At times, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has hardly moved faster than a herd of walkers. There were points, especially during seasons two and three, where the show meandered aimlessly, as if the show’s creators — like its characters — had no idea what to do when faced with a zombie apocalypse. While the acting and plot have always been fairly solid, finding the right pace has plagued the show throughout its existence.
In season five, that problem seems to be solved. “The Walking Dead” is moving faster than it ever has before, and it’s never been better. Rick Grimes’ crew has already escaped from Terminus, dealt with Gareth’s small group of “hunters,” and split into two factions, all in just three episodes. In seasons past, that much action may have not even taken place in a single 16-episode season.
Of course, what’s worked so well this season is that “The Walking Dead” hasn’t had to sacrifice any of what makes it so good to move at a quicker pace. Zombies are still going splat, tension continues to come in waves, new problems are being added, and characters are still consistently being well-developed.
In fact, the new characters (particularly season five’s early antagonist, Gareth) are actually being developed in a more efficient and exciting way. Instead of relying on the often dull and moralizing monologues (see: Dale Horvath and Hershel Greene) to drive character development, the series is allowing the characters to show their development through both their past and present actions, which is how it should be for this show. Most series don’t have a zombie apocalypse to constantly force characters to make character-defining decisions. “The Walking Dead” does. We don’t have to get seven or eight speeches to understand what drives Gareth and what has led him to become the person he is — we get it in a series of brief flashbacks. While some characters still need to be developed further, particularly Abraham Ford’s crew, the show seems to have decided on allowing actions, like Rick’s decision to kill Gareth’s not-so-merry band of cannibals, to drive character development instead of needless and incessant dialogue.
For “The Walking Dead” to work, it needs to have two things at all times: a constant threat (in addition to the zombies) and a quick pace. Without a threat, you get the group relaxing on a farm. Without pace, you get the endless wait for the prison battle. So far, season five has had both. Let’s hope there are no farms or prisons on the horizon.
Previously from Charlie Crespo:
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