Caution: Spoilers Ahead

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Who must one become to survive the zombie apocalypse?

That might be the best theme to encapsulate what we’ve seen in The Walking Dead television universe thus far, particularly with this, the midway finale of Season 5. This is a season that has remained closest to the comic since the premiere of the series, with integrating content from the page tastefully and delivering on narrative that is original to the show.

Sure, that question has remained an echoing constant since the series’ inception. But here in Season 5, I feel that question is finally growing some legitimate teeth. Turns out they happen to be pretty damn sharp, as we’re learning that sometimes what you must become isn’t as black and white as “good or evil”.

wonderworldcomics.com
wonderworldcomics.com

“…shut up.”

We began the season trapped at Terminus, the safe-haven that turned out to be too good to be true. We weren’t totally sure who or what the Termites stood for at first, but quickly realized it was lunch. Readers have recognized Gareth and his cannibal crew as a suped-up remix of The Hunters story-line lifted from the comic. This, of course, spilled into the Spoiled Meat scenario, which originally happened to Dale, but this time had Bob ending up on Gareth’s menu. This was one of the key moments from the comic that was brilliantly integrated into the show and acted to the nines by Lawrence Gilliard Jr. and Andrew J. West. I loved how that was handled.

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Back to the point, Gareth and the Termites – to me – stood for one thing, and one thing alone – survival at it’s most basic (and selfish) level. The need to eat. The need to remain strong and carry on – even at the cost of your fellow man. In a strange way, they represent the horrifying notion of who we all might be capable of becoming, should the going in the apocalypse get REALLY tough.

cleveland.com
cleveland.com

“Man’s gotta eat…”

But the line of being monstrously selfish and being HUMANLY selfish is tragically blurred in the world of The Walking Dead. That brings me to characters like Officer Dawn Lerner, Gabriel and Eugene. One of those characters is original to the show and two came from the comic, but all three were running from something deep within themselves.

Take Dawn Lerner, for example. Revisiting a decimated Atlanta and meeting her crew (Episode 4 – “Slabtown”), Dawn proudly proclaimed her code as ” Sacrificing For the Greater Good”. In reality, as her story hurtled to its conclusion in the mid-season finale, her M.O. was revealed to be more about preserving both her own identity and the grip on her warped version of stability- even if that meant taking control of Grady Memorial Hospital, creating animosity amongst her group, or far worse: killing of one of the show’s longest standing characters, Beth Greene.

reverbnation.com
reverbnation.com

She will be missed.

Many had predicted Beth’s demise prior to this episode airing, but nonetheless the death came as quite a shock. Beth had remained more of a background character up until her two big episodes in Season 4, which paired her up with Daryl Dixon. In previous episodes, Beth had emerged as a strong-willed survivor willing to speak her mind and take action, especially when dealing with Dawn. As far as mid-season finales go – this was indeed a slower one for The Walking Dead, but it was an emotionally charged hour of television, to be sure. Beth’s death certainly served as a definitive gut-punch.

comicbook.com
comicbook.com

“I can’t run anymore…”

Let’s move on to Gabriel and Eugene – two more characters lifted from the page, and the official yellow-bellies of The Walking Dead. Gabriel and Eugene have hidden and lied throughout the season in order to follow their personal codes of self-preservation- Gabriel out of faith, Eugene out of cowardice, and both of them out of guilt.

In regard to Gabriel, I think he said it best when he claimed “I can’t run anymore.” In last night’s episode. Gabriel is going to have to let go of his misdeeds and crush some skulls (literally) if he’s going to survive Team Grimes. His incompetence nearly killed Michonne and Carl last night, if it wasn’t for Michonne’s slicing and dicing.

As for Eugene, I felt the reveal that he isn’t a scientist and knows nothing of how to stop the zombie plague was another comic moment that adapted quite well to the screen. As an audience member, you simply didn’t know if Eugene was, in fact, full of shit, or if you could expect him to bust out a truth bomb. The only question I have about Eugene now is how HARD did Abraham clock him? I mean, seriously, the guy’s been unconscious for like 2 whole episodes. Will he still be snoozing when we return in February? Let’s hope not; I feel he can still be useful.

dailymail.co.uk
dailymail.co.uk

Knocked the F out!

Lastly, I need to touch on Rick Grimes, who has spent key moments of Season 5 dancing on the edge between humanity and brutal savagery. We’ve seen Rick slip away from what makes him our noble leader more than a few times. It’s safe to say we’re a long way from Farmer Rick.

For one instance, Rick lived up to his grisly promise of chopping Gareth up into pieces with a red-handled machete by, you know… chopping Gareth up into pieces with a red-handled machete. Despite Gareth TOTALLY deserving that fate, the sequence depicted the slaughter with a sort of troubling viciousness. I felt a sort of “was that really Rick?” hanging in the air.

There was also the moment when Rick held a gun in the face of one of Dawn’s henchman (Episode 7 – Crossed). His finger contemplated the trigger before Daryl pulled him back from the edge, saying, “Rick… Three is better than two…” There was also the moment where Rick put a bullet in Bob 2.0 and told him to “shut up.” What was it that Bob 2.0 said before eating Rick’s lead? “You’ve been out here too long…” .

The show has done an amazing job in this season, so far, of fattening up the concept of “Who might these characters become to survive this world?” Rick’s current trajectory is a true testament to the actual depth of that concept. With many of Rick’s actions you can argue he’s gone too far… or you can side with Tyrese, who, in Episode 1 – No Sanctuary, took a much a gentler stance against a man willing to snap a baby’s neck. It seems our characters could shape-shift into any number of other forms at this point, be that as a cannibal, a coward, an enforcer, a savage, a martyr, a hero… the list goes on and on.

Either way- the show isn’t going to make it easy for you to determine who these people are and who they might become. And that, I believe, is an integral part of the journey they want us to take.

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WHAT TO (possibly) EXPECT:

Team Grimes is now down a Beth, but will most likely be gaining a Morgan very soon! (I’ve been loving seeing Lennie James being awesome in small doses, but let’s get him reunited with Rick already!)

For the most part, sadly, I’m thinking the forecast will call for harder times. Rick and the gang are out of solid sanctuary, which makes me wonder if we’ll see a version of the Wiltshire Estates situation (as seen in the comic, far earlier in the storyline) realized on screen.

HONORABLE MENTIONS;

– The talent of Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (Bob) and Emily Kinney (Beth) will truly be missed. Both brought a lot of life and insight to their characters.

– Melissa McBride (Carol) also has been CRUSHING IT this season. I wasn’t the biggest Carol fan before Season 5, not going to lie. Then she created a massive zombie-splosion using fireworks (the first seen so far, in the show, actually). She’s won me over.

– The return of Michonne’s Katana! I nearly jumped out of my seat when she got it back.

– Again, to the writers, who continue to cleverly integrate the source material while keeping us guessing.

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