TV Review: The Walking Dead (Mid-Season)

Tuesday 9 December 2014 by

It’s taken me a while to recover from the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. As ever, they really wind it up and then leaving you on tenterhooks until February (!) to find out more.

But what did I think of the first half of season five of TWD?

The Walking Dead, TV, Season Five, Zombies

*great honking spoilers ahead*

We begin the season the moment we left the gang at the end of the last season – about to be munched on by some creepy cannibals at the Terminus. But, despite everything, you just know that the gang can’t be killed (or so you think), and I have to admit this is perhaps one of my favourite season openers, with a particularly badass return by Carol, who single-handedly takes down the Terminus and shows what a phenomenally strong person she is. She’s my hero.

But now reunited, the gang must decide what to do. Upon rescuing a priest (Father Gabriel, rather excellently played by Seth Gilliam), they take shelter in the church, but the new team members of Abraham, Eugene and Rosita are insistent that they want to continue their mission to Washington DC for Eugene to “fix” everything. By now, you’ve probably figured out that Eugene isn’t being exactly truthful and DC is a myth, but the characters haven’t, leading to some interesting dynamics.

In a quick rundown of what happens next: we see revenge on the Terminus cannibals, the team splitting again, some fairly harrowing character reveals, the death of Bob (his screams of “TAINTED MEAT” were pretty haunting), Eugene getting caught out, and are introduced to the rather unpleasant folk at the hospital.

With such a broad cast (and having them scattered across the countryside), it leads for an awful lot of story arcs to keep up with, so let’s just move on to how I felt about the whole thing.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead. I love the way it remains (partially) truthful to the graphic novels, and the characters are some of the strongest on TV. It’s a brilliant show, with stellar casting, direction, scriptwriting and effects. So season five, if it had any hope of following in the footsteps of the previous four, it needed to start with a bang.

It did. Literally.

This is one of the goriest seasons to date (only season one comes close). We have a lot less navel-gazing than we’ve had in previous seasons (season two at the farm was particularly guilty of this). They pull no punches when it comes to deaths, walkers and blood and guts. To be fair, their main enemy are cannibals. So you’ve got to expect some violence. Carol setting fire to the Terminus pretty much sets the scene for the remaining episodes, and it certainly feels like the world around them is getting more brutal.

I never feel like any of this is excessive; the world has been up the creek for a while now, which means the survivors – wherever they are – have to resort to tougher measures to stay alive and this is affecting them in different ways. You can already see the season building to some fairly major changes within our gang, and the first of this comes with Bob.

You don’t really see Bob’s death coming. After all, he’s the cheeriest of the bunch, and he’s in love (give ’em a fair chance, eh!?) But his previous ineptitude when it comes to the undead shows, and that, in the end, is what finishes him off. Although I was saddened by his death, it was interesting to see the sharp curve Sasha experiences as she tried to grieve and survive all at once. That has to be one of the biggest characters growths of the season.

Next is the reveal that Eugene doesn’t actually know a cure. Not a huge deal as we have already figured that out, but he didn’t half choose an awkward time to tell the truth, and the reactions of the team are very telling. I look forward to seeing this play out in the long term, because I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this one.

Meanwhile, we discover Beth’s whereabouts. I adore Beth – she is sweet but intensely tough. She should never be underestimated. But her entrapment in the hospital and the brutality that ensues only goes to prove her strength, and I could feel her character brimming with potential. Which is why the mid-season finale totally knocked me for six. I really, truly didn’t see that coming. It feels like Game of Thrones all over again – no one is safe. It’s clever to take a break at this point, because this is the huge, terrifying Bad Thing that is happening to the group in this season. With the death of Beth, they lose the “good” in their group. It will affect each and every one of them in different ways, and will totally change the dynamic. That will make for an interesting second half, but I do wish they hadn’t got rid of Beth. I wanted to see her relationship with Daryl flourish, and to see her return to the gang a tougher, more world-wise Beth. It would have been interesting to see.

This is definitely the strongest season since the first. We are invested in the characters, the world building has been done impressively well, and we have intense, well-paced story arcs. I always find that the break from now until February means it loses its momentum somewhat (I have no idea why they do this), and I’m not sure some viewers will be willing to wait that long. They might need to blow something else up to get our attention again.

What did you think of season five of The Walking Dead?
Will you go back to it in February?

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