Turns out fans of AMC’s cult zombie horror series “The Walking Dead” – like the zombies themselves – were hungry for more.
The season four premiere aired Oct. 13, drawing 16.1 million viewers, the largest audience in the show’s history.
The previous record stood at 12.4 million viewers for the season three finale.
The premiere’s opening scene was peaceful, even by normal standards.
Rick turned soil outside the prison, pulling up weeds, rocks and the errant Glock.
Just a salt-of-the-earth man channeling his stress into productive labor while listening to some twangy country tune.
Side note: What were the earbuds Rick wore connected to?
These people risk life and limb to gather food at abandoned grocery stores, but portable music players are readily available?
Viewers could almost forget, as Rick performed his mundane task, that hordes of flesh-eating zombies waited just outside the prison yard fence.
Then Rick pulled out his earbuds, and the soundtrack switched from Marvin Rainwater to the zombies’ signature chorus of mouth-breathing and gagging.
Two main stories played out: a run for supplies at a nearby store and Rick’s encounter with a nameless Irish loner, the latter being a snooze fest in comparison.
Daryl, Glenn, Zach, Sasha, Micchone and a new arrival, Bob, comprised the group raiding the grocery store.
In a moment of weakness, Bob picked up a bottle of wine.
He and the other survivors inarguably deserved a drink considering the circumstances of their day-to-day existence.
However, he appeared torn. A recovering alcoholic, perhaps?
Anyway, he jostled the shelves putting it back, sending dozens of glass bottles crashing to the floor and tipping the entire shelving unit on top of himself.
It’s hard to believe a magnitude 5 earthquake, let alone a thirsty shopper, could cause such damage.
This is a zombie apocalypse show, though, so suspension of disbelief, right?
Maybe he was a Mormon and the accident was an act of God.
The ruckus attracted the attention of “walkers,” who roamed the store’s roof. Worn and weak, the center of the roof gave in under their weight. They dropped from the sky like grotesque, 200-pound snowflakes.
Chaos ensued, people fighting off zombies left and right. Glenn nearly had his foot bitten off, but he – unsurprisingly – escaped. Zach wasn’t as fortunate, becoming the first casualty of the new season.
Back at the prison, Carol took it upon herself to teach a handful of surviving children how to properly handle knives and a teenage boy named Patrick developed flu-like symptoms. These elements foreshadowed the second episode of the season, which aired Sunday.
Sunday’s episode attracted a mere 13.9 million viewers. Even with a 13 percent drop in viewership, it became the series’ second-highest rated episode.
Patrick, having died alone and unexpectedly, rose as a zombie and crept into the cell block where people slept. He attacked another survivor, creating a lethal domino effect. By the time Daryl, Glenn and other leaders arrived, the body count had reached double digits.
The deaths, though horrifying, did not come across as tragic as the writers probably intended. Viewers did not yet know or feel a connection to these newcomers. If the massacre had claimed someone like Hershel, Carol, Tyreese or – heaven forbid – Daryl, it might have inspired feelings other than nausea.
Despite gore and less-than-appealing living conditions, romance blossomed.
Maggie and Glenn’s relationship proved as open, honest and loving as ever. In fact, Maggie confessed that she’d like to eventually have a baby. She said she doesn’t want to be afraid to live her life.
“Being afraid is what’s kept us alive,” Glenn said.
“No,” Maggie said, “it’s how we kept breathing.”
Meanwhile, Carol and Daryl still refused to acknowledge the sexual tension in their friendship. They’re evidently the only ones immune to the love bug circulating the prison – not the actual swine flu people are contracting. They should take a page from Maggie’s book and seize the moment before it’s too late. After all, if the walkers don’t get them, this mysterious illness just might.