When “The Walking Dead” lost Glen Mazzara we were worried. This is a guy who really turned the show from a great idea and a solid adaptation into a top 10 show on TV. So to see the way the Scott M. Gimple regime played out during the first eight episodes was … interesting. While it wasn’t a complete failure, we sit here at the end of season 4 looking back and realizing that there are only a small spattering of events that really matter, and that we remember fondly. This is why we try to wait a few days to write these Midseason Report Cards, rather than just doing so off of the high of the most-recent episode.
The shining stars – Let’s start with the praise for what Gimple and the writers did very well: Giving some individual characters some great material. Carol had her best story ever, even if it led to her leaving Rick and the group. (Don’t worry, she’ll be back.) Andrew Lincoln had some good material to bite into as Rick debated what sort of leader he wanted to be, and The Governor had at least a solid few episodes.
Then, the emotion that came out of the midseason finale was tremendous. We had deaths in Hershel and The Governor, and the result of his attack on the prison left many of the characters lost and in a vulnerable state. Hands down, this is one of the best cliffhangers that the series has ever delivered for us.
What needs work – Let’s face it: How many stories before the final few episodes of the fall do you remember that well? Basically, we look at like this: There were multiple supply runs, an illness that turned out to be not that interesting, a great storyline with Carol, and then more supply runs. The first four or five episodes really could have been told in two.
Also, we don’t quite understand Gimple’s move to wait so long before The Governor surfaced. Wouldn’t it have been more impactful to introduce his story earlier, and show us more of how he actually not only got so many of these people on board his plan, but practically brainwashed them? As it was, it almost made no sense that so many would be keen to go along with the destruction of the prison since there wasn’t nearly enough lead up to it for us. This was never really about the prison so much as it was about getting to Rick, and it’s surprising that some of these people didn’t see that. On a similar note, waiting so long for Daryl to find out about Carol’s departure seemed to cheat us out of a big moment that we really cared about.
Overall – There were good moments this fall, but overall, this is one of the weakest halves for the show since it started to be split in this format. It almost felt like this half was treated as a necessary evil, to get the characters out of the prison and to get The Governor out of the way. Now that they’ve done that, Gimple and company can do what they really wanted. Maybe that’s a sign that the spring will be better, and at this point we hope so.
Note that we’re not grading here against everything else on TV; we’re grading from the high expectations that we have of “The Walking Dead,” and comparing this to season 3. Grade: C+.
If you want to read our other entries in the Midseason Report Card feature, just be sure to click here.