(The following review contains spoilers from the specified episode, and possibly previous episodes of The Walking Dead)
Fans of the hordes of flesh eaters and the characters who attempt to survive the apocalypse in The Walking Dead can rejoice now that the show has returned to our screens with its fifth season. A show that grows and grows in popularity due to its top notch storytelling, great tension, character development and fine practical effects, among other things, returns after a season in which many things happened and we were left with a big cliff-hanger at the end.
Yeah, season four ended with the biggest group of survivors in the show, including Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne and others, having made their way to Terminus, a place claiming to be a sanctuary for survivors. After arriving they soon realise that there is more than meets the eye to the place, and they are, after being surrounded by a gang of armed folks, locked in a railroad car by the people in charge. There is also a lot of meat around, and no cattle. Something smells fishy at Terminus. Meanwhile, Carol and Tyreese, along with Rick’s baby Judith are out there in the wilderness, possibly the only hope that Rick and company have of surviving this bizarre place that they now find themselves imprisoned in.
This episode (episode 1 of season 5) entitled “No Sanctuary”, is directed by special effects guru and lead effects guy on the show, Greg Nicotero, and the practical gore is in abundance here throughout the episode, which is always a pleasure to see. We jump back in to Terminus and see that the group are still locked away in the train car. We also see that Carol, Tyreese and Judith are alive and as well as they could be, wandering the wild in an attempt to find Terminus, which is signposted in various places. The people who run Terminus pull Rick, Glenn, Bob and Daryl from the train car and take them, along with some unknown prisoners we haven’t seen before, into a warehouse and have them kneel beside a giant bathtub. Two members of Terminus go along the line, hitting the prisoners in the back of their heads and slicing their throats, draining the blood from them into the tub. Just as they reach Glenn and the other characters we know and love, they are (luckily) interrupted. Carol and Tyreese stumble on a guy planting rockets near a cabin, he is part of the Terminus group, and so they bind his hands and take him inside the cabin. Carol heads towards Terminus after hearing that Carl and Michonne are there, leaving Tyreese and Judith with this overly-talkative and seemingly shady guy. Carol causes a massive explosion, using rockets and bullets, in Terminus, and with the distraction it causes, Rick manages to bury a chunk of splintered wood into the necks of the Terminus members who had been dispatching of the prisoners earlier. Soon, Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob, all armed, free the rest of the group and shoot and kill as many Terminus members and Walkers as they can find as they attempt to escape the place. Carol, meanwhile, covered in blood and mud as to blend in with the “z-words” is taking out Terminus members too, helping the group escape without them even knowing that she’s there. When the group finally crawls over the fence and out of Terminus, leaving it on fire and swarming with the undead, some of its members still alive, they see Carol and Daryl greets her with a tearful hug. Rick, realising that she was responsible for their escape, also hugs her. They dig up some weapons that they’d left before going into the so-called sanctuary, and make their way to the cabin where Tyreese and Judith are. While all this was happening, the Terminus member in the cabin had attempted to hurt Judith, causing Tyreese to lose it and beat him to death, protecting the baby. Carol leads the group to the cabin where Rick and Carl see that their daughter-slash-sister is still alive, and the emotional reunion is complete. The episode ends with a clip of Terminus’s past, and the rapists and murderers that took it over, changing it from being a safe haven to a butcher’s shop of violence and despair, or something.
The episode was action packed and very fulfilling. There was no messing around here, we didn’t spend four episodes in Terminus pondering what they were upto. We saw tables covered with human cadavers, and stacks of meat, revealing the cannibalism that was hinted at during the end of season four. We are given hints at why the people of Terminus were doing what they were doing, and a possible deeply-sinister history that I imagine we will learn more about in this season. The reunion of Carol, Tyreese and Judith with Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, Carl, Abraham, Sasha, Bob, Eugene, Rosita and Tara (am I missing anyone?) was also good to see, opening up plenty of possibilities for the season ahead, with no wasted time.
It’s like a fresh beginning, a new road laying ahead of possibilities that the show might head down. The zombies looked great too, so gnarled up and gory, and the effects, from the bath-tub throat-cutting scene, to the simple zombie killing and head-shots, were excellent and a great big warm hug of horror to welcome fans back to the show.
Melissa McBride, as Carol, stole this episode for me. Her straight-shooting (metaphorically and literally) attitude towards Terminus and her full force invasion of the place, in order to help her old friends, was done brilliantly, and the scenes she was involved in were the best in what was an absolutely fantastic premiere episode. The scene involving Carol and Mary, with Mary explaining Terminus in a little more detail to Carol, before Carol shoots her in the leg and leaves her, like a dinner plate of fresh steak, for the zombies, was just brilliant. I can’t wait to see what Carol does in season five and how her relationship with both Daryl, whom she has a bond with, and Rick, who left her to fend for herself back at the beginning of season four, will play out. It’s very intriguing. Adding Judith back to the mix, a hindrance as well as a soulful positive to the group, should also bring up some interesting dialogue. The acting in this episode was just great, and while some characters took to the background for much of the episode, it was still an exceptionally strong way to begin a season.
Are they still heading to Washington? Will they find Beth soon or is she dead? Will they stick together, or will more groups form, going separate directions? There are plenty of questions in the air, and that is the beauty of this show, you just never know. All I can say is that I am excited for the remainder of this season and what the characters do, and if they can survive the harsh terrain even longer.
Check back each week for a spoiler-review of Season 5 of The Walking Dead.