It is generally agreed that the third season of AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie serial was a significant improvement over the first and second. That being the case, it’s good news that incoming showrunner Scott M. Gimple has delivered more of the same in season four, which finds the survivors facing the return of The Governor (David Morrissey) while dealing with the outbreak of a deadly virus.
The first half of the season hits us with the loss of two major characters, and their respective absences are felt as the 16-episode run progresses. But there are several new faces added to the mix _ the best of which is Lawrence Gilliard Jr’s recovering alcoholic – while a few returning characters are given better material this time around. Carol, for example, has now developed certain hard-line tendencies (teaching the kids to use weapons, killing anyone who might pose a threat), and she’s all the more interesting as a result.
All that said, the main reason to watch remains the zombie carnage. There are a number of terrific set pieces throughout, and it’s likely that one or two episodes will leave you feeling emotionally drained. But the highlight of the season – and, arguably, the entire series so far – is the prison-based fifth instalment, which generates an impressive level of tension and drama as the group contends with multiple threats at the same time. The second half of the season slows the pace down, as the writers split the gang up to focus on individual storylines, but it builds towards a decent finale that acts as an effective tease for next season.