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The Walking Dead – “30 Days Without an Accident” (or in denial) – Review and Discussion

When I reviewed the season the season 3 finale, I said the show had a feel for being a series finale – end-of-journey music, characters finding peace and closure, ending on an optimistic note. This week we rejoined the expanded prison group, and the episode had the feel of set up – much more so than any of the previous season openers since the pilot – giving me the sense that new showrunner and veteran writer Scott Gimple is setting in place a plan to reinvent the show with a shift in tone and focus from the last three seasons.

Much of the episode was spent seeing how the prison life and our characters had changed in the six or seven months since Woodbury had come down. We were also introduced to some new ones. The pace was slow until the final quarter of the episode, but there were some developments that look exciting. The past three seasons have been focused mostly on surviving the walkers and the psychological transformation people go through when society is suddenly stripped away and they’re forced to live in a kill-or-be-killed world. It has gradually shifted focus from the threat of the walkers to the threat of fellow men, culminating with the takedown of a man who was once good but turned sadistic and foreshadowed what could happen to Rick if he continued on that path. 30 Days seemed to shift the focus back to the mysteries of the illness and what was happening beyond their fences.

There was still the “coming back” theme, which I’m sure we’re not done with yet. This theme, exploring whether you can come back after losing your humanity or sanity has been explored with Shane in 18 Miles Out, with Morgan in Clear, and with Merle in This Sorrowful Life. None of those three had been able to come back, but Rick had. And apparently Carl too. On a side note, Gimple wrote all three of those episode - all three among my favorite from the series. In 30 Days, Clara kills herself because, as she tells Rick, you can’t come back.

But the more interesting development was that the virus (if it can be called that), and that the nature of the walkers appear to be mutating into a more deadly form.

The Virus

We first start to see sick or dead animals - the pig followed by animals in the woods. We have a comment from Patrick, the child who would later die from the illness, thanking Daryl for the deer he brought home the night before – a deer possibly infected by the same virus that killed the animals. Daryl licks his fingers before shaking Patrick’s hand. Did Patrick die of something transmitted by Daryl’s deer, transmitted by Daryl, something airborne, something waterborne, or something else?

From a biological point of view, a plague right about now makes perfect sense. With a lot of dead bodies walking around, infecting the water supply, the earth, the air – it’s no wonder this hasn’t happened sooner. Are there immunities to this new sickness? Did Daryl and our group, through their close contact with the environment, build up immunities that the more sheltered people at Woodbury did not?

From a spiritual point of view, we can look to the Bible. The Bible talks about four horsemen of the Apocalypse, War, Pestilence/or Conquest, Famine and Death. It talks about apocalyptic plagues. Hershel, who has compared Rick’s group to a plague, is usually quick with a Bible verse to accompany what’s going on, so hopefully he won’t disappoint.

We also learn that the walkers’ behavior is changing. They’re not spreading out like they used to but instead building up in number around the fences. We saw the walkers’ behavior change before, when they seemed to suddenly answer a call in the season 2 finale and converge in mass to migrate where, is unknown. What does this mean? A yearly migration in which they’re drawn to something? A stronger need to feed before the winter? Or something else hinting at an answer to why the dead are now walking?

Random Thoughts

- Nice touch in showing how much Daryl has changed by seeing him through the eyes of someone who hasn’t known him long.  A police detective. Ha!
- Love Carol’s pragmatism in turning a reading session into a knife class. That’s very Carol.
- On Patrick coughing into the shower water supply, see what happens when society and schools fall apart and children aren’t taught the rule about coughing into their sleeves?
- Awesome scene showing how Rick is coping by pushing out his reality for a while with music earphones blocking out the sounds of the walkers.
- Beth has also changed and toughened. I couldn’t help comparing her reaction to Zack’s death to that when her mother died and she fell to pieces.
- I loved that Carl has friends and has had a second chance at being a kid! Lori would be so happy. Too bad it won’t last.
- Creepy performance from Kerry Condon, the actress who portrayed Clara. Did she remind anyone else of the creature from the movie The Grudge? Nice touch in dirtying up her face so much that she looked like a walker. On a side note, I had a weird dream this past summer that some of the walkers had mutated into a functioning, talking walkers who had formed an army. True story. The humans had allied with them against the flesh-eating biters. Anyway, I let out a little déjà vu gasp when she started to talk.
- I was sorry to lose Zack so quickly. He seemed like he could have been a good character addition.
- Bob is obviously an alcoholic, suffering from PTSD, and will have some readjustment issues in the future. But I have to say, if I were in his shoes and living in their conditions, my basket would have been filled up with those wine bottles without hesitation within minutes.
- Rick scolds Carl for naming the pigs; Carl scolds the other children for naming the walkers. Carl is still a mini-Rick. To be honest, I probably would have started naming them too, if I were seeing them at the fences every day.

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