The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 4 unfortunately continues the downward spiral started from the previous episode. Though “Thicker Than Water” starts off well with momentary character development, that quickly shifts to shallow plot devices solely meant to progress the story.
As is expected with this season, “Thicker Than Water” presents a flashback with Javi and David before the zombie apocalypse. Their dynamic is tested, but the scene crafted a deeper origin for the brothers’ relationship towards each other. Their motivations become more clearly defined and helped explain several decisions throughout the season.
However, Javi’s relationship with other characters does not provide any real significance through the episode. Javi and Kate’s burgeoning relationship (either platonic or romantic) is nonexistent this episode, aside from some heavy moments in the final stretch. Similarly, Javi and Clementine offer only one moment of importance within a pivotal scene that crafts the remainder of “Thicker Than Water”. The two in that short scene create a stronger bond, but the minimality of it in the episode is glaring – especially since I adore their camaraderie towards each other. Minor moments with Tripp, Eleanor, and Ava occur, but are seeded in simply to either extend the episode or provide shallow subplots.
This nonexistence continues with Joan, the loosely threaded antagonist presented in Episode 3. When the “big” reveal of her deceit was showcased in “Above the Law”, I was disappointed by the unjustified strong morality shift. In the same vein, Joan’s lack of character development throughout the season did not help create any believable and engaging moments for her as the villain. Even during an intended climatic moment, Joan’s dialogue and behavior is simply unnatural to her flow and to the episode. I began rolling my eyes by the cliche decisions she makes, and ultimately hoped for a surprise turn of events.
Luckily, that surprise event occurs shortly after, which becomes a high point in the episode. The last few moments really bring the adrenaline and, in Walking Dead fashion, shit really hit the fan.
The Verdict: 5.9 out of 10
Despite some highlights at the start and end of the episode, the bulk of “Thicker Than Water” is a loose story with minimal character development. Even with this mediocre penultimate episode, the ending got me excited enough to see how the season concludes in Episode 5!
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.