1. Best. Season. Ever?
In a new production video from AMC that teases plans for Season 4, Greg Nicotero, producer, director, and makeup guru for the series, promises the premiere is “bigger than any script we’ve ever done before.”
2. Fresh Blood
New series show runner Scott Gimble wrote the season premiere (which Nicotero directs). Gimble is responsible for some of Season 3’s best episodes, including “Clear” — in which Morgan (Lennie James) returned — one of the best episodes of any drama series last season.
3. And a Friend of the Governor’s … Might Not Be a Friend to Anyone Else
The biggest cast addition for Season 4 is Larry Gilliard Jr. as Bob Stookey, a former Army medic. Gilliard, best known for his role as D’Angelo Barksdale on “The Wire,” will be reunited with former “Wire” co-star Chad Coleman, who plays Tyreese.
Stookey, described as a charming loner who’s still haunted by his actions before and after the zombie apocalypse, is a character from the “Walking Dead” comic series. In the comics, he’s a 50-something Caucasian who lives in Woodbury, where his fellow survivors worry about his frequently drunken state. But, using the medical skills he learned in the Army decades earlier, he saves the Governor’s life after the Woodbury leader is attacked by Michonne, and the two become friends.
4. He’s Baaaack!
David Morrissey will return as the Governor, while Emily Kinney (Beth Greene), Coleman, and Sonequa Martin-Green (as Tyreese’s sister Sasha) have all been promoted from recurring status to main cast status for Season 4. Jose Pablo Cantillo and Travis Love — who play Governor sidekicks Caesar and Shumpert (aka Bowman) — will return as recurring characters, as will Melissa Ponzio, who’s going to stir up some trouble as Karen, the outspoken Woodbury resident now living with Rick’s people at the prison.
5. Rick’s Got a New Attitude
Series creator Robert Kirkman told the Hollywood Reporter that we’re going to see a very different, more community-minded Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in the new season. “Rick is changing. This is the moment where Rick takes a turn; he’s no longer going to be pushing people away, he’s no longer going to be doing whatever he can to protect these people in ways that hurt other people,” Kirkman said. “He’s not going to be the guy who would leave that guy on the side of the road — the backpack guy in [“Clear”]. He’s letting the people of Woodbury in and trying to tell Carl that these people are like us, you have to be open to this, and the only way to survive in this world is to have people and be in a community. That’s going to be a big part of Season 4.”
6. Father vs. Son?
But while Rick is embracing his fellow survivors and the importance of banding together to keep surviving the undead (and other survivors), son Carl (Chandler Riggs) has seen so much death, destruction, and personal loss that he seems to have turned to the dark side, something that’s going to pose a big challenge for Rick in Season 4.
“Rick’s got his work cut out for him. He’s aware of this, and he sees what allowing his son to become a child solider has brought, which is a very big part of season four,” Kirkman told TV Guide. “Moving forward in the show, this is a guy who’s working as hard as he can to maintain a life for this child. [In] the process of surviving … he’s allowed his son to lose a pretty substantial piece of his humanity. It’s now a question of: Is there going back? Is this now status quo? These are the things that a father will have to deal with.”
7. Farewell, Prison Walls?
Kirkman has also weighed in on the location of Season 4’s action, which will continue to be set largely at the prison. At least initially. “There’s always going to be new locations and new places to discover and explore … we’re definitely going to start season four at the prison. We may be there the whole season, and we may not be,” he told TV Line.
In the comics, Rick and friends head off to another location when the Governor and his army destroy the prison … a potential Season 4 storyline, now that we know the Gov is sticking around to wreak more havoc?
8. Look to the Comics
Kirkman, in fact, says readers of the comics shouldn’t fear the TV show is going to ignore “Walking Dead” comics storylines. “A lot of people seem to fear that we are departing from the comic book entirely by the way Season 3 ended. That is absolutely not the case, because there is an infinite number of things to mine from the comic book series, and we’re going to do that,” Kirkman says in the new issue (No. 4, with an Andrew Lincoln cover) of the official Walking Dead magazine. “There’s some really cool stuff in Season 4 that I think comic book fans in particular will be really excited about.”
9. Morgan Returns, Again?
Could one of those comics-related storylines be another return by Rick’s friend Morgan? In the comic books, Morgan joins Rick and his crew when they leave the prison for good. Lennie James is starring in a new AMC drama, “Low Winter Sun,” which premieres on August 11, but Kirkman told the Walking Dead magazine that he does plan to bring James and Morgan back to his AMC series, too. “We always try to strive for realism in the show, and because of his geographical distance from the prison, it would be unrealistic to pop in on [Morgan] every episode,” Kirkman said. “But we like having him on the show, and we’ll certainly see him again at some point. I don’t think we’re done with Morgan just yet.”