Spoiler Alert; mild spoilers follow.
'The Walking Dead' is perhaps the most uneven cable success show ever. It constantly gets good ratings, but even its biggest fans own up to the fact that it's a flawed series.
The main reason being, the main characters are operating under a major dialogue deficit and often lack the charisma of their zombie opponents. Troubling.
So season four's first episode '30 Days Without an Accident' smartly hits the ground running with a lot of Zombie attacks, keeping the threadbare subplots to a minimum and gets them out of the way first.
The prison colony's group has grown in numbers and we're introduced to a handful of new characters. But they're blank slates at this point, making any of them a possible red shirt.
Rick is still in command of the group, and has taken leadership by operating a farm and garden, giving his group some stability and safe passage with a more readily available food source.
The opening scene is somewhat cryptic; he tills the soil, finds an old revolver and puts it away, all the while staring at a zombie behind the protective gate. Its eyes look almost gouged out, protruding and swollen. The camera lingers on the face so long that you know it has future consequences.
Another ominous scene comes when Rick and his son Carl are concerned over one of their pigs who looks lethargic and sick. Neither are sure of the cause.
Darryl, Michonne (on a brief reprieve for searching for the Governor), Glen, Tyrese and a handful of newbies go on a recon for supplies. Unfortunately they choose an unstable store and bring along a prize klutz which sets up a scene of zombies dropping through a rotten ceiling and a tense fight for survival.
And it's not a 'Walking Dead' episode without a serious gap in logic. This time it's the fact that Rick no longer carries a gun, even when he forages for food in zombie ('walker') territory. Old sage Herschel tells him that the 'council' (who have yet to be fully introduced) have requested that he does carry a firearm. Rick seems to think his hunting knife will do just fine, but relents. Why this is even a plot point, is galling. For a widowed father with two kids, Rick is still pretty dim and short-sighted.
While on a trip for meat, Rick is approached by a haggard woman who begs him for food and shelter. She says she needs to get food back to her husband, and asks if they can join the compound.
Rick says it depends on how they answer 'three questions'. Rick's lack of judgment in this scene is incredulous, as it's clear this woman isn't playing with a full deck and is hiding something. And sure enough Rick makes the wrong call, as she tries to kill him as food to feed her husband who has turned into a walker. In the end she relents and kills herself and Rick makes his way back to camp.
In the final scene, a connection is made between the sick pig and the zombie with the sickly eyes. It appears a food borne virus ala swine flu is about to infect the camp.
'The Walking Dead' is off to a good start in the suspense department, but it remains to be seen if they keep it coherent and the characters credible. It would be nice if the show could finally elevate the story above its rudimentary elements, and spend more time with that then developing a spin-off that seems premature.
But as long as the 'walkers' threaten their cast of survivors, it still provides primal, compelling dread.