Season three of Falling Skies ended with our hardy band of survivors from the 2nd Mass regiment victorious over the invading Espheni aliens with the help of the friendly alien Volm race and on their way back to their home base of Charleston. But as season four started (a mere three weeks after the end of the previous season), the Volm had evacuated Earth (except for a small scout force) to deal with an interstellar Espheni threat, leaving the Espheni free to regroup and capture all the humans into electrically fenced in ghettos or reeducation camps to genetically modify them into mindless slaves with extraterrestrial appendages and powers. The only humans left to their own devices were the group gathered around Lexi, who is the daughter of the main character Tom Mason and was genetically modified by the Espheni so now she looks 20 years old even though she is less than a year old and is exhibits psychic and telekinetic super powers. After the trials and tribulations that seem to go hand in hand with an alien invasion, Tom and Lexi take a spaceship to the Espheni power base on the moon, Lexi destroys the base in an apparent suicide mission, and Tom is lost in space as season four concludes. If I’m making the season sound disjointed that’s because it was disjointed and I’m kind of glad that next year’s season of Falling Skies will be the last because it looks like the writers have run out of steam and are having a hard time putting a coherent storyline together.
After both shows ended their summer seasons my Sunday night TV watching was reduced to reruns of ‘Bar Rescue’ on the ‘Spike’ network and the ‘Breaking Bad’ binge on AMC but in October ‘The Walking Dead’ came back for the first half of its fifth season with eight weeks of zombie apocalypse action with another eight weeks coming up in February. I never watched TWD until the Fourth of July Weekend when I was home alone with the beagles and AMC was running a marathon of the 16 episodes of Season four. I caught a few episodes and I was so hooked I watched the entire 16 hours over the holiday weekend.
The Walking Dead follows the travels and adventures of Rick Grimes in post zombie apocalypse Georgia. In the second half of season four Grimes’ group got split up and were all making their way to a place called Terminus which advertised itself by signs and short wave radio as a sanctuary where ‘All who arrive survive.’ In the last episode of the season almost all the disparate parties had arrived in Terminus which turned out to be a large railroad yard but all who arrived are taken prisoner and put into a railroad car to await the beginning of season five in October.
This snippet of the season 5 premiere of The Walking Dead was released an hour before air time.
Is it any wonder it has more viewers than Sunday Night Football?
Rick has learned to go to any lengths to protect his family. In season four he bit open the jugular of the leader of a gang that was going to kill him and his friends. That’s why he wanted to exterminate the people of Terminus. His judgment proved correct when Terminus leader Gareth and a small group escaped alive from the rail yard, tracked down Rick’s group, captured one of them, cut off his leg, cooked it, and ate it right in front of him. It was a particularly grisly piece of theatre to have Bob from Rick’s group laying by Gareth’s campfire while Gareth is telling him that it’s not personal and that ‘we would have done this to anyone’ as he bites off a piece of Bob’s cooked leg saying ‘At the end of the day...a man’s got to eat.’.
The living are worse than the dead as this classic scene shows.
Rick Grimes - A man who will do anything FOR his friends and do anything TO his enemies!
Eventually Rick’s group finds out about Beth’s captivity from Noah (a wandering runaway Beth helped escape from the hospital) as well as the recent hospital ‘rescue’ of another member of their group and sets off to rescue her. Rick’s idea is to sneak into the hospital and kill everyone there but the rest of the group want a peaceful resolution so Rick devises a plan to kidnap two of Officer Dawn’s police officers.
The plan works and as a bonus they capture a third officer who escapes and is running for his life at the beginning of the mid-season finale. Rick grabs a police car and orders the escapee to stop. When he doesn’t Rick just rams his car into him. The officer is laying on the ground unable to move with zombies slowly lurching in his direction and is pleading with Rick for his life. Rick tells the officer he should have stopped and shoots him in the head. It was a violent scene worthy of the end of an episode but in this case it is in the beginning with over 50 minutes left in the show. After a very tense hostage exchange where a gun battle threatens to erupt at any point the hostages are exchanged. The tension ebbs but Officer Dawn insists on having Noah back because ‘she needs a ward’. Rick says no and the tension gets white hot in a heartbeat but ebbs again when Noah agrees to stay in the hospital. Beth and Noah hug goodbye, Officer Dawn makes a comment about ‘they always come back’ and the tension escalates again but this time it erupts into two deaths before Rick and the group leave the hospital for good. This razor’s edge tension keeps me on the edge of my seat - even the quietest and most introspective moment bears the promise of turning into intense violence in a split second.
The changing of the pace is one big part of what makes The Walking Dead one of my favorite shows. Another is the cast. I really like the Rick Grimes character – he can kill at the drop of a hat but accepts strangers the group almost as easily. I don’t care for every character but since it is a large ensemble cast I don’t get bored for too long with any one character. A new group joined the show late last season consisting Eugene Porter, a scientist who claims to have the cure to the zombie virus that reanimates the humans after death and two military type personnel that have taken it upon themselves to get him to Washington D.C. I found this crew pretty boring but since there are a dozen or so other characters they weren’t on enough to get on my nerves except for the fifth episode which featured the group but as much comic relief that can be found in a zombie apocalypse when we find out that Porter is just a fraud that pretended he had the cure to gain protection from others.
This scene is indicative of the amazing stop and start pacing of The Walking Dead that
makes even the quietest moment full of tension.
By this point in the show’s evolution almost anyone who hasn’t learned to be a full-fledged zombie killer has long since disappeared (except for Porter and Father Gabriel, a newcomer to the show who has been locked in his church until his food finally ran out). To have any shock value a zombie attack must have either the element of surprise or an overwhelming numerical superiority and even then the survivors just club the zombies to death or stick a knife in a zombie’s head and eradicate the threat. The main use the zombies seem to have at this point in the show is weaponry. When Beth is confronted by her would-be rapist in an office in the hospital she spots a former rape victim who committed suicide and goes along with her abuser feeling her up until the suicidee reanimates into a zombie. Then Beth clocks the officer with a bowl which doesn’t knock him out but does knock him down and he is soon devoured by his former victim. There were plenty of episodes in the past when a rival group would drive a truck full of zombies into Rick’s camp, forcing the group to deal with the zombies and a human attack at the same time. But the all-time best use of zombie weaponry was in Episode 7 of the current season when Rick’s friend Daryl is fighting one of the police officers and getting the worst of it. Daryl is on his back and being choked and forced ever so closer to a napalmed zombie’s hungry teeth. Daryl desperately reaches for the zombie’s face and sticks his fingers into the zombie’s eye sockets, which he uses to gain the leverage to yank the zombie skull off its body and beat the police officer senseless with it.
I had always thought the show was about the zombies and I was always wrong. After having watched most of the episodes the show to me is about what lengths people will go to survive and the struggle is not people versus zombies but the survivors struggle to retain both their humanity and their lives. The zombies are great to have because they are so versatile but it is the story and cast that has me counting the Sundays until The Walking Dead returns in February.
Only 61 days till February 8th....