It’s pretty slim pickings on television for science fiction fans these days, and while I know a couple of fans who refuse to even contemplate watching a zombie show, The Walking Dead is still in my opinion the best thing out there at the moment. It does what all great science fiction does, it makes an adjustment to reality and asks what that means for the individuals caught up in it. The plots the show is working on are not necessarily the most original, but the focus on characters and the superb acting and direction make this one of the most satisfying programmes on the air.
Each season of this show seems to move through different phases of survival, from the most immediate survival after the zombie outbreak through to more long term issues such as finding supplies, shelter and eventually a place secure enough to build a home and community. Rick’s group have spent the winter on the run, but they’ve militarised and under Rick’s dictatorship, and have actually all survived. When they stumble onto a prison they think they have finally found a home, and between that security and their well honed zombie killing skills, life seems relatively settled. Well other than the problems which come from having limited medical expertise, food and ammo and a thrown together group of people who’ve been through massive traumas.
Meanwhile somewhere nearby (facts like distances and travel times aren’t really a strong point of the writing) we are introduced to Woodbury, a town sealed off and defended from the walkers where a substantial community is living in relative comfort under the leadership of the charismatic Governor (the wonderful David Morrissey). But all is not as it seems, and when Andrea (who was separated from the group when they escaped the farm) and her scary new friend arrive, The Governor’s true colours start to show and it’s not long until Woodbury and the prison are clashing.
The similarities between the two groups are obvious and not exactly subtle – both Rick and The Governor take questionable actions in the name of protecting the group. Both are willing to sacrifice outsiders to protect their friends and families who may not see what’s being done in their name until it’s too late. It’s difficult to forgive some of the characters for not opening their eyes, or taking action which would have avoided the inevitable and bloody outcomes, I found myself shouting at the screen more than once when they just stood by and did nothing as their leaders crossed more and more lines.
The pacing of the season was also frustrating at time. While I found The Governor and the situation in Woodbury interesting, I grew bored when we spent too much time there, particularly the episodes exclusively set in Woodbury. I was frustrated that we were delayed at seeing how events were effecting those back in the prison. Similarly there were episodes where we didn’t see a single shot of Woodbury, or even some of the characters in the prison which was equally frustrating. I would have preferred the content was more evenly distributed, which would also have helped to give the new characters momentum, it’s easy to forget about people if you don’t see them for a couple of weeks.
The Walking Dead this season was something that I pounced on as soon as it was available, it really was one of my go to programs. I hated even the few days delay between the US and the UK because I knew I would be unable to resist or avoid spoilers and hence some of the biggest punches of the story were softened. Even then I was still on the edge of my seat every episode, and not just for the action sequences, more often than not it was the quiet conversations between characters that were the really intense moments. The absolutely stunning way the series is shot also adds to the intensity, the beautifully lit and framed shots give a quietness and grace to everything, counterpointed by brutal and phenomenally messy action sequences. I’m hard pressed to think of a series at the moment that I get more excited by or am more eagerly awaiting its return.