Sunday, November 30, 2014

'The Walking Dead' into the fall finale

Sunday night marks the final episode of the first half of the fifth season of "The Walking Dead" and, if it's anything like the last four episodes, it'll be relief.

Except it won't be. "The Walking Dead" is known for its mid-season masterpieces. Sophia shuffling out of the barn. Daryl vs. Merle in a desperate brother vs. brother brawl in front of the entire town of Woodbury. The Governor's decapitation of Hershel and Pyrrhic assault on the prison.

While "The Walking Dead" is arguably 2-for-3 in those mid-season cliffhangers -- the Daryl-Merle matchup creating the least dramatic buzz -- it's becoming increasingly difficult for show to top itself AND remain faithful to its source material.

Since the survivors toppled Terminus is the fifth-season opener, everything has felt like denouement. Though the Hunters' storyline from the graphic novel was then addressed over the next two episodes, it was a stretch for even the original narrative. The Beth-hospital episode was an absolute obstacle. The rapid derailment of the Washington, D.C.,-bound group in one episode didn't help matters, nor did the Carol-Daryl snoozefest.

On a show where death is so omnipresent, it's amazing the technique still holds any appeal. As "The Walking Dead" ambles into its break, it's clear somebody's got to die for the story to effectively move forward.

So, who goes? Below is an analysis of the possibilities and their odds of occuring.

Beth (5 to 1)

Few viewers like Beth, but you can bet that the producers would pause at killing off a young, inexpensive actress coming into her own. Having the search for Sophia end in the worst-possible fate with an emotionally-crippling reveal was one thing, but the character had been absent from six straight episodes. The "Look-at-the-flowers, Lizzie" moment of the second-half of season 4 was as close as we've come since then.

Look at the lollipop, Beth.
Beth might meet her death at the hands of the hospital-holding cross cops, but her sister Maggie's pronounced lack of concern belies an imminent fate.

Carol (3 to 1)

Carol actress Melissa McBride has been quoted as saying that this season is "heartbreaking." Other than the former Terminus tenants sharing some Bob, there haven't been a whole lot of heartbreaking moments, unless you count Beth being repeatedly slapped and the only problem there is that the viewers didn't get to do it.

In the graphic novel, Carol is long since dead, having fed herself to walkers way back at the prison after her relationship with Tyreese went sour (he cheated with Michonne), and Laurie and Rick rejected her odd-even-in-an-apocalypse open-marriage proposal.

Carol was just wanted to be wanted.
Carol effectively become the comic's version of Andrea when she saved Rick and everybody else's bacon courtesy of a Rambo-esque turn in the season-opening "No Sanctuary." She had further backstory revealed in the simplistically-symbolic "Consumed" in which she and Daryl searched for Beth.

Carol's story really has nowhere else to go. Killing her off the show accomplishes more in that it'll further force Daryl to evolve. Plus it's not like their pairing inspired any real scintillating scenes in their one-off episode. Currently no actor on "The Walking Dead" earns more than $90,000 an episode (Rick actor Andrew Lincoln). McBride would stand to earn a significant raise the longer she survives.

Eugene (10 to 1)

Gender equity dictates Eugene makes the list. After his admission that he does not have the secrets of the disease locked in his mulleted dome, Eugene's character is essentially worthless. The reveal came sooner than many thought or expected, rendering him from deus ex ambulara back to redneck. Besides, Abraham almost killed him already. There's little tension and less payoff there.

Daryl (1,000,000 to 1)

Daryl should be the last character killed off the show, even after Rick. Norman Reedus' increasing Everyman popularity has begun to get the attention of film producers, but his committment to the role and relationship with the fans of the show is on a level where he'd have to ask to be killed off at this point.

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