Oct. 14, 2013 at 8:43 AM ET
"The Walking Dead" opened its fourth season with callbacks to their days on Hershel's farm. Like season two, the survivors are working like farmhands and living off the land. The only thing missing is Hershel's leg and a barn full of zombies.
The walkers are still gathering outside the prison fence — and if anything, their numbers are growing. The humans, however, have built some clever booby traps so they can open the gate more safely.
What happened to crazy killer Carl?
After young master Grimes shot an innocent kid in cold blood last season, daddy took his gun away. And like father, like son, Rick is loathe to fire his own weapon. Now Carl's behaving like a normal kid, reading comic books (would Robert Kirkman be too meta?) and befriending the Woodbury survivors he originally wanted to bar from the prison. One of his new buddies is (er, was) Patrick, a nerdy teen who didn't survive the first episode. (That's not to say he won't be back next week.)
When she's not flirting with Daryl, Carol is reading to the kids, but she has an ulterior motive: she's also secretly teaching them how to use weapons. When Carl found out, she begged him not to tell Rick, who is apparently a pacifist as well as a gentleman farmer. (Fashion police, take note: Sheriff's hats are a farming faux pas.)
Why is everyone getting sick?
The Grimes spotted the first sign of trouble in an ailing pig, Violet, who dropped before she could make it to the barbecue grill. Swine flu? Whatever it is, at least one human was also infected: Patrick, whose death in the shower was bloodier and more gruesome than anything Hitchcock ever concocted. And unlike Patrick, Janet Leigh didn't turn into a zombie. We have a funny feeling his next move won't involve soap.
Along with Patrick, several new characters were introduced in the premiere. One of them will actually stick around: former army medic Bob Stookey, played by Lawrence Gilliard Jr. — aka D'Angelo Barksdale in "The Wire." (Chad Coleman, who plays Tyreese, is also an alum.) Beth's new boyfriend, Zack, became one of the unlucky ones when he was killed during a supply run. (Unbelievably, Stookey barely suffered a scratch when an entire rack of booze bottles crashed on him.) A little survival tip: Don't browse the aisles when your world has been taken over by ravenous undead. You'd think the group would have picked up on this by now, but maybe they had a reason to be complacent.
'30 Days Without an Accident'
The title of the episode refers to the respite the prison gang have enjoyed, tracked by Hershel's singing daughter on a safety scorecard. Zack's death knocked the number down to zero, but Beth was surprisingly stoic. "I'm just glad I got to know him," she said. She's sure come a long way since feeding her mom chickens in the barn.
Speaking of accidents, Maggie had a pregnancy scare — which turned out to be false. Glenn was relieved, but his fiancée sides with Lori (RIP) when it comes to bringing new life in their post-apocalyptic world. Anyway, shouldn't they wait until they're married?
Where is The Governor?
Patches is still MIA, but he'll be back. Maybe not next week, but soon — if Michonne's search party has anything to do with it. Fans can count on seeing the guy who skyrocketed above Rick on the crazy scale. Talking to your dead wife is small potatoes when compared to mowing down your own people, and turning Merle into a walker for his family to find.
Boy, the South sure is lousy with lunatics. Rick stumbled across a kindred spirit in the woods: a starving, desperate madwoman who believed her bridegroom was still alive. Rick agreed to take them in if hubby answered three questions to his satisfaction:
Rick never got to ask the guy, but his new gal-pal scored a point for question two when she stabbed herself in the gut. Apparently, Rick just took off and left her to turn. What's one more walker? Maybe they'll meet again in the grocery aisle next week.