The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary

Walking Dead No Sanctuary

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

It’s the post-apocalyptic circle of life.  The strong eat the weak.  At Terminus, they really take that expression to heart.

The season five premiere of The Walking Dead is one of the most action-packed episodes in the show’s history.  It sticks to the show’s strengths which makes it a very satisfying viewing experience.  If I have a quibble, it’s that this episode should have been last season’s finale.  The last eight episodes of season 4 built up to this moment.  And then, they left us hanging.  Now sixth months later, we finally got the bloody catharsis last season was building towards.

Spoilers after the jump.

The Walking Dead has a history of setting an entire season or two in one location.  This has a tendency to suck a lot of the inherent drama right out of the zombie apocalypse.  The show works best when the characters are on the run.  So the prospect of an entire season stuck in the train cars of Terminus was not especially appealing.  Fortunately, this episode ended the entire Terminus storyline in pretty spectacular fashion.  We even got a taste of the origin of Terminus through flashbacks.

We are told that in the early days of the apocalypse, Terminus really was what it was advertised to be – a sanctuary.  But eventually, some predators entered into the mix and took advantage.  We don’t know exactly what happened to Gareth, Mary and the others.  But we do know that they managed to overthrow their oppressors and take back the camp.  But the experience changed them.  They adopted the “butcher or cattle” as their new mantra.  And man, did they take it seriously.

I get that being kept prisoner in a train car can change a person.  They clearly experienced some horrible things.  They have been pushed to extremes.  So it’s understandable that they stopped welcoming strangers with open arms.  It’s something of a leap to have them decide on systematic cannibalism.  From what we have seen of the zombie apocalypse, food is a limited resource.  But if one is willing to scavenge, there’s still a lot of canned goods lying around.  Not to mention livestock that won’t talk back.  From what we have observed, there are options.

Instead, the resident’s of Terminus have jumped on board the cannibal train with reckless abandon.  They have reduced the killing and eating of humans to mundane office work.  Rick, Glenn, Bob and Daryl get lined up next to four other dudes over a trough.  One worker comes in and clubs the victims in the back of the head with a baseball bat.  Then they slit the victim’s throat and let the blood run into the trough.  No muss, no fuss.  There are clipboards involved.

Fortunately, Glenn is spared a whack on the head when Gareth arrives to chastise his underlings and to interrogate Rick about the contents of his weapons cache.  As it turns out, the residents of Terminus aren’t as thorough when it comes to searching their prisoners.  Every single member of Rick’s crew was able to fashion some form of shiv or weapon out of articles of clothing and items found within the train car.  That kind of sloppiness will get you killed.  And sure enough, Rick and his gang escape using their DIY weapons.

Meanwhile, Carol, Tyreese and baby Judith as wandering through the zombie-filled woods.  Carol plans to drop them off at Terminus, but she doesn’t plan to stay.  Apparently she’s the only character on the show that saw the words “Terminus: End of Line” and thought it sounded ominous.  But she’s still willing to deliver Tyreese and Judith into an obvious trap even if she won’t walk into it herself.

A single zombie walks out of the woods.  Tyreese takes the baby and claims he can’t bring himself to kill anymore.  Granted, Tyreese has been through a lot and one can certainly understand his world weariness.  But if he isn’t able to kill zombies, he’s going to make a lousy protector for that baby he’s carrying.  Carol tells him he has to get over his no-killing stance, but she does the bloody work herself.  Once the deed is done, they spot an approaching herd and hide in the woods.  They are saved by the sound of gunfire in the distance.  The zombies turn and amble towards the sound of the gunfire.  Judith is officially the best behaved baby in the history of babies.  Because zombies and gunfire would have startled any baby I have ever met.

They stumble across a guy with a walkie talkie.  They overhear his half of the conversation.  The man is clearly discussing Glenn and Michonne.  He says he want’s Glenn’s baseball cap after he “bleeds out”.  Carol gets the drop on the guy and they keep him prisoner.  Then she goes off Rambo-style to rescue her old friends.  Tyreese stays behind to babysit Judith and their prisoner.  The prisoner assumes that Tyreese is a softy because he’s caring for a baby.  What he doesn’t know is that Tyreese is a killing machine who’s just going through a slow spell.  He makes the critical error of practically daring Tyreese to kill him.

Meanwhile, Carol covers herself in zombie guts.  We have seen this approach used a few times on The Walking Dead.  And it ALWAYS works like a charm.  I know it’s gross.  But since it is so damn effective, you have to wonder why they aren’t always covering themselves in zombie guts every time they are out in the open.  It seriously has a 100% success rate.  Carol then launches a stealth attack on Terminus like she’s playing Far Cry 3.  She ends up blowing up a tank and creating chaos while the herd of zombies overruns the compound.

Rick, Glenn, Daryl and Bob take advantage of the chaos to escape their captors.  They come across a train car containing a loud prisoner.  Glenn insists they have to free whoever is in there because it’s who they are.  When they open the car, a scary-looking guy with tattoos stumbles out and starts screaming at him.  It was revealed on the Talking Dead that this prisoner is one of the guys who took advantage of Terminus when it was a sanctuary.

