“Be the butcher or you’re the cattle.” — Terminus Mary
If people were asked five years ago that a show about the zombie apocalypse was going to be one of the biggest shows on TV then most people would be straight out snickering. Zombies, even just five years ago, was already being seen as overdone. Everything was zombie this and zombie that. Yet, on the basic cable network AMC, we see The Walking Dead coming into it’s fifth season stronger than ever and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
It’s worth repeating that there’s a set of critics and viewers out there who remain dumbfounded as to why The Walking Dead remains such a popular hour of television despite the inconsistencies in writing, character growth (if any) and direction. This is the show that fired it’s creator and first showrunner halfway through season 2. His replacement would also get the axe once season three ended.
The Walking Dead has been called the soap opera with zombies and to an extent it is just that. It’s a show that lives and dies on the melodrama. At times this has been to the show’s benefit, but when it doesn’t work then certain episodes and story arcs just fall flat. Yet, we’re now starting season 5 and it’s a season premiere that doesn’t take it’s time (as some have complained) and pretty much hits the ground running from it’s cold opening right up to the final scene.
“No Sanctuary” begins with a jump back in time as we see the Terminus crew as prisoners in their own compound. We hear screaming in the background and those in with Gareth bemoaning the fact that they let the very people holding them hostages in. It’s a time when the Terminus people were just like Rick and his group. They tried to do the right thing, but this time around their trust and good nature backfired. Now the Terminus people are in charge and keeping Rick and his people prisoner and four new faces since captured since the end of the last season.
Throughout the episode we see the change come to Rick (already seen at the end of season 4) that he must be brutal if he’s to keep his people safe. It’s something that he has tried to avoid since the pilot episode. Even when up against the Governor and his lackeys there was always a sense that Rick was trying to find a peaceful solution to a crisis. Rick has always been one to try and stick to his own personal sense of justice and order throughout the season, but tonight’s episode saw more and more of it chipped away as the banality of evil as shown by Gareth and his Terminus survivors.
To say that tonight’s season premiere was action-heavy would be an understatement. With Greg Nicotero doing directing duties, the episode had the sort of epic scope in terms of action, violence, gore and character moments that fans of zombie fiction crave. Nicotero is still at his best when coming up with ways to rip people to pieces and the many ways zombies look and get destroyed, but with each episode under his belt as director he has improved. And for a show where it’s writing has been criticized nonstop tonight’s episode by showrunner Scott M. Gimple kept things moving. Every piece of dialogue was meant to bring some insight into the mindset of the character (Gareth who has taken pragmatism as a way to justify his turn to the dark side) or a way to move the scene forward.
If there was fear going into season 5 it was that the writers might linger and stretch the Terminus storyline (at least keep Rick and his group as prisoners longer than needed) the way things lingered in the Greene farm, will the Governor attack or won’t he and then the half a season spent getting the different survivors heading towards Terminus in season 4. We didn’t get that with “No Sanctuary” and while it’s a sure bet that not all Terminus people died at least the show will continue to be on the move instead of remaining static for no reason.
There are still many questions left unanswered after tonight’s episode. One major question being where the hell is Beth and who is holding her prisoner (if she is a prisoner). There’s also the question of this cure that Eugene is suppose to know that can reset the zombie apocalypse back to zero. At least we learned that one can come back from the exile the way Carol did as the episode ended. Despite being glad to see that it Carol was alive and she was instrumental in freeing him and the rest of his people, will Rick just forget what she did and take her back in unconditionally. Maybe Rick finally understood what Carol told him during their supply run back in season 4. When things have be to be done they have to be done right then and there for the good of the group.
As a final great moment that should be a major tease for fans of the show….we see the return of fan favorite in the form of Morgan Jones who looks to have left his sanctuary back in Rick’s old hometown and now trying to find his way back to other survivors (or tracking Rick if that’s the case).
- We see the return of Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham) as Sam, the survivor with the basket of fruits in season 4’s “Indifference”, just before he gets a baseball bat to the back of the head and then his throat slit over a steel trough.
- We have a new intro sequence that’s a bunch of new images taken from past episodes to start the credits intro. Maybe this is a sign that the show is now turned the corner from the Darabont and Mazzarra era and the show is firmly in the guiding hands of the Gimple.
- There was a lot of MacGuyvering in tonight’s episode as the survivors still trapped in the “A” car were down to making makeshift weapons from pocketwatch chains, belt buckles and pieces of splintered wood. Rick and his people really showed that Gareth and the Terminus people were “fucking” with the wrong people.
- It took four seasons, but Carol has graduated into biggest badass in a show that already loaded with them. Carol is the biggest BAMF on this show as it stands.
- I’m sure the Carol and Daryl ship will be sailing along smoothly now that the two has reunited. Caryl shippers worldwide are breathing a sigh of relief.
- Even though people thought Mr. Flashlight and ponytail in the flashback that bookended the episode was going to be big baddie Negan from the comics it looks like he’s the crazy dude Glenn let out of the container who was subsequently eaten by zombies. So, reports of Negan and Lucille were mistaken.
- Talking Dead returns with Greg Nicotero (make-up FX wizard and show director), Scott M. Gimple (series showrunner) and Conan O’Brien as guests.