The threats come from inside and out as AMC’s The Walking Dead, cable’s top-rated series, closes its fifth season Sunday (9 p.m. ET/PT).
The survivors’ stay in the Alexandria community is imperiled, and so is their existence as a group, after leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) went on a bloody, gun-waving rant at the end of last week’s episode.
“We’ve seen Rick go through a pretty dramatic transformation this season,” says executive producer Greg Nicotero. “Everybody has a lot to lose by Rick’s behavior. So everybody either has to get behind what Rick’s doing or stop him.”
And there’s another threat, says Nicotero, who directed Sunday’s 90-minute finale: “There are bad people out there, and they’re pretty close.”
That would be whoever is behind the dismembered bodies and W-tattooed zombies spotted more often lately.
“They seem to be very perverted, from what we’ve seen,” says Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Sasha Williams. “It seems like people they’ve never come across before.”
Producers needed the extra half-hour to wrap up storylines and propel Dead toward Season 6, says Nicotero, who adds there will be “some great moments” from the graphic novel that will be seen in Sunday’s episode.
“Being out on the road for 12 episodes has taken a toll on them,” Nicotero says. “Glenn (Steven Yeun) is a lot harder than he used to be. Michonne (Danai Gurira) realizes if they lose this place, it could signify death to all of them. Carol (Melissa McBride) doesn’t want anyone to know she’s an effective protector.”
The survivors are adjusting differently to life inside seemingly safe walls, Martin-Green says. “I think things are pulling the group apart accidentally. Ideally, they’d like to stay together as a family, but the different ways they are reacting to this environment are driving wedges between them.”
The group’s potential split goes beyond whether they should accept Deanna’s (Tovah Feldshuh) leadership of the walled community. “Some of them don’t even feel like they belong there. Sasha has to go out in the woods to shoot walkers because that’s the only place where she feels alive,” Nicotero says.
Sasha is in a “shutdown phase, numbed to the loss” of her brother, Tyreese, and boyfriend, Bob, Martin-Green says. “She has no link to the past anymore, because her brother is gone, and no link to the future, because that’s where Bob is. In the present moment, the only thing that makes her feel like she can take the next breath is killing walkers, (who) have taken everything from her.”
Read more: Threats abound in ‘Walking Dead’ finale