Everyone’s favourite zombie show returns for a fifth season, with promises that it will be the most intense and bone chilling ever. How did the Termites deal when they realized who they were ‘screwing with’?
Let’s bitch it out.
I try my best not to watch trailers or read any ‘insider sneak peeks/scoops’ in advance of a show I know I’m going watch because I delight in the surprise of going in blind. But I couldn’t help but get some trickle down about The Walking Dead‘s S5 premiere, which promised to be a doozy of a pickle. Since the show hasn’t had consecutive show-runner over two seasons since way back in S2, I was apprehensive about what the premiere would deliver. But I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any fan of the show that didn’t enjoy ‘No Sanctuary’. Finally it feels like The Walking Dead has found its legs right off the bat, continuing on the strong momentum that resulted in the latter half of S4. There’s some definite setup for what’s to come, but it doesn’t feel as though we’ve got to stick around to ‘let things settle in’ – all the elements that make The Walking Dead strong are apparent in this episode, and it doesn’t feel crammed in, rushed or awkward, but rather quite complementary.
We waste absolutely no time as the episode opens with one of the most disturbing scenes you’ve ever seen on television. I’m quite surprised that this got a green light, and to echo what Robert Kirkman said in an interview, hats off to AMC for having the courage to push it through. From the moment we see some of our heroes lined up to be bled out along with some rando no-names, we know what’s to follow isn’t going to be pleasant. At the time it feels like the knock-out/throat-slit regime is a bit over-the-top, but after getting a bit of backstory on the Termites and the constant references to cattle and butchers, it’s quite effective that we witness the process in its callous entirety.
Although I’m not necessarily one for flashbacks, the limited vignettes we get in this episode (and to mention it – throughout the series) are very powerful. I appreciated how we witnessed first-hand how the Termites were terrorized in that train car, and I was quite taken aback that I felt any empathy at all – especially after seeing how the butchering took place (Side Note: Although I felt empathy, I still think they were idiots in letting anyone and everyone simply saunter in without reprieve). Call it smart writing and excellent performances – but we’re meant to feel like the Termites were somewhat justified in kidnapping our beloved protagonists in the present after what they had to go through in the past. It’s no coincidence that we get the two groups trapped in train cars with only an ominous ‘Then” and “Now” to differentiate the time period. Sure Gareth (Andrew J. West) & Co. are definitely set up to be this season’s antagonists (no one is buying a measly shot in the shoulder as the end of Gareth) but they’re not being setup as definitely bad (ala The Governor)- and I appreciate that. I’m intrigued and thus, not rolling my eyes when the group stupidly decides NOT to go back and kill any leftover Termites against Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) astute suggestion.
So we’ve got plenty of gore and zombie action, which should appease those viewers who are STILL griping about how slow S2 was – but we’ve also got our fair share of conversations and moral dilemmas. Heck, we even got some meaty character development in this episode – it’s a home run! And much of this comes via Tyreese’s (Chad L. Coleman) interlude with anonymous Termite (Chris Coy) who very clearly lays out all the possible outcomes of what happens once they leave that little cabin. Again, I have to give props to the writers who find a way to present the essential narrative plot points incredibly succinctly, while still inviting us to pause with thought as well as gain additional insight to Tyreese’s inner struggles. It doesn’t feel laboured or unnecessary but reminding us of what it could potentially look like should something as outlandish as a zombie apocalypse come to pass. The lives that we led in the past would indeed feel so fleeting, and how friends would very quickly be replaced by ‘assholes’ that allow us to survive. The cabin scenes are done so adeptly that it finally gives me hope that something smart and complex will actually grace the screen this season.
As if that weren’t enough, we also get some effective emotional moments as the group finally reunites after what seems like an eternity. Carol (Melissa McBride) earns her place back in the group (and then some!) as she triggers the badass explosion that ended Terminus in a single episode. It couldn’t help but feel touched seeing Daryl (Norman Reedus) run up to her (Beth who?), followed by Rick’s appreciative embrace. There are very few ‘wins’ or happy moments in The Walking Dead, but this one feels earned and not needlessly tacked on (i.e. the Farmer Rick/Peas-in-a-pod debacle we got last season). The group does feel a bit big though, and I couldn’t help but wonder who’s going to eat it soon. But let’s enjoy the reunion for now shall we? I also couldn’t help but marvel over the character growth of Carol – remember when she was just a whiny, powerless woman? She may not make the best choices, but I feel like I ‘get’ Carol now, and I’m excited to see what her continued growth brings us over the season.
- Carl (Chandler Riggs) didn’t say much this episode – and I think we’re all happier for that.
- The ending cut scene literally had me writhing with delight as we get the return of Morgan (Lennie James). All I can say is, thank the lord that Low Winter Sun bombed as much as it did. Can we promote Morgan to series regular post-haste?
- I don’t think I quite picked it up, but I’m starting to think Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is far more valuable than I initially thought. I’m not certain if he said it out right, but he claims to have worked for an agency that developed a pathogenic weapon to fight the zombie disease. I think it could have been more clearly articulated, but I read this as “Eugene literally has the cure, in that he houses the antigen that will eventually kill off the zombie virus in his body.” Which would explain why he can’t simply tell everyone what the cure is and has to be selective as to who he tells (and why Michael Cudlitz’s Abraham and Christian Serratos’ Rosita are so protective of what appears to be a crazy hick). What did other viewers think/catch?
- As much as I liked this episode, I couldn’t help but giggle at Rosita’s Wolverine-like weapon option.
What did you think viewers? Do you think Morgan will be a permanent fixture on the team? Will he be friend or foe? Is this indeed the last we’ve seen of Gareth? Do you think the Termites were somewhat justified in their actions considering what happened to them? Do you think our survival group will get thinned-out soon, or will we get to spend sometime with everyone together before the killings start? Does anyone care what happened to Beth? Sound off in the comments below.
The Walking Dead airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC.