The Walking Dead: Season 5 created by Frank Darabont (AMC, Circle of Confusion, Valhalla Motion Pictures)
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Emily Kinney, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Chad L. Coleman.
*Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons*
You can have the greatest ideas in the world but if you can’t execute, what’s the point? Millions of businesses start with a great idea. The ones that last are the ones that follow through on it. The dreamers need a balanced team capable of filling in the details of the plan.
The Walking Dead has always suffered from this fateful issue.
Season after season, the writers attempt to balance violence and action with the slow burn of philosophical ponderings about the meaning of life in an apocalyptic hellscape. The results are often frustrating—not because the ideas are bad; but because the writing is poor.
Picking up Speed
In many ways, Season 5 of The Walking Dead is its best season. The showrunners are pushing the envelope and asking some of their deepest questions yet.
But more importantly, The Walking Dead picks up speed. Over the course of its run, the viewer has come to expect a certain style of storytelling in this post-apocalyptic zombieland. The heroes search for safety; the heroes find some sort of shelter; the heroes encounter a nefarious foe; end of boss level.
Each season spirals toward inevitable conflict, the next season rinses and repeats.
So the expectation for Season 5 surrounded the next threat. The show begins the season with our protagonists stuck in Terminus, a mirage of a civilization, awaiting death at the hands of cannibals. While we intuitively know the immediate threat will reside, the expectancy for the season would be in the fight against these bad people.
So, when the show shirked that approach for one focused more on a chapter-by-chapter look at our main characters as they face a wide variety of threats, the weight of pondering slides away with a replacement of action.
Still Missing the Mark
Such an approach humanizes our characters, but the writers remain limited in their ability to execute these ideas. Time and time again, the dialogue tells rather than shows. When the circumstances and visuals provide vivid detail to the power of survival, the writers add clunky dialogue letting the characters tell us, “We’re survivors.”
Season 5 attempts to define itself through representing the characters in gray areas. What used to be black and white is increasingly murky. When survival comes down to us versus them, the protagonist no longer looks like a protagonist.
Couple these ideas with explorations of post-traumatic stress disorder, and you have a recipe of intrigue.
Sadly, The Walking Dead has yet to prove it can execute these ideas. While the show remains one worth watching, it will always feel like a lost opportunity for something even more meaningful.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5