The premiere was thoroughly enjoyable, but had modest aims and was perhaps impossible for THE WALKING DEAD to get wrong after so much practice. The follow-up, "Strangers", was a better indication of what this fifth season's going to bring viewers, but obviously things are at a very early stage... although it's very promising that creepy Gareth (Andrew J. West), together with some of the other cannibals, survived last week's onslaught of walkers and Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) violent escape from their Terminus home. They're even scarier in the woods, stalking Rick's group and looking for vengeance...
If Gareth and the hunters were the lurking presence of Evil this week—eventually capturing Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr) and amputating his left leg for a campfire meal—the face of Good was undoubtedly Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam). A man of the cloth who's somehow survived the zombie apocalypse thanks to a combination of good luck and cowardice.
Rick initially found it hard to even trust Gabriel, because he's so battle-worn that the idea of a good man existing who's managed to avoid killing a walker sounds like hogwash. It remains to be seen if Gabriel's sins (which he says he only confesses to God) are something Rick's group need to worry about, but I get the impression he's genuine. A sheltered man who hasn't adapted to this post-zombie world because of his strict morals. Mind you, what happened to his churchgoers? And is this naïve clergyman going to be a valuable member of Rick's congregation? Michonne (Danai Gurira) mentioned missing Hershel in one scene, so I wondered if Gabriel is effectively a replacement of sorts.
The action this week was stripped down to a few woodland kills and a disgusting set-piece in a food bank, where Rick's group had to retrieve canned food from a flooded area full of rotting, bloated walkers. You could almost smell them through the television screen, and it must have been the make-up team's wet dream to create this array of tumefied zombies. Wading through stagnant water while fending off those hideous creatures, just for a few cans of baked beans? It really is the End Times.
Overall, this was a decent enough hour that handled the aftermath of the premiere's action overload (Rick indebted to Carol and Tyreese), introduced an intriguing new character, managed to get Rick onside with Abraham's (Michael Cudlitz) mission to get Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to the capital in order to stop the zombie plague, threw in the sudden appearance of the vehicle belonging to the people who kidnaped Beth, and wisely brought back the man-eating Terminus crazies in a more fitting, feral context. That parting shot of Bob enduring an unhinged monologue from their leader Gareth, before revealing he's lost a leg and his foot's being cooked for dinner, was certainly disturbing. And I watch Hannibal.
written by Robert Kirkman • directed by David Boyd • 19 October 2014 • AMC