Tonight’s The Walking Dead season five premiere, continued the saga in the best way possible. In one clean swoop, the Terminus arc was pretty much tied up, leaving us back on the road. What’s more, we were treated to an episode that revisited key themes that have existed throughout each and every season.
Once again, this was an episode that was the best of both worlds. There was a spectacular array of blood, guts and gore – yet another reminder of just how good an action show TWD can be – but ‘No Sanctuary’ also offered the other element the show excels at – the human story behind the violence. That has always been what the show is about – watching how all kinds of people, innocent and guilty, cope against unstoppable adversity, and what sort of changes it forces upon them – the violence simply being the vessel for this.
Key to this was Tyreese. The events of season four – first losing Karen, then the deaths of Lizzie and Mika, then the revelation of Carol’s part in Karen’s death – had a significant effect on him; by now, he can’t bear to kill. Of course, while it’s slightly predictable that this episode should see him forced to ‘toughen up’, the fact that he only did so to save Judith, once provoked, shows that doubt still lingers for him, something that may well persist as the season progresses.
That idea of the necessity of violence was also key with the main group, as they escaped Terminus, and in the process discovered it’s true nature. Even though I can deal with the level of violence on this show and others, the visual revelation of the Terminus residents’ cannibalism was a pretty uncomfortable sight. Yet perhaps it was simply the extreme of the situation, accentuated by the resident encountered by Carol, who says – “You’re either the butcher or the cattle”. Her remark that Carol “could’ve been one of them” brought back the fact that Carol wasn’t as different as we’d like to believe; she killed Karen and David to protect the group from the plague last season.
Once clear, the group was again at odds over what was necessary. Rick displayed just how far he’s come, the advocate for going back and finishing the job, and killing everyone, dead or alive, inside Terminus. Given his lack of hindsight or knowledge of what they left behind, maybe this shows he’s gone too far, now seeing conflict and death as the only way.
The penultimate shot was quite interesting too – showing the group in its entirety, a reminder of the size of the main cast now that Tara, Abraham, Rosita and Eugene are there permanently – and with Beth still out there somewhere too (to the ire of many a viewer I’m sure). It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the group shrinking quite a bit by the end of the season, especially on a show with such a propensity to kill off key characters.
A great start then – roll on the rest of season five.