily an illusion anyway, dissolves, and when that goes, you know it’s going to go hard. By creating a new life, they gave themselves that much more to lose, and they’re going to lose a lot. Taking in the leftovers from Woodbury, the numbers swelled, and we see that, at some point, at least twelve people die. But they also have more to protect from the mysterious new threat that they face this season. Again, they dance around what it actually is, saying it isn’t exactly walkers, but it isn’t exactly people either.
Out of everything, however, the most promising part of this video is what gets said about pushing the characters to the brink. That’s what the comic is all about, and that’s what makes is so good. Kirkman puts his characters through absolute torture. Just when you think they’ve had enough and things can’t possibly get any worse, he finds a new level of hell to throw them into. Watching them struggle against this, together and alone, is what makes these stories, what gives the comics their emotional depth. The show has never gone to these extremes. It got close when Carl shot his mom before she could become a walker, and when Rick (Andrew Lincoln) reunites with Morgan (Lennie James)—two of the strongest moments from season three—but never delivers this as consistently as the source material, and squanders the opportunities when they arise.
We’re also set to see more of Rick’s struggle with his leadership role. He’s never wanted to be in charge, it’s always been a role he stepped into because there were no other options. There are hard decisions to make, decisions where the consequences are hard to live with, and he is the only one willing to make them. Again, in the show, they’ve toyed with this, but never taken it to the deep dark extremes of the comics.
I don’t necessarily want The Walking Dead to try to mimic the comics. These are two different mediums, and they should tell two different stories. But the show can take things that the comics do well, the elements that set it apart and provide strength, and use those to make the series as good as the books. That’s why I keep watching the series, because there’s a good show in there. You glimpse it on occasion—like with the season three episode “Clear”—but that gets lost in maddening inconsistency and episodes that are nothing more than filler.