The Walking Dead Season 5
Best and worst moments of the tv series so far
I was going to do a recap after each episode aired but since I’m too slow I decided to do a list of what I liked and didn’t like about this season so far. The series has evolved and matured so much these last seasons, it’s easy to understand why it has grown on numbers and critical praise. I think the biggest thing I noticed is that the weakest plots and characters from earlier seasons weren’t tossed aside or forgotten, but instead developed in a logical way and turned into the best part of the season. Rick’s transformation, for example. Anyway, let’s start the list!
5. The priest tour of the walking dead world.
Look, I get it. He was isolated this whole time and wouldn’t believe Team Rick’s words. Fine. But at this point in the series, it’s hard to enjoy characters doing dumb things, even if I understand his logic and the theme the show wanted to explore with his character. The fact that he stepped on a nail of all things and brought a huge horde just so they would lose the church has a safe heaven (I’m thinking that’s why anyway) annoyed the hell out of me.
BUT the priest character himself, I like. It’s nice to have someone so openly afraid and “gentle”, it can bring a nice contrast to everybody else. He also isn’t like other “gentle” characters (like Hershel, farm Beth, and Tyreese). They all were touched by personal tragedy, but tragedy they had no control over. This guy made a bad choice by being a coward, and that was it. His is a moral tragedy, a tragedy of character. He may be stupid, but at least is a new stupid. Which is why this moment is not placed higher on the list.
4. Sasha and Tyreese wonder about grief loudly and constantly.
The grieving process has been explored enough, I think. Rick had his arc. Maggie, Beth, Carol, Daryl, even Tyreese had his. So Sasha’s didn’t work for me, it felt like the same story and nothing new to add. Its only purpose seemed to be justifying her mistake with Officer Bob. That’s the problem with having utter capable characters: you need to dumb them down for mistakes like that to happen. Yet, there were probably better ways for Bob to escape. The goal probably was to have Beth’s death impossible to stop (since it ties with one less hostage to trade) and have Rick run him over and make that “mistake”. Still, why? Why have them waste time talking about the obvious? Move on, Sasha! You and us barely knew Bob.
3. Michonne doesn’t do much.
Why? I miss Michonne. The scene where she slices zombies in the church was awesome, but apart from that she did nothing this season and I miss her! She, Rick and Carl had the best episode last season, and yet here she’s in the background while Beth, crazy pants army guy, and Sasha get more attention. I hope she will be used better during the rest of the season.
2. Boring new characters and Beth stuck in a hospital
Okay, so Beth isn’t the worst. She was the worst for the longest time, with her singing and suicide attempts. I didn’t like her. I still don’t care about her, but having a whole episode dedicated to her might’ve worked for me if it didn’t involve the dullest most obvious characters ever. The whole hospital stuff just had me roll my eyes. Oh, abuses of power! Oh, rape as a threat to a female character! Oh, crazy person is a leader! Whatever. I’ll try really hard so my book 3 plot isn’t as dull as this one. The only surprise was the doctor thinking only of his position and killing a patient. Now that’s a cool twist. Still, it took ages to get there. And Beth isn’t a compelling enough character for me to wait that long. It’s good that they finally decided to develop her character and, on paper, separating her from the group allowed her to show what she was capable of, but sadly the plot itself and the characters around her weren’t enough to justify the time wasted.
1. Beth’s death
I have so many reasons to roll my eyes at Beth’s death! It’s just so frustratingly staged. For example, why have the exchange inside the hospital instead of the parking lot? Would Rick really agree with that stupid plan? I mean, it places his team on the disadvantage (corners, doors, obstacles, the rest of the staff, etc). Why bring that guy with them? (Forgot his name, the Everybody Hate Chris actor). He’s injured, not good with a gun and they don’t know him that well. Makes no sense. Why cop lady wanted him anyway? Spite? She didn’t seem spiteful to me (then again, she didn’t seem like anything . Was she a master manipulator? An incompetent leader? Delusional? All of it? None of it? I don’t know).
