Episode 1 - No Sanctuary
19 October 2014
Synopsis: Carol and Tyreese capture one of the Terminus outer guards. Carol heads on into Terminus disguised as a Walker after blowing a hole in the gates. Inside Rick leads his people out as they mow down their captors. After an emotional reunion the gang move on. Morgan is following their path. In flashback we see how Terminus went from sanctuary to prison.
The Good: I have mixed feelings about the decision to overthrow Terminus in the season opener. But if you are going to do it then this was a fairly thrilling way to do it. The opening sequence was very strong as Rick and company are lined up at the slaughtering trough and only a mystery explosion saves them from being executed. Carol has earned her bad-ass bonafides and I liked that she instantly began an assault on Terminus. In any other show there would have been merit in patiently scoping out an enemy base. But in this kill or be killed world it's better to get your rescue plans working immediately. Once you saw a makeshift shiv in Rick's hand it was off to the races. The action sequences were suitably exciting and our crew's new ruthlessness makes it easier to buy into their ability to escape tight corners.
I continue to be thoroughly impressed with the way Scott Gimple has moulded the message of the show. It always seemed logical that our crew would demonstrate that keeping hold of a moral core can aid survival. It's about the only way to maintain a sense of decency in a world so thoroughly warped. However the first three seasons struggled to articulate this clearly. Thanks to last season though that spirit was embodied in every scene. Those trapped in the train car didn't despair - they all got to work immediately. Their morale and conviction never wavered. Rick was able to prophecise his own victory, sure that somehow the universe would reward his certainty. Tyreese's scenes in the outhouse were clearest of all. His captive (a very good performance btw) was crystal clear that life was now about survival at any cost. And ultimately he lost his life when a concilliatory approach of any kind would have mollified Tyreese.
The Bad: Of course the drawback to the speed at which Terminus fell apart is a sense that it was all a bit too easy for Rick. The direction actually did an excellent job of creating believable chaos and the writing made sense as the barrage of gunfire that closed the season drew in a herd. However we really needed more time for Carol to work out how to blow up a gas tank. Her perfect aim with her handy rocket was far too convenient.
The Unknown: The emotional reunions were perfectly well acted but lost a bit of impact because we were only just getting used to the show being back on air.
Rick's insistence that they hunt down the people from Terminus and kill them was an interesting moment. Let's ignore the complicated moral reasoning behind that and focus on the hanging plot thread. It seems likely that some of the Terminus people will now survive and meet up with our survivors down the road. The trailors for the season together with the flashbacks seem to confirm this. It's an interesting development and continues Gimple's use of flashbacks to round his stories out (the Governor double shot and the finale's use of Hershel).
Eugene's explanation for what the "cure" is for the zombie virus was kind of what you would expect. He basically said nothing but by talking about highly developed micro-biology it sounds like he knows what he's talking about. He did not say that it was a government experiment gone wrong that caused the outbreak. Nor did he say that he has even tested a formula which might reverse or end the process. The question of whether he is a fraud, a fool or a saviour continues.
Between Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead the level of real-looking violence on television has gone to new extremes. Each scene will hit the viewer differently based on their expectations and the emotional context it's presented in. Despite it being anonymous humans being slaughtered I was still quite shocked at the casual brutality in seeing men having their heads smashed and throats slit at the Terminus trough. I don't know if that's a good thing or not! It definitely worked to ramp up the tension here.
Best Moment: I actually thought the most engaging part of the episode (opening sequence aside) was Tyreese's discussion with his captive (Martin). I was impressed with how certain the latter was that real friendship was gone and how casually he now viewed murder. He seemed shocked that Tyreese didn't understand that one of them was certain to die. "I don't wanna do this today" was the extent of his interest in not slaying a fellow human to secure his survival.
Conclusion: An exciting and enjoyable season opener. I do have reservations about the speed at which everything happened but so far Scott Gimple's planning has been impressive so let's give him the benefit of the doubt.
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