This is England taken to its logical conclusion; strip mine the bathos (its strongest feature) and replace it with zombies, and you have hours of unremitting bleakness and horror.
I’m going to assume that anyone so moved to read this is already pretty up to speed on all the hot zombie fun so let’s crack straight on: its business as usual in the not so distant future. Our heroes escape Terminus following a sequence of events that made me wince; I’m certain that more hardened viewers than I wouldn’t balk at some of the throat slashing action in evidence, but I struggled. Carol, who in my house for reasons I can no longer remember is always called Shaven-headed Sue, achieves some mild redemption; that guy from Teachers continues his inexorable descent down the acceptable levels of humanity ladder, and that Bear Grylls one (Jimmy Crossbow?) continues to mask his weight gain with facial hair and denim vests.
As ever, it is some of the best programming available. If you leave the premise to one side (which I truly believe is skilfully and matter of factly handled) then what is left is one of the most interesting discussions about morality on the box. Nowhere is this clearer than in the conversations with the scoundrels from Terminus. Fantasy and science fiction have always been the best places to find truly thought provoking ideas and The Walking Dead continue this noble tradition throughout season five.
I am reluctant to give a great deal away; suffice to say the dead walk the earth and people are appalling. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the evolution of Eugene and Gabriel who, respectively and conclusively, let themselves down.
The main arc of the season, the thrust if you will, is, for me unsatisfying. I much preferred the problems that arose when they were on the farm. Less sensational and more domestic: almost banal. For me, this human drama is what drives the show; especially when married with the one twist (dead folk). Others may disagree, but I think the change from place to place to scene to scene, doesn’t enhance – it diminishes. Some may argue that it creates a frenetic, claustrophobic atmosphere that allows the viewer to empathise with their plight: I don’t. I felt like plots weren’t given sufficient time to breathe.
In summation though, in a world devoid of The West Wing, 30 Rock or The Sopranos, The Walking Dead remains some of the finest programming on the box. A resounding success.
4 / 5
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride
Prd: Tom Luse, Paul Gadd, Jolly Dale, Angela Kang, Nichole Beattie
DOP: Michael E. Satrazemis, Stephen Campbell
Music: Bear McCreary
Episode Run time: 44 mins
The Walking Dead Season Five is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD