Editor’s note: this review will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
You know what I like about Carol? Carol gets shit done. She started the show as a mousy, scared woman under the sway of an abusive husband. In essence, she was a character mired in cliches. While I, and probably everyone else, hated how much time we spent spinning our wheel in season two looking for her daughter, that experience did a lot for her character. Carol has gone through hardship and loss and come through it as something much stronger. The result is a woman who is willing to make hard choices with a level of commitment we rarely see in characters.
Basically, if I was in the shoes of Rick and company, just waiting to get bled out by a bunch of psychotic cannibals, Carol is exactly who I’d want on my side, organizing a rescue operation. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
At the end of the last season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, we found out some of the ugly truth behind Terminus. All the signs routing survivors there were, as many people had guessed, little more than an elaborate trap. People were brought in, robbed blind and… well, that’s where we left off. “No Sanctuary” wastes little time giving us an answer. The people running Terminus aren’t simply violent thugs, they’re also cannibals. Every survivor that comes into the rail head is stripped of possessions and thrown unceremoniously into a train car (a little heavy-handed on the symbolism, isn’t it?), where they wait until the people of Terminus get hungry.
The scene in which the two men “process” their meat is violent and disturbing in exciting new ways, even for The Walking Dead. I saw the bat. I saw the knife. I saw the aprons. I knew what was going on, but I didn’t honestly expect to get the brutal display that “No Sanctuary” gives us. The first few terrified men – characters we don’t know, naturally – are taken in turn. Each is clubbed in the head, and has their throat cut, vomiting a torrent of blood into the basin in front of them. It’s shocking and ugly, exactly the sort of thing the show needs to do to really commit to its stakes.
We don’t waste a lot of time setting up the Terminus group as bad guys. All that is established in short order through their horrific actions. I love this kind of narrative efficiency, perhaps even more so that it’s rarely on display in The Walking Dead. it allows us to jump directly into the action of the show and resolve the huge cliffhanger from season four. In less capable hands, this one-episode resolution would feel a little too quick and convenient, but it works really well here.
I also really like the liberties the writers take with the timeline. The story isn’t told in a completely linear fashion, starting with Carol and Tyrese capturing that guy with the Tigers hat. Instead, we start with the cold and clinical brutality of the bad guys, and see that Rick and company’s situation is even more dire than we were already thinking. The stakes are raised, and then we check in with Carol. That’s effective storytelling, something The Walking Dead of two years ago would not have been able to pull off.
Speaking of Tigers hat guy, I found his scenes with Tyrese to take the steam out of the episode a bit. I know where they were going with it, but it really just didn’t work for me. We know how this show and its world works at this point, we really don’t need to keep forcing characters into the same tired “kill or be killed” situations. I like Tyrese, and I think the character has a ton of potential, but I just wasn’t buying his inability to take out zombies. Sure, I can see him not wanting to kill Tigers hat guy, but we all knew where that story was going, so it ultimately felt like a wasted opportunity.
But how about that escape? It was tense and action packed, and was just hitting all the right notes. I loved how effectively the show tracked all the different things that were going on at the same time: Carol infiltrating the compound, the hordes of zombies, the Terminus folk’s response, and Rick and company making their escape. Beginning to end, the entire sequence what handled flawlessly, and gives me a lot of hope about where this season of The Walking Dead is headed.
One thing I wasn’t so sure of was how they tried to give some motivation to the bad guys. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like cartoonish, mustache twirling baddies, but the explanation and flashback that we got felt a bit tacked on. I liked that it informed these bad guys actions a bit, but ultimately all it did was transfer the cartoon bad guy title from the Terminus survivors onto whoever those other dudes were.
Ultimately, if this is the way The Walking Dead is going, then count me in. The show had a lot of problems in its first couple of seasons, but since then it’s become much more confident and effective, and what we’re seeing now shows us just how far this show has come and what it’s capable of. Hat’s off, AMC.
Well TWD is back with a bang – literally! Thought it was a great return, plenty of Z’s and lots of blood and guts, exactly what we want from a season opener.
I was very pleased that the Terminus situation was dealt with in one episode, the old TWD would have dragged that out for 6 episodes, and Carol cementing herself as bad ass frees up some space for ‘the character I hate the most’ role.
I understand where you are coming from with the bad guy flash backs Dave, but I don’t think their storyline is over. ‘Our’ group has told them where they’re heading, they destroyed their hideout and to our knowledge a small group of them are still alive (and armed).
I like the idea of a cat and mouse chase to Washington, ultimately ending with Rick killing the head guy with the machete, just as he promised.
