Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Walking Dead - Season 5 Wrap-up

Warning: This review will contain spoilers up to and including the last episode of the fifth season of The Walking Dead.

At the end of my last review, I expressed optimism for the remainder of season 5, and that optimism has paid off. The first couple episodes of the half-season were indeed experimental as we were warned. I've heard that a lot of people disliked them, but I thought they were great. I think it's good that the show is experimenting. It'd be boring if all the episodes were alike.

The first of the two had a definite artistic feel, which I was able to appreciate. I thought the first-person perspective of the dying process was fascinating, and it was a great excuse to bring back a few characters that have already bit the dust, one last time (especially all those pretty girls the show keeps killing off). It was a great send-off to a character who otherwise never quite matched up to his comic counterpart.

The next episode was very bleak, which is good for a show about survivors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the dead walk and feed on the flesh of the living. I loved the scene where they use the landscape near a bridge to fend off walkers with the least amount of exertion possible, and then when they're collapsed by the side of the road, so weak that a pack of wild dogs weighs their chances of making them dinner. Then it climaxes with a stormy night spent in an abandoned shed. So exciting!

All this does an excellent job of setting up the group for their arrival at the next extended residence, the [much anticipated, for comic readers] Alexandria Safe Zone. The next few episodes may have been a little light on the action, but it didn't bother me, because I knew the show was in a necessary building stage. You have to build something up before you can tear it down.

In the spirit of keeping things fresh, Alexandria ought to be different than the settlements the group has built or stumbled upon in the past (notably the farm, the prison, Woodbury, and the TV-original Terminus) - and it is. The unique thing about Alexandria is that, unlike in the past (think of the Governor trying to take over the Prison), when the group gets there, they are the aggressors for once. And there's some serious concern over whether the group is in the right this time, or if it has finally gone too far (a theme that's been dogging Rick for a while in the TV show). And to the TV show's credit, the Terminus story thread did an excellent job of further eroding the group's trust in others by the time they make it to Alexandria.

I thought the TV show did an excellent job of covering the early story lines in Alexandria, while shuffling some of the duties around (Andrea has a major role in this part of the comics, but she didn't survive that long on the TV show). And they picked a great place to end the season. I like the pace they've struck - not binging on filler and taking forever to get to each next step in the evolution of the plot, but also not rushing forward and burning the candle at both ends (especially considering that they're catching up with the comics fast), just because there is some super exciting stuff coming up on the horizon, and that these Alexandria storylines could be considered relatively dull in comparison.

I'm looking forward to watching the show progress next season, and am already anticipating what major events they might use as climaxes for the mid- and season finales (no spoilers here). I'm also super excited that Morgan has finally caught back up with the group, after teasing us the whole length of this season. I actually didn't care that much for him previously, in the two episodes where he played a major role so far, and he didn't make that big an impression on me in the comics either.

Sure, he has the novelty of being the first guy Rick met after he woke up in the hospital, and the fact that they both survived separately and eventually found each other again is remarkable. But beyond that, what can you say? However, I recently watched a TV series called Jericho (which was excellent), and my favorite character was played by none other than the actor who portrays Morgan on The Walking Dead - Lennie James. And watching him act on Jericho was thrilling, so now I'm really excited to see him on The Walking Dead.

At this point, I think there are only really two people who I absolutely would not want to get killed off. On the one hand, one of the thrilling things about The Walking Dead is the idea that nobody is safe, but on the other hand, there are certain characters that really bring a lot to the show, and you wouldn't want to see the show lose them (and who these are will certainly vary depending on who you ask).

Some of the characters, especially at this late stage of the game, seem to have grown plot armor - these are mainly the principals: Rick, Carl, Carol, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne. If and when any of these die off in the future will determine whether or not the show has truly become "safe". Some of those characters you could do the show without. As fan-favored as Carol and Daryl are, you could still have a Walking Dead without them. I struggle to imagine what The Walking Dead would be like without Rick, however, and it's not something I really want to find out.

So, at this stage, Rick is one of only two characters I would seriously not want to see die. I don't even care much about Carl - he's important inasmuch as he's important to Rick, and Rick's important, and also because he sort of represents the "new generation" (a role that's being taken over by Judith, who should be dead), but he's practically a minor character at this point. The only other character I absolutely want to stick around now is Morgan, and just because I want the show to give Lennie James some time to act. You can have a Walking Dead without Morgan, so his character needn't last forever, but right now, I think The Walking Dead can only be a better show with Lennie James playing a main role.