The second half of "Survival Sunday" gave us an enjoyable FTWD season 4 premiere. Oddly, it felt more like the beginning of a completely new Walking Dead spinoff. In some ways, this is feeling more like the show they perhaps should have made. The catch is they still wanted to preserve the elements they did like from the show, so we are getting an odd hybrid. Far too early to say whether it's going to pan out, but from what I've seen so far it looks like there's a good shot this is going to be a fun show, even surpassing the original.
I'm guessing this was originally planned as a 2-hour premiere, because otherwise it felt a little disrespectful to the FTWD cast, who essentially are just a cameo twist this hour. Instead, we get a ton of Morgan time, including scenes featuring 3 guest appearances from TWD. I suppose this was in lieu of having any farewell scenes with the rest of the cast. But as enjoyable as it was, it felt misplaced to me in a show that has had its own story and cast for 3 years. I suspect there are growing numbers of fans who only watch Fear, and the writers should really own and respect that. Again, the result really felt to me like a completely different show, like the intent was to spin off Morgan onto his own show as opposed to join an existing one.
We also get introduced to two new characters, both of whom are immediately more appealing than any of the original FTWD cast. Maggie Grace from Lost has shed her whiny teen persona and beautiful blonde hair to become a badass dark haired reporter driving a tank filled with automatic weapons and using some sweet little ninja blades for melee. Who isn't going to like that? Then Garret Dillahunt, another genre fan favorite, plays an immediately endearing cowboy-esque character with a six shooter and a cool outfit (but with implications he used to work in a movie theater). While we normally mistrust everyone we meet in these shows, both of these characters seem to just jump right into your living room and make you feel attached. It's a great achievement because in the past the only time that's happened (for me) was with pre-established comic characters like Michonne, Aaron and Jesus. I guess the casting familiarity helps a lot, but the writing did as well.
So Morgan, who was never really a favorite for me, particularly with his back and forth on kill or don't (I guess we've swung back to not killing), joins up with these 2 and it ends up making for a cool new group. Morgan's annoying features are less pronounced here so even he feels more appealing to me. And then boom, in the last minute they dump the old cast on us like cold water lol. I guess it was a surprisingly effective conclusion, and I certainly look forward to seeing how they bring the story there. I expect next week to effectively be the opposite of this one, focusing completely on the old cast and how it got to this point (which again I really would have preferred as the second hour to last night's opener).
Here's hoping for a fantastic season, I am cautiously optimistic.