The Walking Dead started off strong in its first season and continues to be a ratings winner for AMC, drawing more than 17 million viewers for its season 5 premiere. The show has become so popular that after the cliffhanger ending of season 4, it took the cavernous Hall H location at San Diego Comic Con to hold all the fans eager to grab an exclusive sneak peek at what was in store for Rick and company in season 5.
While there have high points and low points during the first four seasons of The Walking Dead, season 5 feels like a string of low points mashed together with “filler” episodes and long-winded exposition that does little-to-nothing to move the story along or explain the characters’ motivations. That’s not to say the season is without merit, though. It has produced some extremely memorable TV moments (the Carol/Daryl hug for instance) – which we mention in the article 5 Things Right with Season 5 of The Walking Dead.
Granted, the show is only on episode 5 of season 5 with eleven episodes remaining – but unlike the previous seasons, it doesn’t feel like the show is actually GOING anywhere, and below we discuss the 5 Things Wrong with Season 5 of The Walking Dead.
In case it wasn’t already implied, there WILL BE MASSIVE SPOILERS for here on out. You’ve been warned.
1. Rushed Storylines
After teasing it early in season 4, it took the group the remaining twelve episodes to finally arrive in Terminus, and for the most part, those were 12 very successful episodes. The unexpected cliffhanger ending to season 4 is the reason why 17 million people tuned in to watch the season 5 premiere. But after all that tension and progress, the story and characters from the Terminus storyline were unceremoniously disposed of in less than three episodes.
A good portion of the Terminus group was taken out by Carol in episode 1, and its leader, Gareth, was killed by Rick by the end of episode 3. Viewers who don’t read the comics had no idea who Gareth was, and other than a few brief flashbacks, had no real sense of his motivations. We know we’re supposed to hate him because he eats human flesh, but other than “We were really hungry”, we’re never told how or why he and his crew jumped from trying to survive a group of vicious, faceless invaders, to hunting down and eating innocent people. He’s dead. He’s gone. And we’ll never get the answers to those questions, unfortunately.
The answers to those questions could have made for some extremely compelling episodes early-on this season – much like was done with the Governor at the midway point of season 4.
2. Too Many Throwaway Characters
There have been over two dozen new characters introduced in the first five episodes of this season, and except for a handful, they’ve either been killed or forgotten. Meanwhile, the show has spent a good portion of that time focused on those supplemental characters. If you aren’t going to give viewers a chance to connect with a new character or group of characters, then why waste so much time on them?
Carol is back, Beth has returned, and Judith has been reunited with her father. There’s a priest with a haunted past (who apparently only has one outfit to wear the last two years and it’s in pristine condition). All these would be interesting story possibilities, but instead of narrowing its focus, the show chose to broaden the number of characters viewers have to keep up with – no small feat – and it’s largely unnecessary.
3. Spilt Narratives and Timelines
There are now at least four timelines happening at the same time on The Walking Dead… or maybe they’re running back-to-back… or maybe a couple are concurrent and the others are happening before… or maybe they’re happening after – who really knows? If a viewer can’t keep track of where everyone is, or more importantly, when everyone is, then the show (any show) becomes harder to watch.
This seems to be a case of “biting off more than they can chew” for the producers, and while each story and narrative could probably stand on its own, dividing the viewers’ attention week-to-week is becoming tedious. We’re ready for the characters to move on and do something more than wait in place for someone else to come back. It’s frustrating to see the group have the ability to move forward with the narrative each week, only to have yet another setback introduce yet another story for us to follow.
This is a story-telling method proudcers have successfully used since the outset of the show, but for whatever reason, it’s not working as well as it has in the past.
4. Spinning Its Wheels
Simply put: the show has become stagnant. Much like a wandering zombie horde aimlessly meandering through the woods, so are the characters and story of the show. Yes, after the losing the prison and barely escaping Terminus, they just want to find a safe place to live and stay there – but they aren’t really doing that. Recently they’ve been pushed forward by Abraham and his squad who were “hell bent” on making it to DC in hopes of finding a cure – but now that Eugene had been outed as a fraud, they now have nowhere else pressing to go.
Based on the show’s internal timeline (using Lori’s pregnancy, Judith’s growth and the changing weather as measurements), it would appear that every event since Season 1 Episode 1 to Present Day has occurred in roughly a two-year period. It feels as if they will NEVER leave the state of Georgia, despite only being less than 100 miles from the closest border.
In previous seasons, having the group hang out around one locale wasn’t a poor choice (even when they spent 15 episodes at Hershel’s farm) because the story and characters continued to develop – that seems to have stopped in season 5.
5. Lame Zombie Kills
While the zombie effects makeup has greatly improved over the last 4 seasons, the kills have become bland, boring and predictable. True, the show has never really been about killing zombies, and instead centered its focus on the interactions of the main group and their surroundings. However, let’s not pretend viewers don’t tune in to watch some fantastic zombie deaths, and they want them to be cool, unique or badass. Many people aren’t interested in watching the human deaths, because those are always predictable – outside the absolutely cold and grotesque way people died at Terminus in the season 5 premiere.
So far in season 5, all we’ve gotten to satisfy our zombie-killing hunger are headshots and stabbings to the head with a variety of sharp objects. Tyreese’s zombie-killing rampage at the cabin was off-screen, but while the water cannon scene in episode 5 was truly unique, it’s been the only zombie-killing bright spot in this season thus far.
Will any of these issues with The Walking Dead makes us stop watching it? Most likely not. Because while we have problems with the storytelling method currently being used in the show, we’ve grown attached to its characters. Ultimately, the characters are why we tune in each week and why there’s a spin-off show currently in development.
Do you have any issues with season 5 of The Walking Dead so far, or are you very happy with how things are being handled? Let us know in the comment section.
We’re aren’t all negative about the show, so be sure to check out the 5 Things Right with Season 5 of The Walking Dead as well.
Follow me on Twitter – @MoviePaul – and tell me if I’m wrong about this season of The Walking Dead. Tune in Sundays @9/8c on AMC for the rest of season 5.
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