Straight out of the gate, episode four was a mixed bag for me - the opening scene was troublesome. The purpose of the scene was good, but the dialogue used to get there didn't work for me, it felt forced and convoluted and as if we'd joined a conversation half-way-done (in that perhaps we could have used some more time with Amy and Andrea to get to know them a bit better).
Later in the episode we have the titular gang, and again it didn't play particularly well for me. It didn't feel entirely necessary, and it felt undercooked. There was some interest provided by it, but the gang weren't awfully compelling and their segment of the episode generally seemed a bit weak.
Fortunately, being a mixed bag, there was plenty of good stuff too that allowed me to still enjoy the episode. While there isn't a huge amount of high pressure tension on offer with The Walking Dead (unlike other TV big hitters like 24 or Lost) - so far at least - we finally get some time with the character of Jim, in an impressive couple of scenes that developed the already impressive counterpart scenes from the graphic novel - indeed, this episode was written by franchise originator Robert Kirkman.
A nice touch was Glenn's intelligent approach to leading the gang through Atlanta - Glenn has been consistently entertaining throughout the season, and is one of my favourite characters. Furthermore it was good to see Daryl Dixon fleshed out a bit more as in previous episodes he was mostly the 'unpleasant redneck', but in this episode they were able to set him up as a useful member of the team - someone who is skilled at zombie hunting (when he's not having an impassioned wig-out, that is).
So after the first half which was a mixed bag, the second half - particularly the fourth act of the episode - really brought things up to standard. It illustrated exactly how enough shamblers can catch you off guard and provide a real threat - when you're dealing with one, all the others will continue to steadily advance, and you can easily find yourself overwhelmed and distracted.
This sequence provided some real treats for the gore hounds, and as I'd figured, some of the nameless potential cannon fodder lived up to their purpose and took it on the chin so-to-speak.
However, it wasn't just the background fodder who got it in the neck ... suffice to say, Laurie Holden got to act her arse off in a wonderfully performed moment that, for me, stole the entire show - but another nice character moment was provided by Dale talking at the campfire about his watch. DeMunn's intelligent and amiable performance continues to capture exactly who his comic book counterpart is.
So all-in-all it turned out to be a good episode, despite the wobbles of the first half, and it'll be interesting to see where they go with the two remaining episodes of this season - by the looks of the 'next time on' teaser they will be straying from the source material once again with a new side plot. As a reader of the graphic novels (I've done the first four trade paperback volumes so far) it's nice to not just have a direct translation, but at the same time I haven't fully made up my mind yet about how much they're working outside of the established box, but so far it's working quite well - it's not been perfect, but it's been good.