TV Review: There’s ‘No Sanctuary” From The Thrills On The Latest Walking Dead

After a long, hard, (did I mention long?), road to Terminus, The Walking Dead opens its fifth season with a full on blast of excitement with “No Sanctuary.”

Showrunner Scott M. Gimple delivered a script that was worth the wait for fans of the show. When we last saw these characters, their larger group was splintered, each following the enticing makeshift advertisements for Terminus, which promised to be a respite. Most of the major players made it there, only to find that nothing in this new world is as it should be. Elsewhere, the small band of Tyrese, Carol, and Rick’s infant daughter, Judith, are suffering the fallout from some devastating decisions and just ready to stop running. So, that’s exactly where we pick up, with Rick and crew locked in a train car fashioning weapons, and Carol and Co. still walking. Throughout the hour, the suspense and pacing are relentless. There’s the usual amount of gore we know to expect, but “No Sanctuary” injects an urgency that we haven’t felt in a while. I like this version of The Walking Dead much better.

There are so many great moments in this premiere that it’s hard to pick just one. In nearly every scene, “No Sanctuary” is able to translate who each one of these individuals are. In the interests of not spoiling too much here, I think the smile that plays across Michonne’s profile when she peeks out of the boxcar to see walkers invading Terminus is a wonderful, silent touchstone for the character. Rick finally returns to his more bad ass side, only it feels doubled now, which probably has a lot to do with the life or death situation in which he finds himself. And although it was all off screen, Tyrese Hulk-ing out on like four walkers was killer. I loved the disgusting sound effects coming through the walls while that Terminus creep tried to reach his buddies on the radio.

The real star of “No Sanctuary” is Carol. There weren’t too many Carol boosters out there by the end of last season, but she’s such a great character, even a necessary one as we see here, that she needed a redemptive arc. That she manages to accomplish that within the span of a television hour is remarkable. Sure, Rick may have more holier than thou feelings once he find out about the little girl, but let’s face it, he was about to be a Grimes-burger, so can he really complain? Besides, he wants to go all Wild Bunch on Terminus before Carol leads him back from that violent brink. And that reunion with Daryl?!? Come on! Carol deserves a break!

The Walking Dead seems to be taking further strides into an even greyer moral landscape, compared to the baby steps of the fourth season. For starters, faced with the prospect of a bloody end fighting their way out of Terminus, it’s perfectly understandable that these guys demand answers from Dr. Billy Ray Cyrus. GI Joe and GI Jane don’t look too pleased, but Dr. Cyrus relents, but am I the only one that had some trouble buying that story? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds very cool, but Dr. Cyrus just looked a little too worried about talking. Are we seeing the first cracks in the group? Rick comes to a better understanding of just how Carol made the hard choices that caused him to send her packing, which we clearly see when he’s ready to head back into the fray with the mantra “They don’t get to live.” Fighting their way out, they all took down Terminus folks, but Rick is ready to launch a Governor styled offensive on the station. This new world is continuing to change these people. And if I know this show, I think by season’s end Rick’s going to get his chance to show that Terminus hipster boss that prized machete. Gimple drives this point home by giving us glimpses at the genesis of how Terminus became the way currently is. While there’s no doubt the show wants us to cheer for our characters pushing and killing their escape, we get another perspective via flashbacks labeled “THEN.” In them, we watch how our current baddies came to exist, victims of rape and assault that force them to make choices and sacrifices, just like Rick and the gang have done since the show’s beginning. It’s cyclical, this course of survival and violence, something our group is trying to push against, but typically ends up having to get their hands dirty anyway. Glenn reminds Rick of their humanity, wanting to stop and free the other Terminus captives, even while all Hell breaks loose.

Did I spoil too much here? I’m not even sure, because I enjoyed this episode so much, it’s hard to stop writing. I will exercise restraint and make sure everyone sticks/stuck around for the short tag prior to the credits. There’s a big reveal along with a hint that there are bigger stories afoot for this world. Welcome back, Walking Dead. You’ve never looked better!

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