I really hate it when good things come to an end, especially good entertainment. When Battlestar Galactica (2004) ended, I was depressed for weeks. When The Killing and even the Mass Effect Trilogy ended I cried and I’m already readying myself for a bout of minor depression when Uncharted 4 concludes and that hasn’t even been released yet. The reason is simple (no, I’m not emotionally unstable): there is far too much garbage on television (a lot of it is award-winning garbage like Big Bang Theory) so when entertainment hits all the right notes, I get invested in it. You should too because we are fed a consistent diet of crap not intended to make us think in any way whatsoever. If you don’t believe me, just look at the prime-time lineup on all the major networks during the week. There are a few shows that do get it right and one of those shows is returning for its fifth season on October 12 at 9:00 p.m.
The Walking Dead is the best show on television right now.
If you’re one of the many people who says “I won’t watch a show about zombies,” you’re feeble-minded because The Walking Dead, at this juncture, has very little to do with zombies anymore and that is as the show’s creator, Robert Kirkman, intended it. The Walking Dead, for the past few seasons, has focused primarily on the human condition and while this has been the butt of internet memes (The Walking Dead = People Arguing), there is a reason that a show (The Talking Dead) exists solely to discuss another show. There is that much going on and it’s not simply a weekly shake-up where a character is killed for the hell of it.
Kirkman – and readers of the comic will know this – has been accused of doing just that in the books: killing major characters to break the cycle of repetitiveness. He said at a panel which my wife and I dutifully attended at NYCC that the show gives him the chance to amend himself, to add or remove things which he missed or miscalculated the first go around and the result has been spectacular.
While Game of Thrones on HBO is a great show in its own right, it seems to only deviate from the source material just enough to annoy readers at times but not so much that we’re ever surprised at major plot points. By season three of The Walking Dead, even longtime readers of the comic (of which I am one) were forced to start viewing the show as a separate entity altogether. Each week, I have no idea what’s going to happen because the show has deviated so drastically from the comics and it’s been one of the single smartest decisions made by a group of writers since Walter White became a villain.
The deviation is not limited to the addition of wildly popular characters – Daryl does not exist in the book – nor by killing mainstay characters who are still alive in the comic, like Andrea. The show seeks to explore complex themes via character development which is sometimes absent from the book, and has dedicated entire episodes to characters whom we all thought were most assuredly Red Shirts. How The Walking Dead is more successful in developing characters than a show such as Lost, for example, is that the character development occurs in a forward-moving trajectory rather than simply giving viewers hours worth of back story. In fact, there is very little flashback at all and the only true flashbacks which come to mind are in the form a dream that Michonne has during season four which weaves seamlessly into her narrative and a glimpse at what The Governor was doing prior to raiding the prison with a new army of followers.
The development of key characters in season four – Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl – did more than simply answer basic questions such as, where do they come from? Much of a character’s back story is implied and it’s up to viewers to fill in for themselves because what the characters did has no bearing on what they will do and that is the point of The Walking Dead. We know precisely who Rick was but it’s completely irrelevant now because, during season four, we came to the realization along with him (and others) that, in this world, morality is a sliding scale.
Early in season four, we learned that those living at the prison pose three questions to potential new community members: how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed, and why? Compare this to Michonne’s obsession with killing The Governor early in the season because, when asked why, she simply explains that “it needs to happen.”
In the brutal season finale in which Rick tears out a man’s throat with his teeth and subsequently stabs another man – who threatened to rape and kill his son – to death, we might have been shocked by the violence yet we saw something terrible and immensely brutal coming from Rick (we knew there would be no attempt at negotiation as there was moments before The Governor beheaded Rick’s friend and mentor, Hershel) and that is a testament to the brilliance of the show.
These characters firmly exist within this universe because we know them so well. We knew Andrea would eventually get herself killed playing serial contrarian, we know precisely what Daryl will do going forward. We know that Michonne will never withdraw into herself, become a roamer like the walkers, again because she now has a new family; and we know that Rick will no longer hesitate to destroy anyone who gets in his way. The show continues to be interesting because not all of the character’s actions and motivations are congruous with each other and situations will certainly arise where Carol’s approach – and we now know what she is capable of – will collide with Glenn’s desires or Maggie’s intentions. While that might seem like a launch-pad for arguments, it is a matter of life and death because those who make the wrong choice in The Walking Dead pay with their lives.
WHERE WE LEFT THEM – Season Four is a very long season and the two halves seem almost like two different seasons entirely. Rather than review the first half, we’ll look at how it ended and speculate as to what we can expect going into season five.
1 – In the season four finale: Rick, Carl, Michonne, and Daryl reach Terminus only to be taken prisoner and placed into a boxcar along with Glen, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Eugene, Abraham, and Rosita.
While Terminus seemed too good to be true, there were multiple hidden clues throughout the season which indicated that the characters were heading towards their doom:
Early in the season, Rick chastises Carl for naming the pigs, reminding him that “they are food.” In the season four finale Gareth, leader of Terminus, calls Rick, Carl, Michonne and Daryl by nicknames (“archer” and “samurai” for example) despite knowing their names which is an allusion to Rick’s conversation with Carl.
In the latter half of the season, Rick explains to Carl how to set a rabbit snare. He explains that it is an animal’s natural instinct to follow a path. This, of course, is what all the major characters have done the entire second half of the season: followed a path (the train tracks) directly into a snare.
2 – After dispatching Lizzie and confessing her sins, Carol, along with Tyreese (still toting Judith) left the tiny cabin presumably to head towards Terminus. And they may already be there.
Given Carol’s progression, specifically her cunning and capability to kill without mercy, it’s quite logical to assume that she is the least likely to stroll right into Terminus. Bear in mind that Rick hid his weapons prior to entering Terminus which places Carol – a wicked shot – outside the gate with access to Rick’s cache.
