The Walking Dead returns on Sunday (recaps start Monday) and to “celebrate”, Rolling Stone has Officer Rick himself, Andrew Lincoln, on the cover, as well as new interviews with the cast. I say “celebrate” with electrical sarcasm because has any recent television show squandered more potential than The Walking Dead? The pilot was incredible but over three seasons the show has devolved into a hate-watch for many people, good mostly for spawning memes of the show’s more boneheaded characters and moments. But I’m still hanging in there, hoping that one of these days AMC will get their sh*t together and The Walking Dead will live up to its potential. Also I can’t quit Officer Rick. He remains a top-five TV crush (after Raylan Givens, Luther and Deputy Gutterson).

Season four has its share of challenges—Rick & Co. are still at the prison even though it has a huge gaping hole in one wall and the Governor tore their fencing to sh*t, the Governor is still at large and Carl continues to elude a merciful (for the viewers) death—but season three disposed of the last remaining super annoying characters from the original group. With Horrible Lori and Andrea gone we ought to be able to dial down the antagonistic tone, though I will forever be irked by Carl. And hopefully thinning out the herd will open up some room for Michonne to develop into a proper character as well as expanding roles for Tyrese and Sasha.

And there’s yet another new showrunner. This time it’s Scott Gimple, who wrote the superb episode “Clear” last season—easily the show’s best since the pilot. That gives me some hope that this time shuffling the deck will result in the show actually getting better, not worse. Season three ended strong, thanks to Gimple, and hopefully he can carry that momentum into season four. He certainly has plenty of promising material to work with—the Governor is still at large and That Thing We Were All Expecting didn’t happen, but spoilery set photos maybe revealed that it will be happening this season.

The Walking Dead can be incredibly frustrating to watch, and I would like one season of this show where I don’t end up yelling at the TV, wishing everyone would just get eaten by a zombie (CARL). I come back every year, thinking that this time, maybe things will be different. Season four, though, seems promising. Gimple’s work on the show to date has resulted in some of its best episodes, and hopefully there will be less sitting around and talking, and more running around and killing zombies. Because as bad as The Walking Dead can get, when it’s good, it’s better than almost everything.