The Walking Dead
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
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.