Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blu-ray Review: THE WALKING DEAD - SEASON FOUR [Anchor Bay]

The Walking Dead: Season Four (2014)
 688

Buy the Blu-ray or DVD

The Show



According to my Facebook feed, few shows on television seem to be as hate-watched as THE WALKING DEAD. Every week – especially during the seasonal broadcasts – I see streams of people complaining about the show; yet the ratings and status updates seem to indicate that almost everyone I know is watching it. With that being said, like it or not, THE WALKING DEAD is here to stay, and personally, I’m fine with that because, while it certainly doesn’t hit the consistent high notes that BREAKING BAD did, it’s still a highly entertaining and constantly evolving experience. Season Four is no exception to that.

I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free, but I have to assume that, if you’re reading this, you’ve seen the first three seasons and, at least, know their major beats… If not, they are easily accessible on Netflix or Blu-ray/DVD, so go catch up now…

We pick up where things left off in Season Three. The prison siege from the Governor (who has fled amidst the chaos) has taken its toll on Rick and Company, and Woodbury has fallen and its citizens have been integrated into the Prison community. However, while the group has managed to work on building things back up and securing a safe harbor for themselves where they can sustain their own resources, there are still looming threats on the horizon. For one, the Governor is still out there, and his whereabouts and intentions are unknown. And now there’s also a new threat that may come from within the Prison camp itself…

In typical WALKING DEAD fashion, you can expect a lot of drama, peppered with high-tension set-pieces, great moments of gore, and more than a handful of shocking revelations and cliffhangers. I covered the season in detail with my good friend Heather (from Viewer Discretion Advised) on DEAD ALREADY, our podcast dedicated solely to THE WALKING DEAD, so I’m not going to get into analysis of each individual story, episode, or character arc here. If you want 16+ hours on that subject, go back and listen to those shows. However, I will say that I think Season Four of THE WALKING DEAD is my second favorite of the bunch… my favorite still remains Season Two.

Like Season Two, this past year’s run seems to have divided some folks. However, while I think there are a few missed opportunities, and at least one episode that comes across as a huge disappointment, the season as a whole works extremely well. It certainly makes up for the lackluster “finale” that we got during Season Three, and it goes into some territory that is easily the darkest material the show has ever tackled. The Walkers are still just set dressing; the real horror of THE WALKING DEAD is what people will do to one another for both fun and out of necessity. 

While Season Four stumbles in a few parts, I think that Scott Gimple has done an excellent job of stepping up as the new Showrunner. The major beats are almost jaw-dropping, and you can expect more than a few tears to be shed during the course of the Season’s running time. And that underlying heart, as black and slowly beating as it can be at times, is what really sets the show apart from its peers.

If you are already a fan of THE WALKING DEAD, then this season should easily keep you watching. If you were unsure of buying in to another season after the end of Season Three, then you can rest assured, you WILL get what you wanted here (and probably more). If you hate THE WALKING DEAD, then I doubt this will change your tune, but if you “never made it past the halfpoint of Season Two” or believe that “it couldn’t have gotten better after Darabont left,” then you’re just buying in to the uninformed group-hate, and I challenge you to rewatch the show from the start and tell me if you still feel the same.

Personally, I can’t wait to dig back into the world of THE WALKING DEAD, come October…



Season Score

4.5/5

The Blu-ray



Anchor Bay brings THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON FOUR home on Blu-ray in a 5-disc Blu-ray set featuring all 16 episodes, a slipcover, and a nice helping of bonus features.

Video Quality (5/5)

THE WALKING DEAD is shot on 16mm film stock, and the 1080p AVC-encoded HD transfer on this disc captures the show's grainy and gritty look better than even the original television airings. If you hate grain, then you may have some problems with the way things look here, as it is present throughout in large quantities. However, that's how the film was shot, and it's how it was meant to look, and personally, I love the aesthetic. It really adds to the post-apocalyptic setting and oppessive feel of the material.

Audio Quality (5/5)

Again, top marks for THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON FOUR's audio presentation here. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless sound track on the disc is stunning, and certainly is something you can use to show off your home theater set-up. From the ambient atmosphere to capturing the violent sounds of gunfire, dismemberment, etc, it definitely packs a punch. Everything is crystal clear, the mix is well-balanced, and the low end will give your subwoofer quite the workout. Reference quality, for sure!

Extra Features (4.5/5)


There's quite a bit to sink your teeth into on this set. It might not look like much, but there are hours' worth of bonus materials to keep WALKING DEAD fans busy, and a lot of it is quite good and interesting.
  • Audio Commentaries: Commentaries on the following episodes from this season
    • 30 Days Without An Accident
    • Internment
    • After (Extended Edition)
    • The Grove (Extended Edition)
  • Inside The Walking Dead: A series of 5-to-6-minute vignettes on the character arcs and story beats for each of the season's sixteen episodes.
  • The Making of The Walking Dead: 4-to-5-minute behind the scenes pieces for each of the show’s episodes from this season.
  • Drawing Inspiration (~6 min): Compares the show to the comics and more.
  • Herschel (~8 min): A profile on Scott Wilson's character.
  • The Governor Is Back (~9 min): A profile on David Morrissey's villain.
  • Society, Science, & Survival (~6 min): A look at college courses on THE WALKING DEAD
  • Inside KNB Studios (~19 min): A look at the studio behind the show's visual effects.
  • A Journey Back To Brutality (~9 min): A look at Rick's story arc for the season.
  • Deleted Scenes (~10 min)


Final Thoughts


If you are a fan of THE WALKING DEAD, then this set is a must own. For my money, the show is one of the best on television (it's certainly one of the most divisive), and Season Four is one of the best runs it has had. Sure, there are a few minor stumbles along the way, but overall, it's pwerful stuff... Anchor Bay's Blu-ray set looks and sounds amazing, and there are hours' worth of bonus features to keep you busy into the wee hours while you eagerly await Season Five in October.

Highly Recommended!

Blu-ray Score

5/5





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