The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 1: “No Sanctuary”
Directed by Gregory Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
The highest-rated scripted show on television returned tonight, as The Walking Dead Season 5 kicked off with “No Sanctuary,” written by showrunner Scott Gimple and directed by special effects guru Greg Nicotero. Season 4’s finale left us on a cliffhanger, and “Sanctuary” picks up right where it left off. Rick’s last words from the season 4 finale (They don’t know whom they are messing with.) echo heavily throughout tonights premiere. “No Sanctuary” is chock full of suspense and complete badassary on the part of Carol. What’s most surprising about the episode, is how quickly Terminus is resolved. Like a roundhouse kick to the head, “No Sanctuary rushes through the conclusion of the Terminus plotline with satisfactory results. “The Walking Dead” doesn’t always deliver satisfying episodes but it always does well with premieres. The first six minutes are among the most intense minutes of the series yet, and the next 30 or so minutes are fast, bloody, overblown, explosive and crazy good.
While nearly all of the main cast of characters makes an appearance this week, the premiere mostly divides its attention between Rick and Carol. Watching Glenn, Daryl among others, bent over alongside Rick, awaiting their imminent doom as they’re lined up for execution will leave viewers digging their nails deep into their seats. Even if we never expect either of these players to meet their demise so early in the season, Greg Nicotero does a superb job directing the scene, holding a camera shot a second longer than expected, and cutting back and forth between the reaction shots of the butchers and the cattle. Despite the huge amounts of gore each and every week, I still get the shivers when a non-walker is brutally assassinated. Watching the other men have their throats slit and left dangling over the edge of the long sink is absolutely horrifying.
As impressive as the opening sequence is, Carol steals the show once again, placing her along side (if not passing) Darryl as fan favourite. Not only does she protect Judith and Tyreese on the road to the compound, but she single-handedly runs to the rescue of her old friends. Carol’s explosive attack against Terminus amid a fury of gunfire and smoke, with hordes of walkers flooding the establishment demands repeat viewings. After spreading walker guts all over her body, and taking out some guards with her sniper rifle, Carol gets imaginative by launching some fireworks at a gas tank causing everything and everyone around it to explode. And how cool was that explosion? Things pretty much proceed as you’d expect. Blood spews from bodies like fountains of Chinese fireworks and bullets zoom by Carol who parades around like a ghost.
Meanwhile Tyreese is left behind by Carol in a cabin in the woods with baby Judith and one of Gareth’s goons held prisoner. Unfortunately these scenes with Tyreese do slow down the episode but it does explore how his nonviolent solution with the stranger suggests defeat. The contrast between their mostly dialogue heavy encounter and Rick and Carol’s exploits through Gareth’s slaughter house resounds powerfully the central theme of the episode – and the season as a whole. Producers have gone on record to say the fifth season promises to pursue one core theme — “who do they become?” Tyreese represents one extreme — the now-pacifist who who holds on to hope that even in this zombie infested world, people can unite and make a change for the greater good. Gareth on the other hand represents the exact opposite. More importantly these scenes serve to return Tyrese to his former self. When he bursts back into the cabin, whatever second thoughts he had about killing are gone. Though it has plenty of shocks, the series creates a wasteland that would be compellingly deranged even without the dead coming back to life and pressing insistently at every corner of the map. Horror is just the half of it, and this episode fits well in emphasizing the difference between Rick’s group and the rest of the world. It is unmistakably disturbing knowing just how far Gareth and his gang have gone to turn their backs on their fellow man. The haunting scenes that open and close the episode show Gareth’s people trapped in the same containers where they now lock their victims. Midway, Mary explains to Carol how her group chose to survive, before Carol denies her a chance to survive. Oddly the bookends unexpectedly allow us to sympathize with the Terminus gang, despite knowing what they later become. “No Sanctuary” serves up a cold plate of scathing social commentary – as the series has poignantly expressed many times before, hope is a dangerous prospect, or is it?
The episode culminates with a well-earned reunion. I’d even argue the strongest moments of the premiere lie in the final ten minutes and not during the great escape. It has been a while since the group as a whole (whoever is left that is), have been awarded a moment of reflection and happiness. Watching Rick hold his daughter tight makes a strong cap on a premiere so heavy in action. There are no major twists and nobody important dies, but “No Sanctuary” is an effective return to the world of the dead – an episode full of action and high levels of suspense. If it is indicative of the rest of the season, then Scott Gimple isn’t lying when he says season five will be the show’s best. The Walking Dead in fine form indeed!
– Ricky D
I couldn’t help but look away when Gareth’s goon threatened to snap Baby Judith’s neck. What an asshole.
Now back on the road, the survivors have no home to protect or guard. We can only assume they are now heading to Washington in hopes of delivering Eugene and his cure.
So while Terminus fell by the wayside, Eugene delivered a bit more explanation about the supposed cure – yeah not really. We’ll need a new goal for the season, so hoping for a cure would do the trick, but I can’t help but think Eugene is full of shit.
We got mention of Beth. I’m betting we will see her in two weeks.
Rick hovering over the sign and writing “No” next to “Sanctuary” at the end was a nice touch.
A new opening sequence! The music is the same but there is new footage added.
Notice how no one ever says the word “cannibal” aloud, much like how no one ever uses the word zombie.
Did Michonne get her katana back?
After Rick smears mud over the Terminus signs we see a solitary masked man following the group.
After he notices a circle with an X carved into a tree, he pulls off his mask to reveal himself as Morgan Jones (Lennie James) a.k.a my favourite character.
Don’t forget to listen to our Walking Dead podcast. We release new episodes each week with a new guest.