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The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a drama about a zombie apocalypse. It is based on the 2003 Image Comics series. AMC 2010-???

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Episode 1 - No Sanctuary

19 October 2014
Credit AMC

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.

70/100

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  • Yes Matt, Great to see you back! I felt like Tyreese was being deceptive to Carol about killing the Termite mostly because he doesn't like killing. However there was part of me that felt like he either didn't kill him or just didn't finish him in the head and left him to turn. I truly believe Tyreese cherishes innocence more than any other character and the Termite threatening to snap Judith's neck sent him over the edge.

    Posted by Fluids, 20/10/2014 2:18pm (3 years ago)

  • I for one am glad that our survivors got out of Terminus quickly. Between the farm, the prison, and even Woodbury, there has been enough "standing still" on TWD. The second half of season 4 was so good because the characters were on the move, and now we have the whole group together on the move! I hope it lasts a while.
    Does anyone else think that, if the season's theme is to be Herder or Cattle?, that Tyrese may have left Martin alive, or in Breaking Bad terms, taken a half-measure? I could see the surviving Termites coming across a badly beaten Martin and having even more reason to want revenge.

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Matt E., 18/10/2014 12:41pm (3 years ago)

  • Great catch Tiarnan and great points Robin about the farm last season and the sickness.

    Yes, I echo both of your thoughts as well. Gimple tends to omit details and it sometimes causes vagueness in understanding what's going on with the plot as well as lessen or changes the emotional impact we feel for certain characters or scenes.

    In S4 more details about the sickness I think would have made it's threat more impactful.

    In this episode as you point out Abraham points out things went wrong as soon as they got there. Why wasn't Rick questioning this; mentioning the body parts that he whizzed by and why wasn't the group talking about the Termite intentions whilst thinking of plan to escape. All of this would have given the Termites more weight as villains.

    I think backfilled details also hampered character development for Gareth and didn't give us as intense a coldness and uncompromisingly sterile organizational evil they were trying to build out of Terminus. Perhaps they are counting on us rewatching the episode to apply the loose bits and obtain that emotional impact.

    Posted by Fluids, 17/10/2014 10:05pm (3 years ago)

  • That makes sense because how else would they grow their community. I think Gimple has taken the approach that he will leave bits of information out. The opening episode on the farm last season was quite abrupt, as were the details of the sickness that developed.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 17/10/2014 3:06pm (3 years ago)

  • Fluids- On Talking Dead Gimple also revealed that Terminus offer you a chance to become one of them. As long as you don't come in all guns blazing like Ricks group they be nice for a day or two before eventually coming clean on being cannibals. If you're cool with eating humans you join them and if you aren't you get eaten basically. That's why Abraham said at the start of the episode that things went wrong as soon as he mentioned DC, Gareth realised they were only staying temporally.

    While I find it cool to hear this stuff it is also a bit concerning that the show runner has to come on to Talking Dead to explain it.

    Posted by Tiarnan, 16/10/2014 9:20pm (3 years ago)

  • Talking Dead has some great character reveals that I didn't quite see in this episode that Scott Gimple and Greg Nicotero point out.

    1. The first guy who dies in the Abattoir scene is Sam from Indifference (S4E4)(Robin Lord Taylor)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Lord_Taylor. I supposed Rick couldn't be easily seen recognizing Sam because they were both bound and gagged. Sam was the kid with the girlfriend who got eaten and then went missing.

    2. Gareth and Alex were Mary's sons. Alex was the guy who Rick spun around and got shot accidently in the head by one of the roof Termites. If I had been able to put that together an episode ago or so, it would have made Gareth's scenes in the Abattoir that more cold and insensitive and shocking. After all, how does Rick and company stand a chance persuading Gareth not to eat them when he's willing to watch them butcher his own brother for consumption on the table several feet from him.

    The last flashback Gareth is holding Mary and says to her "Mom! Mom!".

    3. The man with the Tattoo'd Face that Rick let out of the railroad car was one of the bad folks that over threw Terminus and victimized Gareth and his family. He's also in the very last flashback saying things weren't going to be okay to Mary when she said that to calm folks down.

    Posted by Fluids, 16/10/2014 2:47am (3 years ago)

  • For me this is up there with the pilot as the best episode of The Walking Dead. It had everything- Great action, scary moments at the beginning, gory, good-looking zombies (you know what I mean) emotional moments at the end and of course Carol being rambo! Half-way through the episode I was thinking back to Carol season One and just laughing at how much she has changed.

    Despite all the brilliant scenes in the episode my favourite moment was Rick changing the sign at the end. It has been a LONG build-up to Terminus and it just felt like a nice way to close that chapter.

    Looking at the viewing figures for this episode the show is clearly not going anywhere for a long time but for me the best news about The Walking Dead getting a season 6 is that Scott Gimple has survived for another year and finally the show is getting the consistency it needs (he is also a big fan of the comic book).

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Tiarnan, 15/10/2014 8:20pm (3 years ago)

