Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Melissa McBride, Chad L. Coleman, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., Michael Cudlitz, Emily Kinney, Alanna Masterson, Christian Serratos, Josh McDermitt and Andrew J. West.
Directed by: Various
Running time: 710 Minutes
Year of release: 2014 – 2015
There are 16 episodes to season 5 of AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Sci-Fi Movie Page’s Tim Janson and I decided to split up the new Blu-ray box set, much like AMC splits up the season. My review will cover 6 of the first 8 episodes. These are written in the spirt of watching the show without hindsight as to what will and did happen.
The Season 5 collection arrives on August 25th. A special edition of the set arrives on December 1st (see details here).
“No Sanctuary Review” – Episode 1
With weeks of trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes footage that preceded the sow’s return, it was deflating to see that there was an escape from Terminus. The season finale, “A”, left us both with terror and a great feeling that our “family” wasn’t going to be screwed with (you know the real line if you saw the expanded edition of Season 4 on Blu-ray). However, seeing Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) bound and gagged with a man standing behind them with a baseball bat, didn’t instill too much confidence in their chances. The expanded trailers showed them out and about running around. What? So the danger was gone in an instant.
BAM! “No Sanctuary” delivered in spades. This season (or even the first few episodes) has nothing to do with Terminus. Our family isn’t going to be messed with anymore and that is because, as a whole, they are stronger than anyone else. “No Sanctuary” is more than just a premiere, it is the culmination of last season’s story lines and a chance for the producers to get the story (from the comic) back on track. Let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Without a doubt, one of the best character developing moments in the whole episode was Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) left alone to protect Judith. Tyreese has somehow remained a good man within this new world, a man who hasn’t had to take a human life yet. While Carol (Melissa McBride) is off to do a little recon on Terminus, Tyreese holds captive a Terminus scout, Martin (Chris Coy). As the scene progresses, iMartin gets under Tyreese’s skin. The layers he peels back completely disarm Tyreese. It is a great scene between both Chad L. Coleman and Chris Coy as we see a different take on what people are willing to do to survive and how relationships are formed in this new world. When the shit does the hit the fan, can you blame Chris for taking the actions that he does? On the flip side, you cannot help but cheer when the scene in the cabin is over.
Carol’s rescue of the family is by far the biggest kicker of the episode. As an actress, Melissa McBride has taken Carol from this abused house wife and elevated her to warrior woman. She is cold, methodical, and a perfect mother to watch over this family. When she covers herself in zombie stink and walks into Terminus, we know at that point that everyone will emerge safe and sound. It is through Carol that we, the audience, get all the answers we wanted about this “sanctuary”. Yet her reward and our’s is one of the best and yet unsatisfying moments of The Walking Dead. When she is finally reunited with Daryl, it is nothing more than one big hug. Maybe there is something to those internet rumors about Daryl’s sexuality. Does Carol know Daryl better than we do? Is this something the two of them are going to keep private? If I thought my lady was lost and she was suddenly standing there as my savior, there would definitely have been a lot more than hugging.
Count them, and we have 15 characters reunited on The Walking Dead. And Judith; lets not forget about her. Nor should we forget that Beth (Emily Keeney) is still out there somewhere. There is so much misery and despair on this show, the season premier was a huge and welcome turn around. This was a satisfying win for the family. However, the church is coming and we will be back on track, story wise, next week.
Oh… and Morgan Jones (Lennie James) returned to the show!
“Strangers” – Episode 2
We’ve wasted no time in getting the family back on the road the again. Our reunion, as sweet as it was, turns out to be bittersweet. As everyone begins to play catch up and reveal truths about themselves, it is Carol (Melissa McBride), the one cast out and now savior, that looks as if she wants to run. Daryl (Norman Reedus) is reaching out to her, but even he cannot reconnect with Carol. All this transpires with the rescue and introduction of Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), a man who is clearly hiding something.
Watching The Walking Dead is like watching the tides. There are highs and lows. Depending on what side of the fence you fall on, you can either think tonight’s episode was terrible or character building. I’ve heard too many people bitch and complain that nothing happens in a episode like “Strangers”. I say to those people, binge watch the series on Netflix. Tonight, we saw that despite being reunited, this group has different ideas on what has to be known and remain secret. Is it necessary for Tara (Alanna Masterson) to clear her conscious? To the character, yes, but what if Maggie (Lauren Cohan) wouldn’t have embraced her? Now that would have been interesting. Thankfully, Tara also saved Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) life, so she was safe. Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) wants to forget what happened with Micha and Lizzie, but wants everyone to know he is okay with Carol’s slash and burn policy back at the prison. Tyreese, why are you bringing up old wounds? One of the big reveals and best character development moments is Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) talking about her missing appendage, the samurai sword. Even without it, Michonne was clearly meant for this world.
