I can’t remember exactly when I stopped watching The Walking Dead – sometime in the middle of the second season, I think. It was during The Farm Period, when Rick and Lori and Shane and the rest found an idyllic farm, seemingly untouched by zombies, and set about persuading the owner Herschel to let them stay. They discussed it. And discussed it. And discussed it. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth episode of discussion, with just a dusting of zombie-killing for flavor, I started to realize I was looking at my phone more than I was watching this boring show and decided to bail.
I stuck my head in again for parts of season 3 – The Woodbury Period, where Rick’s group found an idyllic town, seemingly untouched by zombies, and led by The Governor – but entirely missed season 4 (The Prison Period and The Terminus Period) and most of season 5. I heard rumors that the show had picked up the pace, dropped some of its problematic characters, and picked up some better ones, but I didn’t find the time to see for myself until last week.
Turns out, this is the perfect time to start watching The Walking Dead, whether you’ve never seen it before or tuned out in frustration, like I did. To start with, the rumors are true: the show is a lot better than it was in season 2, and has shed all the dead wood (Shane, Lori, Herschel) – Rick’s group of survivors is lean and mean and narratively interesting. More importantly, last week’s episode, “Remember,” marked the beginning of The Alexandria Period, in which Rick and his group find an idyllic small town seemingly untouched by zombies. What happened to Herschel? Or Dale? Or Andrea? Was Cutty from The Wire on the show for a minute? Where did this baby come from? It doesn’t matter now.
The great thing about this show is it’s like a shark: it keeps moving forward or it dies. Little things like “backstory” hardly matter at all, particularly when the story moves into a new phase. On this show the only people who matter are the ones who are still alive, and the ones who are still alive just took showers, did their laundry, and took jobs in their new home. Rick even shaved his beard and slipped back into his police uniform. If that’s not a soft reboot, I don’t know what is. Oh and somewhere along the way they picked up the guy from Southland (RIP), which can only be a good thing.
Don’t worry: they’re still finding new and gruesome ways to kill zombies on this thing. In that first Alexandria episode, someone grabbed at a zombie’s back and pulled off all their skin like it was a blanket. I didn’t realize how much I missed this show, and it’s great to be back.
There are four episodes left in season 5 of The Walking Dead; new episodes air on AMC Sunday nights at 10pm.