The Walking Dead – if you didn’t know, it’s back!

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll be totally aware that AMC’s The Walking Dead is back – and it might just be better than ever. I talk a lot about the exploration of humanity seen in recent seasons of the Robert Kirkman-created zombie drama, but in No Way Out and The Next World, writers have delved into the bravery of the Alexandria community, and the new-found courage of many of its inhabitants. The series has also, at this stage in its popularity and success, reinvented the zombie genre and turned it into something fresh and new. It’s changed in its thematic qualities and the way in which those are explored, it fuses evocative scores and stylised fighting scenes with thoughtful dialogue and tender moments of conversation. Zombies are now fair game in a drama and don’t just sit in the horror genre, meaning this is T.V. that is accessible for most.

Through the medium of television, the creators behind this fantastic show have had the time to evolve the narrative and this is where the genre suffers in film but thrives on T.V. There isn’t a need for constant action because we know and care about the characters and want to see their individual stories develop. Now, after a lengthy six seasons and 77 episodes, audiences are seeing an actual journey – not necessarily one of physicality, but one of mentality. Frequent director Greg Nicotero is studying his characters with succinct detail, demanding emotion and realism – both of which have been seen (perhaps more so than in seasons past) as genuine facets of strength which demonstrates the ability of the ensemble cast.

The sudden change of pace is refreshing and makes for a non-formulaic set of episodes that means The Walking Dead continues to stray away from the conventions of modern television. While the first eight episodes of the sixth season were disappointing in their slow descent to eventual anarchy in Alexandria, these final six could save a series that many have questioned is waning in its effectiveness. We have had emotion and wit, and carefully crafted tension that is generated from an atmosphere created through the use of lighting and locale, and – most importantly – we have a set of characters we root for.

Welcome back, Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead: Season Six – The Series So Far

The Walking Dead came racing back onto our screens three Sunday’s ago and with a new series came three things: Hoards of the undead, bloody mayhem and brutal kills. The idea to up the anti on the graphic violence is an interesting choice considering the strength of seasons four and five based on the character driven narratives and exploration of humanity they both encompassed. Having said that, season six has thus far presented fans with a visually-impacting thrill ride that has thrown a lot at its audience very, very quickly.

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steven yeun as glenn in the walking dead

Who really are these Wolf madmen? Where did Ron appear from all of a sudden? What has happened to Morgan in the time since he last saw Rick? And, most importantly; Has the latter gone completely bat-shit crazy? There are a lot of questions to be answered and thirteen more episodes in which to do so – hurrah. While the series started in a buzz of hectic Walker-sitting and machete-wielding murderers on the loose in Alexandria there was still time for a bit of character development via the always popular background stories. We’ve been able to get to grips with why Enid is so solemn (if the whole Zombie thing wasn’t enough) and had an introduction to one or two new faces. These include Denise, a new doctor in the community, and Heath, an Alexandria resident who is getting to grips with the authority of Rick and Co’ having been out on a run since they arrived.

The most intriguing element so far, thematically speaking, is the idea that Rick is slowly becoming some kind of antagonist to the residents of Alexandria, and even to those he has been with for some time. As Andrew Lincoln steps up as an actor of immense talent, we see a dark side to the lead character who (if we really think about it) lost his mind somewhere in season four. The underlying sub-plot of this has been brewing for some time, as has Carol‘s lack of compassion. The pair have become a kind of terrifying duo that, as an audience, we aren’t sure whether to still root for, or wish people to run from.

Lincoln still predominately leads the show with Steven Yeun as Glenn supporting him in a role that had everyone’s heart in tatters this week. The arrival of new characters always brings an extra dimension to the series and forces new on-screen friendships and shows of camaraderie that – if acted and scripted well – are genuinely moving. Episode one, First Time Again, didn’t match up to the level of intensity and sheer shocks of season five’s No Sanctuary which blew the lid off of previous openers (and apparently this year’s premiere couldn’t quite compete). JSS and Thank You have more than made up for the slow burner of the first inauguration and if writers choose to keep this pace – and maintain the aesthetically impressive action sequences – The Walking Dead’s sixth season could easily be its best yet.

Note: My reviews are based solely on the television series as a viewer with no knowledge of events taking place in the graphic novels.

