With the mid-season finale having just aired at few days ago, now seems the perfect time to reflect on what’s happened so far in The Walking Dead Season 5. The first three episodes were fantastic, especially the season premiere “No Sanctuary”. With the whole cast split from each other for most of season 4 it was great to have the majority of the characters back together again. Even if they were stuck in a particularly dire situation having been led into a trap by a group of people offering sanctuary for all. Rick had declared in the season 4 finale that “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” but it was Carol who ended up showing the people at Terminus why they should not mess with them.
There are many great characters on The Walking Dead, and a lot of them have gone on their own devastating personal journey since the show started. But arguably its Carol that has gone through the most changes. Think back to five years ag,o she was the timid, abused, mother stuck with a violent husband, and then see her in the season premiere almost singlehandedly saving the gang from the Terminus group-covered in Walker blood no less! I never would have thought that Carol would have been the last female survivor from Season 1. Nor would I have thought I would care about her that much. But since she lost her daughter Sophia, Carol is a changed woman, more damaged and determined to survive than before, although she is now struggling to deal with her previous actions “for the sake of the group”, that previously led her to be turned away by Rick in season 4. But her relationships with the group and in particular fan favourite Daryl show that there is still the old caring Carol in there.
So after a terrific season opener, the next two episodes (“Strangers” and “Four Walls and a Roof”) keep the momentum up as the group end up at the church of a cowardly priest and with the survivors from Terminus hot on their trail. Poor Bob gets bitten by a walker AND his leg cut off in the same episode, although it wasn’t a huge surprise that something bad was going to happen to Bob considering him and Sasha were being too happy and too sweet in their relationship. He may not have been one of my favourite characters but Bob was likeable enough and it was sad to see him go, although at least the gang got revenge for him and took out the Terminus people. Although some of the group look uneasy having to slaughter the Terminus lot, there wasn’t really a lot of choice when you’re up against murderous cannibals, even if they do have a sad back-story.
From episode four “Slabtown”, the show slows things down as we find out exactly what happened to Beth since she was taken away from Daryl in season 4. Having been “rescued” by a group of survivors at a Grady Memorial Hospital she now has to pay her way through hard labour if she wants to leave. However the system at Grady is slowly falling apart and Beth’s attempt at leaving ends in failure, although she does help her friend Noah escape. Still at least she manages to kill a pervy cop. The staff at Grady may think she’s weak but we know she’s not the same shy Beth that she was when we first saw her in season 2.
Although the slowing of the pace worked for “Slabtown”, it starts to really grate by episode five “Self Help”. I think I’m just a bit fed up of the group being split again, although at least Maggie and Glen are still together (for now). Although Tara is likeable I’m finding it hard to warm to Abraham, Eugene and Rosita. The ‘Get Eugene to Washington’ plot was starting to drag and become repetitive. Still with Eugene’s revelation that he’s a big fat liar and there is no cure for the Walker virus, at least we can move past that plot, once the others get over their understandable anger at being lied to just because Eugene knew no one would help him survive otherwise.
Episode Six “Consumed” doesn’t advance the plot that much (basically showing who was with Daryl at the end of “Four Roofs and a Wall” and how Carol ended up at Grady at the end of “Slabtown”). However it does feature a solo episode for Daryl and Carol so it’s not all bad. It’s good to see the two catch up more since they’ve been reunited and show off more badassery as they meet Noah, and eventually the three become allies. I also liked seeing flashback’s to Carol’s time way from the group-you could really feel the isolation of poor Carol. We also get treated to a nerve-wracking sequence when Daryl and Carol have to rock a van they’re stuck in off a ledge so they can get away from some walkers-see they are so badass!
Even though Carol is stuck at Grady with Beth at least the plot starts moving forward in “Crossed” with Daryl, Rick and the others preparing to rescue them. However the dilemma over whether to go for a peaceful resolution or all guns blazing causes some debate between the group. It’s interesting to see how much Rick has changed through the seasons. Normally he’s the one to trying to work out a peaceful solution but here he’s amazingly calm while describing how they should slit a guard’s throat to get in. It seems like all the events he’s gone through over the past five seasons have taken its toll and he’s becoming more ruthless (and more like his dead buddy Shane) every day. However he is still able to listen to Tyreese and Daryl pleas for a less bloody result, which shows that the old Rick is still there. The plot with Rick’s group is the more interesting strand of the episode. However it also has the most annoying part where Sasha’s grief makes her stupid by trusting the Grady hostage (also called Bob), turning her back on him, enabling him to knock her out. Doh!
In the second plotline, while Eugene is unconscious and Abraham inconsolable, it’s up to Glen, Maggie, Rosita and Tara to find water and keep the gang together. Seeing Rosita bond with Tara and Glenn while fishing and scavenging makes me warm to her character. And what Tara lacks in making up good acronyms (Team G.R.E.A.T.M was the best she could come up with-not that I could do any better) she makes up for in enthusiasm and effort. Her discovery of the yo-yo also brought a much-needed lighter moment to the episode. Maggie-whose been sidelined a lot this season at least has the idea to shelter Eugene and talk some sense into Abraham. The third strand features Michone and Carl staying behind at the church to look after baby Judith and trying to get father Gabriel to arm up for when they have to leave the church. Predictably though Gabriel just cowardly runs away leaving this storyline a bit of a bore.
Then we reach the mid-season finale “Coda”. Despite the death of the hostage who ran away from Sasha, Rick and co are still able to make the exchange work. It was all so close to perfect. The two remaining hostages were exchanged with Beth and Carol and everyone was going to go their separate ways. Then Dawn, the leader of Grady, demanded Noah (who Beth had previously helped escape and lead Rick and co to Grady) stay behind. Although Rick and the others tried to stop it, Noah accepted his fate and prepared to go back to Grady. Beth had finally had enough though and as she stabbed Dawn with a pair of scissors Dawn instinctively shot Beth in the head. I knew someone had to die (my money was on Carol), and while it wasn’t the most shocking death, the speed at which it happened and the devastation on both sides faces-including Dawn as she realised what she had done- gave Beth’s death more of an impact than it may have had otherwise. It was even more emotional considering Team G.R.E.A.T.M (maybe it will catch on) reunited with Michone and the others at the church leaving Maggie thinking her sister was being rescued. Cue the camera lingering on poor Maggie as Daryl (poor Daryl!) carried her lifeless sister’s body out of Grady.
So where does this leave the group after all this? The group are reunited but there is no cure and one of their youngest members have been killed. It’s a brutal way to end the mid-season but Beth’s departure will at least provide a lot of emotional material for the group (especially Maggie and Daryl) to deal with for the rest of the series.
Highlight of the season: I’m going to be a big softie and say the moment in the season premiere “No Sanctuary” when Rick reunites with his baby duaghter Judith after thinking she was dead for half of season 4. Good things hardly ever happen in The Walking Dead so I’m going to enjoy them while they last.
Lowlight of the season-Episode 5 “Self Help” was not as engaging as the other episodes of season 5
Let me know what you thought of Season 5 in the comments below.