The Walking Dead – Season 5 Midseason Premiere

Alternate title:  MIDWEST MARK’S Triumphant Return to Form.

How fitting that I return to the proverbial bloggy fray by way of the same show I started with… THE WALKING DEAD.  For those of you who don’t know me, I was the one MIDWEST TV GUY who actually watched guy-centric TV.  For the last year and a half, you have put up with MIDWEST MIKE talking about rose ceremonies and waxing poetic on his idiot-savant-level knowledge of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, while MIDWEST MO reviews whatever he happens to review (something on OWN or LMN, I can only assume).  Now you get to read my ramblings about things like THE WALKING DEAD, GAME OF THRONES, HANNIBAL and other solid manly fare.

‘So where the hell have you been, then?’  I can hear none of you thinking.  Some things better remain a mystery.  But rest assured, I am back and contributing on a dedicated “from time-to-time” basis.  For the five or six original MWTVG fans from back in the day, I promise that I missed you every bit as much as you missed me.

Now for priceless insight on tonight’s TWD.  Obligatory spoiler alert:  I will spoil the episode for you.

So to get right to it, let’s talk about THE WALKING DEAD.  I have previously laid out my case about TWD in comparison to the source material graphic novel that I picked up on around the first half of season three.  On one hand, I was happy that I found it because it is an excellent series.  On the other hand, it forever tainted my view of the televised version.  Season 1 of the show was excellent as far as I was concerned, but season two (and all of the following seasons for that matter) were shockingly uneven from a standpoint of excitement and story progression.  The show made a few great choices (to keep Shane alive into Season 2 and last season’s Lizzie and Mika storyline as a couple of examples) but by-and-large missed out on tons of opportunity from the comic that would have made a much more compelling show.

I get the fact that material needs to be adapted for the existing medium, but the graphic novel is pretty cinematic in the first place and had at least a half-dozen story arcs that were never included in the show (for the worse).  Instead they make decisions like the including the dreadful Ghost-Lori misfire that didn’t work on the screen at all.  Check out a few of my prior posts (here, here, and here) for more detail as to comparison and what to possibly expect moving forward.

So it’s been over a year since those were written, and the show has progressed a bit since then.  I think the TWD as a whole has been significantly stronger this season than the past three, ever since Rick and the group first arrived at Terminus.  Not to say it has been perfect, but it has been following the comic considerably closer than before and brought in a great dose of *gasp* character development (!) that never really existed before.  Some of it has a “too little too late” feel, but it hopefully is a good sign for seasons ahead.

Allow me  to briefly address something that really irritated me about this season’s midseason finale… Beth’s storyline.  One of the best parts of last season that bled over into this season was the relationship between Beth and  Daryl.  Beth went from the barely mentioned sister in Season 2 to the girl singing in the prison, to a decently important player in season 4, kidnapped at the very beginning of Season 5, reappeared to actually become a good character in the hospital and then was randomly killed in the last episode by Dawn.  Her story arc could have gone in about a hundred better directions, but ended up being discarded just as many characters in the show are.  Why in the hell did she stab Dawn?  If she wanted to kill Dawn, why didn’t she just kill Dawn?  She’s been out and about with walkers for long enough that she should damn well know a stab to the clavicle doesn’t accomplish a whole bunch.

One aspect of the interpersonal relationships that has almost entirely been ignored in every season of the show is the romantic side of things.  Up until very recently with Abraham and Rosita, sex has only been alluded to once or twice with Maggie and Glen.  Not like TWD needs to be over-sexualized, but it is a pretty prominent part of the comic and one would imagine would be an interesting dynamic in a group like this.  For instance, let’s say (hypothetically) that Daryl and Carol were not only close friends, but romantically attached the entire time after Carol’s husband died.  Rick kicks her out (which would cause some solid dramatic friction between Rick and Daryl), Daryl is pretty upset that she is gone, then he gets romantically attached to Beth when they are wandering around together in Season 4.  Suddenly, you can play on her disappearance, Carol’s reappearance and Beth’s ultimate death much more effectively than how it was handled.  Speaking of Carol, the comics saw her in a relationship with Tyreese that drove her to commit Walker-assisted suicide after he cheated on her with Michonne.  This kind of stuff is very easily introduced into the show, but they continue to ignore it.

(Note to Hollywood bigwigs:  I work for cheap.)

And that is one of my biggest beefs with the show in general, they write for the present and don’t have any sense of multi-season strategy when it comes to character’s storylines.  For the single most popular show on cable television ever, it would seem like they could figure that one out.  Compare to the other AMC darling BREAKING BAD that had a fully conceived storyline from the beginning and was true to its characters the entire way through… the fact that THE WALKING DEAD almost wholly ignores the source material in the name of ‘adaptation’ is an injustice to the show and its fans.

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Thankfully, tonight’s episode was one of the best tightly-constructed episodes in recent memory.  Everything from the camera work to the acting to the music choices were spot on (not at all missing the random season 3/4 folk music closers, by the way).  Although not much happened in the way of furthering the chronology, it got to focus on Tyreese and give him a fitting conclusion to his tenure on the show.  I saw a lot of shock on social media about the decision to kill off Tyreese, but for what it’s worth, he did die much earlier in the comics (actually, in the place of Hershel at The Governor’s hand).  This is one of the rare instances that I side with the show… it was a better decision to keep him alive as long as they did.  I might have preferred something a bit more exciting than “Tyreese stares at wall, gets bit by zombie”, but it worked nonetheless.  Everything considered, it was time for him to fly.

In comparison to Ghost Lori, I though the flashbacks/hallucinations were tasteful and appropriate.  Although they did burn YET ANOTHER ideal chance to bring in the “Maggie hangs herself” storyline that I think would suit the show quite nicely.  But this normalizes the events even closer to the source material to finally take them to DC.

Quite possibly, I wouldn’t be complaining about any of this if I had never picked up the comic.  But taking as objective of a view as possible, I remain surprised that this show is as much of a pop culture phenomenon as it is when other far better shows struggle (here’s looking at you, HANNIBAL.)  For me, I think TWD is very much like an ex-girlfriend.  Shortly after you break up with her, you forget the nitpicking and nagging and remember all of the better times.  Then when you finally make the mistake of getting back together, you instantly remember why you broke up in the first place.  I’ve been getting back together with THE WALKING DEAD for five seasons now, so perhaps it is shame on me.  But I constantly hold out hope that she matures to the point that it can be a lasting relationship.  After tonight’s episode, I’m feeling like that is more and more of a likelihood.

Episode Rating:  Solid A

Agree?  Disagree?  Still wonder who the hell I am?  Sound off in the comments below!