The Walking Dead: Season 4 [Blu-ray]

The Walking Dead: Season 4 [Blu-ray]
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Generally, horror doesn't get much respect. So the fact that The Walking Dead remains one of AMC's few prestige properties (right behind Mad Men) is a testament to its ability to wrap harrowing gore into a genuine examination of morality and what it means to be human.

Picking up several months after the events of last season, the fourth season finds Rick Grimes and his group firmly entrenched at the prison. Numbers have swelled, as have agricultural efforts to feed all the new mouths. Rick has opted for the relatively quiet life of a farmer as Daryl and Michonne continue to search for the Governor. His passivity is put to the test when a virus breaks out in one of the cellblocks, quickly killing residents who in turn become zombies. Inevitably, the governor returns, leading to a showdown that forces the group from the prison and splinters them across the state. The season's second half follows the survivors, separated from one another as they make their way to a mysterious place called Terminus.

Zombies have become the secondary threat in the world of The Walking Dead; while they are still the prime motive for gathering in numbers, it's the increasingly ruthless surviving human beings who truly terrorize the show's protagonists, shifting the show away from traditional horror scares to paranoid anxiety. It gives the show a fresh lease on life (not that it necessarily needed one) without having to radically shake up the world the writers created.

After two seasons built around the group's location (the group's original camp, Hershel's farm, the prison) watching them on the run is a thrilling change of pace. Scott M. Gimple and his stable of writers wisely pair incongruous characters together (Daryl and Beth, Carol and Tyrese, etc.) revealing new or heretofore only glimpsed at sides of their personalities.

The Blu-ray release includes the usual array of behind the scenes and making of features. There are also extended cuts of three episodes and audio commentary for five. Even without these goodies, Season 4 maintains and improves on one of the most consistently thought-provoking and entertaining shows on television.

(Anchor Bay)