The Walking Dead – Conquer, review

The Walking Dead came to it’s ferocious season five end this week in a climatic episode that stirred plenty of tension amongst spectators and characters alike. If you are yet to feast your eyes on Conquer, this weeks appropriate title awarded to Kirkman’s finale, expect new foes, a crazed Rick Grimes and a whole load of brutality. In a lot of episodes which have been up and down, episode ten didn’t leave fans disappointed and has set the tone for the nature in which AMC’s triumphant show now encompasses.

The ‘safe’ locale of the walled-community in Alexandria has posed a juxtaposition to the on-the-road narrative of previous installments, and while its refreshing to meet a batch of new people, several episodes have been lacking when it comes to excitement. Monday night saw a return to form with what viewers love most when it comes to WD, and that is the unexpected. In a 90 minute final, its the last five that stay in the mind the most, with a staggering closing scene that reunites old and new friends.

Writers Gimple and Hoffman have successfully given us a glimpse into the emotions of all key characters in Conquer, which has been one of the biggest flaws of the final round of episodes. Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Rick, Daryl, Carol and more all had their share of the teleplay and to be reminded of why we all love them certainly added an enjoyable spin to a generally dark atmosphere. Congratulations to all involved for not making this narrative a convoluted one.

With no more new episodes until season six premieres in October, fans will have to keep themselves occupied with the graphic novels and even perhaps the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead. A great final for a genuinely impressive show.

The Walking Dead: Remember, review

The Walking Dead has reached a seminal moment; the group are finally all together and in a ‘safe’ enviornment and – most shocking of all – Rick has no facial hair left (its going to take some time to adjust). Jokes aside, this week’s episode was the best so far of the newest offerings and reminds us all why we love these characters so much. What’s especially enjoyable is the constant reminders that the narrative is born out of comic book storytelling, and its little asides in Remember – such as Rick in a police uniform and Daryl tentatively carrying around his cross bow – that remind us of this. The seriousness of Kirkman’s creation on television has always been questioned, but for fans (and even new viewers) WD should be held up as a treasure of contemporary television drama. Entertaining but never corny, scary but never intimidating, and more importantly a strong contender for one of the best Zombie creations ever without bordering on cliched. It’s not all perfect, but it’s pretty damn close.

What’s the story this week? Rick and co’ have made it to the closed-off community in Alexandria. Seemingly normal (with room for a Governor-esque character) the group settle in well, if not a little cautious. With one or two altercations, it boils down to the them or us narrative which has been brewing over several seasons when it comes to the introduction of a new clique. This week it was Andrew Lincoln at the helm. The actor has been the driving force for a while, with characters such as Daryl, Abraham and Maggie fading into the background. When it comes down to it this is an ensemble show and the main weakness is the successful combination and screen time of all involved. The arrival of new characters means these beloved personalities could suffer even more from sharing their story.

Finally picking up the pace and with a malevolent tone hanging in the background, Remember has set the precedent for what is to come in the rest of season five. With a 90 minute final episode just revealed, expect plenty of twists and turns.

 

 

 

The Walking Dead, review

Them, this weeks episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead is possibly one of the worst of the entire fifth season. It seems I was alone in thinking last weeks was pretty genius, with the general consensus that the dream-like aesthetic was out of place and for a premiere of part two of the series, it lacked spark. If you weren’t a fan of What Happened and What’s Going On you won’t love Them either. Come on Kirkman and co’, don’t let us down now.

While part of the zombie genre is inherently known for gratuitous gore and non-stop action, The Walking Dead hasn’t always stuck to that formula. Some of the best episodes have been conversation driven, with past reminiscing and analyses of the rapid decline of a civilized world always present. Coupled with Walker battles, this is when WD shines. This weeks episode offered little in the way of either. And to think, they want to make another six seasons. One of the biggest problems is the familiarity of the locale – a change up is needed, and the promise of Washington DC is something to look forward to. If you read my weekly updates, you’ll be aware that I am true fan – whatever I’m reviewing, I always try and tackle from a positive perspective (no one likes a naysayer), and while there were one or two positives to last nights episode, I was definitely left somewhat disappointed.

Narrative-wise a lot of walking, a lot of unhappy faces, and some bad weather were all thrown in for good measure. Norman Reedus, in a silent yet poignant scene, encapsulated the loss that all of the group feel after the death of Beth and Tyreese, and his role as Daryl continues to be one of the best of the ensemble cast. The final moments set the tone for the next episode, introducing a new character who claims to be a ‘friend’. This is just one bad episode in a collection of ultimately great ones. Let’s have faith that The Walking Dead won’t lose its way.