The alternate take is that they are already at Terminus, already prisoners. As Rick’s group runs through the compound, people in other trailers can be heard screaming for help and, at one point, the camera lingers on a container of powdered milk.
3 – Beth was taken. Or was she?
Fresh from a very unique bonding experience – Beth explaining that despite her lack of skills, she has earned the right to be alive as much as anyone is a brilliant middle finger to snarky viewers – Daryl and Beth flee a funeral parlor that is overrun by walkers.
As Daryl emerges, a car (with Beth in it) speeds off into the night, leaving Daryl alone; yet there are a few key things to notice and consider:
The back windshield of the car is outfitted with a crucifix. It took my wife and I a re-watching of season four to notice this and it might be an allusion to a certain character from the comics.
This is significant because while the implication is that she was taken against her will, it is entirely likely that the owners of the home (or someone else) rescued her and simply sped off, leaving Daryl behind.
4 – Prisoners along with Rick’s group, Eugene, Abraham, and Rosita have seen their mission to Washington D.C. delayed to say the least.
Convinced that Eugene has knowledge of a cure, Abraham was ready to leave Glenn and Tara to their doom and it was Eugene’s intervention which brought them back together.
Readers of the comic know precisely who Eugene is and, without giving too much away, the impact this will have on the group could be cataclysmic for certain members.
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT
1 – Rick’s final words in season four are an ominous warning that things are going to go sideways in a season that Andrew Lincoln (Rick) calls “brutal.”
Lincoln stated that the first episode is the “most ambitious [they’ve] ever attempted.” Lauren Cohan (Maggie) said a few months ago that season five is “so disturbing,” adding that “some of the stuff they shot yesterday, I don’t know if it will make it to TV.”
This might seem like hype, but given Cohan’s real-life emotional reaction to Scott Wilson’s (Hershel’s) death, it’s very likely that she’s not speaking in hyperbole
2 – The teaser trailers have been a mix of head fakes.
Another trailer with a few slightly longer shots and a major tease to comic book readers concerning one character:
3 – Kirkman said that a “heartbreaking death” in season five is very likely.
While readers of the comic seem absolutely certain as to who this will be, it’s important to note that Kirkman seems to enjoy deviating from the book often. Andrea, who has been a stalwart in the comics and seemingly indestructible, was killed off in season three when most viewers were confident that she would emerge victorious and scarred as the Andrea we know always does. It’s not possible to draw from the book because many central characters on the show – Carol specifically – have been dead for quite some time in the book yet Sophia is still alive. It’s added to the mythos because it poses the question that: what would happen to a meek housewife who has lost everything? Hmm.
4 – Gareth (leader of Terminus) will not be the big bad of season five.
Showrunner, Scott Gimple, has said explicitly that Gareth will not be the main antagonist which could mean the appearance of the most sadistic villain yet to appear in the books. It’s a character which fans have been clamoring for but Kirkman has stated that given said character’s predilection to accent his every sentence with the word “fuck,” it would be difficult to adapt him to the show. It still doesn’t mean he’s not coming.
5 – Gimple and Kirkman both carefully alluded to the fact that the people at terminus may not be bad people or even cannibals for that matter.
While this seems crazy, consider for a moment: Gimple stated that the “shrine room” at Terminus where dozens of candles burn (seemingly in memorial) is not something cannibals would do for victims. To counter this, the likelihood of a whacky religious sect (Denise Crosby’s smiling David-Koresh-like benevolence lends itself to that possibility) is not out of the question and, in fact, might have something to do with the car that took Beth.
Gimple also noted that Rick was the one who initiated conflict with the people of Terminus. While he did so because he saw someone wearing Hershel’s watch (which was given to Glenn), this makes it quite possible that Glenn and Maggie’s group, perhaps, initiated conflict as well.
It’s also worth considering that when Tyreese first arrived at the prison, Rick initially held his group captive as well.
6 – Season five will take place in a variety of locations
Kirkman said that season five will have the “most distinctive locations” shown thus far. Clearly there is an escape or exodus from Terminus.
From what we saw at the conclusion of season four, the denizens of Terminus are extremely well-armed and, walking war-machine or not, the odds that Rick and co. shoot their way out successfully are not good and this lends credence to the assertion that, perhaps, the Termians are not bad people. But that trailer though…
7 – Rick and Michonne?
It’s possible. Carl and Michonne became very close at the end of season four, embracing and sharing very personal feelings about themselves to one another. Carl confides that he is afraid of his dad and Michonne defends Rick to his son. It’s also worth noting that, at this point in the book, Carl and Andrea have been romantically involved for some time and Carl even refers to Andrea as “mom.” On Rick and Michonne, Kirkman said that the relationship could go “in some interesting directions.”
8 – Rick may only get darker.
We saw a vicious side of Rick in season four where he has seemingly accepted what will be the new normal for him. Interestingly, Carl sobs to Michonne that he’s “not good,” implying that he still struggles with a crisis of conscience whereas Rick seems to put his own brutality behind him rather quickly.
9 – We’ll have most of our questions answered in short order.
As far as the members of Terminus, Gimple says the answers will come “super quick.”
That being the case, sixteen episodes is a long season and we will undoubtebly see familiar faces come and go.
The Walking Dead season five premiers at 9:00 ET, October 12th on AMC.
Latest posts by Matt Forster (see all)
- Film Review: Bone Tomahawk - October 30, 2015
- Playlist from Hell: Seven songs from the American Horror Story soundtrack - October 23, 2015
- To sell out or not to sell out: Good, bad and really ugly (country/folk edition) - October 16, 2015
- The five most underappreciated TV shows of the last 10 years - October 9, 2015
- Music Review: Ryan Adams’ “1989” - September 25, 2015