The Walk­ing Dead

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Death proof

It’s easy for me to pick holes in TV shows. It’s my job, after all. But The Walk­ing Dead is one of those rare pro­grammes I’ve been in­ca­pable of find­ing se­ri­ous fault in for at least two sea­sons now. Along with Game Of Thrones it’s as close to per­fect as genre TV gets at present, and the first two episodes of sea­son five have al­ready demon­strated that the stel­lar stan­dards show no sign of slip­ping.

Last sea­son ended on a knuckle- gnash­ing cliffhanger. Rick and the bulk of the sur­vivors sought refuge in Ter­mi­nus only to dis­cover it was, in fact, a big trap built by crazy can­ni­bals. Sea­son five starts mo­ments later with Rick, Daryl, Bob, Glenn and a cou­ple of red­shirts led to the slaugh­ter in what might be the most un­bear­ably tense scene I’ve ever seen in any TV show ever.

My poor stom­ach barely set­tled for the rest of the episode. It was an ex­plo­sive open­ing. One that de­liv­ered ( and then some) on Rick’s prom­ise that they’re “screw­ing ” (“fuck­ing ” if you bought the DVD) with the wrong peo­ple. Phe­nom­e­nally well di­rected by blood and guts

bonus fea­tures

Rat­ings: The sea­son five premiere at­tracted 17.3 mil­lion view­ers in Amer­ica. Over a mil­lion up on the sea­son four premiere, the show’s high­est rated episode to that point.

Star Turn: Carol’s sheer badassery in the sea­son five premiere el­e­vated her above even Daryl in the “when the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse hap­pens, I want to be…” stakes.

Cruel In­ten­tions: If you’ve al­ready read the comics, chances are you were squirm­ing more than most dur­ing the base­ball bat scene in the open­ing episode.

Best Line: Rick: “They don’t get to live.” supremo Greg Ni­cotero and su­perbly scripted by showrun­ner Scott M Gim­ple, it ranks as one of The Walk­ing Dead’s finest hours, along­side sea­son four’s un­for­get­table prison siege episode.

The bril­liance of The Walk­ing Dead, even com­pared to a lot of the all- time great zom­bie movies, is that I’m hope­lessly at­tached to the char­ac­ters now, and death could come for any­one at any mo­ment. When Her­shel lost his head I was in­con­solable for days, red- eyed with rage. If any num­ber of the cur­rent cast die god help the writ­ers. I’ll prob­a­bly fly all the way to Amer­ica and start protest­ing out­side AMC HQ.

Things slow down con­sid­er­ably for episode two, “Strangers”. It’s one of the rare Walk­ing Dead episodes where, for the most part, ev­ery­one is con­tent and safe. Well, as safe as they can be in the mid­dle of the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. Fi­nally, things are turn­ing up

Team Rick, it seems. So of course it ends with The

Walk­ing Dead’s most disturbing scene since we first glimpsed The Gov­er­nor’s “col­lec­tion”. Poor Bob.

I of­ten hear The Walk­ing Dead de­scribed as too “grim”. When char­ac­ters are get­ting eaten alive limb by limb I can see their point, but cru­cially The

Walk­ing Dead pep­pers its re­lent­less op­pres­sion and hard­ship with mo­ments of pro­found hu­man­ity. Rick’s re­union with Ju­dith after what feels like an ex­cru­ci­at­ingly long time apart, or Daryl and Carol’s heart­break­ingly ten­der friend­ship both feel ut­terly real in a world where im­pal­ing a walk­ing corpse’s brain be­fore break­fast is a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence.

After los­ing its way some­what in the first half of sea­son two, The Walk­ing Dead has emerged as one of TV’s most con­sis­tently strong per­form­ers, mirac­u­lous con­sid­er­ing the tur­moil be­hind the scenes ( three showrun­ners in four years, two of whom de­parted on less than happy terms). Ar­guably The Walk­ing Dead’s great­est achieve­ment is the way it’s adapted Robert Kirk­man’s cel­e­brated comic se­ries. Where shows such as Game Of Thrones or Out­lander treat the text as gospel, or risk the ire of fans, The Walk­ing Dead quite fre­quently remixes sto­ry­lines, bumps char­ac­ters off un­ex­pect­edly or sim­ply throws the strip out the win­dow to the ex­tent that even comic read­ers don’t al­ways know what’s com­ing next. And yet even when it’s blaz­ing a new trail, the TV show some­how man­ages to feel com­pletely faith­ful to the comics. I can’t think of another adap­ta­tion that’s pulled a sim­i­lar thing off quite so suc­cess­fully.

Five years in and The Walk­ing Dead shows no signs of slow­ing down. Long may the dead walk the earth.

Jor­dan Far­ley

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