“The Walking Dead” returned last night with ‘No Sanctuary,’ and it was not at all what I expected. I’m mildly shocked that the threat of Terminus started and ended in one episode. After all the hype from last season, all the time spent getting there, I’d have thought—in typical “Walking Dead” fashion—that it would have dragged on for at least three or four episodes. And although I love the idea of ‘the intelligent and thoughtful cannibal,’ I’m happy that Terminus is not going to be this season’s major event.
Bookended with flashbacks, ‘No Sanctuary’ shows us a bit of what used to be the humanity of the now sociopathic Terminants. These flashbacks are quick and dark, so don’t blink or you’ll have absolutely no clue what happened. Other than the 30 seconds spent on flashbacks, we remain completely in the present, following three storylines: Tyreese in a run-down shack with a Terminus member and baby Judith, Carol as she breaks necks and takes names to save the captive survivors, and the rest of the crew being held in Terminus, waiting to die. While Rick, Glenn, Bob, and Daryl are taken from the box car (where they were last seen at the end of season four) to a trough to be killed, strung up, and eventually eaten, the rest of the survivors (Maggie, Michonne, Carl, etc.) are forced to wait it out in the box car, fashioning weapons from…I seriously have no idea what.
Taking a step back. That opener was brutal. In more ways that one. Cannibalism is a tough pill to swallow, but watching weeping men hang their heads over a trough as their throats are slit to drain their blood is the type of behind-the-scenes action I’d rather not witness. That’s “brutal” meaning number one. “Brutal” meaning number two is that it was problematic in the practicality sense. There’s a great idiom for it and an accompanying cheeky 90s TV theme song: saved by the bell. Why are they always saved by the damn bell? This is a disease so many shows suffer from. I’d be thrilled if writers could come up with something other than the cliché of the oh-so-perfectly timed distractions to save a life. Glenn is about to be slain and…oh! The bossman walks in the room with an unimportant, completely non-pressing question for the executioner. Glenn is about to be slaughtered a second time and…oh! Another well-timed distraction! It’s not that I want Glenn to die (in fact I’ve said on many occasions that I’ll stop watching the show the day that he DOES die), it’s that I want the writers to work a little harder to make something, anything, believable in this show. And being saved by the bell over and over again, episode after episode, is just so farfetched.
On the flip side, I will say that for the first time in several seasons, I’m quite impressed with the urgency the writers displayed. They moved us from point A to point B with incredible dexterity and for once didn’t waste our time with long-drawn-out…well…everything. It gives me a lot of hope for the rest of this season. The faster things move, the more excited I become. Last season felt like the movement of frozen molasses.
Lastly, we are finally seeing the emotive results of some major events that transpired last season. Rick has gone full metal jacket. I guess it started with him tearing Joe’s throat out with his bare teeth, but it’s now become completely evident that he no longer has any reservations about anything. It’s a refreshing change. Let someone else be the moral compass for a moment. Second, Carol’s emotional state is very much dictated by the events that happened last season: being cast out and abandoned by Rick, only to end up taking care of his baby girl and eventually having to kill Lizzie, a girl who’d become somewhat of a daughter to her. And because of all this and how it’s transformed Carol, I can honestly say that I’ve never loved her more. She feels like the most realistic character to me. After all she’s been through, she’s arrived in season five showing both a hardness and practicality that will keep her and the others alive, as well as vulnerability about being accepted into the group again. After seasons of being all over the place in her actions and emotions, she seems to have grounded herself in the perfect Zombie Apocalypse survival mode.
‘No Sanctuary’ offered a violent, fast-paced, no-holds-barred introduction to season five and for someone who’s felt continually let down by the previous seasons, I feel confident in saying: Bring it, Season Five. I’m enthusiastic about the future of this show.
FYI: My new favorite thing ever is the ‘zombie torch.’
What did you think of “The Walking Dead” season five premiere? Would you have liked to see more of Terminus? Who is you current favorite survivor badass?