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Published on October 14th, 2014 | by Bean

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The Walking Dead – Season 5 Opener / Season 4 Recap – 5.1 “No Sanctuary”

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WARNING! CONTAINS SPOILERS!!

BOOM! Like a bottle rocket going off in your face, the fifth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead returns with more than it’s usual amount of blood and guts. Opening on distant terrified screams and the murmured regrets of a huddled group of captives, we are given to understand that this is the origin of the people at Terminus; how it all went wrong for them.
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Swiftly throwing us forward to the present, our people are a different kettle of fish altogether. Season 4 closed on Rick’s assertion that these new assholes would feel pretty stupid when they found out they were “screwing with the wrong people”, and his assessment was pleasingly on the nose. A montage of busy hands, calmly crafting makeshift weaponry, is accompanied by the recap of story threads and characters we need to jog our memory. Soldier dude Abraham, gives us a Washington DC reminder (ah, yes, the elusive bigger picture narrative given some actual weight this week by Eugene), whilst Daryl and Sasha mention their missing companions, Beth and Tyreese.

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Their industry is quickly averted, as they failed to think outside the box (!) regarding their captors approach. The required downturn in their already shitty fortunes is forthcoming, and before you know it Rick, Daryl, Glen and Bob are hog-tied and slumped over a trough in an abattoir watching four red-coats get their throats cut whilst a fresh corpse is dismembered with a chain-saw in the background. And all in the cold open!

Beautiful new opening titles, bearing the clues to Season 5, ratchet the tension rather than release it. The familiar repetitive strains give way to the quasi-peace of the forest, and bring Carol, Tyreese and Judith back into the mix. Tyreese’s issues around killing re-surface and are eventually resolved, having been given short shrift by Carol, who remains the most badass character in The Walking Dead. Carol is given a lot to do in the season opener, from general walker slay-age to explosive fun with a firework (a chance to show off her sharp shooting markswoman skills) and some hand-to-hand with the Terminus Mama.
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This is following on from an eventful third and fourth season. It only occurred to me in the last ten minutes of the episode that Carol and Rick haven’t seen one another since his Season 3 banishment of her after she admitted to killing Tyreese’s gravely ill and infectious girlfriend. One of the most excruciatingly fraught scenes in the show’s history played out between Tyreese and Carol during her confession of this event last season. That the show allows these elements to unfold at a glacial pace is to it’s credit. If complaints were voiced at the frustration of having our group disbanded in Season 4, then here is the pay-off; the very real sense of trust re-won when Carol and Rick embrace or the precious sanctity of family when the three Grimes’ are reunited. Don’t get me started on Carol and Daryl’s moment. (sniff)

Last year’s travails saw some momentous shifts in our leads. Aside from Carol, Carl, Rick and Michonne had the most dramatic changes to face. For Carl, a degree of independence from his father had to be experienced before he realised the value of innocence. The calibre of acting brought to the table by Chandler Riggs is such that even the loving homage of the terrific Bad Lip Reading’s “More Walking (and Talking) Dead” and it’s “Carl Poppa” song cannot deplete it’s impact. He and Danai Gurira’s Michonne spent much of the fourth season together, facilitating her evolution from pseudo-walker/husk of a human to a more rounded and vulnerable version of her self. My better half has suspicions that this vulnerability will be exploited to her doom, but I think it distinct from the type of softness displayed previously by Mika, Crazy Lizzie’s ill-fated sister. Also, she’s not wilfully stupid or a child.

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Rick’s arc also continues to deepen in complexity, ably handled by the still riveting Andrew Lincoln. Season 4’s finale really placed Rick in the vice, with the attempted rape and murder of Carl and Michonne. The red mist that ensued saw Rick tear a man’s throat out with his teeth, and gut Carl’s attempted rapist from zipper to chin. Most surprising was his acceptance of this brutal element of his nature; a necessary acceptance in the post-apocalyptic circumstances, but one that presents as a constant balancing act of aggression and compassion.
The Walking Dead - Episode 5.01 - Promotional Photo
Discovering how to walk this line is one of the central conundrums of The Walking Dead, as any self-respecting zombie story ought to acknowledge. The parallels between the Terminus crowd and our people are obviously drawn, and made more pointed by the coda re-iterating the source of their particular rot, their one-trauma-too-many. Why this devastating event led them to cannibalise any hostile outsiders, rather than simply locking down their perimeter against further intrusion, is not really convincingly explained, but they’re a metaphor really; the show doesn’t need to.

Starting and ending with the screams of the terrorised reads like a fable; or is it a cautionary tale? That Terminus was wrapped up in two episodes, like reverse bookends, denotes it as more of a symbolic device than a larger piece of the narrative, though it does introduce us to the probable new antagonist, the man who destroyed Terminus the first time around. However, their subsequent mantra – that you’re either the butcher or the cattle – doesn’t allow for the third way, the middle path our people are attempting to carve for themselves.

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Is the middle way possible? Can the collective spirit-level of the group keep one person, in particular Rick, from leading them into carnage? The show doesn’t have to answer this yet; it’s a recurring rhetorical question that we circle around. In this episode, the arrival of Carol shelves the debate for another day, though it is clear Rick wanted to ‘clean the slate’ at Terminus. AMC’s tag line for this season is “Hunt or be hunted.” Doesn’t bode well. Still, the longer this question can be legitimately left hanging, the more potential for juicy disaster there is, and the happier this grimly commentating audience member will be. Bring on D.C…

This review is brought to you by Nina Clark, whose fella Mark Rowden contributes the following;

MARK’S ZOMBIE CONNOISSEUR CORNER
This week’s observation; the use of fireworks by Terminus folk as as walker-distractions is an obvious homage to George A Romero’s ‘Land of the Dead’.

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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