Rick and the gang make their way through the compound killing humans and zombies alike.  When possible, they upgrade their weapons by confiscating firearms.  Rick insists that his people shoot to kill.  And if they have a chance, they should let their enemies be turned into zombies.  He’s not just out for blood.  He wants revenge.  But first, they have to save their friends who are left in the train car.

The others prepare for the battle that is coming.  They don’t know what awaits them outside of the confines of the car.  But they know there will be zombies.  While they are preparing for battle, Sasha finally does something long overdue.  She demands that Eugene share the secret of the zombie cure.  Her reasoning is that if anything happens to him, the others need to deliver the cure to Washington.  Eugene insists that the others would never understand it.  But when pushed, he provides a bunch of sciency mumbo jumbo.  Sasha seems satisfied with the non-answer.  But hey, at least someone finally asked.

Elsewhere, Carol makes her way through the compound.  She enters a room where the residents of Terminus are storing weapons on tables.  She selects a crossbow.  My favorite part of the scene is that next to the weapons table is a table loaded with toys.  Just in case you weren’t clear that these guys are evil, the show gives us a table full of stuffed animals from the kids they ate.  Not sure why they would want to keep the things much less store them next to the weapons.

Carol comes into conflict with Mary.  At gunpoint, Mary explains the compound’s backstory.  But Carol’s not impressed.  She opens a door and lets in a bunch of zombies.  Since she’s still wearing her zombie drag, the walkers go past her and descend on Mary.  Carol walks out without a glance.

Meanwhile, Tyreese is watching zombies through the window of the cabin where he and his prisoner are holed up.  The prisoner takes the opportunity to grab baby Judith’s neck and threaten to snap it.  He makes Tyreese drop his weapons and head out into the zombie mayhem unarmed.  For an ordinary person, it would be certain death,  But Tyreese is no ordinary man.  For him, this is a crash course in getting his killer groove back.  Tyreese kills all the zombies and the comes back and kills the prisoner for daring the threaten the baby.

Rick frees the rest of his crew from the train car and they battle their way out of Terminus.  Once outside, they dig up their buried weapons cache.  Rick insists that they have to go back into Terminus to make sure all the humans are dead.  “They don’t get to live,” he says.  So much for farmer Rick.  Hello, bloodthirsty killer Rick.

The group is approached by Carol.  Daryl runs to her and greets her with a hug.  Rick, who exiled her from the group for killing sick people back at the prison. seems to have gotten over his objections to her actions.  Somewhat reluctantly, he welcomes her back.  She then takes them to where Tyreese is keeping Judith.  It is a genuinely touching moment to see Rick reunited with his daughter and Carl reunited with his sister.

As I said at the outset, it was a very satisfying hour of The Walking Dead.  Probably one of the best episode’s in the show’s history.  And regular readers know I don’t say that lightly.  But just in case you weren’t completely satisfied, the show had one final surprise.  In a Marvel-like post credits tag, we see a man on his way to Terminus.  He comes across a sign which Rick has altered to read “no sanctuary”.  Then he unmasks to reveal that he is fan favorite Morgan.  Morgan’s back, bitches!

While I still wish this episode had been the finale for last season, I can’t deny it was a kickass start to season five.  If the rest of the season can carry on this momentum, it will be the best season the show has ever seen.

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Posted on October 12, 2014, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. “The season five premiere of The Walking Dead is one of the most action-packed episodes in the season’s history.” The season is only one episode long so far!

    This definitely should have been the season 4 ender, particularly since they were disposing of the storyline in just that one extra ep. Morgan appearing would have been the perfect last image for a season too.

    That quick disposal of this story is a tribute to the Gimple Gang too, and shows how far they’ve come. Is there any doubt that, if Mazzara was still in charge, the same story we got last night would have been made to fill more than 8 eps and would have concluded only after the mid-season break?

    This was definitely one of TWD’s all-time great eps. A warning though–last season began with two of the best eps they’d ever done, and it became very uneven and fell back on the Mazzara habits as it went along.


    • lol – That’s what I get for writing while trying to watch Talking Dead.

      I agree. Last season had a good start. Heck, so did season 3. There’s definitely potential for season 5 to go off the rails. But they are off to a good start.


  2. Excellent episode. The one thing that really surprised me was how quickly the show left Terminus. These past few seasons have kept us in the same location (farm, prison, etc.) for about a season each, so with last season’s finale I really expected to see Rick and the gang plotting their escape throughout the season, or for a couple of episodes at least. Instead they break out in the first episode! A good decision on the writers part, I think, the whole being captive to cannibals thing might’ve fallen apart if we stayed there too long.

    It was an above average episode, but I had a minor quibble about the whole Eugene issue: a guy claims to know how to end this whole zombie apocalypse and must get to Washington, D.C., and only now does anyone actually ask, gee, hmmmm, how exactly can you end all this? And then after all this time, all we get is some mumbo jumbo non-answer from Eugene? For such a major plot issue (I assume getting Eugene to D.C. will be the driving force of this season) it seems like cheap writing to just now finally adress it, but then not really address it at all with a non-answer (“you wouldn’t understand it even if I explained it to you”, yeah, ok Eugene). But that minor quibble aside this was a solid, entertaining episode, a strong beginning to the season.