The Walking Dead – What Happened and What’s Going On, review

AMC’s The Walking Dead is back. After a three month break the excitement for fans (including me, of course) has been building the past week and yesterday, we were finally graced with episode nine of series five – What Happened and What’s going On (not a great title, but we’ll forgive the writers for this one). A reflection episode of sorts, this new installment focused on just a small number of the group (an interesting choice considering we’ve been away for a while) and reminded audiences of the adult nature, severe violence and emotional tone that now engulfs the popular series.

I recently commented, in an article I did for Screen Relish (bit of self promo, forgive me), that The Walking Dead had graduated from Freshman to Senior in its excess of brutality and elevated dark subject matter (lets remember zombie fare isn’t always the most serious of stuff). What Happened and What’s Going On exemplifies this change perfectly. This is represented by the episodes editing, which deserves an applause; stylish and cinematic, unusually haunting and even a little scary. Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple, Greg Nicotero, and co’ have stepped up their game and continue to provide audiences and fans with some of the best television in recent years.

promotional still for the walking dead

promotional still for the walking dead

The narrative is pretty simple this week – Rick, Glenn, Tyreese, Michonne and new boy Noah travel to Richmond, Virginia in the hope that the walled community Noah‘s family were inhabiting is still there. As you guessed, its not. What unfolds is an episode that reflects on what the group have gone through so far, and how it is individually effecting them. Chad Coleman as Tyreese is at the centre of the brilliance of this weeks drama as he struggles to come to terms with the ever-rising number of events that have de-humanized those around around him. With a return from some of the characters who are responsible for these happenings, the surrealist, dream-like aesthetic of this newest offering from The Walking Dead team is an introduction for the trials that will unfold for the group in episodes to come.

The only criticism would be the divide of the group. With focus only on five characters, favourites such as Abraham and Daryl were certainly missed and an episode featuring the entire cast has been scarce for some time. With a shock exit and a stellar return, fans can rejoice that The Walking Dead is back on our screens.

The Walking Dead – Crossed, review

We are seven episodes in to season five of The Walking Dead, thank goodness there are nine more because, with the quality of what we’ve seen so far, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t wish this show was on every week…all year. Featuring (surprisingly) extreme violence, and some of the most intense scenes, and twists, of the season so far, Crossed reminds me. You. Us, how enthralling, thrilling, exciting, and damn shocking at times AMC’s The Walking Dead is. Every week I rave about this show (it probably reads all a bit samey now), but genuinely, there is nothing else to say – apart from praise.

andrew lincoln in a promotional still for amc's the walking dead

andrew lincoln in a promotional still for amc’s the walking dead

Crossed see’s the first episode the season where we are allowed insight into all three stories; Beth at Grady Memorial, Maggie, Glenn, Eugene, Abraham and the others at a crossroads (waiting for an unconscious Eugene to come to) and Rick, Daryl and their crew as they leave the church for Atlanta. The combining of the whole cast was a rather well thought out structure, and meant that everyone who loves this show was able to see a few minutes of screen time from their favourite character. For me, it’s Andrew Lincoln as Rick and Norman Reedus as Daryl (pretty much everyone’s treasured personalities) who provide the best moments acting wise and support a cast of still fantastic actors, but both just have that extra something that makes them so believable in the roles they uphold. Seeing the progression of Reedus’ Daryl from a violent, drug-taking thug to a sympathetic and beloved member of the group has been one the greatest components of the entire show, and many are of the opinion that if he went, we’d go too.

The unexpected seemed to be the theme in this weeks episode, and the cast ran with it. Big on action, and full of violence that (for one of the first times since season two’s well Walker) had the power to make you cringe. Seeing the horror of what has happened to these brain-dead, lowly antagonists – the Walkers, was a clever element to add to this weeks installment (you feel sorry for these people who have become monsters) and one which reminds you of the terrible actions from the living as well as the dead. Narrative-wise I won’t give the game away, but expect to be clinging at your eyes, not wanting to watch whats happening, but wanting every episode right now. With only one more episode left this year, the makers have upped the anti, for all out war.