Given that the previous season ended with Rick and the other survivors trapped in a boxcar and surrounded by hungry human cannibals, there was no question that “The Walking Dead’s” fifth season would begin on a bloody note. Within the first few minutes of “No Sanctuary,” Rick, Daryl and Glenn are on their knees in front of a stainless steel trough, watching nervously as the residents of Teminus work their way down the line of expendable extras before them, slitting their throats and letting their blood swirl down the train. “You’re either the butcher or the cattle,” one of them explains, and it’s slaughtering time.
You’ll have to tune in Sunday night to see which of the show’s regulars escape that harrowing ordeal, but presumably it sets the stage for a season that will focused on survival in its barest and most brutal form. After falling for the Governor’s spiel and getting tricked by Terminus, Rick can hardly be predisposed to believe in humanity’s good side again. It’s not as if “The Walking Dead” needs to get any darker, but it looks as if it’s going to, and for most of the reviewers who’ve taken a (spoiler-free) crack at “No Sanctuary,” that’s just fine.
Reviews of “The Walking Dead,” Season 5, Episode 1: “No Sanctuary”
Ed Gonzales and Ted Pigeon, Slant
Right off the bat, this new season strongly hints that the series will continue to ruminate on primal sensations of fear and survival, but that it will be more content to allow action, as opposed to a plethora of argumentative moral debates, to speak to such existential matters.
Patrick Kevin Day, Los Angeles Times
The path that led to Terminus, the one that reaches into the darkest parts of humanity, can only go for so long before fatigue sets in. It’s a dead end in more ways than one and, thankfully, the writers seem to realize that. So what’s being set up here is no longer just a battle for survival, but a battle for life itself — how will the characters choose to live out their remaining days before they eventually become zombies themselves? We’re rooting for them not so much to kill anymore as to do the right thing, no matter the cost.
Jeff Stone, Indiewire
The premiere is 45 minutes of action and suspense from start to finish, and I can’t imagine any fan of the show being disappointed. It feels like the biggest episode the show has attempted in terms of pure spectacle, and writer Gimple and director Greg Nicotero successfully pull out all the stops. If there are any reservations, it might be that it’s all too much too soon, and once everyone is reunited, the cast does seem unwieldy in its size. Still, that’s an easy hurdle to clear for this show.
Brian Lowry, Variety
Imbued with cinematic touches, the only downside to this breathtaking episode is pondering what the creative brain trust can do for an encore. Still, AMC’s megahit finds itself in a very good place, from the current makeup of its ever-evolving cast to the latitude it has earned to take unexpected detours. Given the hype surrounding the series, it’s still impressive to see the producers deliver such a feast.
Ray Rahman, Entertainment Weekly
All that commotion sets the season on a compelling path, hitting the road with a purpose. This is when “Dead” is at its best: journeying through postapocalyptic, fun-house-mirror America. And once they can start going, they can start figuring out why they’re going in the first place
Mark Dawidziak, Cleveland Plain Dealer
For those who are addicted to AMC’s zombie-apocalypse drama, the action-packed fifth-season premiere serves up a bounty of everything you savor about this supernatural series: nerve-jangling suspense, grand gross-outs, intriguing character study, razor-sharp dialogue, heart-thumping action, psychologically riveting moral dilemmas, state-of-the-art monster makeup and scream-inducing special effects. Eat hearty, me hearties.