December 1, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Midseason Finale Review: “The Walking Dead”


In the fall of its fifth season, THE WALKING DEAD has remained a ratings phenomenon like nothing else on television, and for much of this run of episodes, the always-uneven show deserved some of its wild success.  Showrunner Scott M. Gimple and overall Walking Dead honcho Robert Kirkman made unexpected pacing choices that kept viewers guessing for once where the series might be heading, especially early on when the Terminus storyline, which seemed likely to engulf most if not all of a season, was neatly wrapped up at lightning speed.  Once that was accomplished, the action retraced the route of splitting our core group up so that they could ultimately be reunited, with some aspects more compelling than others.  The show finally paid off the least-surprising plot twist in its history when Eugene (Josh McDermitt) revealed that he was not in fact a genius scientist with the potential ability to stop the zombie plague, a fact that came as a shock to his chief acolyte Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and hardly anyone else.  It also introduced the so-far annoying Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who’s taken on the mantle of The Character Who Screws Everything Up–tonight, he was singlehandedly almost responsible for the deaths of Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and baby Judith when he decided to take a stroll through zombie territory.  On the other hand, cannibal Gareth (Andrew J. West) was chillingly engaging while he lasted, and there were strong episodes for Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride), as well as some tense plotting along the way.

The nexus of the half-season, and of tonight’s midseason finale written by Co-Executive Producer Angela Kang and directed by Ernest Dickerson, was Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, where Beth (Emily Kinney) and then Carol were taken in/held captive by a group led by dictatorial policewoman Dawn (Christine Woods, many miles away from her comic role on Hello Ladies), until Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group tried to engineer their release tonight in exchange for two of Dawn’s cops.  The show put some effort into developing Dawn into a more complex character than previous villains like The Governor and Gareth, giving her a moral ambiguity that made her relationship with Beth, both her protege and her hostage, worth watching.

Dawn would have been a good character to mix with the larger group and especially Rick (they had a surprising amount in common as leaders), but Kirkman, Gimple and company chose a more violent climax to the episode (as usual, it was the humans rather than the zombies that caused the bulk of the heartbreak), one that eliminated Beth as well when the girl couldn’t leave well enough alone and let Dawn have her momentary gloat about also getting Noah (Tyler James Williams), another hospital escapee, back in return for Carol and Beth.  Beth stabbed Dawn with the shears she’d conspicuously hidden in her cast a few minutes earlier, and Dawn blew her head off before having her own blown off by Daryl, leading to a tragic final scene as Daryl carried Beth’s limp body outside where her sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan) could see her.  (Well, “final” except for another post-credits glimpse of Lennie James’s Morgan, still following Rick’s trail for reasons that are unclear.)

The events of Season 5A leave The Walking Dead somewhat adrift for the back half of its season.  Now that the truths about Terminus and Eugene are known, the group has no particular destination, and Beth’s exit leaves them minus an ingenue.  Of course, at its historic ratings level, it doesn’t matter much where Walking Dead roams, as millions are willing to follow along wherever it’s headed.  One’s hopes for the rest of the season would be a pace that continues the snappy movement of these past 8 episodes, and either a swift devouring of the group’s dramatic dead weight (Gabriel, Eugene) or else some developments to make them more viable as characters.  It’s good news, though, that for the moment, at least, the biggest hit on TV is on a creative upswing.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."