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Aurora Snow’s The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

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Based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, AMC’s The Walking Dead has been touted by TIME as “the most popular cable series of all time.” In less than four years the show has more than tripled its ratings. Full of complicated storytelling, plots and visuals that will make you lose your lunch,  it offers more than the average zombie show.

After season four, some might even think of it as the Rick Grimes show. Because no matter whose group we follow, despite defeats and conquests it always comes back to Rick (Andrew Lincoln, Heartbreaker), the former small town sheriff. This can be simultaneously infuriating and gripping. Rick is the same man he’s always been. He’s the kind of guy that offers his enemies friendship; he’d rather co-exist than fight. But he’s also a pragmatic killer. A surviving parent. And a leader. Those are his roles on this show, they are his chains that bind.

In this season we see Rick figure out who he is. At first, he’s a farmer, cultivating the land, raising pigs for slaughter and attempting to lead a gentle life. Then a zombie virus erupts within the safety of the prison, spreading like a deadly flu. It wipes out the pigs and rapidly turns a surprising number of characters into the flesh eating undead. Rick’s dreams of staying put are shattered when he realizes they can never be safe.

In a refreshing turn away from the confines of the prison, we get a glimpse of the Governor (David Morrisey, Blitz). After his savage decision to destroy Woodbury (in season three) the Governor resurfaces as a weaker unkempt man, but fortune smiles upon him when a small family takes him. He becomes smitten with one of the sisters, Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson, Beerfest), and comes to see her daughter Meghan (Meyrick Murphy, Chasing Ghosts) as a second chance to be a father. From these two, the Governor draws strength and morphs once more into a man of power. It’s a heartwarming story but if The Walking Dead has taught us anything it’s that all good things must end. Lilly is in for a shock when she discovers what kind of man the Governor really is.

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The Governor meets up with a band of survivors and quickly rises in the ranks. His ultimate goal is to claim the prison compound for himself. While Rick’s group is under attack from within, the Governor makes his move. Hershel (Scott Wilson, Monster) does his best to broker a deal between the two alpha males but ends up losing more than he bargained for. Faced with a losing battle Rick’s group abandons the prison and scatters into smaller sub groups. There is safety in numbers and their survival is dependent on others. It’s no longer zombies vs. humans, but humans against humans.

Maggie(Lauren Cohan, Death Race 2) and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun, Carpe Millennium) find themselves separated and in search of one another. Maggie leaves signs for Glenn to follow, telling him to meet at the Terminus. Nothing says love like a note written in zombie blood right? Rick’s sub groups follow the signs to the promised sanctuary of the Terminus. But nothing is as it seems and they are in for a shock!

With his expertise in, tracking Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus, The Boondock Saints) is the kind of guy you want on your team. He’s deadly with a crossbow and blessed with a compassionate heart. With several predictable journeys this season, it’s only his developing love interests that are surprising. He develops a bond with Beth Greene (Emily Kinney, It’s Complicated) and an even closer bond with Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride, Pirates of Silicon Valley).

Carol hardens into a character of substance. She understands now that it’s kill walkers or die and sometimes that means killing the living too (if they present a threat), which is something Rick isn’t ready to accept, but in times like these, there’s no sense in arguing morality. Carol makes some difficult decisions this season including how to deal with a disturbed child.

Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino, True Detective) sees the walkers as people, or perhaps pets. She refuses to see them as the killers her sister, Mika (Kyla Kenedy, Hidden Away), does. To Lizzie the walkers have names, they are what all people become and she fails to see anything wrong with that. She turns into a mini-psychopath.

Haunted by the memories of his love, Tyreese (Chad I. Coleman, Horrible Bosses) must learn to overcome heartbreak, loss and fear. His younger sister, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green, Toe to Toe), helps goad him on, encouraging him to branch out, bossing him around as only siblings can. Sasha may be in for some heartbreak of her own. She develops a fondness for Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr., The Waterboy) before she knows about the secrets he’s keeping.

Meanwhile Michonne (Danai Gurira, Mother of George) wrestles with her own past and confronts her new future. She’s the same warrior we’ve come to know and love. The badass with the pet zombies. In a surprising turn of events she befriends Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs, The Wronged Man) in the process of confronting her own losses.

Faced with difficult choices, Rick must concede that Carl is now a young man, grown before his time. Instead of being revolted or shocked by the brutality of it all Carl embraces it. He studies this new way of life. He’s turning out to be a lot like his father. And that’s what scares him, he’s afraid of the monster he might become. It’s the same inner monster that Rick unleashes when Carl is threatened – his parental instincts kick in-  releasing his “daddy” superpowers in a primal fury. Rick becomes a killing maniac. Something inside of Rick snaps leading me to believe we’ll be seeing a new man in season five – a ruthless one.

Season four had me on the edge of my seat until midway in when it begins to lag, but hang in there because it picks up at the end in a big way!

