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Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Well, here we go again--another season of the AMC series "The Walking Dead", which means another nonstop binge-watching session that drags on into the wee hours of the morning.  But I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is quite simply, in my opinion, one of my most watchable TV shows ever.  My annual viewing marathon is almost on the same anticipation level as a yearly holiday such as Labor Day, or at least Arbor Day.  And THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON, a 5-disc Blu-ray set from Anchor Bay, is a worthy continuation of that show's tradition of insane watchability.

Most people are familiar with the premise by now--a ragtag group of survivors make their way through the zombie apocalypse with ex-Georgia sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as their dauntless leader, trying to hold on to their humanity even as circumstances make them more hard-edged and ruthless with each struggle to stay alive.

The longer they do survive, however, the more callous they become, and season five finds Rick and his people dealing with their enemies with a blood-and-thunder attitude that would've shocked them all just a year or two ago.  If they'd run into their present selves back then, they'd have fled the other way. 

But by now they've pretty much had enough of all the other living humans who've screwed them over, such as their nemesis from the last couple of seasons, The Governor (David Morrissey).  This new set begins with the resolution to last season's tantalizing cliffhanger in which our heroes were taken prisoner by the inhabitants of a community called Terminus which is supposed to be a haven for survivors but turns out to be anything but.

Led by a smirking young sociopath named Gareth (Andrew J. West), the Terminus gang turn out to be a bunch of cannibals who gleefully harvest their human captives like cattle. The first episode casts us right into the middle of a harrowing slaughter sequence which leads to a thrilling free-for-all of humans vs. zombies vs. cannibals involving several group chow-downs of screaming victims by ravenous walkers and loads of special makeup effects, rivalling season four's spectacular opening.

Further segments will take us on a journey with our protagonists through many gripping battles for survival and encounters with other groups of people whose motives are ever under suspicion.  While the walking, flesh-devouring dead remain a constant threat, it's the living who consistently pose the greatest danger.

By this point in the series, many other factions exist with their own laws and principals, centered around a leader who is either good, bad, or insane (or a combination of the three).  Just like Ben and Harry in George Romero's original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (from whence all other current zombie apocalypse sagas seem to have been spawned), this can lead to serious conflicts in which it's hard to tell who's right and who's wrong. 

This is especially true when Rick's group discover an idyllic walled-in community known as Alexandria, near what's left of Washington, D.C.  They're invited to become citizens of the seemingly genteel and peaceful collective, yet even here there's danger of many different kinds lurking at every turn. And by now, Rick's people have themselves become too feral to coexist with civilized society!  Tovuh Feldshuh guest stars as Alexandria's leader, Deanna, whose initially warm welcome toward them will soon turn to fear and mistrust.

The show features more fascinating continuing characters than ever and most get their time in the spotlight, including the ever-popular crossbow-wielding wild man Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), samurai swordswoman Michonne (Danai Gurira), lovebirds Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Rick's son Carl (Chandler Riggs), whose adolescence has been unconventional to say the least. 

Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and his sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) each get some highly-dramatic storylines that bring home the emotional devastation that comes from living so close to death on such intimate terms every day.  Maggie's missing-in-action sister Beth (Emily Kinney) turns up again in a hospital setting known as "Slabtown" in the middle of ruined Atlanta, dealing with a mentally-unbalanced policewoman (Christine Woods) and her squad of fascist cops. 

And there's the continuing saga of Eugene (Josh McDermitt), a scientist who ostensibly holds the solution to the zombie problem if only he can get to Washington, D.C. with the help of his hulking ex-military bodyguard with the anger-management problem, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz).

Best of all, we get to see the continuing saga of Carol (Melissa McBride), the once-timid domestic abuse victim turned hardened survivalist who is the most calmly and ruthlessly pragmatic of them all.  After being exiled from the group last season, Carol is the one who rescues her former friends from the cannibals at Terminus while drenched in blood and guts in order to throw surrounding zombies off her scent.  Later, she gets back together with her friend and fellow one-time outcast Daryl in a storyline that will tie in with Beth's adventures in Slabtown. 

While most of the drama and action involve the living, there's always the ever-present threat of the walkers, who seem to pop out of nowhere every time someone turns around (sneaky little buggers).  These shambling corpses are all getting more decomposed than ever--sometimes we see something that's so horrible we think "Oh, that's not right." 

Greg Nicotero's SPFX team keep coming up with endlessly imaginative ways of grossing us out, such as zombies that are little more than blobs of napalmed flesh stuck to the pavement--still horribly "alive", of course--and waterlogged zombies who've been slogging around in a flooded basement for months. 

The combination of practical effects with impeccably-rendered CGI is excellent, often downright spectacular.  Thanks to the creativity and imagination of everyone involved, the show still has the power to flabbergast us after all these years.  Just when we should be starting to get numbed by all the gory violence and horror, something will happen to make us say "whoa."

The 5-disc, 16-episode Blu-ray set from Anchor Bay (which includes instructions for a complete digital download of its contents) is in 1.78:1 widescreen with English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and French Dolby 2.0 surround sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Several of the episodes have cast and crew audio commentaries.  (A couple of episodes have post-credits "sting" scenes, so be sure not to miss them.) 

Disc five contains a wealth of extras including:
•Deleted Scenes
•Inside “The Walking Dead” (covers each individual episode)
•The Making of “The Walking Dead” (covers each individual episode)
•The Making of Alexandria
•Beth’s Journey
•Bob’s Journey
•Noah’s Journey
•Tyreese’s Journey
•A Day in the Life of Michael Cudlitz
•A Day in the Life of Josh McDermitt
•Rotters in the Flesh

These days "The Walking Dead" has so many good characters that we get several alternating plotlines to keep things interesting.  Rick and his followers are changing, growing, evolving (in some cases devolving) all over the place this season, and it makes THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON an endlessly entertaining treat for fans of both this show and gory zombie apocalypse epics in general to gorge themselves on. 

Buy it at

Our Season One review
Our Season Two review
Our Season Three review
Our Season Four review


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