Though the fourth season of AMC’s gargantuan hit “The Walking Dead” doesn’t officially kick off until Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, we’ve already sneaked a peek at the first two episodes. We’re not going to give out major spoilers here, but we will say that after the show’s biggest, craziest season ever, it doesn’t look like things are slowing down any time soon.
Here are 14 non-spoilery observations from Episode 1 (“30 Days Without An Accident”) and Episode 2 (“Infected”):
1. Farm Life
Fans of the comics know that a big part of the prison arc is the survivors’ ability to farm. Well, good news, farm fans: Rick and company are growing veggies, and even raising some animals as the season opens up. As we know from seasons’ past, idyllic farm life does not equal safe haven…
2. Shades of Morgan
Credit to new howrunner Scott Gimple for letting our characters learn from their experiences. By the time episode one opens, Rick and the gang have already set up defenses similar to the ones Morgan set up in last season’s seminal episode “Safe.” With more people in the prison, there’s more resources and hands to work with — and they’ve been busy making their home as Walker-proof as possible.
3. The Council
If last season was all about the Rick-tatorship, this season is taking a far more democratic approach with the ruling body taking the form of a Council. Who’s on the Council, and how they work, you’ll just have to wait until episode two to see.
4. Who Says Romance Is Dead?
Shippers take heed: not only are Glenn and Maggie still going strong, when we open up there’s several more couples blossoming. And as we all know, in the world of Walking Dead, love triumphs over all. Oh, sorry, we meant love is a joke and hope dies. Our bad.
5. Carl & Michonne, Comic-Book Readers
In a not so sly shout-out to the show’s origins, Carl and Michonne are now in a de facto comic book club. Presumably they’re into the same Spanish polar bear comic Walt read on LOST.
6. Michonne: Evolutions
Speaking of Michonne, her character has gone through a massive evolution in these first two episodes. Not only does she smile and joke, but the most powerful scene in the first two hours is a wordless, two minute bit that completely redefines what you may have thought about the monosyllabic bad-ass.
7. Rick The Pacifist
Picking up where last season left off, Rick is still having some, let’s say… issues… with firearms. We’re not in full-on crazy-town anymore, but he’s still not shooting with a full barrel (nor would he pick up a barrel, anyway).
8. Daryl’s Job
We’re not going to ruin it here, but if there isn’t a mash-up video based on what Daryl’s pre-apocalypse “job” is within five minutes of “30 Days Without An Accident” airing, we don’t know the Internet.
9. Supermarket Sweep
There’s a number of stand-out scenes in the (excellent) first episode, but the biggest and baddest is definitely an extended sequence set in a supermarket. Not to keep focusing on Daryl, but we think there’s going to be a new statue made of one particular action pose the crossbow wielding hero takes. It’s just that good.
10. ‘The Wire’ Reunion
Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. and Chad Coleman, both of HBO’s seminal ‘The Wire,’ meet up pretty quickly in the first episode. Which is surprising, because they never actually met on ‘The Wire’! Though we don’t learn a ton about Gilliard’s Bob Stookey, we do learn enough to know he’s going to be a character to watch. Meanwhile, Coleman’s Tyreese gets to step up this season in a big way.
11. The Gore
In case you were worried, FX supervisor (and Director of the first episode) Greg Nicotero has found plenty of new ways to make Walkers totally disgusting. A scene with a Walker on the Prison fence, and the whole sequence in the supermarket in particular are stand-outs.
12. What’s In A Name?
A major theme of the first episode is names, and naming things… And the theme pays off in big ways, and in small. Gimple (who wrote this season’s first episode) proves himself quickly not only as the right choice for showrunner, but perhaps “The Walking Dead’s” strongest asset in the writing department, too.
13. New Threats
All the marketing has emphasized new “threats,” for our survivors and they weren’t lying. That’s threats, plural. There’s The Walkers of course, and then there’s one inside the prison, and then there’s one inside the… Well, that would be telling. Suffice to say that by the end of Episode 2, our little group might be in even bigger trouble than when they were facing down against the Governor.
14. Shirtless Rick Is Back
Because you demanded it… Ladies.
“The Walking Dead” returns to AMC on Sunday, October 13 at 9 p.m. ET.