The Walking Dead opened its season with a mission statement that there would be no mercy. No Sanctuary was an action heavy episode with a big old explosion and enough blood to pull a proper prom night prank. Action heavy seems like a redundant descriptor for an episode of The Walking Dead, but it needs to be applied here.
Based on the history of the show, I expected Rick’s traveling family band to spend a few episodes at Terminus. Maybe we’d see a few people slow cooked while we got to know our newest human villain, Gareth. As it turned out, Terminus wasn’t going to stand for long.
The episode opened with a bit of a horror influence in the use of then and now flashbacks, showing the origins of the Terminus group. No Sanctuary wants to show us that this crew has been to Hell and is willing to do anything to keep from going back. Does that remotely justify luring people to your stronghold and eating them? Not quite, but it sure is a nice attempt.
No Sanctuary also does a bit of a fake ‘em out with the key figure of the episode. It’s built up to be Rick. We see through his eyes as he’s dragged off to be slaughtered. He’s tied up with Daryl, Bob, and Glenn on a blood collecting trough that Gus Fring would be proud of. He’s desperately looking for an opportunity to use the splinter that he grabbed from the train car. While Rick certainly does end up using that splinter to his advantage, it’s all thanks to the woman he set loose in season 4: Carol.
Carol might be late to the party, but she sure does make an impression. Dousing herself in zombie goo, she pulls a one woman assault on Terminus. She is both Commando and Predator rolled into one middle aged lady. Carol became the zombie apocalypse MacGuyver, using a bottle rocket, sniper rifle, and zombie hoard to create just the right circumstances to free her friends from the buffet line.
No other character on The Walking Dead has undergone a change as drastic as Carol. She started the show as a battered wife. The loss of her daughter was the focus of season 2. Since then, she’s become a walking callus. She is the one willing to move forward and protect her group from anything. Carol can make the hard choices. She’s become such a different character from her comics counterpart.
Our protagonists are also growing increasingly more comfortable with the presence of the dead over the living. Carol seamlessly blends in with the zombie hoard. Michonne smiles when she sees them outside the train car. None of them blink when they’ve got to fight their way through them as the Termites panic and wildly fire away.
Carol wasn’t the only one making the hard choices. Tyrese doesn’t want to kill the creep he’s standing guard over in the cabin just outside Terminus. He’s still too scarred from Carol making Lizzie “look at the flowers”. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much of a choice once the creep grabs the wee baby Judith. I thought Tyrese was going to burst back in through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man for a moment. I mean, look at this poor kid!
Want to make a character truly despicable? Have them threaten a baby. Instant creepification.
Rick wants to make the hard choice at the end and finish off Gareth. He learned from the Governor that threats don’t just disappear. The reunion with Carol and his baby daughter sidetracks him though. Yeah, I’m sure that won’t come back to bite them in the ass. The show keeps telling us that the living are more of a threat than the dead. Oh, the episode ends with another flashback to Gareth, vowing to forever be he hunter instead of the hunted? Ya don’t say… When do you guys think he’ll turn back up? Let’s say mid-season finale.
In the meantime, the group moves on past the cannibal factory and hits the road again. Who’s that behind them? Well, in case your DVR cut off the mystery reveal at the end, Morgan’s back!
It will be interesting to see how closely the show follows the comics from this point on. The people of Terminus are reminiscent of the “Hunters” storyline. This was when Morgan popped back up. We’ve got Father Gabriel coming up next. Sure, a lot of the characters are different, but the song remains the same.