A/V Brew: The Walking Dead – From Comic to Show (Season 5)
As we wrap up the final episodes of The Walking Dead, we continue to look back at how the comic was adapted to the screen.
Last time, we discussed Season Four, when the showrunners spent half a season finishing up the Governor’s story and ended with the group meeting Terminus. Although closer to the comics, choosing to end comic story arcs in the mid-season and overhyping for expanded villains created a lot of trouble.
In this fifth article (of eleven), we discuss Season Five, which continued the trend of padding comic plots with unnecessary filler and ending on strange mid-arc finales.
Gimple’s choices in this season would be questionable, at best, and lead to criticism over pacing, characters, and story.
Season Five’s timeline, now set months ahead of the comics, would continue its more rushed trajectory.
Season Five starts right where Season Four left off, with the group at Terminus. The group then spends less than a week near Atlanta, handling various plots and conflicts, before finally traveling 600+ miles north to Richmond over the next several weeks.
In the comics, however, the route north started with the events already covered in Season Four and added several other stops along the way. Altogether, the route to Alexandria would take almost four months without any of the filler (like Grady Memorial Hospital) found in the show.
Within less than two weeks, in both the comics and on TV, not only have our main characters assimilated, they end with many in roles of authority and the death of notable Alexandrians.
At this point, Season Five’s finale ends halfway into Year Two after the outbreak, with only a few weeks on the road between Atlanta and Alexandria. Meanwhile, the comics are less than one-third into that same year, with much of Year Two spent traveling.
Stretching across comic issues 61-77, the writers finished Vol. 11 in the first three episodes, threw in a bunch of filler with the Hospital, and then rushed through Vol. 12 (Life Among Them) and most of Vol. 13 (Too Far Gone).
Again, the showrunner and writers wasted time in Atlanta, killing the expanded cannibal group and then wasting time on the Hospital. Instead of moving forward, the first half of the season became stagnant and ended with a disappointing mid-season finale.
We then traveled north through the second half, pausing to kill a Black characters with the “revolving door” once more before finally making it to Alexandria. (Where they would ultimately use a literal revolving door to kill off a Black character, albeit for the last time.)
I will say that, despite ending on the penultimate issue of Vol. 13 (rather than the final issue), the show handles Alexandria’s pacing well. The integration, politics, and eventual takeover of Rick’s crew in the community fit the comics.
Season Five would make some interesting character choices, ranging from using “filler” characters to replace the fates of others to adding new takes on comic counterparts.
The first big issue was Terminus, an entire community of cannibals who’d been luring victims to them with signs of hope. In the comics, these cannibals are known as the Hunters, and they kidnap their victims.
The hype of Terminus was one of the biggest disappointments, as it’s destroyed within the season opener, and the remainder dies by the third episode. Also, as TV Dale had died back in Season Two, his fate in the comics fell on poor Bob Stookey.
Another massive problem was the entire Grady Memorial Hospital storyline, wholly made up for the television series. This unnecessary plot would not only waste time but kill off Beth, who’d long been a possible replacement for Sophia and become a favorite.
Instead, we’d receive Noah, another made-for-TV character that would not only be responsible for the death of Tyreese but also die episodes later from the “revolving door,” quite literally. Although Tyreese had long outlived his comic counterpart, he’d also been introduced late and had potential.
TV Michonne would continue to fill the position of Comics Andrea, except for one relationship: Sasha’s moments with Bob mirror the comics scenes involving Andrea and Dale. Meanwhile, TV Carol is now a wholly different and badass character, long since beyond her comic counterpart.
Many other characters would fit their comic counterparts, including Gabriel and most of the Alexandrians.
We’re also introduced to the Wolves, an attempt to translate the Scavengers, comic antagonists found in the streets of DC. While the Wolves were psychopaths, randomly killing out of loss of humanity, the Scavengers were simply stereotypical villains, murdering others and taking their stuff.
The most significant change would be the Morgan we’re introduced to in minor scenes throughout Season Five (including the finale), a man far different than his comic counterpart.
In the comics, Rick finds Morgan and brings him into the group while on the journey north. This version is a broken man, losing his sanity due to the death of his son (similar to his brief appearance in Season Three).
Whereas Comic Morgan suffers trauma and has little martial skill, TV Morgan is calm, convicted, and a hand-to-hand expert. The former will die unceremoniously one story arc later, while the latter will thankfully receive a long backstory and live well into another franchise.
Once more, the story in Season Five hits most major plot points:
- Dealing with the cannibals
- Meeting Gabriel and discovering Eugene’s lies
- Meeting Aaron and arriving at Alexandria
- Troubles integrating into Alexandria
- The final scene cementing Rick as a figure of authority in the community
Sadly, these simple story arcs are obstructed by the entire Hospital plot and a stopover in Richmond (that kills Tyreese). Yet, some small sequences give us a look at a brand new version of Morgan, who would finally arrive at the end of the season.
If Season Four had been solely dedicated to the Governor and Woodbury, then Season Five would likely have focused exclusively on the journey from Atlanta to DC. We could have ended with a season finale of Aaron offering help to a group near death and setting us up for Alexandria in Season Six.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one massive flaw, less about the story than Alexandria’s setting.
Fans familiar with the city surely noticed the difference between the quiet suburb surrounded by forests shown on television and the real Alexandria: a bustling, historic town sitting within the urban sprawl of the DC Metro Area. Shot in a small town in Georgia, TV Alexandria was surrounded by forests instead of miles of suburbs and city.
The producers obviously chose to keep costs down rather than shoot in a major city. Still, it was a glaring flaw considering the proximity of the Alexandria Safe-Zone to DC, its surroundings, and the other more urban strongholds.
Like its predecessor, the adaption of Season Five maintained Gimple’s new direction of comic accuracy mixed with filler. As usual, we’re given unnecessary stories (and deaths) while still managing to hit the main points of the comics.
The pacing was decent, even if much of it was wasted around Atlanta before getting on the road. The episodes begin to pick up quite nicely when we arrive in Alexandria.
Sadly, the overhyped Terminus, combined with the Hospital, put a damper on the first half of the season. Also, we continue to see the cast having to fill in roles (and fates) of those killed off way too early.
Luckily, Alexandria begins to set up a massive story arc that, while not perfect, would probably be some of the higher points of the show for a while.
When we return, we’ll look at Season Six, where we continue to deal with the drama of Alexandria and are introduced to a larger world.
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