WATCH Walking Dead Season 4 Premiere On Oct 13


Since the end of its first season, the narrative direction of “The Walking Dead” has been a, um, bone of contention.

Based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman (who serves as executive producer), “The Walking Dead” leveraged a built-in audience to become AMC’s first real big ratings hit. Issues of plot and pacing dog any adaptation, but creative differences have separated the show from its show runner twice already — Scott Gimple recently took over Season 4, which premieres Sunday night.

Mercifully, the disagreements didn’t affect the show itself. Until now. Last year’s complicated and emotionally devastating storylines (Is the rise of fascism inevitable in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse? Discuss.) are a tough act to follow. Do you go with something bigger or smaller?

“The Walking Dead” chooses both.

In the first two episodes, the choices the writers face — between battle and reconstruction, spectacle and intimacy — are very apparent. Sometimes the indecisiveness with which these choices are met is quite effective, capturing what the survivors of a zombie apocalypse might reasonably feel after four seasons.

At other times, scenes simply tread water, resolving themselves one way or another for no really good reason. This creates an air of lost confidence that may or may not be intentional.

Having defeated David Morrissey’s monomaniacal Governor and his Woodbury brownshirts, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and their scrappy band of survivors are certainly due a little R&R. Early scenes of the premiere seem to lean toward smaller, with Rick tilling the soil and grateful Woodbury refugees transforming the prison into a gated community.

Forced to kill his zombified brother last year, the biggest problem Daryl currently faces is his extreme popularity with the newcomers. “I liked you first,” Carol (Melissa McBride) coyly teases. (Coy teasing! In “The Walking Dead”!)