The fourth season of The Walking Dead is hitting Netflix this weekend, so now you’ve got a great opportunity to get caught up on AMC’s hit horror series in time for the premiere of season five next month. Here’s what you need to know to get started!
What’s the basic premise? A disparate group of people attempts to survive the zombie apocalypse.
What’s it like? Take a cup of zombies a la Dawn of the Dead, add a dollop of menacing atmosphere from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, sprinkle in a bit of existential hopelessness from The Road, and add a dash of goofy splatter from The Toxic Avenger, to taste. Viola! You’ve got a heaping helping of basic cable ratings gold!
Where can I see it? Starting Oct. 12, new episodes air on Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. EST. Past seasons are available on iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon. And on Sunday, Sept. 28, Netflix will add season four to its collection, which already contains seasons one through three. All four seasons are also available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
How long will it take? It’s four seasons long (at six episodes, the first season is actually more like a mini-series, but the proceeding seasons are 19, 16, and 16 episodes, respectively), and each installment is around an hour. If you’ve got a strong stomach and you start early enough, you could probably knock out most of it over a holiday weekend.
What do the critics think? Each season is Certified Fresh (at 86 percent on the Tomatometer, the second season is the worst-reviewed of the three). Linda Stasi of the New York Post called it “the flat-out scariest, best, most unusual show to ever hit the small screen,” while Willa Paskin of Salon.com wrote, “There are moments of creepy elegance and elegiac morbidity in The Walking Dead that no show on TV can match.”
Why should I watch this? I’m not gonna lie: The Walking Dead has its share of dead patches and dull characters. But the basic setup is so compelling — how would you respond if the whole world went to hell? — that you’re likely to press on regardless. Plus, when it comes to creative zombie slaughter, this show can’t be beat — you get the feeling that every stabbing, every shooting, every beheading has been lovingly conceived and executed by some of the finest craftspeople in the business (for me, there’s something surprisingly satisfying about the “crunch-splat” sound when a zombie gets a hatchet to the skull. It never gets old. In fact, I’m grinning just thinking about it). The makeup people on this show deserve their own wing in the Max Factor museum.
What’s my next step? The show is based on a series of graphic novels published by Image that began its run in 2003; in other words, it’s pretty extensive at this point. Telltale Games’ Walking Dead episodic graphic adventure games are available for a variety of gaming platforms, and have been well received by the gaming press. And if that doesn’t sate your appetite for undead entertainment, try the more subdued French series The Returned, which is Certified Fresh at 100 percent on the Tomatometer.