At the end of Season 4, Rick delivered a sanitized-for-basic-cable closing line from one of the best scenes in the comics.

“They’re [screwing] with the wrong people.”

I gotta be honest, as good as the Season 4 finale was, Rick’s words rung a little hollow with me. Despite the writer’s best efforts to distance the man we saw then from the one who was haunted by the ghost of his nagging wife, there are only two things that first leap to mind with I think of Rick:

-Tortured crying.

CARL!!!

As we begin Season 5 of The Walking Dead, will Rick reclaim his title of head badass from supporting characters like Michonne and Daryl…and is it good?

Gareth wasn’t always a jerk

the-walking-dead-season5-episode1-gareth

The episode begins with a flashback to a simpler, horrifying time in the life of Gareth, the dead-eyed protagonist from last season.

He is sitting with a group of battered and tortured people inside of a very familiar box car. While one of their ranks gets pulled out to be tortured, another admonishes Gareth for initially offering help to their would be captors.

Gareth responds by saying that they were only trying to be “human beings”, which prompts a theme-worthy response from his friend:

“Then what are we now?”

Slow Bleed

Walker - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Back in the present, Maggie makes a major break though as she acknowledges being concerned (or even remembering) her missing sister, Beth.

Rick is also preparing the group for war from inside their boxcar prison. He instructs them to attack without mercy as they make a bunch of really cool-looking makeshift weapons… which never get the chance to be used.

Turns out the Terminus folks are pretty smart. They drop a flash bang grenade in from the top, incapacitating the group and allowing them to drag Rick, Glenn, Bob, and Daryl outside.

After a few kicks to the face, the four men are taken to a trough along with a few other prisoners from the nearby boxcars (including a surprise cameo from The Penguin).

Now remember that thing ‘sanitized-for-basic-cable’ crack I made earlier? Well that gets thrown out the window here as we watch Cobblepot get his throat slit open along with the other redshirts. When the butchers get to Glenn, however, Gareth stops them just in time to casually complain about some type of procedural misstep.

It’s a scene that is somewhat reminiscent of the Small Pile of Hinges scene from Schindler’s List, contrasting the extreme brutality felt by the victims with how their captors seem infinitely more concerned with minor annoyances than the ending of their prisoners’ lives.

Bob frantically tries to explain that they have a magical redneck savant who can cure the world and set things back to the way they were, but Gareth’s only response is that “there is no going back.” Rick, on the other hand, all but spits in Gareth’s face before an explosion rocks the Terminus compound.

“Gonna kill people.”

Carol, Tyrese, and baby Judith are heading towards Terminus when they find a douchebag in a Detroit Tigers cap setting up fireworks to scare off a herd of zombies. He’s also speaking to someone his radio about how they’re going to kill Carl and Michonne. This doesn’t sit well with Carol, who puts a gun to his head and decides to go full on momma bear.

She leaves Tyrese to babysit Judith and the hostage, straps on some gear/firepower, and heads out into the woods. Just in case you weren’t sure she was going to do something completely awesome, Carol also smears zombie guts all over herself so she can sneak into Terminus the zombie horde.

Call of Duty: Carol Edition

the-walking-dead-season5-episode1-carol-rifle

Now in full-on Sarah Conner mode, Carol begins shooting at a large gas tank outside Terminus, causing it to rupture. She then somehow shoots a bottle rocket perfectly straight (a feat that few have ever achieved) into the spewing gas, causing a massive explosion.

Using the cover of flaming zombies and mass hysteria, Carol sneaks into Terminus to find her friends. Unfortunately, the first person she comes across is the barbeque lady who greets everyone as they enter the settlement. After a brief struggle, however, Carol gains the upper hand.

When she asks where her friends are, the woman responds by telling her about how another group attacked and tortured them after being offered sanctuary. After taking their town back, the people of Terminus vowed never to help outsiders again.

“You’re the butcher or you’re the cattle.”

In a move that would have made Jack Bauer proud, Carol shot the woman in the leg and repeated the question. When an answer still didn’t come, she allowed zombies to enter the room and finish the job.

Carol then heads outside and begins shooting.

