"The Walking Dead" returns with deadly dynamism

Returning from a two-month hiatus, the widely anticipated mid-season premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” aired Sunday Feb. 9, with the show moving to complete its fourth season run. Though the show has recently suffered from pacing issues and a lackluster narrative, dwelling a bit too long on the late sociopathic antihero The Governor, developer Frank Darabont has breathed new life into the series by splitting up the core group and examining some of the inner demons that plague the show’s central characters.

Following the calamitous events that transpired in the mid-season finale and the siege of the prison, Rick Grimes and his crew have all been forced apart in their haste to escape the chaos. Rather than trying to skip around and follow the exploits of every main character (a lá “Game of Thrones”), the show opts for a more patient and deliberate approach, focusing solely on the exploits of Michonne and the Grimes family.

A sizable chunk of the episode is dedicated to learning more about AMC’s own “warrior princess,” who, in the absence of the group’s support, is increasingly haunted by memories of her life prior to the zombie apocalypse. The viewer is treated to a rare glimpse of Michonne’s backstory, in which we see that she had had a fairly tight-knit family of her own and even a son to look after.

We are further privy to the more human side of the two members of Michonne’s family who eventually ended up becoming Michonne’s pet walkers, initially accompanying her when first introduced to the series. But most of all, this episode demonstrates an utter breakdown of the character, showing the previously well-kept façade of indifference crumble.

A majority of this episode concentrates on Rick and Carl Grimes and the nature of their skewed father-son relationship. Weak from his near-death skirmish with The Governor in the previous episode, Rick Grimes still tries to maintain a position of authority as Carl Grimes’ guardian, yet his condition betrays him on multiple occasions. Carl Grimes, on the other hand, grows increasingly impatient with his father and indignant at being treated like a child.

In an attempt to demonstrate his independence, Carl Grimes tries searching for supplies in a vacant neighborhood on his own, yet only narrowly escapes certain death in two separate instances. Though quick to blame his father for the problems at the prison and the death of a handful of their friends, Carl Grimes finally comes to terms with his own weakness and need of a father figure.

The episode ends on a decidedly positive note, with what appears to be a reunion of the two separate parties. And though the theme of the episode seems to be admitting one’s personal shortcomings, the outcome of this acknowledgement is most likely personal growth.

Despite the disappointing showing from the first half of the season, the season definitely seems set to finish stronger than its onset, with less jump scares and stock whodunit plotlines and more socially dynamic, character-driven action.