The Walking Dead: Seven Questions for the Second Half of Season Five
Feb 06, 2015
A year ago, when The Walking Dead returned for its season four mid-season premier, there was nothing but questions. Did Judith survive the zombie horde? When would Carol return? Would Lizzie freak out and kill everyone? This time around, the show is as close to a reset point as it has been since walkers overran Hershel's farm and forced the group into exile at the end of season two. With no antagonists left to fight and no clear destination point on the horizon, the show's characters are left with the same questions they faced three seasons ago: Where are they going? How are they going to survive? And, in a world where there is nothing but moral shades of gray, what kind of people will they be? The answers to those questions will determine the trajectory of the show for the next eight episodes. By Matt Fink
Will Rick Grimes become even more ruthless?
To the extent that The Walking Dead is the story of how people struggle to hold onto their humanity while doing the horrible things necessary to survive the zombie apocalypse, Rick Grimes is the character through whose eyes we see those shifting realities. Neither a pure idealist like Dale or Hershel nor a ruthless pragmatist like Shane or The Governor, Rick has ended up somewhere in the middle, torn by his conscience in nearly every major decision. But the Rick of season five is not a man who has time for indecision.
The roots of his transformation can be traced back to one moment in the season four finale. Having ripped out the throat of Joe with his teeth, then repeatedly stabbed one of his henchmen in a fit of rage, Rick is stunned by the extent of his own brutality. "That ain't you," Daryl says, reassuring him that anyone would have reacted in such a manner. "It ain't all of it, but that's me," Rick replies. "That's why I'm here now, and that's why Carl is. I'm going to keep him safe." Of course, that didn't stop Rick from leading Carl to the doorstep of the human slaughterhouse at Terminus by the end of that same episode, an error in judgment that seems to have catalyzed his newly calloused worldview.
That shift was immediate from the first moments of season five. Where Rick previously had been cautiously diplomatic when confronted by enemies, he now stood defiant. Moments away from having his throat slit by Gareth's butchers, Rick was defiant, promising to murder Gareth with a nearby axe. When that moment came two episodes later, Rick delivered on his promise, pounding Gareth into hamburger with a sense of righteous glee. Fans on Walking Dead message boards rejoiced; this was the Rick they had been waiting for-an unambiguous and unrestrained badass that would kill first and sort out the ethics of the situation later. Cross him once and you won't live to try it again.
But we already are seeing signs that the Rick 2.0 has his limits. When the group was developing a strategy to rescue Beth from Grady Hospital, Rick wanted to storm the building and kill everyone who stood in their way, only to be talked out of it when Tyreese suggested the cost in human life would be too high. When the group captured an extra hostage, Rick wanted to kill him before Daryl suggested that three captives could be more valuable to them as bargaining chips for Beth. And when one of those hostages tried to escape, Rick was merciless, running him down with his car before putting a bullet in his head. This is a Rick we haven't seen before, one that looks a lot like Shane.
So where does Rick go from here? Will he continue to enact swift and pitiless retribution upon anyone who crosses him? Or will he go down an even darker path, becoming morally indistinguishable from the villains who have opposed him? Or will he soften once again, becoming the man who took in a whole town of Woodbury survivors after The Governor went into exile? "Can you ever come back from the things you've done?"-that was the question posited during season four, and the answer appeared to be "no." The question for season five appears to be "How far will you go to protect what's yours?" The answer to that question, so far at least, appears to be "as far as necessary."
Where are they going?
Now that Eugene has admitted his lie, there is no reason to head on to Washington, D.C., but all signs point to them continuing on their path anyway. Since showrunner Scott Gimple has said that season five will follow most of the major plot points from the comic, that can only mean one thing: the group is going to Alexandria. Fans of the comic have been waiting for this part of the story ever since the prison fell, and the consensus seems to be that some of Robert Kirkman's best writing occurs during the Alexandria arc. But when will they arrive there? And when they get there, will they find friendly faces? Since the pace of the show has picked up considerably in season five-the Terminus arc was completed in three episodes, after all-expect the Alexandria storyline to start by the mid-point of the second half of the season. And when it does, look out. Things will never be the same for our favorite zombie slayers.
