17. Home Invasion
The true sense of urgency in “Claimed” is reserved for the scenes with Rick and the gang of would-be-rapists and murderers invading the house. Seith Mann does a stellar job sustaining the tension in these scenes, as Rick tiptoes from room to room in search of either a weapon or an escape route.
16. Living Dead Doll House
“Claimed” features some memorable moments shared between Carl and Michonne who confesses bits and pieces of her former life to Carl, such as the former existence of her then-three-year-old son, Andre Anthony. There’s plenty of tension to be found in the house-clearing scenes as well, most notably the images of a family, laid out post-execution style in a pristine child’s bedroom. It’s also worth noting that the painting Michonne finds in the house, is a portrait of Mary, who we later meet at Terminus.
15. Who Am I Pond
“Dead Weight” might be one of the least memorable episodes of season four, but it does feature one great sequence in which The Governor looks down at Pete-the-Walker below the surface of a pond, while simultaneously seeing his own reflection.
14. The Last Pale Light In The West
“Live Bait” opens with an incredible scene, playing Ben Nichols’ “The Last Pale Light in the West” and following The Governor driving a huge truck towards Woodbury and burning it down to the ground. The cold open provides for some beautiful images, as The Governor begins to destroy any reminder of his past, starting with Woodbury, a place he worked so hard to build. In another scene later in the episode, he stares at a photo of his now deceased family and folds it in a way that removes him slightly from the same frame as them. The image of Morrissey against Woodbury in flames was effective, but no more effective than The Governor later burning the same photo of his wife and his daughter Penny. The man in the picture is long gone, and so The Governor sets fire to anything and everything that traces back to his past. The writers tried their best to inject humanity back into our local one-eyed tyrant, and to be fair, this version of the character (who introduces himself as Brian) seemed far more focused than The Governor we knew before. His transformation from silent, loner to father figure is well written, well acted, and, almost convincing. Too bad they went ahead and ruined it.
13. If You’re Not Willing To Lose One, You’ll Lose Them All
In playing with the conventions of the horror genre, and with the show’s tradition of giving characters the spotlight just before killing them off, Hershel seems a goner from the start of the episode titled “Internment”. But boy times have changed; and now with Scott M. Gimple taking over as showrunner, the series sidesteps losing a major player via the walkers, and instead mounts a body count using nameless characters we just don’t care about. With Glen’s life fading fast, Hershel finds himself in a situation spun out of control. With the infected quickly turning, Hershel is left to remember the last words of wisdom spoken by his colleague Caleb: “If you’re not willing to lose one, you’ll lose them all.” The uprising of walkers proves overwhelming, even for Hershel, setting him up to do something he’s never done before. Hershel, for the first time in three seasons, finds himself stabbing the undead through the skull. His performance is powerful and effective, and while at the end of the day, Caleb’s advice is sound, Hershel at least knows he tried his very best to save everyone. His spirit lives on.
12. Lady Killer
The fantastic cold opener in the episode titled “Indifference”, features Carol having a heart warming conversation with Lizzy, juxtaposed with Rick imagining how Carol went about killing Karen and David. The scene sets the stage for the best 45 minutes of Dead action since last season’s “Clear”. Rick and Carol venture off in search of supplies and spend the bulk of their alone time together, dancing around Carol’s decision to take the life of Karen and David. “They would have drowned in their own blood. They were suffering. I made it quick,” she tells Rick. “Indifference” marks another stunning performance from Melissa McBride, further establishing her as the show’s most interesting character and best performer. The decision to remove her from the series just when her character is at the peak of her game is a ballsy one. Thankfully she does come back in the second half of season four.
11. The Wise Man
For my money, the highlight of “Isolation” came with Hershel’s speech: “Every time you go outside, you risk your life. Every time you drink water, you risk your life. Even when you breathe, you risk your life. Every moment now, you don’t have much of a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.” We will miss the wise old, one-legged man.
10. Three Little Pigs
The most heart-wrenching moment in “Infected” comes not when the humans die, but instead when three piglets are sacrificed in order to stop the prison gates from falling down. The ‘three little pigs’ scene is by far the highlight of the episode; as the barriers of the prison come tumbling down, so does Rick’s hope in retaining momentary peace. He and his group are losing in every which way possible to the flesh eating walkers, and if taking lives isn’t enough, now the walkers are feeding on their main food supply.
9. Six Feet Under
The highlight of “Alone” belongs to Beth and Darryl as they tip toe through a graveyard and find shelter and supplies at a funeral home. And what better location for a show featuring the dead coming back to life? Viewers are treated to a wonderful scene of Daryl lying in a coffin while listening to Beth simultaneous sing and play the piano; meanwhile corpses that have been embalmed lie silent in the next room. We are also treated to the presence of a stray dog, something on this critic’s wish list for about two years now. While the cute pup doesn’t really have much screen time, it acts as a powerful reminder that nobody is better off alone. The Walking Dead can surely use a change of scenery from time to time. All the walking through the woods, passing by similar looking trees, does get old pretty fast. The church/graveyard/ funeral parlour make for one of the most atmospheric locals the series has visited yet. Even where the dead are laid to rest, there are reminders of life everywhere. The sequence also culminates in a suspenseful action set piece, having this critic believe that for the first time, Darryl might actually die.
