And The Walking Dead ends its fifth season on what I suspect will be a dour note for many of its followers. Raised on shocks and thrills, viewers have come to expect a variation of Ten Little Indians – who dies next? The writers, however, apparently want to confound those expectations, delivering nothing on the front of this year’s midseason shocking death of poor Beth.
In fact, *SPOILER* no one worth caring about died.
Sure, Daryl and his new BFF Aaron are trapped in a car surrounded by dozens of zombies. Sure, we play is Glenn dead for a few different scenes – Glenn is apparently nearly as indestructible as a zombie itself. Rick is almost fallen by zombies who gain entry into the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Gabriel is almost shot by Sasha (after bizarrely roping a zombie to death outside the walls). Yet, nothing happens to any of them. Instead, we’re given a lot of moroseness – a lot of people moping around, shellshocked and wide-eyed with grief. There’s also a lot of talk about cavemen and wolves and nomads. And yet another new group of crazy/brilliant madmen hunting humans – this one calling themselves “Wolves,” thus the “W” scribed on zombies heads.
The theme of the episode largely deals with (as many recent episodes have) the growing threat of humans in the cannibal world. Without the stability of social norms, individual humans start to collapse, to mentally break down and resort to vile acts of violence. Glenn spends the episode fighting Nicholas. The Wolves attack an unsuspecting survivor. Gabriel nearly sacrifices the entire town by I’m guessing purposefully leaving the gate open. As Rick closes the episode, he warns the people of Alexandria that they aren’t ready for the outside world, and clearly they are not. They chose to ignore a violent wife and child beater – a decision that painfully comes back to bite Deanna in the neck… well, her husband’s neck.
But at this point, given that the writers are so clearly playing with our expectations and confounding them at every turn, when does the game of “Who dies next?” become too much to sustain our interest? I’d long resisted the show because I had a difficult time becoming emotionally engaged with a show whose main characters could die at any moment. I eventually accepted my status as a lemming and binged three seasons to catch up. The trick for me was finding a central point – for me Carol and to an extend Daryl – to latch on to. Someone I didn’t think could die. Someone I rooted for actively. Yet, after five full seasons, the tone has gone from frightening to frightening repetitive. Am I disappointed that no one major died in the episode? Maybe a little. The episode was still a decent one even if it refused to give us what we wanted. It was as expertly crafted as any, if a little too long in the end. But I’m more concerned that the series keeps dragging on and on, repeating the same themes over and over. The same threats. The same attempts at normalcy. The same result – violence over all.
Toward the end of the episode, the formerly insane Morgan finally connects with Rick just as Rick puts a bullet into the violent Pete. Morgan calls to Rick, unsure of what he’s seeing. It’s clearly a “power moment” for the series, but I’m not sure exactly what they’re saying here beyond Morgan potentially building Rick up to be something he’s not – a sane, anti-violent man. Maybe after months on the open road in solitary, Morgan doesn’t really want to join a wild pack of bloody vigilantes who hold a man down and shoot him in the head (no matter how deserved he was of it)? Bringing Morgan into the fray isn’t really something I had high ambitions for, but that’s ok. Apparently others do.
Give me more scenes with Carol any day, particularly if they’re like this week’s where she threatens Pete with a knife and takes out some of that pent-up aggression from years of systematic abuse by her husband. Carol is the shit.
AMC’s newest addition – the lamely titled Fear the Walking Dead – arrives this summer to most likely carry on the zombie ennui, this time without Carol Peletier. What do you do in a world taken over by zombies? I clearly have no idea. But now, after five seasons of The Walking Dead with another dead zone coming on the horizon, I’m starting to regret returning to the series in the first place. Nothing has changed from my original appraisal – how do you watch a series where the only point is to see who lives or dies?
It’s just that my tolerance for this sort of thing has perhaps run its course.