Will Maggie continue to slide into hopelessness?
Having lost both her father and his sister in quick succession, Maggie appears likely to sink even deeper into her existential crisis. Even before Beth's death, the signs were there. Though she hasn't been as outwardly expressive of her faith in God as her father, it surely isn't a coincidence that the writers showed Maggie picking up and then setting aside a Bible, as if she no longer can find any solace there. Similarly, when Father Gabriel expresses outrage over Gareth and his fellow cannibals being murdered in his church, Maggie replies that the building is only "four walls and a roof." Could Maggie's loss of faith in God preface a loss of faith in humanity and, ultimately, a loss in her will to carry on? It looks like things are about to get dark for her.
Will Carol be able to move past her demons?
When we last heard from Carol-right before she got hit by a car-she was mulling over her future in the group. She had finally become the person she always thought she should be while at the prison, she explained, but that person was "burned away" by the events that transpired. Haunted by the deaths of people who are important to her-one who died by her own hand-she admitted that she was pondering leaving the group altogether. But would Carol take such a drastic measure simply to insulate herself from experiencing more loss? Even after saying she no longer wanted to care about other people, she proved that she couldn't help herself, stopping to rescue Noah from approaching walkers even after he robbed her and Daryl of their weapons. But can she ever go back to being just another person in the group? Can she ever forget the horrible-but necessary-things she has done for the good of the group?
What will Abraham use for motivation now that Eugene has admitted his lie?
From his first moment on the screen, Abraham single-mindedly pursued the goal of getting to D.C. and saving civilization from the zombie virus. We now know he was doing so because he needed an all-consuming mission, something to believe in since his wife and children died in the early stages of the zombie outbreak. The last we saw him, he was a shattered man who was attempting to move on. Will his relationship with Rosita be enough to keep him going? Will he be able to forgive Eugene? Will fighting for and protecting the larger group become his new mission? Or will he sink further into despondency and attempt to pull the rest of the group down with him? No character has so much potential to be both a disruptive and galvanizing force.
Will Tyreese's pacifism cost him or the group?
As we've seen in every season to date, to be the conscience of the show is to sign your own death certificate. That's what happened to Dale after he argued in favor of sparing Randall's life in season two. That's what happened to Andrea after she naively trusted that The Governor could be convinced to peacefully coexist with Rick. And that's what happened to Hershel, a man whose optimism and faith in humanity couldn't keep him from losing his head. Now Tyreese has assumed that role, apparently so shaken by the deaths of Lizzie and Mika that he couldn't even bring himself to kill walkers at the beginning of season five. His reticence already presented a threat to the group, when his reluctance to kill Terminus member Martin resulted in that character returning to capture Bob a few episodes later, resulting in his death. This storyline can only end in two ways: either Tyreese will realize that the world has forever changed and that he must change with it, or he will make a mistake so costly that someone (perhaps him) will die because of it. I'm betting on the latter.
When will Morgan show up?
We know he's coming; we just don't know how far behind the group he is at this point. We've been given a few clues. During his first appearance on the railroad tracks near Terminus, the overgrown vegetation indicated that he was at least a few weeks (if not months) behind the group. The second time he appeared, searching for clues in Gabriel's church, he found a map indicating that Rick was heading to D.C. It seems inevitable that he'll catch up before the end of the season, and his arrival will, no doubt, come at a pivotal point in the plot. Will he rescue the group from a desperate situation? Will he finally be elevated to a regular cast member, allowing the mesmerizing Lennie James to grow into the character he has portrayed brilliantly for only two episodes? Or will the writers give Morgan his own separate subplot à la Beth, then kill him off before he can reunite with Rick? Whenever he shows up, one thing's for certain: it will be memorable.