AMC’s hugely popular zombie drama The Walking Dead is deep into production of its fifth season. In previous years, there has been a gap in the narrative between when one season ends and the next begins, but given the cliffhanger nature of the season four finale, that isn’t a legitimate option. Consequently, there hasn’t been as much news coming from the Georgia-based set as usual, but this weekend the network will treat fans to their first look at the upcoming episodes. As a taste of what’s to come, there are two new behind-the-scenes videos for you to check out, as well as some words from showrunner Scott Gimple about what season five, and beyond, might look like, and even a few tidbits about the still-in-development spinoff series.
The first video shows off the key members of the cast and crew talking about the premiere episode of the upcoming season, and they’re like kids on the first day of school, but nerdy kids, the ones who actually like being in the classroom. Sure it’s their job to hype the show they’re working on, but everyone does appear to be hyped up for the new season, even calling it this one specific installment the most ambitious first episode they’ve ever tackled.
The second half of season four is easily the best that The Walking Dead has ever been. Most of the action centers around various splinters of the group of survivors, and season five will bring them all back together—in a bigger way, as most of them were reunited at the end of season four. This will necessarily change the dynamic and feel established in those eight episodes. Hopefully not too much, but it is unavoidable.
While hearing the cast talk about the bloody nature of the season five premiere—which is saying something for a show that has always been a gore-soaked affair—is promising, I worry about the emphasis on how much action and how many zombies there will be. Despite the necessity for both of those elements, that’s never been where The Walking Dead is the strongest. The walkers work best as a part of the background. There are so many zombie movies out there that it’s hard to make that interesting on a week-to-week basis, and that’s never been what Robert Kirkman’s comics that serve as the source material are about either. Still, everything that Gimple and company have done since taking over has only served to strengthen the show, and he had a definite aim that he’s going for, and a good handle on the characters and their drama, so he’s earned the benefit of the doubt, for now.
Say what you will about The Walking Dead, and there are a great many genuine complaints that you can voice, but one thing it has always done well are the special effects. That’s where video number two comes in, and features the cast and crew talking about the various weapons, props, methods, and even their favorite kills that go into making the show.
The main focus of all of this footage is, obviously, the upcoming season, but we still don’t know much about it. Talking to Collider, Gimple spoke about working with Kirkman, and about working from the comics while also trying to create something that is its own entity.
[B]ack in the day when I started season two, I was all ‘We must hem to the comic’ and Kirkman was like ‘Well – let’s have some fun. I’ve done this all before.’ I certainly won’t abandon iconic things from the comic. I definitely want to stick to the comic as much as possible but that’s also impossible with Daryl Dixon and characters that are alive but dead in the comic. There’s a butterfly effect. But that’s actually an incredibly fun part of the [show]. I would say that even the inventions we have on the show are inspired by the comic.
One thing the show has always done, for good and ill, is try to marry the source material with new elements, often with mixed results. This statement should, however, comfort fans because it illustrates that the people behind the show do pay attention to the comics, and want to translate the things that make that title so good onto you TV screen. More than anything, as long as they get the characters right, I don’t give a damn what else they do, the rest is just details.
Because of the transitory nature of the narrative, The Walking Dead must go through periodic changes. New characters coming in, old ones dying off, the group moving from place to place, all of these drastically alter the landscape. Every new bit of news we see from the series, fans of the comics immediately examine it, trying to figure out how the two fit together. Gimple says:
[Season 5’s] not mirroring [the previous season] completely… The challenge of the show is every eight episodes, it’s a whole new show. I will say that there may be some slightly familiar structural turns. But for the most part, it is going to be brand new versions of the comic story.
There has been talk of a spinoff for quite some time, but we know absolutely nothing about it at this point. All we know is that it is set in the same world as The Walking Dead, but how close it will be to the action of the flagship series is anyone’s guess. Gimple talks a little about the new project, saying:
I have little to do with the spinoff… This I do know. It’s set in the world of The Walking Dead but from what I understand, it’s not like Daryl’s cousin or anything… I would never say never [to a crossover between the shows] because if I was a viewer I would say that sounds awesome. But we’re doing our own show. I also think a crossover might be tough because it would take a lot of [license] within the comic story. We’ll see. When we get to all-out war, who knows? We’ll add another faction. It’ll be the Saviors and the Hilltop and the ‘Spin-offers’.
There was a lot of talk recently when reports surfaced that producers had The Walking Dead mapped out for up to 12 seasons. Of course there are still numerous plot arcs from the comics to draw on, and more arriving every month, so that isn’t a huge surprise that they’re looking to the future, but it brings up the idea of there being an end in sight. Gimple addresses this:
I would say ‘Yes’ [there is an end-game]. I actually don’t like spoiling myself on the comic. I read it as I go. Robert’s offered to tell me the whole thing so I get general aspects of it. I know the emotional end game of the show but there’s practical aspects, I want to keep with the comic. With these characters, you definitely have to think of the emotional endgame and that is very much a part of where I’m headed. But I want to have the flexibility to change the practicals with the comic and I don’t want Robert to spoil the whole series for me.
Season five of The Walking Dead returns to your TVs this October, but you can spend your Independence Day watching every episode so far, and after that epic marathon, you can get your first look at the new season.