By the time Season 4 began in October, The Walking Dead had already established itself as the best show on television with an exceptional third season, and by having Breaking Bad go off the air. But as is typical with this show, it always seems to get off to a sluggish start as they try to establish the set-up for the season's new story. This season was no different as we had to watch Farmer Rick and the jolly settlement in the prison. The season was supposed to show a fresh start for the characters, but as the episodes rolled on, it became clear that in there is no starting over in the world they inhabit.
The prison faced a decimating challenge, shattering the peaceful illusion we saw in the first episode. And though there is no fresh start for anyone, we saw the character's go through significant changes. Rick shuns leadership roles, Carol has grown strong, Daryl has become friendly, and Carl has grown literally and figuratively. These changes come into play in interesting ways as they face the crisis of disease within the prison and help shape the course of the future.
Even in a half-season, the show chose to divide that into two parts. After the prison crisis concludes, the next few episodes focused on the return of The Governor. We pick up following him after the brutal events that closed out last season. We see this ruthless man whither and change before our eyes, almost to the point where we believe he has changed, just as the other characters have. The Governor finds a new family, a new daughter who replaces Penny, and new reason to live. But old habits are hard to break, and once he feels this new family is in danger, his ruthless instincts return. The prison is the only place that can keep them safe. As a result, the midseason finale was destined to end in a showdown in the making for two seasons.
The build-up did not disappoint. In one of the best climatic scenes in television memory, the battle for the prison was epic and surprising. And as is the rule of this world, there were no winners. Major characters were lost, other's missing, and all changed forever. February can't come soon enough.