Something is stirring in the woods and something else is gnawing at Father Gabriel. These are our two biggest concerns at the moment. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) wins over the group (and Judith) to take Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to Washington DC. Rick needed little persuading and I found his lack of an explanation both refreshing and needed. He knows they have to have a purpose and can’t just wander aimlessly and look for food. Besides, what if Eugene can save the world? Perhaps a little more explanation might have been necessary for slower members of the audience.
What is stirring in the woods brings us to a very interesting turning point for the series. The original showrunner, Frank Darabont, once said that the comic was a road map to where the TV series will go. They may not follow it precisely, but they will get back on track [with the comic] eventually. When Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) opened his eyes, this reader of the comic knew that we were back on track.
It looks as if we will start to unravel the mystery of Beth’s (Emily Kinney) disappearance. Here we are, two episodes in, and despite being listed in the opening title sequence, Beth is nowhere to be found. Maybe this adventure will bring Carol back into the fold. Furthermore, AMC revealed too much in their long Season 5 trailer. Thus, the “shock” of who Bob was looking at wasn’t really all that shocking. As for Father Gabriel, just hold on… it’s coming.
“Four Walls and A Roof” – Episode 3
A lot happened this week on The Waling Dead. Too much. In fact, we could go on and on discussing the ramifications of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group’s final solution to Garrett (Andrew J. West) and his Termites. It is the plot lines and loose threads that are now dangling that have me bothered. Where shall we begin?
Let’s get the obviousness of the comic storyline and the path the TV series is now back on. First and foremost, Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) being substituted for a character in the comic. That particular person, on the series, died in Season 2. Those of us that discovered “The Walking Dead”, via the comic, knew exactly what Bob’s fate was right down to him laughing at the Termites. When reading this, in glorious black and white, I was shocked and thrilled to see those
horrible human beings get what they deserved. As soon as Bob started laughing, I was more interested in seeing what the hell was happening with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). Bob’s character was a wild card, much like that of Daryl’s. Anything could happen to him. Since we got back on the comic’s path, I am now inserting TV characters into the comic’s storyline. In short, the surprises and thrills of watching are gone.
Rick and his group do get one over on the Termites, as I mentioned earlier. We then witness Garrett and his group on their knees, talking about how they were once good people who took others in. Garrett goes on about how he is very much like Rick and can see the darkness that lurks inside of him, which is a funny (and futile) way to beg for your life. With that monologue, and numerous others that Andrew J. West was supplied with (really, the guy never shut up), why didn’t we learn why his group turned into cannibals? It seemed as if they were growing sunflowers and other green plants for consumption. There was no talk of being addicted to it, just who tasted different and better. It seems as if the Termites where just lazy and wanted fast food instead of working for it. Now that they are no longer with us, I have to wonder what the point was of bringing them further into the series? To get us back on the comic’s path? Great, but now we have no resolution or reasoning as to why a huge group of people turned cannibalistic when when there were trees producing nuts, forests full of rabbits and squirrels, and moonshine all within walking distance.
Tyreese’s character is really going nowhere. This week, Tyreese’s (Chad L. Coleman) adversary, Martin (Chris Coy), shows up for about 3 minutes of screen time. There is no dialogue between them or even a long stare. Why bring this particular character back and not have any sort of a payoff for Tyreese? It seemed as if there was just too much going and the story needs to keep moving forward, character development be damned.
Speaking of which, is anyone else starting to notice that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) doesn’t/ didn’t want to leave Rick and the others? Those of us that know where is storyline is going are already bored with this. Hopefully, there will be some surprises along the way. If not, it’s just the Bob situation all over again. Really? Let’s go basement swimming with Walkers? What did Rick think was going to happen? Why didn’t they just stab them in the head first and then go down for the food? The advantage of using the high ground was more obvious there, just like the fact that Eugene is hiding something.
The highlight of the episode is Lawrence Gilliard Jr.’s performance. I don’t think a death scene in the zombie genre has been as poignant since Matt Frewer’s in the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead. Bob found the bright side in his final moments. He also passed on the importance of what Rick did and was capable of doing, something that was further reiterated by Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) note on the map to Washington DC. We’ve seen just where Rick will go in defense of those he cares about (see the episodes where he bites a man’s throat out and kills his best friend) All this leads me to wonder if there will be any payoff for that slaughterhouse moment in the church? There were plenty of looks of disgust and shock between those who did the killing and those who didn’t. So, are those that killed the Termites more likely to survive in this crazy world? Whereas the others are just going to be lunch? Only time (and the comic, apparently) will tell.
