“The Walking Dead” is back, baby! Finally, after months of waiting, one of my favorite television shows is back in its familiar Sunday night slot(s). The first half of the fifth season represented one of the biggest television 180s that I’ve ever seen; last year, the show had the pacing and stumbling of Rick Grimes walking down railroad tracks, and now it's as exciting and suspenseful as it’s ever been. Naturally, between this most welcome surprise and the tension that was the midseason finale, I’ve been ready to get back on the road with our heroes for a while now.
So far, the show has held up its end of the bargain. “The Walking Dead” normally has pretty strong premieres, which the show has been known to parlay into half a season’s worth of conflict. And while this premiere was suitably awesome, it was just a launching point for the story arcs to come. Even better, the first episode showed the writers are not afraid to shake things up. It was the most surprisingly artsy episodes of television I’ve seen in a quite a while, complete with foreshadowing of blood dripping down a child’s drawing and some excellent internal monologue. Even as I mourned the episode’s major character death, I was excited for this week and whatever could be next, and this week the show came through for me again.
The second episode contains the real exposition for the midseason arc. While the premiere focused on a select few characters, episode two reintroduces us to the rest of the cast on their long walk to Washington D.C. “The Walking Dead” has done road/travel episodes before, but they’ve never been quite like this. The air of desperation and the new, fragmented nature of the group is something completely new. Grimes and company have had objectives before; the whole first season centered around getting to the CDC in Atlanta. But each destination always had a defined objective, whether it was to figure out what was going on or simply find a new place to call home. Now, they don’t have anything to go on for. They’re traveling simply because they have no place else to go, and for some members of the group that’s just not acceptable.
This state of affairs leads to a newfound tension within the group. Individual vendettas and losses start to fray at the edges of what once was an impenetrable family unit. Eugene and Abraham are still very much okay, and Abraham is drinking more whiskey than water. Maggie can’t get over the loss of her sister and is taking it out on Father Gabriel and others. Ditto for Daryl. Plus, Sasha hates literally everyone now. It’ll be interesting to see how all these conflicting dynamics evolve and resolve themselves over the rest of the season.
Through two episodes, the second half of this season of “The Walking Dead” seems to be just as strong as the magnificent first half, and I’m about as excited as a walker at an all-you-can-eat brain buffet.
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