Nothing’s scarier than a human being. That much is clear within minutes of The Walking Dead‘s bloody blowout of a premiere. Walkers are simple—everyone knows what they want—but it’s the unpredictable talkers who pose the real threat, and Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) gang has a live one on its hands with Gareth (Andrew J. West), the fine young maybe-cannibal who trapped them all in a boxcar at the end of last season. What does he want? Viewers learn many things in the premiere (no spoilers!), but, menacingly, that question is left unanswered.
Instead, in its fifth season Dead delves into why these humans insist on surviving—and if they still consider themselves human at all. ”I used to watch football on Sundays,” one talker says. ”I went to church…. But I can’t picture it anymore. It’s funny how you don’t even notice the time go by.” They’re starting to, though, and the mere act of not dying is no longer enough. We know from previews that Rick’s party will find themselves in a house of God. And scientist Eugene (Josh McDermitt) reveals that he worked for the Human Genome Project. Spiritually or physiologically, they’re focused on figuring out what they are and what they need.
But to get anywhere, they must first escape Terminus, and that’s where the action comes in, with fight scenes that show off the series’ impressive arsenal of effects. All that commotion sets the season on a compelling path, hitting the road with a purpose. This is when Dead is at its best: journeying through postapocalyptic, fun-house-mirror America. And once they can start going, they can start figuring out why they’re going in the first place. B+