Daryl (Norman Reedus) was talking to… well, if you saw the entire episode, we already know that it wasn’t Carol (Melissa McBride). The answer, it seems, will have to wait until next week or perhaps even the following. Anyone else getting a sense we are building up to the mid season finale already? Let’s get on to “Slabtown”, shall we?
Beth (Emily Kinney) was abducted since last season when Daryl and she were fleeing from the funeral home. She awakens to find herself back in Atlanta, inside a functioning hospital. Yet again, we are seeing another part of the world and how society has adapted to living with the dead (called “Rotters” in this episode). The hospital has become a microcosm where everyone has a job and everything must be paid for. Beth quickly learns that nothing is free and Guinea Pig isn’t tasty. The woman in charge, Officer Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods), rules with a iron fist. She believes that the hospital’s rules and fair exchange will preserve what’s left of humanity until help arrives. Yes, Officer Lerner believes that there is still someone or something that can save the day.
Beth’s introduction into this society comes in three fold. The first is in Doctor Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen), a man who occupies the hospital’s highest level as the only resident Doctor still in the building. In addition, there is Noah (Tyler James Williams), Officer Lerner’s assistant and man with a connection to everyone in the hospital. Finally, there is Amber (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a woman who’s job is to keep the male police officers “happy”. It is Noah who is Beth’s key to salvation and maybe even a key to the series future. Noah spoke of a walled-in town near Richmond, Virginia. This could be the town that is featured in the comics. Little else is mentioned about it, so that is a loose end that will probably be touched upon later.
With Beth desperately wanting to escape, she realizes that she must play by the rules until she finds a way to break free. It is in her assistance of Steven’s daily medical duties that she learns all she needs to know to escape. A man is brought in and Steven and Beth do their best to keep him alive. There is a lot of whispering behind their backs, and only we, the audience, are privy to what is going on. When this man is stabilized, Steven informs Beth to give him his medication, which promptly kills the man. Beth is blamed for the killing and Noah quickly comes to her rescue. Both realize that they have someone they can trust and soon find themselves on their way out of the hospital.
This episode was extremely well written and further illustrated the brilliance of the world Robert Kirkman created. What do you do after you figure out a way to survive? How do you maintain your humanity? This episode deals with free will and what you are willing to do for that security and peace of mind. It also shows how quickly a hierarchy can develop. We learn that Steven is not bound by any vow or oath he took in his previous life and will do anything to maintain his status. Those that exist at the bottom would rather be dead if they truly aren’t free. Beth finds out that she is still the decent person from before and that if she can’t be free, she will still smile about those that are.
On a whole, I found myself watching the time of this episode more than any other this season. With each task that Beth needed to complete, I saw our time at the hospital expanding and it isn’t really a place, story wise, that I wanted to be. Perhaps Beth’s character isn’t that strong on the series. I was curious to see who took her, but now I wonder where this will lead us. Perhaps seeing Morgan (Lennie James) in the premiere and that look on Daryl’s face as he says “Come out” supersedes a character that isn’t that appealing. Then again, we all probably thought that about Carol and one point and smiled when she came rolling into the hospital.
“Consumed” – Episode 6
Did anything happen on this week’s episode of The Walking Dead? Now before I go on a huge tangent, I would like to state that I am not one of those Walking Dead fans that has to have action and gore every week. For instance, if Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) sat around and talked about if Judith is really Rick’s daughter, I would be fine with that as a full episode. As long as it was placed somewhere in the confines of the story or progressed the characters. This is the problem with “Consumed”.
Since the final moments of “Four Walls and a Roof” when Daryl (Norman Reedus) emerged from the shadows and said “Come on out”, we have been dying to know who it was he said that to. After catching up with Beth (Emily Kinney) and finding out the truth about Eugene (Josh McDermitt), we finally get back to Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl driving down the road after the car with the cross in the window. When all is said and done, we do learn who Daryl was summoning. It is Noah (Tyler James Williams), but has the story or these characters progressed any further?
This episode was nothing but filler; a binge watching episode that you will barely remember. To begin with, it is packed with Carol’s backstory. Seeing what happened after Rick banished her was lackluster. She preps herself for a night alone, raids the recycle bin, and then sees a huge fire. Even running into Sam (Robin Lord Taylor) would have at least been something better than her crying and rummaging through the trash. We see her talking with Tyreese (Chad L. Coelman) about what happened at the prison. Then we see her clean herself up after the Teminus battle. Did AMC have some footage just lying around and feel they should use it? All these flashback breaks are nothing new and make this whole episode as bloated as a zombie trapped in the bottom of the well.