  • Game of thrones generally uses violence in a manner that is not throwaway because most of the characters that are the victims of violence are actually people that we are meant to empathise with, and hence the awful nature of the acts inflicted on them is laid bare much better and in a way that sticks much more in the audience's mind because the nature of the injustice is revealed at the same time. It stretches your empathy muscles when good people who don't deserve to suffer end up suffering an injustice because it calls into question the use of violence to solve problems in any scenario, whereas sacrificing people like it was no big deal for the survival of the group is something TWD has consistently done and that is less justifiable as an idea in my opinion and it's just not original enough to sustain me through 5 seasons if the story is not building up to an end goal because as it is now they could go through every American city through 26 seasons and it'd still be the same set-up because the show has no room to grow anymore at this stage and the zombies are just like chickens in the front yard now too. Tom me this frankly shows that GOT at least values the lives of each character enough to make you feel that it's an injustice if something happens to them. I don't think it needs to worry about lack of hopelessness leading to people not watching the show because it looks great, has consistently good acting, the dialogue is very good and the story mostly unpredictable. It cares about its characters a lot more than TWD does because the only characters who consistently survive are fan favourites and that is actually worse because it means that we have to root for carl no matter how much of a psycho he is because we're told it's the right thing to do...at least with Arya Stark there is a sense that she is becoming an emotionless child soldier on a quest for revenge and at least the show acknowledges that fact by framing her actions in a manner that is ambiguous and uncomfortable but Carl? He gets to kill people with no moral qualms about it whatsoever. It doesn't help that his actor is not very good either; Also the Walking Dead however has always used violence as somewhat titilating (see season 2 where every zombie moment was used as a reward to justify characters essentially arguing in pairs of 2 throughout the season and where carl actually argues that they kill Randy because...atheism?), whereas I cannot recall a single moment where the violence on GOt wasn't anything other than repelling and to that i say: good job. There is just no point to it on TWD other than to say: zombies eat people in disgusting ways and they look horrible whilst doing so and look, people can be horrible to each other too but they are justidied because...survival. That device also makes it fairly easy to justify the use of violence against 'the other' when it's presented as a faceless, formless, thoughtless mass or an outside force that's out t get you constantly and I'm not sure we are meant to find that an ironic twist of fate on this show. As for improvements throughout TWD, I might say the action is getting better, the show looks good but the acting for the most part is laughable and the writing inconsistent, with gaps of logic (see the supermarket scene at the start of season 4: a helicopter has crashed on a roof but the roof doesn't collapse until after it's dramatically convenient? Also, how did all those zombies get on that roof without anyone seeing them just like at the start of season 2?). Also, am I the only one who is tired of having the commercials tell me how much I supposedly must love the show as if there were no discussion possible as to its questionable quality? It's probably not for me but between bland characters that the show has not managed to make me care about, the inconsistent writing, the plot conveniences and plot holes and the generally reprehensible moral point the show makes (i.e. only look out for yourself and defend your own interests with violence if necessary against everyone who's not you and therefore has to be regarded with deep suspicion, even within your own group) I feel like the success of the show comes down to diminished expectations at this point.

    Posted by Fantom, 14/10/2014 5:55pm (3 years ago)

  • @Fantom. I disagree with two of your statements regarding me. If you look at the scores I have given TWD over the years it is consistently lower than Game of Thrones and far lower than a show like Breaking Bad or Lost. So I disagree with "high ratings." I also think if you read my reviews for last season you would see that I disagree with the idea that the show isn't improving or developing from where it was in earlier seasons.

    The second thing is that I consistently explain my emotional response to Game of Thrones and its use of violence. The complaints I have are about the use of violence in relation to hope or the audience's investment in a character or sense of justice. In TWD universe death is obviously presented in a vastly different emotional context because of the existence of remorseless zombies. They are quite different scenarios that provoke quite different reactions.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 14/10/2014 2:43pm (3 years ago)

  • I seriously do not understand how a subpar show like this, which has no goal going forward other than to switch locations once in a while generally gets these high ratings on this site. The way the last few seasons went you sort of were really obviously hit in the face with the reality that the show was making things up as it went along. Most of the characters are bland and uninteresting except Rick and Daryl. the kid actor who plays Carl is bland and that kid actor excuse cannot actually be used anymore. Also, for someone who is so uneasy about Game of Thrones you sure do not seem to complain about the obvious moral pobelms with this show. The show at this point seems to think that killing is awful....except when you 'have' to do it, in which case it's apparetly awesome or why else would someone pat a character on the shoulder for killing someone? It's also been a pattern of the show that the least developed and least popular characters are the ones who die (example: T-Bone had nothing to do for 3 seasons and then he got one moment and then that was it....). Try finding out who does nothing at all and who the viewers like least and you essentially know all the red shirts for the season. The show better develop an arc for these characters or else it's just once again going to be: Zombies, kill. Humans, killl. Rince. Repeat. Which is what it has been so far. remember those moments when they were talking about that prison fence, weren't these awesome moments? I can't wait for them to take most of these episodes to talk about some new irrelevant thing for 6 episodes. Also, the writing generally does not explain hwo and why things are happening...yeah remember those pigs at the beginning of season 4? Where'd they get those? the show simply does not focus on the détails, which makes the writing subpar at least and this is no exception and if all the show essentially wants to say is the exact same thing that the first Hostel movie said 10 years ago and better what's the point of even having the show? I still don't understand why Michonne is still alive and not Hershel, especially if the Governor wanted her dead. instead he killed Hershel and...yeah. Inconsistent mess of a character that teh governor is, I guess the excuse is 'well he's crazy' just as an excuse for writing a character inconsistently. These things are starting to add up over the seasons. Here's to the show changing its dynamic and story around to build up to something. So here's 50 because I'm generous and hopeful that past mistakes of the show will be corrected but I'm not that optimistic. This was a decent start but once again, Tyreese getting a pat on the back for killing someone that is a bad guy is something I have never been comfortable with because it esentially says that killing is awful, except when people we view as bad die and the audience is sort of absolved from any moral repugnance and when he says 'i did it, I did it' it's sort of like a big achievement, This is so gross at this point. The show ultimately has no idea what the subtext of its ideas an the violence actually mean, as opposed to Game of Thrones, which at least presents a dying society on its way to self-destruction but on TWD the implosion of society has already happened 4 seasons ago and so anything afterwards is just pointless, surface-level padding in the hope that it stumbles across something it can say about violence.

    Viewer score: 50 / 100

    Posted by Fantom, 14/10/2014 2:23pm (3 years ago)

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