AMC’s wildly popular TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s long lived black and white Image Comics phenomenon continues to shamble along, delivering a fifth season that surprisingly might’ve just been its’ best yet.
Season 4’s end saw Andrew Lincoln’s Rick and the gang finally (FINALLY) reach fabled Terminus only to be faced with a new nightmare, held against their will by the cannibals that now inhabited the false sanctuary. Of course our intrepid band of survivors made short work of their captors, with Rick leading the offensive from within and the previously exiled Carol (Melissa McBride) from without. And with that our heroes were where they belong, back on the road.
The first half of the season was a bit of a mixed bag, dividing attention between Rick’s group encountering flaky PTSD addled Priest Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and holding up at his church, Abraham (Michael Cudlutz) leading another team on a doomed mission to Washington DC, finding out after several hardships that the be-mulleted sweet talker Eugene(Josh McDermott)’s “crusade to help the Government find a cure” was all a lie, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol discovering the Hospital where the previously kidnapped Beth (Emily Kinney) had been held captive, eventually reassembling the whole crew for a would-be rescue mission.
Tragedy, of course, strikes at the season’s halfway point, with Beth not surviving the Tarantino-esque Mexican standoff caused by her attempted Hospital escape and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) suffering a zombie bite during the groups’ escorting of Hospital defector Noah (Tyler James Williams) back to his formerly safe, now overrun, hometown. Tyreese, we hardly knew ye. Another great character from the comics bites the dust.
Almost out of resources and options the group is approached by the seeming friendly though potentially stalker-y Aaron (Ross Marquand), claiming to want to lead them to a safe, walled community that he insists they’d be perfect candidates for. After some (appropriately violent) convincing and a harrowing, car crashing, zombie infested journey, the group is finally (FINALLY) indoctrinated into the Alexandria Safe Zone.
Several members of the group find returning to relative civilization difficult (Sasha [Sonequa Martin-Green] is still reeling from the deaths of Tyreese and Bob[Lawrence Gillard], Daryl never met a bar of soap he didn’t hate) but Rick seemingly falls right back into normal life, after he and Michonne (Danai Gurira) are made into the de-facto Police Force by former Congresswoman and community leader Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh).
It’s not long though before cracks begin to appear in the facade of seemingly normal life in Alexandria. Noah and Deanna’s Son Aiden (Daniel Bonjour) lose their lives in what should be a routine supply run just as Rick gets too close to a domestic violence issue involving Jessie (Alexandra Breckinridge), a resident who’s kindness he mistakes for romantic interest (or does he… ?).
The situation comes to a head as a confrontation between Rick and Jessie’s abusive Husband Pete (Corey Brill) becomes a brawl that spills out of their front window and onto the lawn, with Rick raving like a lunatic about Alexandria’s residents’ inability to protect themselves and Deanna doubting the powerful position that she placed him in. Rick nearly shoots someone before Deputy Michonne knocks him out. I guess that was the point of having two cops.
Meanwhile Daryl joins Aaron in an attempt to recruit more perspective citizens only to find themselves caught in a trap sprung by the Wolves, the source of the “W” branded Zombies that have appeared throughout the season. They only narrowly escape with their lives thanks to the help of the returning Morgan (Lennie James), reborn with his head on straight, brandishing a Bo staff like a badass zombie killing Donatello.
Season 5 ends with Rick on trial, being defended by his friends while he himself hunts down the zombies that entered the community due to ever-the-pain-in-the-ass Gabriel’s failure to properly close a gate. Rick arrives in time to witness Pete slit the throat of Deanna’s Husband Reg (Steve Coulter) with Michonne’s sword. Deanna gives the okay for Rick to execute Pete, finally realizing that Rick’s pragmatic way may be the only way they’ll truly survive.
This was a particularly strong note to end the season on, with Rick going from nearly being exiled to seemingly given complete control of the law in Alexandria. Rick ability as an effective leader and overall protagonist has wavered throughout the series both from the viewers’ perspective and as a character addressed plot point but after this development I think we can all look forward to seeing TV Rick behave more like the badass, takes no shit Rick from the Comics. It was sad to see Tyreese go but perfectly adapted characters like Abraham and the returning Morgan will be there to pick up the slack of backing Rick up, especially with fan favorite Daryl seemingly sliding into the “recruiter” role inhabited by the comics’ Jesus.
With the threat of the Wolves looming (and Negan soon enough) and our heroes in defensive mode it’s going to be a long wait until October to see what happens next.