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The Walking Dead - No Sanctuary - Review & Discussion

Who was with me in bawling like a baby when Rick and Judith were reunited? The Walking Dead came back for a fifth season with two things that are too rare on this show: ending on a happy note following several tear-inducing reunions, and the group getting out of a tight spot with no fatalities (at least none that we care about).

I didn’t realize how good it would feel to have Carol and Tyreese reunited with the group, but after what went down with Lizzie and Mika, Tyreese and Carol deserve some time off to let others in the group carry the load. It was great to see them back with the people they love. I also wasn’t expecting so much emotion in the Carol/Rick reunion. Interestingly, Rick now seems to be more on the Carol side of the spectrum – and maybe a little beyond Carol now – in the ongoing killing-people and doing-hard-things debate. Whereas with Carol I’m seeing regret and some compassion, Rick seems to have inched toward the slightly scary side end of the spectrum in the past couple of episodes.

We now have everyone accounted for an together except for Beth. Hopefully they won’t string us along for too long until we hear from her.

Along with the reunions, we also had a lot of action, a long list of those perfect small moments that show does so well, some kick-ass Carol moments (erasing any lingering doubts that that timid mouse from seasons one and two is long gone), and answers on how the Termites came to be as twisted as we found them. They suffered the fate that our group has been lucky to narrowly skirt so far, and that’s becoming so victimized and damaged that the experience turns them into something unrecognizable.

The show has a lot of strong episodes, but this season opener written by show runner Scott Gimple and directed by Greg Nicotero came close to perfect in delivering something for everyone.

The Termites’ past experience would seem to score one point in the column for not trusting in this world, yet part of me still feels Hershel was right on that point when he counseled Rick in season 3 that he needs to start letting people in again.

Action, Action, and Action

So let’s talk about the episode. We start off pretty much where we left off – with most of our group still locked in the container while Carol and Tyreese get closer to the complex. Tyreese is still so shaken he says he’s not ready to kill walkers yet. Meanwhile Carol tells him that she’ll make sure he and Judith get to Terminus safely, but she’s not staying. Whether that’s because of Karen or because Carol isn’t emotionally ready yet to try again, it’s not clear. Probably a mixture of both.

Inside the container, in a cleverly filmed scene we’re quickly brought up to speed through a voice overlay on key conversations, such as Daryl telling Maggie about Beth, while we see a close up of the group hard at work making weapons. Their plan is to be ready when the doors open, but it’s not going to be that easy. The Termites attack from above with gas, and Rick, Glenn, and Bob are brought to the slaughterhouse – where Rick is reunited with Sam, a harmless man he and Carol met in season 4’s Indifference.

This ties back to the episode where Rick had banished Carol (relevant given Carol’s role in rescuing them as the episode continues), is one of several discreetly inserted call backs in the episode. Another is their butcher’s choice of weapon – a baseball bat. He swings it like Martinez did in season 3’s Arrow on the Doorpost, as Martinez tells Daryl how he really hates the walkers after what they did to his family. The difference here is that, whereas Martinez was using it on the dead, the butcher is using it on the living.  As we learn from the flashbacks, though, both have reason to hate.

The scene continues with the murders of Sam and other unnamed prisoners, with Glenn next in line. Bob, sounding insanely idealistic, tries to reason with Gareth, telling him that one of their group knows the cure that can end all this. Rick, on the other hand, is past reasoning. It didn’t work on the Governor, and this time around he coldly tells Gareth he’s going to kill him.

The group’s execution is stalled by the sound of a nearby explosion, which we later learn was set off by Carol, who learned the Termites had her friends. It distracts the Termites and gives Rick a chance to cut his bonds and kill his captors. This parallels another another scene where Carol and Tyreese – still making their way toward Terminus –escape a horde of walkers because the walkers are distracted by the sound of gunfire in the distance. This was probably Rick and his group starting a gun fight in Terminus, which we saw in A. The two groups (Carol's and Rick's) seem in sync with each other, which helps them escape.

In contrast, whereas our group cares about each other and works together, the Terminus group is fractured. Martin, a Terminus member captured by Carol and Tyreese, tells Tyreese he doesn’t have any friends anymore: “I mean I know people. They’re just assholes I stay alive with.” The differences between the two groups is subtly shown through the way they communicate and interact. There’s caring and emotion in our group, but the Termites act like they’re on the job, with the butcher – when they’re being attacked – saying security’s not his job. Symbolically, the breaks in the their group is shown through the broken communication. They periodically trying to contact each other through walkie-talkies, and get no response.

While several characters had good moments in this episode, this was Carol’s turn to shine. She overhears Martin talking about Michonne and the “kid in the hat,” and how he’s going to take the hat after he bleeds the kid. She has a great line as a response: “We’re friends with the chick with the sword and the kid in the hat.”

Carol, borrowing from the trick Michonne learned about blending with walkers by covering herself with their insides (another call back), uses walkers as a weapon (the Governor’s choice weapon), and blows a fuel tank to create a distraction and let the walkers take down Terminus. She faces down Terminus’ Mary and learns how the Termites got to where they were – how they trusted the wrong people and were attacked and raped. There were parallels between the two women. They were both victims who became survivors by becoming colder. The difference being that Carol still has more of her humanity.

Carol went into Terminus with the intent to kill to save her friends, but she looked sad doing it. You could see she was pained as she passed a woman being eaten by walkers. This is something else that she didn’t want to do but felt she had to for the group – something that will become part of her.

Other Thoughts:

- I was going to note Rick writing in “No” before the Sanctuary sign as one of those special little moments, but it was topped by an even better one. How awesome was it seeing Morgan at the end? I didn't see that coming.

- Let’s talk about Tyreese. I think I caught a whiff of some new character development from that corner. Tyreese was a man who was early on portrayed as having a temper. But he seems to have chosen a nonviolent path. Martin, in a great quote, predicted Tyreese would be killed: “You’re the kind of guy who saves babies. It’s kind of like saving an anchor when you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean. … You’re a good guy. That’s why you’re gonna die today. That’s why the baby’s gonna die.” I don’t think Tyreese killed Martin, so what do you think? Will that come back to haunt him? Or was it the right choice?

- In contract to Tyreese, Rick was almost scary in his bloodlust to kill every last person in Terminus. How will being reunited with Judith affect him?

- The flaming walker that bit the face of a Termite wins the award for best gratituous zombie gore for this episode.

- Carol gets the award for deepest comment with her response to Mary, who said they're still there, "you're not here. Neither am I."

- Did anyone else think Martin looked like Glenn from season one?

- Another nice small moment was Maggie using Hershel’s watch to help build weapons.

What did you think about the episode?  Was it everything you hoped?  Let me know in the comments.

About the Author - Chris684
Chris is a New Englander with a background in print and digital media, who currently earns a living by making web and technology products easier to use. She has a weakness for TV characters who are 'dark and twisty' (to quote Meredith Grey) and reviews The Walking Dead, Legends, Halt and Catch Fire, and Dig for SpoilerTV.
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