Just when you think you can take a moment to breathe during Season 4 of the zombie apocalypse known as “The Walking Dead,” bam! Something will happen to shake things up. The new season of “The Walking Dead” returns on Sunday, October 13 at 9/8c on AMC.
“In Season 4, we never slow down,” says Norman Reedus, who plays fan favorite Daryl Dixon. “It picks up where [Season] three left off, and we go into full-blown gear, but the emotion is the same, revving at the same RPMs. There’s a lot going on and everything means something. I think it is some of our best scripts.”
One common occurrence among the remaining humans is they are experiencing a whole lot of survivor’s guilt, as those left alive carry the psychological weight of the deaths of all their friends and families.
“As an actor, it is completely amazing,” says Steven Yeun, who plays Glen Rhee. “I am so grateful for that. But as a character, you hold that old person on you. I can only speak for Glen, but Glen’s evolution is based on every person who came before him: Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) influence, Shane’s (Jon Bernthal) influence. The beauty of this show is you see all these compounded characters.”
One very memorable death at the end of Season 3 was that of Andrea (Laurie Holden), who kills herself after being bitten by a zombified Milton (Dallas Roberts). Michonne (Danai Gurira) stays behind to say a last goodbye to her estranged friend. And while they only have a moment, it is wisely used for reconciliation.
“The beauty of what Andrea gave Michonne was that moment where she says, ‘It’s good you found them,’ talking about the group,” Gurira says. “That is a blessing that Andrea gives Michonne in what she has decided to do, which is to be a part of this group. But there is that component of Michonne — when she picked Andrea and saved her life at the end of Season 2, and decided, ‘this is my person’ — that is a loner. So, to step into a community doesn’t come with absolute ease for someone like Michonne.”
Another unforgettable death was that of Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), who sacrificed her life giving birth to her baby daughter. Executive producer and special effects make-up supervisor Greg Nicotero hinted to TV Guide that there would be a zombie baby in the first episode of Season 4. What he didn’t say was whether or not it would be Judith Grimes, aka Lil’ Asskicker.
In the comic, Judith was assumed to die along with her mother, but executive producer David Alpert explains why it was changed for the TV series: “[Lori's death] was such a traumatic thing. There was great opportunity for jeopardy with a kid. Kids make noise, kids need constant attention, they interrupt your sleep. As those things play out, they add a great strain. [We decided], ‘Let’s see that.’”
It remains to be seen if Judith is zombified and if her father Rick (Andrew Lincoln) will be able to kill her if such is the case. Rick has always stood for hope and been the moral compass of the show, and in Season 4, he is on his way back to being the man he was earlier. But who knows what another death in his family could cause him to do?
“This is a show that by definition of losing characters, moving locations and meeting new people, is this ever-changing thing,” says Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick. “It is organic. There is a pull and push within this character — I don’t want to sound pretentious — but there is the eros and thanatos, which is the brutal and the love that is inherent in each human being. The animal and the compassion. I think it is a really interesting area to explore.”
As for Daryl, with the death of his brother Merle (Michael Rooker), he is becoming his own man and discovering a self-worth he didn’t have previously.
“He was destined to become another Merle — a racist, drug-taking a–hole — and he has found this glue that is keeping him there and that is these other people,” Reedus says. “The thing about Daryl is if something needs to done, he will get it done, but he doesn’t want to sit in front of you and talk about your feelings, how are you doing today and this is our plan. He doesn’t want that sort of responsibility ever. But he gets stuff done. He loves all those people and he would take a bullet for them.”
And, of course, The Governor will be back, too, but not in Episode 1. All David Morrissey, who plays The Governor, would tell us is, “It’s about: On which side is he going to fall? Is he going to go for the good side today, or is he going to go for the bad side?”
One thing that concerns fans of “The Walking Dead” is that when it returns, it will be under the direction of a new showrunner. The reins have been passed to Scott Gimple for Season 4.
But executive producer Gale Anne Hurd reassures viewers, saying, “Unlike other shows, we promote from within. It is not as if we are bringing someone in from the outside who is going to re-conceive the show. Scott has written so many of the iconic episodes. The episode where Shane shot Otis, the episode where Shane and Rick go head to head, and the one when Sophia comes out of the barn as a walker. He clearly gets the voice of the show. Before he started writing on the show, he was a long-time fan of the comic book. There is a seamless transition that, I think, must seem odd to everyone who is not within the show, but it actually is.”
One final note about Season 4 is from Nicotero, who leaves us with the thought: “I like the idea that Season 4 is sort of the greatest hits of ‘The Walking Dead.’ We are compiling great emotional moments and great action moments. The writers have crafted gags that really fit with the story. I feel that is really, really critical for the show.”
“The Walking Dead” returns on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 9/8c on AMC.