The Walking Dead, America's most popular fantasy about infectious disease, violence, and despair, returns Sunday night for season 5, what will certainly be its most successful yet. And while we never know who is alive or where they are going or who is even running this show anymore—we know this: There may be cannibals.
Do you know what I am looking forward to? Death. Specifically that way that annoying characters are always just showing up in time to be axed in the head and/or beloved, important characters are being killed after a few seasons in just such a way as to make us, gore-drenched, cry. That is what immortality looks like: You have to be killed over and over and over again.
But! Before all of that, let us parse the hiatus' hints, previews, trailers, Q&As and more to learn better how we have arrived at this point and what is to come.
Who was in danger at the end of season 4: Almost everybody, but mostly not the people who seem the most endangered after all. The season ended with most of our gang(s) of survivors finally gathered at "Terminus," a hoped-for sanctuary that quickly reveals itself a trap. Rick, our erstwhile leader who spent season 4 learning to lead again and in so leading became escalatingly more savage, promises, "They're going to feel pretty stupid when they find out...they're fucking with the wrong people."
So what happened to Rick's beard? That's right: actor Andrew Lincoln has been stepping out in public cleanshaven, sending fans into a tizzy. "It's either an extended flashback, I found a razor or I'm dead," Lincoln told TIME. "I always knew that this season we were gonna need a bigger beard, but I had no idea the sort of shockwaves that being clean shaven would make."
A cure still doesn't exist, because that is literally the opposite of everything The Walking Dead is ever attempting to do. Except: The fabulously mulleted Eugene swears he can save everyone, everywhere, from everything.
Our favorites: Daryl is "feral"; Glenn is "a leader"; Maggie is "a little in denial" about her grief; and Michonne is, at least for the moment, missing her katana—but don't worry, the group's wilting wallflower will finally choose to be strong.
Terminus is a not-so-subtle allusion to Atlanta, which way back before it was burned to the ground for being racist was called "Terminus." But one is not the other (though the Terminus scenes are actually filmed in the city, far away from the series' base camp in Senoia, Ga.). The city's motto appears to be, "Never again. Never Trust. We First, Always"
Gareth is the Terminus head, and our apparent season 5 Big Bad (no, not Negan) at the start even though this is far from being another Rick vs. Governor situation; and even though actor Andrew J. West prefers another adjective. "I think he's definitely a practical guy," West told EW.
Gareth isn't really the Governor. Really he's more like Rick or even Glenn in a lot of ways. He's a guy who's searching and struggling for a new way to exist, because he has acknowledged and accepted that the old way just doesn't work anymore. Society is different now.
By embracing the Bottle Episode as its new Standard Operating Procedure, Dead has very quietly transformed itself. The show has turned its weird jeans-and-work-shirts cheapness and its Magic Forest discontinuity into virtues. If the Darabont era was a western and the Mazzara era was a war movie, the Gimple era is an Off Broadway play. A couple characters take the stage, lay into each other, and then move on: Call it Waiting for Terminus.
Expect more "urban settings." All signs explicit and implicit point toward a wider scope than the cloistered final moments of the season 4 finale. EP Gale Anne Hurd told The Wall Street Journal that season 5 harks back to season 1, in this way: "There could be car chases, larger set pieces that involve the urban vertical landscape. 'On the road again' is one of the catch lines of the season."
Do not expect Daryl to have a homosexual awakening. Even as EP and Walking Dead fountainhead Robert Kirkman teased comic book readers a few months ago with that standard line, Lets-wait-until-he-puts-down-the-crossbow-before-he-can-pick-up-a-penis, Hurd said, "It doesn't really matter. That was much more of the challenge rather than is he or isn't he. Why is it important to ask that question in a post-modern world?"
Questions will be answered. And quickly. "By minute two or three of our season premiere, I think the vast majority of our questions have been answered and five or six more have been presented," Kirkman told EW.
People wanting to know who the people of Terminus are, what they eat, whether or not our group gets out of the train car, where certain characters are that weren't in the train car—you're going to have a pretty tight five minutes of adventure to watch there that is going to reveal quite a bit.
According to the Comic-Con trailer, Rick & Co. will eventually be bruised, battered, and coerced into heading for D.C. with Gareth's gang and Eugene.
Straight people will keep falling in love. Rosita and Abraham, those flirts, could be joining Maggie and Glenn as another couple in zombie-ridden America; and Kirkman says there are more, but not necessarily all, couplings to come.
Teen Wolf is important to mention here because Seth Gilliam, there playing an inscrutable druidic mentor, will here be playing fresh face Father Gabriel Stokes, a man grappling with the role of faith in a faithless world.
Time is still being treated like an egg in that it is being "scrambled." There is "a lot of playing with time," in the first half of season 5, per Gimple, a trick that may become his hallmark on the series. Season 4, which nonetheless featured one man ripping out another man's jugular with his teeth, took particular satisfaction in the structural misdirection of pleasures; what we find we really want from this world once we get to see it the whole way 'round. So, yeah...about those cannibalistic Terminus people: "Wouldn't it be crazy if they didn't turn out to be cannibals, since everything seems to be going that way?"