Four Walls and a Roof
What Happened and What’s Going On
Now in its fifth season, The Walking Dead returns exactly where it left off last year with Rick and the group held prisoner in Terminus and awaiting death. After a decent couple of episodes, Season 5 falls into tired tropes of old and after 5 years, it all begins to feel a bit too familiar and stale. The mid season break once again splits the season in half and dissipates any momentum built and not for the better – the pacing feels wildly off and never sets into a rhythm. It all feels like a step back for the show after a promising start and despite a decent finale and a few stand out moments, there’s no denying that this Season is a bit of a disappointment.
With a large cast now built from an inability to go Game Of Thrones style on the characters, the season once again splinters intelligently to split the characters up. The first eight episodes focus on kidnapped Beth who winds up in a hospital surrounded by politics and a police hierarchy, Eugene’s mission to get to Washington DC, and the Terminus Cannibals. There’s no denying that there’s an awful lot going on and condensing all this into eight episodes ultimately leaves it running at a frenetic pace as it weaves its stories. Of course, I won’t give anything away but the ending to the Beth police story line is arguably one of the most unsatisfying in the show’s history – especially given how much time was spent building the characters up.
Speaking of building characters up, its worth noting here that after five years, Carol is by far the stand out character in the large cast along with Daryl. Her character arc in particular, is really well done and now a hardened zombie slayer, she epitomises strength in everything she does. The rest of the cast are pretty much unchanged from before and you do get the feeling that a few characters will meet their demise in the near future, especially after a dramatic finale.
After a frantic start, the second half of the season dramatically slows to a pace not seen since Season 2. Back on the open road, Rick and the group find themselves trying to find refuge and eventually finding it in a new stronghold called Alexandria. With a touch of deja vu on the cards for rehashing the same story arc about finding a safe place to stay, the show cleverly draws the attention on Rick’s blind distrust for everyone and everything rather than drawing too many similarities with the writing. Its here that the show really sinks into a more soap opera style, deviating away from the survival aspects that made the show so popular and instead focusing on integrating back into society again. Its interesting of course, but you almost feel like you’re waiting for the inevitable after seeing the group, now bigger than ever, let their guard down.
Its not all bad though and as mentioned, there are stand out moments. There’s some good use of tension and horror and of course the zombies return looking as grotesque as ever. Visually, the show is excellent too and when the show hits its rhythm, there’s no denying that The Walking Dead is one of the finest dramas on TV. It does feel at times that after five seasons the show is starting to fall on tired legs though. The character motivations are lazy and Rick’s character in particular is riddled with flaws, despite attempting to show how unsociable and isolated he’s become leading the group.
When The Walking Dead hits its stride, its one of the best shows on TV. Its memorable characters drive the show forward and some of the twists and story lines are fantastic. Season 5 does feel like a step back for the show in many ways with its stand out moments more infrequent and the show riddled by inconsistent pacing than ever before. Its first half is by far the better of the two, with some good action and tense scenes throughout despite a frustrating end to the Beth story. The finale promises to open things up in an interesting direction next year but for now, The Walking Dead feels like a slow shuffle toward complacent mediocrity but there’s enough good points here to overshadow the faults.
Verdict - 6/10