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Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5, Episode 1, ‘No Sanctuary,’ Is A Welcome Shift To Wall-To-Wall Action

Review: 'The Walking Dead' Season 5, Episode 1, 'No Sanctuary,' Is A Welcome Shift To Wall-To-Wall Action

Well, that escalated quickly! I admit, I figured the
Terminus storyline would play out over a few episodes, if not the entire first
half of the season, but by the end of “No Sanctuary” Terminus is a
smoldering, zombie-infested ruin, and Rick and his crew are reunited and back
on the road. Hey, all’s well that ends well! Way to kick things off, “Walking
Dead”!

At the episode’s start, Rick, Glen, Bob and Daryl (along
with some sacrificial red shirts to ensure our heroes will make it out fine)
are about to be bled and slaughtered for Terminus’s meat larders when they’re
rocked by an explosion. Turns out it’s the work of Carol, who along with
Tyresse overheard a stray Termineer (Chris Coy, who I last saw playing a
perfectly nice journalist on “Treme”) talking trash about Rick’s crew
over a walkie talkie and figured out Terminus was bad news. (In the post-apocalypse,
it helps to have someone on your team with a super-distinguishing
characteristic like a samurai sword, in case the villains haven’t learned
everyone’s names.)

Carol leaves Tyreese to watch the Termineer (I’m sticking
with that name so just get used to it), disguises herself as a zombie to
insinuate herself with a herd heading for Terminus and successfully blows their
gate wide open with a huge fuel tank and a well-placed bottle rocket. Rick and
company (note to self: come up with a cool, short name for Rick and company,
along the lines of “Termineer”) manage to free themselves, then it’s
an all-out war as they shoot their way out of the compound as burning zombies
devour most of the Termineers.

READ MORE: Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5 Maintains The High Bar Of Season 4

Tyreese, shaken up by the mega-bummer events of “The
Grove,” tells Carol that he’s unwilling to kill humans, and Martin, the
jerk Termineer he and Carol captured, immediately senses his weakness and looks
to exploit it. Unfortunately, Martin doesn’t realize this is Tyreese’s
“Reginald VelJohnson at the end of ‘Die Hard'” episode, like Rick had
at the end of Season 4, and when he threatens baby Judith, Tyreese beats him to
death. Thank you, Topper — he can kill again!

“No Sanctuary” is action from start to finish, making it a stark departure from the relatively quiet back-half of Season 4. It’s a welcome change for a show that’s
had some real pacing problems in the past (not to dogpile on Season 2, but OH
MAN Season 2!). And while it may seem like the Terminus story resolves too
early, it’s obvious we haven’t seen the last of the Termineers (their leader
Gavin is only wounded in the firefight, so his return seems practically guaranteed),
so the rush in Terminus’s fall doesn’t feel like a cheat. In fact, it feels
damn satisfying to watch our heroes kick some well-deserved ass.

The most interesting wrinkle is the brief flashbacks we get
to the Termineers before they met Rick and company (Team Rick? I’ll work on it).
They used to be regular, upstanding people, until a pack of bad dudes
infiltrated their base, locked everyone up, and proceeded to rape and murder to
their heart’s content. Gavin was eventually able to lead the Termineers in an
uprising, but the damage was done. Their new mantra is “You’re either the
butcher or the cattle,” and they’ve taken that to the literal extreme of
butchering everyone who comes to them.

It’s a solid idea to have RickCo (nope) facing down a dark
mirror version of themselves: people who have been pushed beyond their breaking
points. Right now it seems like the season will test the limits of how far our
heroes can be pushed before they wind up like the Termineers. They’re willing
to take the lives of those they feel deserve it, but when you live in the
zombie apocalypse, can you afford not to shoot first? Do you have to forsake
your humanity in order to survive? We’ll see how far down the rabbit hole
they’re willing to go.

And hey, Morgan shows up at the end! He’s a welcome sight,
considering he’s a major part of two of the strongest episodes of the first
three seasons. Not to mention that the “next time on” promises at
least one episode with actor Seth Gilliam, which means yet more “Wire”
alums! I won’t rest until you find a role for Jim True-Frost and Andre Royo,
Walking Dead!” This I swear!

Grade: A-

READ MORE: How ‘The Walking Dead’ Cast Would Kill Zombies and Other Red Carpet Secrets

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