Which, of course, brings to the culmination of bad choices that were written as a tragical unforeseen sequence of events (Carol forgetting to look at both sides of the street before crossing it, Sasha’s believing an idiotic story, Rick’s killing Bob, someone taking that kid back, Beth wanting to be a badass) but end up like forcing conflict for the sake of a theme/plot, instead of looking natural.
It’s too staged. Too neatly filled with bad decisions from characters that seemed above that stupidness. Even Beth’s bad aim with that scissor makes no sense. She has the surprise element on her side, she’s the one in control, so how come she doesn’t go for the neck?? You can argue she hates cop lady so much she would risk an open confrontation, but she spends all her time in the hospital trying to be sneaky about her actions! Still, I can try to excuse her actions by saying she was overconfident on her own skills or just an emotional wreck after all she went through. Attacking the cop lady was stupid, but human. The rest of the choices? Just plain stupid.
I’m not even sad about her death, but the scene itself is so avoidable, I got mad… I like the resolution at least, with the hospital staff going “eh, nobody liked the cop lady anyway”. Good for them, I didn’t like her either. Hopefully, Beth’s death won’t be just for the sake of Daryl’s “development” or whatever. Finger’s crossed!
5. Team Rick is super prepared and it still doesn’t work
Season 4 ended with Rick’s promise to us, the viewers, and a warning to the cannibals: they were messing with the wrong people. But grand proclamations often can turn out to be empty. Especially after the less-than-stellar Governor’s arc. Back then, we had a badass start and a great deal of tension, but it got bogged down with tries at diplomacy that were obviously doomed to fail. So, yes, I wasn’t really expecting Rick’s words to have any real action behind them. Turns out: I was wrong. And right. Season 5 started with a team focused on kicking ass and escaping, quickly catching up on exposition while showing their skills of container-weapon making (containers, turn out, are deadly… And so are belts apparently!). It’s all very concise and works beautifully visually to establish just how much the series has evolved: this is a show that won’t waste time.
And that’s why, when their preparations don’t work and Terminus’ folk take them away from the rest, it doesn’t negate their actions earlier: it just makes things even more tense. If even these people, these badasses, can be placed in a butcher’s line of doom and be seconds away from death, then the viewers have reason to fear this situation. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Even knowing Glenn wouldn’t be killed so soon, the sheer velocity of the premiere promised something was going to happen, something big and soon.
They were good on that promise: we moved on from Terminus in a single episode and what a glorious episode that was!
4. Carol burns down Terminus like a Terminator while a baby is threatened and Tyreese is a badass
I thought it was a stroke of genius to have Tyreese, a man that clearly is stronger than Terminus Minion 3, be the one to face utter helplessness.
The cliche would have been Carol face that situation: the “mother” of the group who lost her only daughter willing to kill to protect another child while the big, strong man does the attack on an army of cannibals. Women are usually placed in small, tense action scenes where emotions are tested, while action heroes go do the big epic fights. Yet, TWD did just the opposite and it was better for it. Carol went and rescued everyone with a frown and a sniper rifle, while Tyreese had to struggle with what humanity had become.
This isn’t unexpected since Tyreese has been the “heart” of the show for awhile, someone unwilling to compromise his goodness even in the face of atrocities while Carol did just the opposite. Still, their differences were treated has bad decisions during season 4 (He’s too soft to kill, she’s too violent to be in a group). Here, they are their strengths: Tyreese decides to sacrifice himself over risking Judith’s life and succeeds in saving her while Carol ignores her humanity to end a clear threat to her group, saving them in the process. Even his inability to kill Minion 3 isn’t used as proof he’s wrong. The issue is, instead, used to separate him from Sasha. Right or wrong, that’s for the audience decide and discuss instead of the show beating that dead horse again.
3. Cannibals eat tainted Bob meat and meet their end at a church
Not only did Team Rick didn’t stay at Terminus for half the season, but the show decided to continue the cannibal storyline (as they should, cannibals are a meaty source of potential material after all) at the right pace, giving it enough airtime to be tense and entertaining and then finishing it up with a strong visual: bloodbath at a church. There’s really no sanctuary anymore, anywhere to anyone.