8. Last Man Standing
“Still” gives Daryl and Beth plenty of breathing room and Norman Reedus and Kinney deliver some of the most grounded and engaging character beats of season four. It just goes to show that when the writers do a good job in sketching our their characters, the actors respond big. “Still” boasts the strongest acting we’ve seen from Kinney yet, particularly in that final sequence. The ‘burning down the house’ sequence was beautifully shot, and kudos to the soundtrack mixer for selecting The Mountain Goats’ “Up the Wolves”. “Still” is about nothing more than two friends traveling across the forests and desperatey trying to let go of their pasts. Kudos to Angela Kang and Julius Ramsay for presenting a decidedly different take on the zombie apocalypse. The episodes no-frills approach to storytelling will prove divisive with fans, but as a two-person character study, this legitimately novel slant on the series is extremely welcome. Hopefully this is the start of a strong character arc for Beth, and who knows, in hindsight, Beth’s prophetic words about Daryl ending up the last man standing, may just make this one of the strongest episodes in the series.
7. Crazy Mallet Man
By far the best of the first three episodes of season four, “Isolation,” written by Robert Kirkman, puts Tyreese in the spotlight. Although Tyreese has mostly played the part of gentle big brother to Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and romantic interest to Karen, there’s been a violent side bubbling beneath his teddy bear exterior. Actor Chad L. Coleman goes through a roller-coaster of emotions in “Isolation” showcasing his wide range of talent, and Tyreese’s skill using a mallet. Kudos to director Daniel Sackheim as well. Not only does he allow Coleman to shine emotionally, but makes use of some fun horror-tropes; the two best features Tyreese sneaking up behind the guilty party, and Tyreese coming back from what seemed like an inevitable death.
6. Ceiling Collapse
The Walking Dead continues to impress with its inventive and gruesome action. The best scene from the season premiere (titled “30 Days Without Accident”) is undoubtedly the special-effects-heavy zombie attack on the group raiding the supermarket. It was a clever set-up, having not only the walkers fall through the rooftop, but allowing the helicopter to crash down as well. The ‘raining zombies’ sequence has to be one of the most enjoyable scenes of the series so far.
5. The Samurai Babysitter
“Infected” features some of the best special effects seen on the show to date, including a random man’s guts dropping out of his stomach and onto the floor, and a walker’s eye popping out of his face. But the best character driven moment comes when Michonne is left to take care of baby Judith. For someone who barely showed any emotion last season, Michonne has come a long way, not only smiling in season four, but crying as well. Thankfully Michonne’s brooding silence is over and done with, and her brief moment spent holding judith speaks volumes about her character and her past.
4. Off With His Head
“Too Far Gone” nicely returns to the central theme of the first half of season four, questioning the ability to let go of the past and start fresh no matter what terrible things one has experienced or done. Hershel’s death is utterly heartbreaking even if it was obvious that of the major players left alive, his character was next in line to die. His truly heroic actions back in “Internment,” coupled with his John Steinbeck quotes and words of wisdom, telegraphed that his death was near. At least he went out with a smile on his face, knowing Rick made the right choice by offering to put aside any past rivalries with the Governor in spite of what he’d done. Hershel may be gone, but he left knowing he fought side by side with some truly good people, and so in a way, it is a bittersweet ending for him.
3. Bring The Mother F**cken Tank
While the Governor’s attack on the prison seems a bit repetitive given the season three finale, “Too Far Gone,” at least delivers the action and mayhem in spades. This episode is nothing short of explosive, a gargantuan spectacle with a fuckin’ tank blasting its way through the prison. It’s been somewhat of a rocky ride all season, but the excellent action set-pieces and superb direction has overpowered some questionable plotting. The hair-raising pace and zero-cool heroics of the second half of “Too Far Gone,” makes up for any time spent listening to The Governor’s tiresome speeches in the first act.
2. Rick versus Joe and His Gang
The graphic means by which Rick uses to dispose of Joe’s men in the season finale, coupled with the flashbacks, reminds us of just how intense Rick’s transition has been. The cold open takes us back to a happier time when Rick and Carl laid down their weapons and tended to the crops. These flashbacks were incorporated not just as a reminder of certain objects such as the aforementioned watch, but to also bring Rick’s journey full circle. In fact, this might just be the conclusion of Rick’s character arc. Grimes has been forced into some very dark situations over the years, and he’s bounced back to retain his sanity, but ripping into Joe’s jugular with his teeth, and repeatedly stabbing the man who tried to rape Carl, might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Personally, I prefer Bad-Ass Rick.
1. Michonne’s Fever Dream
In a rare moment of character reveal for Michonne, we are treated to a strange nightmare featuring images of Michonne’s past. In the flashback/half-dream sequence we see her preparing lunch for her lover Mike and his friend, while the three of them discuss art in their luxury condo. While the jump into this world is extremely jarring, the insight into Michonne’s past finally puts a bit of context to her relationship with baby Judith.