The Three Key Game Changing Moments When You Watch The Walking Dead Season 4

The Walking Dead Renewed for Season 6

The fifth season of The Walking Dead (the first month of it, at least) has finally solidified the show’s position in the upper echelon of television drama- but lest we forget, it was the show’s much-improved fourth season that elevated the show to the level of critical and commercial praise it enjoys today. Where most shows are declining in quality during their fourth and fifth seasons, The Walking Dead is improving – and I recently went back to watch The Walking Dead season 4 again to figure out how Scott Gimple and company did it. Here are a few important markers for the show’s improvement during season four:

Adios, Governor!

Many people enjoyed the dramatic return of The Governor – unfortunately, it brought back the bad taste of season three, bringing a Big Bad back into the fold who no longer really had any bite to him, even after seeing what he could still accomplish in “Live Bait”. That being said, his final showdown with Rick and the prison group stands as arguably the show’s most significant moment to date, both in terms of the narrative and the show itself.

The Governor blowing up the prison isn’t just an exciting showdown: it effectively ends an era of the show, giving showrunner Scott Gimple the narrative reins for the first time since he took over in season three (plus, we get to see Daryl blow up a tank – so cool). In blowing up the prison, The Governor forced Rick and company out on the road, fracturing the group and leading to the show’s experimental season 4.5, the show’s best story line to date. The end of the prison vs. Woodbury arc, for real this time, marked a number of changes for the show on many levels – and nearly all of them have coalesced to make The Walking Dead a better show.

The Walking Dead Season 4 Terminus

The journey to Terminus

Okay, this is really a collection of moments, but it’s important: instead of trying to cram a bunch of story lines into a single location, The Walking Dead season 4.5 is able to move away from the broad characterizations and simplistic ” ‘member how things were?” conversations that plagued the show’s first two-plus seasons. By adhering to smaller, quasi-“bottle episode” frameworks (like those seen in the show’s pilot or season three’s “Clear”) following one or two characters on the road to Terminus, The Walking Dead was finally able to breathe life into its characters, turning cardboard cutouts like Beth and Carl into three-dimensional characters we could be emotionally invested in (the image of Carl eating pudding on a rooftop remains one of the most satisfying in the series). Plus, it gave us one of the show’s best episodes, my third and final observation.

Daryl and Beth The Walking Dead Season 4

“Still”

When I watch The Walking Dead season 4- and in particular, season 4.5 – I’m most impressed by the show’s newfound ability to give depth to some of its seemingly “weaker” characters. The central trio of this, of course, is Beth, Carol, and Carl; and while Carl and Carol get plenty of their moments to shine throughout season 4, it’s Beth and Daryl’s night of drinking in “Still” that remains the most impactful.

Early on in season two, Beth was but another limited female character on The Walking Dead, a girl with a great voice and a naivety that seemed she’d never survive life outside the farm. After her failed suicide attempt in “18 Miles Out”, it seemed there was no hope for Beth – season three just kind of left her adrift at the prison, lacking for purpose except to be weirdly attached to little Judith after Lori’s death. But early in season 4, Beth begins to come into her own, a growth that feels complete in “Still”, arguably the most intimate episode of The Walking DeadIn it, Beth realizes that she is a survivor, a woman who has faced the death of her family and her friends and survived a war against a madman (with a freakin’ tank), someone who doesn’t need to be afraid of her own potential anymore. Simply put, it’s a fantastic episode, and one I wouldn’t surprise to see on my Top 10 list at the end of the year.

Photos via AMC

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