If you’ve been watching season 5 of AMC’s hit zombie drama The Walking Dead so far, you probably noticed that there are some different things in play than before. For the first four years, the goal of he core group was simple and broad: stay alive. Now, with the addition Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt), there is a more specific endgame, get to Washington DC and maybe cure the whole undead epidemic, and wouldn’t that be nice? Robert Kirkman recently took some time to talk about how the new season follows the comics and how it changes things for the survivors.
Talking with IGN before the new season kicked off, Kirkman had some interesting things to share about the upcoming adventures. Thus far, the series has traced the arc of the comics. For all the changes and alterations, all the big plot points are present and accounted for, from Hershel’s farm to the Governor and the prison.
Season 5 is, more than any other season, following the comics very closely. There’s more comic book moments being adapted than there have been in any previous season, so there’s a lot of cool stuff for the comic fans coming up and a lot of stuff they will recognize, but of course we’ll be doing some stuff in different ways. . . There are a lot of cool key moments that come directly from the comics.
Four episodes into season 5, we’ve already seen quite a bit of this. The survivors have encountered Father Gabriel Stokes (The Wire’s Seth Gilliam) and done battle with the Hunters, though the set up and the way they get there is different from the source material.
Another way season 5 parallels the comics is in Abraham’s insistence on getting a move on and heading to Washington where Eugene may be able to help scientists cure the zombie plague. Having such a concrete, specific goal is something new to the narrative, something they’ve never had, and it’s going to be interesting to see Rick and company deal with this aim. Kirkman says:
The biggest thing for Season 5 is that the story completely changes. . . There’s a mission to this season—this mission of getting to Washington and if there’s a cure there and if there’s infrastructure there and security there. What is it that is actually in Washington? I think that having our characters suddenly be driven with a goal that they can actually accomplish is changing how we tell stories in a big way. The episodes of this season are going to feel a bit different than how the show’s felt before.
Assuming season 5 continues to stick close to the path blazed by the comics, those of us who’ve read them know how the Washington storyline pans out. Still, the writers and producers are doing a good job of, even though we know in a general sense what is going to happen, throwing in enough twists and wrinkles that it’s not simply a straight retelling. And with the renewed sense of emphasis on character development, you care more about these people than ever before, which doesn’t hurt matters at all.
They’re taking their time building up storylines. Like with Beth (Emily Kinney), who went missing last season and didn’t arrive until last night’s episode, “Slabtown.” And with the group breaking up into smaller units, it provides a chance to focus on and really develop an arc instead of trying to cram everyone into every episode. Realizing that they can step back like this and concentrate on a single thread for an entire episode, may be the best change The Walking Dead has made yet.
In conjunction with building to their stories, they’re also employing an array of narrative techniques they haven’t really tried in the past, like foreshadowing. Last night, Noah (Tyler James Williams) dropped a hint about what sounds very much like the Alexandria Safe Zone, a local that figures prominently in the upcoming story. Overall, The Walking Dead is getting more and more sophisticated with their storytelling, and they feel more confident in their ability to do things differently. Even though “Slabtown” was a bit of a misstep, the show is much stronger for these attempts.