[Warning: SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 4 ahead.]
When zombies first started gaining popularity, they were mainly seen in horror movies where a group of survivors would slowly get whittled down over the course of about ninety minutes until all - or nearly all - of them were dead and/or members of the zombie ranks. Exploring the zombie apocalypse in a long-running episodic series, as The Walking Dead does, changes the dynamic of this narrative and allows more time for a lot more breathing room.
Some critics of The Walking Dead have said that the show has a little too much breathing room, and that too many episodes drift by with too little momentum. Season 4 certainly started out with quite a relaxed mood, kicking off with an episode called "30 Days Without an Accident" that showed Rick Grimes trying to settle down and become a farmer rather than a fighter.
Rick's dreams of a peaceful life have yet to come to fruition, and season 4 concluded with a large group of survivors from the prison thrown into a train car by the not-so-friendly residents of Terminus. The first official image from The Walking Dead season 5 indicates that the next episode will pick up exactly where the last one left off, and in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, comic book creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman confirmed that this is the case.
“This is the first time we've really finished a season and gone back to the same place for the next season, so that’s kind of cool... I think this show works best with a cycle or ramping up and ramping down, and lulling people into a sense of security and speeding things up and keeping them on guard. I will say that we definitely start this season in an up cycle, whereas last season we definitely started the season in a down cycle. So we’re certainly changing things up in that respect and we’re gonna kind of hit the ground running this season."
Even after the survivors were forced to flee from the prison, the second half of season 4 passed by pretty sedately with a series of episodes focused on individual groups of characters and their development. There were a few significant plot events, but for the most part the pace was slow and thoughtful as everyone carved out their own path towards Terminus. But what will happen now that they've finally arrived? Kirkman isn't telling.
"There’s been a lot more secrecy on set. Just because any images that get out of any kind of things that are seen do in a sense spoil that cliffhanger, so we’re trying to keep things a little more tight this time around. There’s always people crowding around where we’re filming and trying to get spy spots of what we’re doing and stuff, but for the most part we've been able to avoid that."
Although the show does tread a similar path to the comic books, it's also different enough to warrant the kind of secrecy that Kirkman is talking about, and those who read the source material know by now not to get to complacent about what they think is coming in the show. One thing's for sure: Rick and his friends are in desperate need of an escape route.
The Walking Dead will return to AMC in fall 2014.
Source: Entertainment Weekly