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Undead and Loving It: How Did AMC’s Flagship Show The Walking Dead Suddenly Get So Good in Season 5? by Andy Greenwald of Grantland

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Andy Greenwald explains why Walking Dead season 5 is the best season yet.

2. Hope floats.

Of course, all that momentum is pointless without a destination. I haven’t read The Walking Dead comics, but everything I’ve been told from those who have is that the entire point of the series is, essentially, nihilistic. It’s a story about what happens after the credits roll on the zombie movies: There is no happy ending. There is, in fact, no ending. Just a forever slog into extreme misery and unavoidable death.

This kind of darkness could work on the page, but is anathema to series television. Recognizing this, Gimple hasn’t really brightened the series — did I mention the way Gareth was hacked to death while he screamed for mercy? — but he has cracked the window just a tad. The missions thus far this season have been less about chasing vague goals or villains and more about taking care of people we already know and love: Carol taking down Terminus, Tyreese protecting Judith, Daryl driving off in search of Beth. Even better, Gimple introduced a new group of survivors who have dreams that go far beyond “not having their tendons pulled from their bodies like piano wire.” Michael Cudlitz’s Abraham (a.k.a. Mustachioed Guile from Street Fighter) and Josh McDermitt’s Eugene 3 (a.k.a. Dollar Store Kenny Powers) may be bluffing about being able to restore the world to its previous, non-nightmarish state, or they could be crazy. 

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Just suggesting the possibility of a happy ending expands the scope and raises the stakes for the series in a way it very much needed. Whatever actually awaits the white school bus in Washington, D.C., is irrelevant compared with the excitement and potential injected into the show by the journey. The Walking Dead doesn’t have to be relentlessly bleak just because every character is going to die. The same is true in our universe, and we still find time to smile occasionally. The Walking Dead is a stronger show when it tries to make us care instead of trying to prove a point.

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