Note: This article contains spoilers for “The Walking Dead.” If you are a newcomer to the series or missed Sunday night’s episode, refrain from reading.
With October comes change — green leaves to orange; blue skies to gray; fleshy, conscious humans to bloodthirsty zombies.
‘Tis the season — season five, that is.
Sunday marked the season premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” revealing the fate of the show’s dearly-beloved, disparate troupe of underdogs: Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and the gang — ensnared in the clutches of a seemingly-psychopathic cannibal clan — and Tyreese (Chad Coleman), Carol (Melissa McBride) and baby Judith as they likewise converge on Terminus.
And in “Walking Dead” fashion, the season began, quite literally, with a bang: action, zombies, explosions, more zombies.
But effects and theatrics aside, the premiere surpassed my expectations in its exploration of the internal — in its clever weaving of plot-heavy drama with subtle statements about man’s malleability. Per the words of my “Walking Dead”-fanatic/viewing buddy extraordinaire (i.e. dad), the show “covered the whole spectrum of human nature.”
Take, for example, the cabin scene. It pits the human manifestation of good — the ostensibly hulking Tyreese — against his stark counterpart — an unnamed other, a man who nearly strangled Judith as a desperate survival strategy.
While the former refuses to kill, the latter rolls ever-apathetic with a clan of psychopathic killers. His comments on goodness’ futility, his past life of friends and Sunday football work in synchrony for an especially unnerving effect: They humanize — and yet just as quickly dehumanize — him, which is a push and pull recurrent throughout Sunday’s episode.
Flashbacks of the Terminus group further reveal that they, too, were once human and were once the victims of some violent, seemingly psychopathic other. It made me as a viewer wonder if Rick and company will meet a similar fate? Will they, too, transform?
That said, the episode further sowed the seeds for transformation among many favorite characters — most notably, Rick and Carol. In one episode alone, we see Rick turn toward a darker, more dog-eat-dog mentality, yet just as easily emerge from this haze with Judith in his arms. Carol, too, doesn’t transform so much as emerge, actualizing her always-latent leadership potential.
Among these changes, viewers are given at least a semblance of stability with Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Tyreese — two grounding anchors of morality that have together filled the Hershel (R.I.P.) void.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the episode. I found myself screaming not only at zombies, but also at mankind and our illogical, heat-of-the-moment behavior. Viewers were angered, creeped out and relieved — all in the matter of a single hour.
Questions were answered and questions were raised, at once satiating and hooking us further. And while other seasons have seemed to flounder for its lack of direction, this season is underpinned by a broader collective goal: to somehow guide our mullet-toting pal to D.C.
With all this in mind, the verdict is in: The season five premiere achieves gold star status, with many more promising episodes to come.