The goriness of the scene was uncomfortable for me (I was just like Tyreese!), but I didn’t see any indication that their brutality was viewed as positive. Again, the audience is left to form their own opinions. Was Rick badass in saying they “didn’t want to waste bullets” on the cannibals? Did they cross the line between doing what was necessary for survival or desire for justice to the enjoyment of the punishment? If they did, does one thing negate the other?
2. Rick’s quiet development
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a single moment, but over the course of the season I noticed Rick’s presence is subdued. Unlike season 2 and 3, Rick’s emotional state and moral struggles aren’t at the forefront of the story. His presence is constant, but he’s a fully formed character now and it’s the other characters around him that are changing/questioning their lives. This is awesome because, while I like Rick even at his worst, the show realizes that they have done their homework: Rick has come to terms with himself. As he found out about zombies, so did the audience. He’s our anchor and now, like us, he’s adjusted to the zombie life. Like the audience (or at least like the audience wishes to be), Rick is done wondering what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s firm and decisive, but not above listening to others. He’s ruthless but not unwilling to give chances. Just not second chances.
And this is all a result of four seasons of development that people could argue weren’t done well, but the showrunners didn’t ignore his history, they improved on it. The best thing? Nobody talks about it. Nobody comments on that. Season 2 we had his wife, Andrea and Dale to question out loud who he was and what he was willing to do. During season 3, it was Hershel’s turn to put into words what Rick was feeling or not. Like they wouldn’t trust the audience to get it. Well, not anymore. Rick doesn’t need to say anything, the group gets it. The audience gets it.
And yet… We think we got Rick figured out now, but do we? This is the first time the audience is distant from him. All his doubts and sorrows are internal. We might think we know him, but by being outside the spotlight he becomes unpredictable. We stop noticing what’s going on with him. This transforms Rick in a force of nature we can’t really predict: he’s the leader, but what’s on his mind? And will anyone notice? Do we really know what to expect? Was him shooting Officer Bob a surprise? Not really. But did he do it because he’s gone too far or because he thinks this is the best chance for rescuing Beth and Carol? We can only guess. And that’s awesome.
1. Daryl and Carol’s road trip
I mean, really, was there any doubt this would be the best moment of the season so far? Yes, I like Daryl. I fangirl him. But apart from his Merle’s arc, Daryl hadn’t done anything interesting in a long time. He’s too quiet. His episode with Beth worked because she wasn’t. His storyline with the idiotic group last season was dull because he’s too low key. When a character is too good at what he does, you need to challenge them, and for a long time Daryl just went along with whatever was happening. He was reacting.
Until Carol showed up again. Be still my shipping heart!
Fact is, they have history and this episode was a culmination of that history and their time apart. They changed each other, but also changed by their circumstances while being separated. Carol’s journey and the price she had to pay for her choices go directly against Daryl own journey of finding hope again after the prison (and, arguably, Carol’s departure). So when they discuss the issue of what life means now, it doesn’t sound contrived or boring unlike Sasha and Tyreese’s discussions on dealing with grief. Why? Well, despite we being sad about Bob (maybe?) and knowing Tyreese’s own history with the girlfriend ( I don’t even remember her name. I just know she’s Mama Mcall on Teen Wolf), we didn’t really see Sasha and Tyreese’s relationship. We are told they are brother and sister, but since their introduction they spend more time separated than together. They share a background, but not history. There’s no true tension there.
Which is the exact opposite with Carol and Daryl. And they work out their emotional issues in beautiful quiet moments while being badass and participating in cool action scenes as well. That’s the kind of balance works best for The Walking Dead.
This episode had a buildup only shows with a greenlit next season can have, I think. Would the writers really risk delaying these character’s conversation that long or dedicating a whole episode for it if they were afraid of cancelation? I doubt it. So, I also have a meta reason to think this is the best moment overall. This is a show has the confidence and courage to wait. To do slow, but not dumb. It’s truly different from before and this episode is proof of that.
And that’s it! I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, let’s see if they can keep this level of quality!