Sanctioned a fifth season long before the end of the current run, “The Walking Dead” will continue its epic domination of the AMC network. Despite endless hype and viewing figures obliterating high profile competitors such as the Winter Olympics, we at Alpha Shadows surprisingly ask: is “The Walking Dead” dying? MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS
The initial reason that I was a fan of TWD was the innovative ingenuity it provided for the horror genre. Focusing on the emotional potency of the characters and allowing their personalities to flourish instead of expecting them to die within the hour was incredibly engaging. Series one and two featured the masculine power struggle between former sheriffs and best friends Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) who fought for group dominance as well as the love of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Aside from the additional blossoming passion between young Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohen), unconventional horror narratives such as Carol’s (Melissa McBride) escape from her abusive husband and Dale’s (Jeffrey DeMunn) attempts to prevent Andrea (Laurie Holden) from committing suicide set TWD apart from the rest. With these intertwining relationships, not only does it add an element of drama to the obvious notion of fear, but the emotional attachment one feels for these unfortunate characters only emphasises their on screen suffering by zombies.
By the third series we were introduced to The Governor (David Morrissey), a psychologically challenged dictator figure who manipulated the residents of his artificial village ‘Woodbury’ to not only provide him a privileged existence, but in order to wage war on any other humans who opposed his reign. His presence provided a fresh dimension to the potential threat in their world; the plausibility that the flaws of humanity would render the murderous ‘walkers’ insignificant in comparison. The deranged tactician versus the heroic Rick was a worthy matchup and only strengthened the show’s reputation. However when their ongoing battle was resolved at the mid-season break of the fourth series, the show’s direction from there became questionable.
AMC’s latest eight episodes felt as if they were dragged out in order to fit the standardised American length and it seemed as if only four episodes worth of material was actually presented. The slow pace was particularly emphasised by episodes that concentrated solely on one mini group of characters hunting for sanctuary, which were bland and unimaginative. Even when the various directors integrated multiple narratives, nothing seemed to progress fast enough to retain an audience’s interest. All the characters encountered signs encouraging them to venture to an unknown refuge known as ‘Terminus’ and after much painfully obvious deliberation between each group, the programme’s promotional campaign “Who Will Arrive – #Terminus?” only ever had one embarrassingly evident outcome. TWD’s production team showed no bravery in keeping every character alive and the lack of twists was uncharacteristic of a series that has been so bold in its conception. “The Grove” episode was lauded by critics in which psychotic Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) murdered her younger sister Mika (Kyla Kenedy) in barbaric fashion and in turn, prompted Carol to terminate her volatile threat. Although this was indeed emotive and an example of the programme’s great potential, in reality the two characters were irrelevant for the programme’s long term vision. Essentially this series became a stop gap, before the next instalment inevitably builds up to a big budget finale. New character Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) is a scientist who has revealed he knows a cure to the epidemic, but will not tell anyone and demands they travel to Washington in order to save the world. His inclusion feels like a scapegoat for an ending they have not thought of yet and the time wasted on flashbacks of Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) past and the antagonistic redneck gang were unnecessary fillers.
Audiences were left this season with Rick’s final clinching line “They’re messing with the wrong people” in an extremely unanswered and unsatisfying finish. TWD is becoming less exciting and due to viewer desensitisation, even less scary. What to me is the very core of the show is diminishing and AMC’s team are playing a dangerous game with their fans, one the likes of network compatriot ‘Breaking Bad’ or HBO’s’ True Detective’ would never engage in. I will watch series five out of pure loyalty, but I pray for the devoted fans’ sake that it delivers to them the powerful ending they deserve.
IMDB Rating: 8.7
My Rating: 7