Another October has come and with returns The Walking Dead.
I’ve enjoyed this immensely, despite the fact that it can be uneven as all hell sometimes. By that I mean I did sit through the meandering 2nd season of the show, which was probably the low point of the series so far (aside from the bait-and-switch ending for Season 3). Scott Gimble has done a good job so far as the showrunner and I was excited to see where the first episode, “No Sanctuary”, would take the series as it headed into its 5th season.
Starting off, we see a great bit of genre-savvy on the part of the Terminus residents and a hint at their backstory. As has been reported in a number of trade magazines, the Terminus storyline is meant to serve as the waypoint to the D.C. story arc. In the comics, this was known as the “Fear the Hunters” arc, where a group of cannibalistic survivors hunt the group after the fall of the prison. Subverting the standard expectation to just open the door to the rail car, the Terminus crew dropped in a tear gas canister, surprising Rick’s crew. The next shot sent chills up my spine. Can you think of a worse fate that watching two people chop up a human body while kneeling in front of a trough you know is used for when they slit your throat?
For the workers in this slaughterhouse, it’s just another day. As far as they’re concerned, these people are just pieces of meat to be used. One of the terrifying aspects of The Walking Dead’s particular apocalypse is the removal of humane actions. This far along in the story (I would say it’s been at least a year and a half since the fall of society), the only people left are those willing to do whatever it takes to survive, which can lead to some actions straight of a nightmare. Rick’s calm assurance to Garrett on how the latter is going to die is exactly the type of person Rick needs to be in this moment. The vacillating “Am I a good man or a bad man?” Rick is gone, hopefully for good. You got to love Bob trying to be the rational voice, to try and spark some measure of humanity out of Garrett, but that spark is long gone.
One Walker while travelling with an infant is scary enough but an entire herd bearing down on you is something else entirely. From the looks of this scene, it takes place just as the firefight between Rick’s group and Terminus begins at the end of last season. Tyreese’s inability to kill the walker is something I find odd, considering how capable he was last year. Melissa McBride’s Carol continues to be the practical one, always willing to do what is necessary to ensure survival. They’re continuing relationship is one I want to see as the season progresses.
Carol’s resolve to save her friends is exactly in keeping with the character as she’s been developed. Tyreese and the man captured from Terminus are complete polar opposites. The saddest part of their exchange is their both right in their own ways. Tyreese still holds to old world morality in much the same way Rick used to. The captured Terminus man is coldly logical about how things will play out. To survive in this world, one more than likely would have to become a monster.
The firefight at Terminus was executed magnificently. Carol’s plan worked to perfection, causing enough distress to allow Rick and the others do what was necessary to escape. Rick’s cold command to “let them turn” showed he grasps a sound strategy: for every Terminus person turned, that’s one more walker the rest have to deal with. Carol’s confrontation with Denise Crosby’s character provides a great juxtaposition. While Carol was willing to kill two people to avoid the rest of the prison becoming infected with the sickness last season, Crosby’s character has gone to the far extreme. Terminus may have once been a safe haven but her and the others there have been brutalized beyond their limits to cope.
“You’re either the butcher or the cattle” is a stark statement to start this season off with. The potential of coming back from the things one does was the driving force behind the first 8 episodes of season 4. Now we have who will kill and who will be killed as the credo for survival. The circumstance Rick’s group and the Terminus group finds themselves in is not a place for modern morality. Glenn’s insistence on trying to save the other person (failure though it was) shows the dichotomy between the two groups clearly. One will do what is necessary and still help people. The other has learned only to look out for themselves, regardless of how horrible the cost. The scene of human bodies hanging around as just so much meat fills me with dread. How long have the people of Terminus been doing this is the first question I would wonder.
The episode ends with father and daughter reunited, resolved to put the horrors of Terminus behind them. Rick’s relief and joy seeing Judith again was palpable and heartwarming after much of the episode was cast in utter bleakness. I wouldn’t write off the Terminus crew just yet, though. Some more than likely survived and will want revenge for the loss of their home. The hunt for Rick’s group should take up a good portion of the storyline for this half of the season. As the episode ending and title suggests, there may be no sanctuary from humanity’s inner darkness in the end.