When The Walking Dead embarks on its annual midseason hiatus, it always feels like it takes forever to get back. Granted, it’s usually around a two-month gap, which is substantial, but it also goes to show you how effective they are at endings, as they always leave you with a “holy shit” moment or a cliffhanger that leaves you dangling, wondering what the hell is going to happen now. AMC’s hit zombie drama returns for the rest of season 5 this weekend, and now you can watch the first two minutes of “What Happened and What’s Going On.” If you’re not caught up, there are spoilers.
This footage sees the group trying to cope with the sudden, shocking death at the end of the midseason finale. They just got Beth (Emily Kinney) back, only to lose her is the most abrupt, brutal fashion imaginable. This is like watching a collection of snapshots: you see Maggie (Lauren Cohan) weeping, someone digging a grave, hear Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) presiding over a funeral, and see the group running, moving, surviving. Just from their appearance they look desperate, broken, almost feral.
In addition to picking up the pieces after losing Beth, they have to contend with the fact that Eugene (Josh McDermitt) finally came clean and revealed that there is nothing waiting for them in Washington. Now they don’t even have a goal, though that doesn’t last long. Throughout season 5, there have been hints at a walled community in Virginia, and now that Noah (Tyler James Williams) shares that information, there may be a new end in sight.
As bleak and grim as this opening is, there’s also an air of hopefulness. Striking, gorgeous nature shots juxtapose with desolate images of rotting bones and desperate people. Talking about Richmond, when Glenn (Steven Yeun) asks, “What if it isn’t around anymore?” the only answer Rick (Andrew Lincoln) can give is, “Then we keep going.” That’s what they do.
This is not going to be an easy trip, however, but you probably already assumed that much. Not only is it a lot of ground to cover (they’re finally leaving Georgia!), but there will be walkers and possibly human hurdles to clear. We don’t know what Rick is facing off with in this new photo, but you can tell that he, and that Dirty Harry-esque revolver, certainly means business. It’s going to be a long journey, and if the past is any indicator, not everyone is going to make it.
I am glad that there is a goal in sight, however. At this stage in the comics, which the show loosely follows, they settle in the Alexandria Safe Zone, and Noah’s hometown sounds like a close equivalent to that. Not only is it a place that still figures prominently in the action, it is a drastic narrative shift, and they go from a life constantly on the road to having a place to call home, a place to build, something to defend. It allows them to follow a new bunch of storylines, and lets be honest, as good as The Walking Dead has become over the last season-and-a-half, the settle-move-repeat pattern has become a bit stale.
Season 5 of The Walking Dead returns this Sunday, February 8 on AMC.