Season 5 of The Walking Dead is about to return from a long winter’s nap for the back eight episodes of what may be the strongest season yet for AMC’s hit zombie drama. While it is a different world from a couple of years ago (I was so frustrated with season 3 that I almost stopped watching), there is still room for improvement, and some things the series needs to do to maintain the momentum they’ve built and deliver a satisfying conclusion.
The way The Walking Dead stages things, each half of a season, while connected to the overall narrative, serves as a kind of soft reboot, a separate arc—this seems to stem from the episodic nature of Robert Kirkman’s comics that serve as the source material. The rest of season 5 looks to follow this trend, and in that spirit, here are some of the things we want to see Rick and the rest of the survivors do and experience throughout the rest of the season.
For as much time as The Walking Dead has spent on the road over the years, they haven’t gone all that far. They’ve never left the state of Georgia, and while the Peach State is fine, there’s a whole big world out there to explore and surely there are other survivors that aren’t psychopaths or cannibals. It’s also time for them to settle down, to find a place to lay the roots they’ve been talking about for years and start to build. They’ve fallen into a pattern of hunkering down for a while then being forced to move on, and it’s getting repetitive. You can only pull that off so many times. Throughout season 5, there have been hints of a walled community—many comic readers presume it is a version of the Alexandria Safe Zone—and while we’re in no hurry for them to get there, they need to at least arrive by the end of the season. To dangle this out there and not deliver is too much of a tease not to pay off.
A couple of times in recent episodes, Morgan (Lennie James) has shown up, tracking the group, following a mysterious series of cryptic marks carved into trees. This is something else The Walking Dead needs to deal with before the conclusion of season 5—to leave it dangling out there would just be maddening. We don’t know exactly what he’s doing, or what his intentions are. Before this, we haven’t seen him since “Clear,” where he had come a bit unhinged dealing with trauma since he and Rick bonded early on in the series. To be honest, we don’t even know that if he catches up with the group if that will be a positive thing or not. Which leads us to the next point…
In the wake of that last tragic death, the group has some serious emotional baggage to deal with. They look beaten and broken and desperate as they try to cope with yet another loss. Is this the one that finally breaks them? Maybe, but while that is going to form an important piece of the upcoming episodes, there needs to be some external struggle as well, something beyond just the zombies lurking out there, ready to tear into their living flesh. One way to accomplish this is to introduce a new antagonist. People have speculated that the folks from Terminus could come back, while others suspect Neegan could be on his way—though it’s a bit early in the narrative for him to show up it’s possible. Another option is Morgan. Like we said, he was losing his grip and we don’t know what his plans are. He certainly cuts an intimidating figure, and could very well serve this purpose for a time. It would also provide a tough emotional situation for Rick to deal with.
If the group does wind up heading to Alexandria, or some equivalent—while the series follows the same rough outline as the comics, they’ve never been afraid to put their own spin on events and plot points—there will be ample opportunity to introduce new faces. A couple of casting notes have led to some speculation about who we could see before long. Ross Marquand joined the cast and many suspect he plays Aaron, a resident of Alexandria who is a key piece moving forward. There has also been speculation that Jessie Anderson, another Alexandria resident could show up. If they do arrive at the walled community, there will be plenty of chances for this, as there are many citizens and tons of potential storylines. Introducing new characters like this, not just zombie fodder, will open up a wide array of new possibilities story wise and as far as possibilities for character development go and keep things form growing stale.
Give The Characters Room To Grow
While some of the characters have had a lot to work with over the course of season 5 so far, other haven’t. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) had a nice run with Bob (Lawrence Gilliard) and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman); we finally got to spend some time with new additions Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt); and Rick has obviously been a focal point. But, for instance, Michonne (Danai Gurira) grew and developed more in the last half of season 4 than at any other point in the series. She still had a ways to go, but it was nice to see her start to become the character we know she can be, but that hit a wall in the first eight episodes of season 5 as she hardly has anything to do aside from look after the baby and hang out with Carl (Chandler Riggs). The same goes for Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun), who have a little bit more, but not much. With the loss of Beth in the midseason finale, you know there is going to be a great deal of room for this kind of thing to play out, and we’re looking forward to seeing that.
There are, of course, tons of other things we would like to see in the upcoming episodes of The Walking Dead. They need to figure out what to do with Eugene—many expect him to die, but he’s still in integral part of the story up to the most recent issues of the comic—show how Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), and the rest deal with grief and move forward; and much more.
What do you think the next run of The Walking Dead absolutely needs to do in order to be successful over the next half-season?