The fifth season of AMC’s smash hit series The Walking Dead has been one filled with ups and downs leaving many fans complaining about the pacing and overall direction of the current season. A season which started off with a bang in episode one as the group fought their way out of Terminus and away from their captures but has abruptly slowed to a crawl in the episodes that followed. Similar to many episodes in season 4, the producers of the show chose to split up the group and elected for more character driven episodes with very few instances of action, a move jeered by fans of the gritty violent nature of the show. As the group begins a new chapter, they will face a rough road ahead and the loss of a member which will no doubt effect each person in the group.
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has spent most of the last four seasons making the transition from police officer to survivor to leader which has taken his character arc through many psychological changes. The loss of his wife and fear of loss of his newborn child has hardened Rick into a man hellbent on doing whatever it takes to keep his group safe, a move that is seen as a shock to some members of the group. This isn’t to say that Rick is back to “Crazy Rick” mode, but to more of a man willing to take action first, even going so far as to kill, more than before. A change that was needed to evolve his character to where Rick is in the comic world. The time for talking is over and Rick knows its survival of the fittest out here in the world.
The group stared down certain death in their war with the Governor and has left the group in a tattered state. The loss of the prison was as big of a loss as any cast member; as it removed a comfort from their lives and sent them back into the unknown. The road to Terminus was taken somewhat cautiously, but I think many in the group had become so used to the comforts of life behind a wall that they may have let their guard down a bit and were blindsided by what transpired with the Hunters. The return of Carol (Melissa McBride) to save the group was a welcome surprise and her reunion with Daryl (Norman Reedus) was highly anticipated by many fans of the show. Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs) were reunited with Judith. Rick’s newborn daughter, and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) was reunited with his sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and everything seemed to be right with the world. But the mission still stands, get Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to Washington to help find a cure to end this apocalypse.
The group takes shelter in the church of Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam), whose adjustment into this new world has been difficult. As the group decides where to go next, Daryl and Carol stumble upon a lead which may lead them to Beth (Emily Kinney) and they decide to split from the group to try and save her, a decision which leads to the rest of the group splitting up into factions. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and his group, including Eugene, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) who are going to begin their travels to Washington and Rick’s group including Carl and Michonne (Danai Gurira) who decide to wait back for Daryl and Carol to return. The groups intends to catch up to each other in or near Washington.
The next several episodes are spent spotlighting the three factions as they move in their respective directions as well as an episode on Beth and where she wound up. Abraham’s group struggles to find their way and wind up facing a horde of walkers and a revelation from one of the members that will change their course. Beth is being held up in a hospital guarded by a squad of police officers trying to hold on to a code of order that enslaves people who are in need of assistance. Now Beth’s story is interesting as it is one that doesn’t appear in the comics and also introduces a new character, Noah (Tyler James Williams), who ultimately escapes and helps Daryl and Carol track down their lead to where Beth is being held. Carol is abducted by the officers and Daryl must go back to enlist the help of the group to save Beth and Carol.
The hospital is run by an officer named Dawn (Christine Woods) who lives by a code and believes that respect must be earned. Her methods are not popular with the rest of the officers and their relationships seemed to be held together by a thread. Beth has done her best to make herself useful to Dawn in a short amount of time and has earned her an amount of respect that gains her certain responsibilities. When Carol arrives in bad shape, Beth realizes that she will need to manipulate Dawn even farther to help save Carol’s life. Rick, Tyreese and Daryl prepare an assault on the hospital, but their at odds with their methods of getting the job done. When the decision is made to take some of the officers to make an exchange for Carol and Beth, the group risks everything to try a peaceful resolution to their current situation. But as the season closes, we witness the loss of one of their own, a loss that will effect key members of the survivors as they move forward onto their path the find safety.
Overall the first half of season 5 has been interesting. I am a big fan of the comic and I like how the show takes liberties with the comic story and allows for some elements of surprise. The introduction of the Hunters was really well done and the events that followed were exciting but the story line was short lived. The subsequent splitting up of the group is a retread from the previous season and is wearing thin a bit. I understand the need for it as each group has a story to tell outside of the group, but the producers of the show need to find a better way of getting their stories told instead of using their tactic. Most of what happened in the first 8 episodes helped to flesh out some of the back story of characters such as Abraham and explain where and why the group is on the path they are, but there were instances that were so boring that even the most die hard fan was left scratching their head. The payoff in the season finale will lead to the eventual events of the second half of the season so we won’t be able to know how and why it works until then, but for now I will say this….I am less intrigued as I have been in past seasons as I feel the group is treading water, but I am hopeful that the writers will find a way to right the ship and get me excited again. Until then, I will wait til February with mild anticipation, until Sunday February 8th when I’ll be giddy as a schoolboy screaming “WALKING DEAD IS BACK!!”
Sound off! What did you think of the first half of Season 5?