Hands down – this has been the best season of The Walking Dead!
Season 5 begins where the last season ended. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the group are trapped in Terminus after discovering its true purpose and intentions. After the heroics from Carol (Melissa McBride) in rescuing them, the group embark on further adventures which test them both physically and mentally. As the death toll rises, staying safe and surviving from the unrelenting walkers are not the only thing Rick has to worry about.
“Nowadays people are just as dangerous as the dead.” – Father Gabriel
So what makes this season stand out from the rest?
Think of it in this way…
Don’t bother yourself wondering how long is this show going to last or whether there is an end game. The Walking Dead is at a point where you have to enjoy the ride (and madness). The show is what it is – a masterpiece in guilty pleasures.
Another positive highlight is that the group are not are tied down to one location most of the time. Season 2 had the farm, season 3 and 4 had the prison. It’s understandable considering the group wants to stick together, survive and find a place to rebuild the future. However we never got to see beyond what is happening around them. Most of the time it was claustrophobic and restrictive in their localise environments. Season 5 sees the group mostly on the road, splitting up in different locations between the remote, country areas to inner city dwellings. This brilliant change-up allows the group to interact with other survivors but allows the audience to see the bigger picture and scope.
The best highlight of them all? The storylines. Each episode is consistent and engaging, full of surprise twists, shocks and entertaining moments that would make you laugh, sick or both! You only have to watch the first three episodes (“No Sanctuary”, “Strangers” and “Four Walls and a Roof”) to know that this is the show’s strongest opening to a season.
Season 5 has a confident swagger about it. Every episode is shaped like a comic book coming to life, each telling a unique story involving our favourite characters as they deal with conflicts, revelations and personal loss. It’s fearless in its approach, not afraid to change the game. But the obvious game changer involves the group’s interaction with other survivors rather than the walkers themselves.
“There’s a vast ocean of shit that you people don’t know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit and then some.” – Abraham
The change of focus is a refreshing. It’s not to say watching the group taking care of business every time a walker showed up got boring. But by diversifying shows how dangerous human kind can be.
At least you know where you stand with a walker. Their aims are basic and simple – see human flesh and relentlessly eat. They do it without prejudice or remorse. That is their nature and they will never change. However, interacting with other survivors brings complications. They can hide their true intentions and can be equally deceptive such as the cannibals at Terminus, Father Gabriel’s secret and tormented past or the naive and ill-equipped community at Alexandria.
The focus change shows how everyone else has adapted to the new world. Our viewer allegiance with Rick and his group serves as a model template. Whilst it’s not perfect with Rick slowly losing all sense of humanity, at least in Rick’s group, you are part of the family. This is in comparison to Dawn and her group of patrol cops at the hospital who relied on fear and strict orders to get what they want. Beth (Emily Kinney) becomes a first hand witness of the systematic chaos under Dawn’s leadership.
This idea of humans being as dangerous as a walker is not the first time it has been explored on the show. The introduction of the Governor back in season 3 was the turning point but season 5 aggressively addresses it with multiple conflicts and major foes.
This change has a major benefit on Rick’s group. Despite their differences or directions they should go, it ultimately makes them a tighter unit. They are well organised and ready to defend each other at any given notice.
But being on the road does come with its fair share of consequences. Rick has been ever present since the beginning, always looking for hope in dire situations. However with the deaths of Hershel and Lori, the new world has traumatised him. In order to survive and protect what he has left, he sinks down to the same level the rest of the world are at – kill or be killed. The new world doesn’t want to listen to reason and it brings out the worst in him. Season 5 represents Rick as a changed man and a ruthless leader. He probably wouldn’t admit it to himself but there were times where he’s acted like Shane (Jon Bernthal), his former friend. As much as Shane had bad qualities, he was ahead of the curve on how the world was going to turn out, something which Rick is only realising now.
Carol is another great example of an evolving character. In season 1, she was in an abusive relationship with her husband and had a daughter. She was weak and couldn’t protect herself. Fast forward to now with both elements removed, she’s turned into a calculating killer. Her greatest strength is her chameleon like powers where she can adapt and blend in yet be unsuspecting to everyone else. Carol has some great moments during season 5 such as calling Rick “sunshine” and being threatening to kids but my favourite is her Rambo-esque rescue in the episode “No Sanctuary”.
It’s a fair point to say that every member of Rick’s group has changed from the day they were first introduced. Given the re-occurring events they’ve been through and the friends they’ve lost in shocking and gruesome circumstances, it’s a group that wants to cling onto every inch of hope that is rapidly running out. In the episode “Them” they considered if they were characteristically like the walkers, moving from area to area as a mindless predator on the hunt. But the truth is, their experiences has conditioned them to be like soldiers, always ready for action and always preparing for the worst. When they try to acclimatised to a simpler life in Alexandria, for Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), readjusting to normality doesn’t suit them because that would be turning a blind eye to the world they currently live in and the dangers it holds.
“We’ll make it work. If they can’t make it, then we’ll just take this place.” – Rick Grimes
This season of The Walking Dead demonstrates that if you want to survive, tough decisions will have to be made. The more this show continues, the more Rick steps up to assume that responsibility. Inevitably sacrifices are made and characters die. That’s another reason why The Walking Dead is so successful. It can re-introduce and bravely kill off major characters and still keep the story moving forward in interesting ways. This season alone had the best character exits, which I won’t spoil but it serves as a reminder of the constant dangers and risks the group take.
It also contains some of the best zombie kills you will see! Without a shadow of a doubt, Daryl taking out zombies with a chain in the season finale was the best laugh out moment.
Am I excited for season 6? Most definitely! The season 5 finale introduces a new threat and I can only imagine that the group will need Rick’s leadership more than ever.