But I have felt a few red flags trying to go up during the first two episodes of this history-making season. The acting and production values remain first-rate, but I think the storytelling has wobbled a bit from time to time. I've been doing this long enough to know that's never a good sign. This show is so massively popular and influential right now that few observers are going to speak up when they are concerned about certain things, lest they seem out of touch or just too picky. That's not the case here. I'm wild about this show. I just think there is value to raising certain questions and pointing out possible inconsistencies, even if they turn out to be premature.
Some of my issues with the show involve concerns about its long-term viability. Others are probably just me over-thinking what I see on the screen. I will leave it to all of you reading this to decide which is which or if you agree or not. (By the way, there are soft spoilers in the rest of this column, so consider yourself warned if you haven't watched the first two episodes of this season and haven't read or heard anything about them, which seems damn near impossible in this business, but I suppose it can happen.)
Why have our heroes let their guard down? They suddenly seem a bit lax in all matters involving security, both in the prison where they live and when they are off-site seeking supplies. At the very least, are't they concerned that the murderous Governor might return at any moment and shoot them? Why aren't they patrolling their home? Why aren't they scanning perimeters when they enter buildings? They're still at war, but they've stopped acting like it, except when they have to.
In a related question: Why is the outer fence surrounding the prison so flimsy? The people inside have had months to somehow reinforce it or to dig a huge trench between the inner and outer fences and fill it with zombie-skewering spikes.
How can it be that someone is periodically going to the fence and feeding live rats to the walkers (for whatever reason)? I suspect a child is doing this (which would raise additional questions). Isn't anybody watching? There were roughly 45 people living in the prison before the catastrophe in last night's episode. Wouldn't they have organized security shifts inside and outside the building?
Speaking of the catastrophe, how could so much carnage take place during the dead of night in a crowded wing of the prison (cell block D) without anyone in that wing or another area hearing anything? For that matter, didn't any of the humans who died last night scream or struggle when attacked?
Why in the world does everyone sleep in unlocked cells, leaving them vulnerable to Lord knows what? One person suffering a heart attack and turning zombie in the night could be a disaster. Haven't these people learned anything?
Why did Rick brutally kill the pigs? I get that it marked a huge character shift, in that it signaled that the relative peace and contentment he had found in recent months was over, or just an illusion given the world they all live in. Farmer Rick is dead. Fighter Rick is back in action. Got it. But why kill the pigs in so torturous a way (which he clearly felt bad about doing)? Why waste all that food? It has been established that noise distracts the walkers. Daryl and Rick could have lured all those walkers away from the fence just by gunning the motor on their truck or shouting at them or throwing a few stones. (If the issue is that the pigs might have something to do with the mystery virus that is infecting people – that they might be carriers – wouldn't it have been wiser to kill them quickly and burn their bodies?)
I understand that several months have passed between Seasons Three and Four and that the prison has filled up with several dozen new residents. But we know so little about these people that when they become zombie food there is no emotional resonance to most of the action. It's as if they are just there as fresh extras to keep the show's body count up without further gutting the remaining core group.
Speaking of core characters, I haven't seen a scene this season that would have been weakened by the presence of Andrea, who died in last season's finale. In fact, it seems to me that certain scenes, like the raining zombies last week and the fence surge this week, might have been more satisfyingly action-packed were kick-ass Andrea still among the living. I get that one of the strengths of this series is the willingness of its creators to kill anyone off at any time (except, presumably, Rick and Carl). But there is still such a thing as going too far. (Look what happened to BBC America's “Being Human” when the decision was made to eliminate all of the original characters. Splat!) There's no use moaning about it, but I think losing Andrea has hurt the show, and I'd rather not lose any other characters that I'm fully vested in, especially because newer characters aren't being as well developed, at least not during the early episodes of this season.
Lastly, an awful lot of zombies have been killed on the other side of the zombie fence. Where are all their rotting bodies? (Not that I care -- just thought I would ask.)