what i watched last week
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the walking dead, season four premiere

It is the most popular show in the history of basic cable. I don’t think AMC cares about anything beyond that basic point, and I don’t suppose they should. It makes The Walking Dead critic-proof to some extent, and I’ve certainly run out of things to say about it. When a series makes it to a fourth season, I’m mostly interested in whether anything new is happening, or if the familiar stuff of prior seasons still resonates.

I gave Season 3 a B+, admitting that I like the zombie gore much more than I like the attempts at character development. I also noted:

Quite simply, The Walking Dead is one of the most graphically violent shows in TV history. It speaks volumes about the cultural priorities of America that you will never see a woman’s bare breast on The Walking Dead, but you will see dozens, hundreds of murders every episode. The way they get around any possible censorship issues is pretty clever: the vast majority of victims of violent acts on the show are zombies. They are already dead, and we are repeatedly told they are no longer human. Oh, they need to be wiped out because they try to eat the brains of the living, so they deserve what they get. Nonetheless, even a regular viewer like myself is often astonished at the ease with which the show works on-screen slaughter into the mix. Beheadings, sharp objects thrust into eye sockets, gun shots to the head … every possible way there is to destroy a zombie’s head has been shown, often in detail, on The Walking Dead.

You’ll hear no moralizing about this from me … like I say, it’s my favorite part of the show. But there’s always an underlying pretense that The Walking Dead is deeper than the surface gore. And I get that in an abstract way, but  I’ve never much cared about the regular characters, so I can only hope that this season, they’ll finally make me care.There are a couple of possibilities … the great Larry Gilliard, Jr. shows up, and Melissa McBride’s Carol has shown some actual development over the years. For now, I’ll keep giving it a B+, but it would be nice if it finally pushed its way to a higher level. It is more likely that it falls further down.

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