    • I don’t want to spoil anything. But don’t get too invested in the subplot of Eugene’s cure… 😉

      BTW, I’m working on the Eddie Murphy article now.


      • Excellent! I’m glad to hear! 🙂 Yeah, obviously I know better than to believe this series will actually allow Eugene to not only make it to D.C., but also be able to mix up a magic cure and use it and end the apocalypse. No, that would be the end of the series right then and there, and Walking Dead has some astronomical ratings at this point. This premiere episode had almost 18 million viewers, that’s more than even network tv shows like Big Bang Theory and NCIS! This could theoretically be the highest rated tv show of the week, which is mind-blowing for a cable tv show, that has never happened before. So no, I don’t think AMC would care too much for Eugene finding the cure for this very profitiable zombie apocalypse, thank you very much. ha ha


        • lol – good point. The success of TWD blows my mind.

          There are elements of the Eugene story that will make more sense once a certain reveal plays out. There’s more going on there than meets the eye. But I don’t think it will be the main thrust of the series.

          Also, we didn’t see Gareth die did we?


    • LeBeau, was there some leaked script you’ve seen? How do you know where Eugene’s story is going? Even if he is in the comics, they often take very different paths with the same characters.

      That being said, I think Eugene was a basement dwelling computer nerd that spent most of his time on internet forums, and almost certainly has something like Aspergers. It feels like he either made up the cure totally on his own (the way many people today think they know how to fix all the nations problems better than those in charge by using “common sense”), or with a group of like minded people before things go so bad that all the infrastructure collapsed. I am skeptical of his credentials to say the least.

      By the way, people have been wondering what his cure is all along. However, he convinced Abraham it needs to be kept a secret, so he’s had muscle protecting him. At least as far as the survivors from Rick’s group go I think they weren’t happy about being in the dark from the beginning but had other things to worry about, plus they didn’t feel like getting into it with Abraham. I’m most intrigued as to why Abraham is so ready to believe him. I know military training teaches you to follow orders without question, but still…


      • No leaked scripts. Just the comics. But it’s pretty obvious they are following the story from the comics where Eugene is concerned. If they deviate, it will be a pretty major fake-out to the comic readers. Of course, as Craig pointed out, if they deviate too much from the comics they will end the show. So I expect the answer we got in the comics is the one we will get on the show.

        The show definitely does deviate from the comics a lot. But under Gimple, the major plot points always seem to come back to the source material. The characters involved may be different or the context may be changed. But the big stuff is still there. With that in mind, I think you are asking the right questions. It’s pretty obvious even without having read the comics that Eugene can’t be taken at face value, right?


        • I’m sure you’re right, Eugene probably can’t be taken at face value. A friend loaned me a compendium of early Walking Dead comics which I read and enjoyed quite a bit, but I stopped reading before they got to the prison. An excellent comic book, but to be honest I enjoy watching the tv series without knowing what’s going to happen next from the comics, or who might pop up next. The comic series would definately give me clues as to what’s up with Eugene, but I prefer to just find out over the course of the tv series. I did notice the tv series deviates some from the comic, Shane for example died off pretty quick in the comic whereas they kept him around a bit longer for the tv series well into the second season (rightfully so, Jon Bernthal was great in the role of Shane). But the major beats seem to be kept intact for the most part.


        • I’ve stayed away from the comics so that I don’t get spoilers for the show, but I’ll probably check them out eventually. Anyway, I’ve been highly skeptical of Eugene from the beginning. I guess the biggest mystery for me about him is if he’s really a bad guy or just a well meaning but clueless basement dweller with delusions of grandeur.

          From what I understand the Governor was very different in the show than in the comic, so that is one of the reasons I assumed they didn’t stick to closely to the source material.


        • The comic is much better than the show the vast majority of the time. What they did to the Governor on the show was a crime!

          The comics aren’t exactly spoilers for the show. Lots of characters who are dead on the show are alive in the comics and vice versa. Daryl, the most popular character on the show doesn’t even exist in the comics. But by and large, the same things happen. If the character they happened to in the comic is dead or just doesn’t exist, then it will happen to someone else.

          If you read the comics, it won’t spoil the show for you because there are still surprises. But you may find yourself wondering why the show ruins so many things so often.


      • No leaked scripts. Just the comics. But it’s pretty obvious they are following the story from the comics where Eugene is concerned. If they deviate, it will be a pretty major fake-out to the comic readers. Of course, as Craig pointed out, if they deviate too much from the comics they will end the show. So I expect the answer we got in the comics is the one we will get on the show.

        The show definitely does deviate from the comics a lot. But under Gimple, the major plot points always seem to come back to the source material. The characters involved may be different or the context may be changed. But the big stuff is still there. With that in mind, I think you are asking the right questions. It’s pretty obvious even without having read the comics that Eugene can’t be taken at face value, right?


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