Things have changed a lot on a show where the undead were once considered to be the primary threat. The Walking Dead started out with Rick and the survivors just trying to find a way to survive. Then there was plenty of instability among the lead characters that had to be ironed out, and then they had to deal with the threat of other humans. For the first four seasons, the protagonists always had to deal with threats. Season 5 starts off with most of the heroes being captured in Terminus, with the rest spread apart. But these same characters have grown a lot after four long seasons of learning to survive. In the world of The Walking Dead, Rick and his crew are now the most dangerous threat that exists.
What is The Walking Dead?
For those unfamiliar, The Walking Dead is a TV series adapted from a comic book of the same name. Sherriff Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in an abandoned hospital (paying homage to 28 Days Later) and finds the world overrun by zombies. He manages to make his way out of the city and reunite with his wife and son who have become part of the small group of other survivors. With his natural born talents, Rick becomes a defacto leader and takes the group through many crisis and problems (in the process, they take many losses and well as gain new members).
Season 4 ends with much of the group journeying towards a rumored safe haven called Terminus –but as it turns out, Terminus is a massive trap set by other humans who wish to prey on other survivors. While Rick's group is captured, the season ends with Rick declaring that they are the wrong people to screw with.
Living Up to the Promise
It is pretty realistic that after everything that the protagonists of Walking Dead have been through, they are more than just capable, they are deadly. They have fought off countless zombies, armed militia, and many other disasters. While the organized group of cannibals in Terminus is certainly a danger to the average person, they group is anything but average. Within moments of capture, they quickly find ways to build makeshift weapons –no one has to be told what to be done, and they all carry their own weight.
This scene establishes the strength that all of the characters will be displaying throughout the season –the determined and deliberate actions they take all take them towards the direction of survival, and you can either be strong enough to join them or they will cut you down.
A New Weakness
Of course, a show where all the protagonists are already too tough is not that much fun –conflict always needs something to soft to bite on, and good stories need good conflict. So considering the fact that the survivors are literally punching zombies down, they are faced with a new kind of threat that they never considered before the possibility of getting soft. This is presented in three escalating examples throughout the entire season, and each of the major character must deal with the choice presented to them in their own way.
Right after the entire group shoots a bloody path through Terminus, they encounter Gabriel, a priest who has locked himself up in a church after cowardly refusing to let his congregation find shelter. The act has left him traumatized, and after the survivors rescue him from a couple of walkers, he lets them use the church as a temporary home as they decide on whether they would go to Washington for Eugene's mission or not.
Beth, abducted last season, appears in a hospital in Atlanta. The hospital is run like a small controlled community with a few abusive policemen in charge of things. Daryl and Carol manage to track her down, but Carol is ambushed and captured. Daryl gets help from Rick and the other survivors to help rescue Beth and Carol –and while they manage to do this, Beth decides to kill Dawn, the leader of the hospital. Beth is successful, but dies as well.
Losses for the survivors continue as Tyreese ends up bitten while distracted by his own emotional issues –further establishing that in this season, the only way for the lead characters to die is when they allow themselves to show weakness.
Alexandria Safe Zone
The second half of season 5 focuses on the group's arrival at the Alexandria Safe Zone –a relatively untouched community of survivors that found a housing project and made use of the resources to establish a safe haven. They are invited by Aaron, a ‘scout', who determines that Rick's group have the skills and brutality that is needed to survive in a world of the undead and other dangerous people.
While their skills in combat are much needed in the safe zone, they are also encouraged to relax and put their guard down –to consider Alexandria as a new home. Naturally, the group finds it extremely hard to adapt to the new surroundings, and they worry that letting down their guard would make them too soft to handle any crisis.
As Rick's cold approach to decision making clashes heavily with that of Alexandria's leader Deanna, things come to a boiling point until Alexandria resident Pete attacks Rick (who just managed to kill a walker that infiltrated the town) and accidentally kill Deanna's husband. Deanna allows Rick to make the decision of executing Pete –hereby informally stating that Alexandria recognizes that Rick has been right all along. The group is surprised as Daryl and Aaron arrive with recurring character Morgan arrive.