We’re counting the hours until The Walking Dead returns to TV, and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the series as a whole. For me, personally, The Walking Dead has always been a “good” show, but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed it a lot (even the underrated Season 2 and the fan-maligned ending to season 3), but it’s never been anything groundbreaking to me as it has been to so many others. More than anything, I’ve been such a big fan of The Walking Dead in order to be able to talk about it with my friends and family. That all changed in season 5 though, and I think that The Walking Dead has finally turned into the series that it’s always had the potential to be. Even though half of Season 6 is done, here are the four biggest reasons why I think that Season 5 of The Walking Dead was its best season so far.
[Spoilers for the first five seasons of The Walking Dead will follow.]
Probably the biggest problem that has plagued The Walking Dead since its inception has been issues with pacing. If you ask most fans, the two biggest offenders in this department are the show’s entire second season and the decision to extend the Governor storyline through the middle of Season 4. As I mentioned before, I’ve really enjoyed every season so far, but it’s hard to deny that the story in these two spots in particular meandered along much longer than necessary. The biggest complaint from many fans about the second season is that nothing really happened in most of its thirteen episodes, which was drastically different from the quick pace from story point to story point during The Walking Dead‘s six-episode first season. As for the Governor storyline, many believe that it should have concluded at end of Season 3, but the storyline was instead continued through the first four episodes of season 4. The Walking Dead finally seemed to be on-track to correct its pacing issues during Season 4B, but Season 5 completely turned the show around. Storylines both began and ended throughout the entire season, and the show even wrapped up plots that, seemingly, could have extended longer than they did (such as the story with Gareth and the other survivors of Terminus). In 16 episodes, The Walking Dead completely reinvented itself from the place that it was at the end of the fourth season, and the show is so much improved because of that.
The Diversity of the Cast
It’s always been a running joke among viewers that The Walking Dead couldn’t have more than one black main character for very long before killing them off. To the show’s benefit, however, this season frequently featured up to four main characters at a time between carryovers Tyreese, Sasha, and Bob, and newcomers Father Gabriel and Noah. Sure, three of these five characters didn’t make it out of the season alive, but the show proved to be more reasonable with these characters this year than it had been in the past. Also, the deaths of the characters carried much more impact than the deaths of those that came before (R.I.P. T-Dawg). In addition to a more racially diverse cast, this season also added the show’s first gay character in Aaron (a fan-favorite from the comic series that many have been waiting for). Aaron provided a very interesting new dynamic for character interaction, and it benefited the show to an extent that many didn’t expect. Finally, The Walking Dead has done a very adequate job throughout its run at providing well-rounded female characters, but Season 5 proved to be a defining year for the female survivors of the zombie apocalypse. In addition to the great material provided for characters like Sasha, Maggie, Beth, and newcomer Deanna, Melissa McBride gave the best performance of her career as Carol. McBride has brought a depth to a character that many would have written off after the second season, and she has turned Carol into, perhaps, the most interesting character on the show.
The Alexandria Safe-Zone
The Walking Dead hasn’t had a great track record with safe havens. Many fans hated the time spent at Herschel’s farm, the prison arc overstayed its welcome, and we all know how things ended up with Terminus (after eight full episodes spent on showing how the characters arrived there). Luckily, the Alexandria Safe-Zone has given the show an opportunity to essentially reinvent itself. As the longest-running location in the comic series, many expected the Safe-Zone to play a huge role in the television series, but I don’t think anyone anticipated the effect that it would really have. After the few episodes already spent here, I could completely imagine the show taking its time and exploring life in the Safe-Zone for many seasons to come. Unlike with Herschel’s farm or the prison, the Alexandria Safe-Zone provides ample opportunity for extended storytelling, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens here next season.
One of the few surviving characters introduced in the first season of The Walking Dead is Morgan. Fans immediately attached to Lennie James’s character, and his few appearances before Season 5 have featured some of the best writing that the show has had to offer. Throughout most of Season 5, we were given small glimpses and teasers of the character’s travels and were made completely aware that, eventually, he would catch up with our group. Finally, in the Season 5 finale, the fan-favorite Morgan reunited with Rick Grimes in the Alexandria Safe-Zone, and the reunion came at the absolute best possible time from a storytelling perspective. We have no idea yet how long the character will be a part of the story of Season 6, but Morgan’s reintroduction to the main story of The Walking Dead has been a long time coming, and his story may be the single most anticipated aspect of the too-far-away Season 6 premiere.
After years of fairly safe and often frustrating storytelling, The Walking Dead Season 5 finally lived up to the show’s full potential, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next when the show returns this fall.
[Photos via AMC]
Tell us what's wrong with this post? How could we improve it? :)
Let us improve this post!