While it may be a little short on chocolates and roses, this mid-season Valentine’s Day return for AMC’s zombie drama The Walking Dead (Fox) offers an adrenaline-fuelled hour that’s bound to remind returning viewers why they fell in love with the series in the first place.
The adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s hugely popular graphic novel series explodes back on to the small screen with arguably one of its strongest episodes yet, an hour of television that maintains a level of energy usually reserved for series finales. Similar to the most rewarding stories in the show’s history (season three’s ‘Clear’ comes to mind, as does season four’s ‘Too Far Gone’) this instalment delivers such an emotional punch that its events will likely have fans talking for some time to come.
As its title suggests, ‘No Way Out’ is perhaps one of the series’ most claustrophobic chapters, with perhaps the best use of the Alexandria set witnessed to date. The town has been transformed into a suburban nightmare where danger lurks around corner, resulting in a lingering tension that doesn’t let up until the final frame.
Director Greg Nicotero employs his trademark style on numerous occasions throughout, introducing a few stylistic elements that add a degree of freshness to the action as well as offering a nod to the original graphic novels. The result is an episode that takes us into the heads of many of the series’ central characters in a way that has rarely been done in the past, and offers a tantalising glimpse of some of the dramas that will unfold over the remainder of the season.
Nicotero’s direction works well in partnership with Bear McCreary’s haunting score, which would easily feel at home in a John Carpenter flick. McCreary’s compositions enhance the sense of impending dread; the result is so unsettling viewers would be forgiven for thinking the composer had employed an orchestra of walkers to record the music (which would ultimately make for an entertaining DVD easter egg).
Rick Grimes and his friends are left reeling after the devastating events of the last episode, ‘Start to Finish’. This story makes effective use of the characters on offer, with each player slotting neatly into their own role within the wider events. For many of those present, ‘No Way Out’ is a turning point of sorts – it’s an instalment that benefits from repeated viewings so that fans can discover the nuances of the actors’ performances as they depict a community of survivors caught on the knife-edge of chaos.
Despite this, there is still a degree of optimism on show as the central characters try to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. Ultimately it’s this balance between the lighter and darker aspects of the tale that makes ‘No Way Out’ such a rewarding showcase for the show’s strengths. So far the series’ accomplishments have been largely overlooked at awards season (in comparison to something equally as fantastical such as Game of Thrones). Whether the series will continue with this momentum for the next seven weeks remains to be seen, but if things continue in this manner then The Walking Dead could well secure the mainstream recognition it deserves.
The Walking Dead on Mondays at 9pm on FOX
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