Rick Rolls Out

Back in the Terminus slaughterhouse, Rick uses the explosive distraction to murder his captors (except for Gareth, who left to see what was happening). As they head outside, he instructs to others to kill without a second thought…and then takes his own advice in the most awesome way possible, flanking a group of Terminus gunners and mowing them down from behind.

The escaped group then starts opening box cars, which seems like a pretty humane/solid idea until a crazy guy with face tattoos pops out. Fortunately, he gets eaten by a zombie before we even get a chance to get to know him.

the-walking-dead-season5-episode1-walkers

Tyrese goes beast mode… again

Detroit Tiger Cap Guy finally gets free and threatens to kill baby Judith (told you he was a douche). He then forces Tyrese outside into a horde of zombies…which once again results in Tyrese destroying all of them off camera.

Tyrese then comes back inside and kills the real threat, proving to himself that he can kill if it absolutely must be done.

The Mullet Speaks

Back inside the box car with the rest of our main cast, Eugene starts to lay out his plan for saving humanity (which sadly does not include a haircut). Just as he’s starting to look unbearably proud of himself, Rick and the others bust them out of their prison to join the battle…which leads to Michonne reminding us why she’s probably the best close quarters fighter in the group.

With everyone reunited, Rick and Company send the Terminus cannibals running. Gareth gets shot in the shoulder, but he’s in a bunch of the trailers for this season, so we know he’ll eventually be back.

Beautiful Badass Reunion

the-walking-dead-season5-episode1-carol-reunited

Once the group is safely away from the town, Rick demands that they go back inside and finish the job, explaining that the Terminus people “don’t get to live.”

Before things can get anymore dark, though, Daryl spots Carol. The two run to each and embrace, causing the eyes of many of viewers (myself included) to suddenly become plagued by dust.

Rick then sees Tyrese with Judith, which makes him so overjoyed that he forgets the whole “KILL THEM ALL” plan and decides that they need should just start moving away from everything…and what he’d almost become.

IS THAT…?

The end shows us a flashback to pre-cannibal Gareth deciding to go from humanitarian to sociopath has he cradles his crying mother (i.e. the barbeque lady) in arms. The tattoo face guy also pops back in (albeit with a touch more sanity) to show us why he was locked inside a box car.

In a post credit scene, we learn that the newly reunited Walking Dead crew is being follow by none other than Morgan.

The Verdict

I have a friend who claims to HATE this show with every fiber of his being, but still watches it religiously. From checking around on message boards, it seems he isn’t the only one. While most folks seem to enjoy The Walking Dead, the ones who hate it are passionate to a point that its obsessive.

But even these folks had to be happy with this episode. We got tons of action, including some amazing (though a tad unbelievable) work from Carol. Rick seems to be taking charge again, but this time with a great deal less hand wringing.

the-walking-dead-season5-episode1-rick-grimes

We also got a bunch of long awaited reunions, Carol and Daryl in particular.

The theme of losing humanity has always been part of the show, but it appears that Season 5 is going to kick that one into the spotlight and really give go into some dark places. Without Hershel around (i.e. the heart of the group), it becomes much easier to do things that could be motivated by anger and hate rather than necessity.

There were a few things that bothered me about the episode though:

– Where’s Beth?

– Is that the last we’re going to see of Terminus?

– Where’s Beth?

– Shouldn’t they tell Rick about the whole ‘Mullet Saves the World by Going to D.C.’ plan?

– WHERE IS BETH?

To be fair, these issues will assuredly be addressed down the line, but something like Beth being missing seems like it should be a bigger deal than just a brief mention at the beginning of the episode.

But overall, this was a great opening to what looks to be the most dark and terrifying season of the show yet.

The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 1 "No Sanctuary" Review
Those of you who have been craving action get lots of it, both human vs. zombie and human vs. human.The theme of losing humanity is brought home in the darkest, most visceral way that we've ever seen on the series.Carol is a Ripley-level badass woman.
So...are we just not talking about Beth anymore?Also the supposed cure in D.C. Maybe bring that up to Rick before you leave.
9Overall Score
Reader Rating 9 Votes
8.7