Hopefully a good sign of things to come this season
God, how right you are about how the older show would have dragged this whole thing out interminably. I also think you’re right on the money with the thrust of the season. We’ll see how it shakes out.
Good thing you mentioned Carol’s characters development; she has changed a lot from Season 1. The woman that once used to be used as a slave to clean laundry and cook now is a total badass using fireworks as mortars (That scene was wicked!). The show is going in a good direction and I hope it keeps that way. The episode was really good – action, character development and no dragging out the scenes longer than necessary.
Oh, and by the way, the first blond dude that gets his throat slit at Terminus isn’t a total stranger. His name is Sam and he appeared briefly in the 4th Season.
*Spoilers from the comic* In the comics the whole “Eugene has the cure” thing is a total lie. The TV Show has changed a lot of things from the comics so it’d be nice to change and have Eugene actually know the cure.
I was torn about mentioning that comic spoiler in the review. I’m certainly interested in how the show is going to handle it, though.
TWD is back… and looking good, we are back on the road with no safety, limited resources, and all sorts of dangers lurking about. Bring on the season.
Did you guys get to see the mini bonus scene that showed up after the credits? The one where one of our favourite characters pops up and is following the group. The character who was in first episode with his son and makes appearances here and there and is always a good episode.
Trying to ask this without spoilers is hard 🙂
Holy shit, really? I totally did not see that. I absolutely love that actor, so I’m always glad to see him show up.
I loved Morgan popping up at the end, tho I missed the part where it was ” months later.”. Part of me wonders if I should feel bad for liking how much the Terminus crew got their justice.
“Months later”? Does that mean that Morgan doesn’t show up until the end of the season, or something like that?
I think a lot was missed between the cracks. The Tattooed man, Sam (The Penguin), the watch, Terminus was an actual good place?, Garret’s brother, Tasha Yar vs Carol, and Father Gabriel Stokes on a rock….Anyone?
Ok, let me get this straight.
The Tattooed man was part of the group that raided the original Terminus group. Mary (Tasha form Star Trek) and Her son Garret (the leader of the Termites) are going to be in more flashbacks for back story and their decent to cannibalism. Also a friendly note that was Garret’s brother was the body on the Butchers table.
Sam the Hippie (Also in Gotham tv show as the Penguin) was the first from the trough to get it. He was also in the episode where Rick ejected Carol from the group and Rick gave him his watch. The same watch the Carol found while wandering through Terminus.
Chick fight – I had a lot of phone calls on Sunday about this. If your a Treker I’m sure you have option but I have to say it was a sloppy fight which I appreciate in a world where it seem everyone knows Martial Arts of some sort and also nice choice of a shot Carol.
After the credits our Friend Morgan shows up and in Talking Dead they show Father Gabriel Stokes being attacked by walkers.
Did I miss anything?
Wow, a bit of that sailed right over my head. I guess I should have re-watched the last couple of episodes of Season 4 to refresh myself a bit.
Actually you can catch up with No Sanctuary both Walking and Talking Dead. This episode of Talking had Greg Nicotero and Scott Gimple and they were talking more than usual.
Is Talking Dead online? Not a show I normally watch.
(concerning my comment on episode 537) Turns out it wasn’t Neegan…. A lot of people thought it was, so many in fact that even Kirkman himself tweeted that it wasn’t him…
(watch out, spoilers for this episode)
Oh, good link, FL!
Well that was an explosive start to the new season! Good to have it back on the telly!
During the long gap between seasons I was able to catch up on the comic story line so I’m very interested to see where the tv series takes us next. Nice to have Morgan back on the trail.
Bring on the next episode 😀 (big thumbs up from this side of the pond)
Did this become available in Scotland today, Dex?
It was aired on Monday Dave, just got the chance to watch it last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it too 😀
Oh, okay. Monday isn’t too bad. I’m glad they don’t make you guys wait too long. I really don’t understand why stuff isn’t available at the same time everywhere.
It would mean not having to avoid sections of this website to avoid spoilers before I get a chance to watch it 😀
Kudos to you (and every one else to be fair) for keeping them to a minimum
I always try to keep them to a minimum and provide adequate warning.
Talking Dead online:
Each of the episodes are up for only a month
Ah, thank you!
I’ll Keep my spoilers to Wednesday for you Dex
Very kind of you, sir.
This was one of the questions on AMC’s WD ultimate fan quiz this week. I missed the “months later” part when watching.
Now that I’ve had time to think about it. Ricks group would have never marked the trees. So, I believe the Xs were left by Gareth’s (Sorry nor Garret) crew and Morgan won’t catch up as soon as we would like.