Where the episode really makes a wrong turn is finally giving Carol and Daryl some alone time. We find out that Carol went to a domestic abuse shelter when her husband would get rough. Thanks for the reminder as if I haven’t been watching since day one! Nothing new here. We were on a path that leads us to Beth seeing Carol rolling into the hospital. That moment in “Slabtown” was loaded with possibilities. Was Carol faking? Did Carol get captured? Is Carol infiltrating the hospital as the first wave of attack because Rick and Daryl are outside? Nope, she was hit by car (mind you, it was after falling from the freeway). Yes, Carol gets messed up and not just mentally.
Seeing the tank again should have been a great reminder of how far we have come in the series for both the audience and the characters. Instead, it just made the world of The Walking Dead seem smaller. Why are they still so close to Atlanta? Will we move on and head North? Will anyone even remember this episode in two weeks? Yes, because we will be upset that The Walking Dead will not return until February 8th, 2015 and AMC wasted an episode to get us to where we were two weeks ago.
“Coda” – Episode 8
One word and an exclamation point were all AMC had to do on their official Facebook and Instagram pages to warn us that…
Or better yet, wait until every time zone premiered the episode!
Yes, this was that episode of The Walking Dead. I wanted to address this issue first, as I did not watch the episode when it aired, yet was sent several vengeful messages about people upset with AMC that they spoiled the mid season finale. These people live on the west coast and the show still had one hour and forty five minutes until it even aired, let alone getting to the moment where Beth (Emily Kinney) and Dawn (Christine Woods) go toe to toe. The Walking Dead has an insane fan base, so why would AMC pull this boner? Was there some USC intern working their social media posts and he wanted to go home early?
Our review of “Coda”:
This whole season, since Terminus, we have seen Rick (Andrew Lincoln) pull back his swift justice (vengeance) on those that have done him and his wrong. It was great to see him chase down Sgt. Bob Lamson (Maximilano Herando, the Marvel Universe’s Hydra Agent). He played it as the group would have wanted him to. He gave Sgt. Bob every chance. Yet, second chances are not how this world works. At first, I was thrilled to see Rick run him down because he deserved it. However, Sgt. Bob had a point. He didn’t know Rick. How could he trust him? The table was certainly flipped as this time one of our characters had the upper hand. I felt bad for Sgt. Bob, yet I would still have let “the rotters” have a live meal.
We jumped back to the church and Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) is off to the school. He goes to see if it all was true, the cannibalism and the group’s justification for the slaughter of the Termites. A maggot ridden leg of Bob was all he needed to see. What I found so incredibly frustrating is that Michonne (Danai Gurira) opens up the doors and lets him back in the church. He ran off without their knowledge and now he wants to put them in harm’s way? I could see Carl (Chandler Riggs) letting him back in, but not Michonne. The one redeeming part of this whole scene, besides the firetruck saving the day, is that Gabriel says he’ll learn to live with the guilt. Perhaps a page has turned for the character. It better, because so far he has done nothing but put people in jeopardy. Hopefully in the second half of this season, myself and the audience will be able to give Gabriel a second chance.
The big hallway exchange had only one outcome. Sure, it was going to be a narrow Mexican standoff, but I’m sure none of us saw the hospital crew putting down their weapons first. It was a great scene for the actors and the series, but one moment in particular stood out. Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) reaction to Beth’s death had great layers to it. Perhaps all of us were wrong in thinking that the love story between Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl is a romantic one. Clearly, there was a romance blossoming between Daryl and Beth. Daryl backing the peaceful exchange plan was a sign of that. How will this change the character? They have all lost someone on the series, but Reedus’ performance was clearly his best and more emotionally heartbreaking than when he lost his own brother. This is why this is a great show. It’s about the stories and the actors who bring us into this world. If it were all about killing zombies, it would have ended four seasons ago.
Post Credit Scene:
Could Morgan (Lennie James) just catch up with Rick Grimes again, please! This is probably going to be our season five finale moment.
“The Walking Dead” Season 6 premieres on AMC October 11th, 2015.
Bonus Features on the Blu-ray™ + Digital HD and DVD include:
- Audio commentaries featuring Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer Tom Luse, Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Supervisor /Director Greg Nicotero, Director Julius Ramsay; Actors Lauren Cohan, Chad L. Coleman, Michael Cudlitz, Sonequa Martin-Green, Danai Gurira, Alana Masterson, Melissa McBride, Josh McDermitt, Norman Reedus, Christian Serratos and Steven Yuen.
- Deleted Scenes
- Inside “The Walking Dead”
- The Making of “The Walking Dead”
- The Making of Alexandria
- Beth’s Journey
- Bob’s Journey
- Noah’s Journey
- Tyreese’s Journey
- A Day in the Life of Michael Cudlitz
- A Day in the Life of Josh McDermitt
- Rotters in the Flesh