VIDEO QUALITY

[Rating:4.5/5]

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Faithful to its original 16mm source, this AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 has a thick grainy feel to it. The ghastly details of death are shown in all their bloody glory, the special effects make-up is spectacular! There are no obvious flaws even in close proximity shots the exquisite details are fully revealed. Red gore really pops on this otherwise muted palette. Forests and trees also stand out, the lush landscape creates a beautiful and stark contrast to the cold grays of the prison compound. There is the tiniest bit of crush that creeps into the darker scenes, but other than that the black levels are good. The fine details have fantastic clarity. The pebbles that dot the railroad track can be distinguished just as easily as a line on an actor’s face. There is so much texture in this show, from the wardrobe to the various set locations — the camera picks up everything. It’s a good looking show.

AUDIO QUALITY

[Rating:5/5]

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Presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless Audio this soundtrack is action packed. From the screech of hungry zombies, to the quiet of their shuffling feet this audio will plunk you into the center of The Walking Dead‘s post-apocalyptic world. Booming explosions and gun fights will have you running for cover, the audio assaulting you from all corners (in a good way). The music is superbly blended, doing an excellent job at guiding the audience to hear both background noise and what our characters hear at the appropriate moments. As Rick dug up the earth listening to music that’s all we heard until he removed his earpiece, then suddenly it’s a mob of wailing zombies, then he pops his ear piece back in and we’re returned to his world once more. It was a very realistic audio experience!

SPECIAL FEATURES

[Rating:4/5]

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DISC ONE:

  • Audio Commentary “30 days Without an Accident” featuring Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer/Unit Production Manager Tom Luse and Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero.

DISC TWO:

  • Audio Commentary “Internment” featuring Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple and Actor Scott Wilson.
  • Audio Commentary “Too Far Gone” featuring Director Ernest Dickerson and Writer Seth Hoffman.

DISC THREE:

  • Audio Commentary “After: Extended Edition” featuring Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero, Co-Executive Producer Denise Huth, and Actor Danai Guirira.
  • Audio Commentary “Still” featuring Director Julis Ramsay and Actor Emily Kinney (track one) and Writer/Producer Angela King and Actor Norman Reedus (track two).

DISC FOUR

  • Audio Commentary “The Grove :Extended Version” featuring Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple, Co-Executive Producer Denise Huth, and Actor Andrew Lincoln.

DISC FIVE

  • Inside the Walking Dead- featurettes analyzing character development, story threads and themes for each episode. Enclosed are: Inside Episode 401: 30 Days Without an Accident, Inside Episode 402: Infected, Inside Episode 403: Isolation, Inside Episode 404: Indifference, Inside Episode 405: Internment, Inside Episode 406: Live Bait, Inside Episode 407: Dead Weight, Inside Episode 408: Too Far Gone, Inside Episode 409: After, Inside Episode 410: Inmates, Inside Episode 411: Claimed, Inside Episode 412: Still, Inside Episode 413: Alone, Inside Episode 414: The Grove, Inside Episode 415: US, Inside Episode 416: A.
    The Making of The Walking Dead- a brief look behind-the-scenes showing the audience what it takes to put this show together one episode at a time. Enclosed are: Inside Episode 401: 30 Days Without an Accident, Inside Episode 402: Infected, Inside Episode 403: Isolation, Inside Episode 404: Indifference, Inside Episode 405: Internment, Inside Episode 406: Live Bait, Inside Episode 407: Dead Weight, Inside Episode 408: Too Far Gone, Inside Episode 409: After, Inside Episode 410: Inmates, Inside Episode 411: Claimed, Inside Episode 412: Still, Inside Episode 413: Alone, Inside Episode 414: The Grove, Inside Episode 415: US, Inside Episode 416: A.
  • Drawing Inspiration- cast and crew discuss how the comic book inspires the television show and how key elements from the comic book are brought to life.
  • Hershel- cast and crew discuss the character Scott Wilson portrayed and his impact on the show.
  • The Governor is Back- cast and crew discuss David Morrisey’s character arc and what his return means.
  • Society, Science and Survival – Professors from various universities (Including my old stomping grounds UC Irvine!) discuss how The Walking Dead has been incorporated into a variety of distance learning courses covering a wide array of studies.
  • Inside KNB Studios- Special effects make-up artists share what goes into creating zombies for the show, from outlining to molding and painting.  They also explain the challenges they face in doing so. It’s not as easy as it looks.
  • A Journey Back to Brutality- cast and crew analyze Rick Grime’s character development.
  • Deleted Scenes- Included in this are: “30 Days Without an Accident,” “Live Bait,” “Dead Weight,” “Too Far Gone,” “Still,” “The Grove,” “US,” and “A.”

Aurora Snow Says

OVERALL:

[Rating:4/5]

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The Walking Dead has become increasingly dark, forcing its characters to ask themselves everyday if this is a life worth living. It’s an exercise in futility. Despite the change of venue, deaths of familiar characters and influx of new ones it’s like watching a hamster wheel of death. Round and round it goes, with no hope in sight only the hard decisions that one must make in order to survive. If you can handle this kind of drama then it’s a show worth watching.

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