Season four of AMC’s The Walking Dead ended with one hell of a cliffhanger that saw the fan-favorite group of survivors biding their time in the Terminus folk’s make-shift railcar prison cell. Thankfully, season five kicked off more or less from this same spot, so viewers didn’t have to hang on too long to find out the fate of Rick & Co. Now that it’s arrived and the wait is over, just how good was the premiere? In a word: Perfect.
Hit the jump for The Walking Dead recap of the season five premiere.
Tonight’s premiere continued last season’s thread of splinter groups surviving on their own after the destruction of the prison, but ended the hour with what is easily the most uplifting sequence of reunions in the series so far. I’d love to talk about it now, but that’d be getting ahead of myself, since Rick and the gang started off in the railcar and ready for a fight. What they got instead was a flashbang and some knockout gas.
There isn’t much that makes me squeamish on this show anymore, but watching the casual butchering of the captives was pretty tough. I can see the Undead get brained, blown up, and decapitated any day of the week; when this sort of realistic (and unfortunately very relevant) type of violence occurs to the presumably innocent however, it’s tough to watch. And it should be. Thankfully we get away from this tough scene and back to good old fashioned violence against the Undead before long.
So while Rick, Bob, Glenn, and Daryl are over a barrel (more or less), Carol and Tyreese (with Baby Judith in tow) happen upon a sizeable horde of Walkers headed toward Terminus, and they wisely choose a separate course. While circling around the herd, they happen upon Martin (Chris Coy), one of Terminus’ citizens who’s posted up in a nearby cabin. After tying Martin up due to his nefarious nature, Carol leaves the good-natured Tyreese there to watch over him and Baby Judith, while she daubs on some Eau de Deceased and joins in the herd.
Now let’s take a brief side journey here to talk about how great Tyreese is. Sure, Martin plays his sympathies like a fiddle and eventually gets his grubby hands on Baby Judith in order to force Tyreese outside into a small pack of hungry Walkers. What Martin doesn’t understand is that this is a very, very bad idea, as Tyreese rages out (off camera) and dispatches the Walkers, only to turn his anger (and ham-sized fists) on Martin. Lesson learned: Do not piss this man off!
Meanwhile, Carol’s doing her best Rambo impression by infiltrating the Walker herd, sniping a propane tank outside Terminus HQ, and blowing the place up with a well-aimed flare. Having apparently caused enough havoc for the moment, Carol takes a casual stroll through the grounds, eliminating guards, dodging Walkers, and perusing the storerooms and shrines of Terminus (recognize that watch, anyone? RIP Sam). She even has time to engage in a little hand-to-hand combat with Mary, who hints at a broader story behind the cannibalistic horrors of Terminus, but Carol wins the day and leaves a wounded Mary to the fate of the invading Walkers. Hey, you’re either the butcher, or you’re the cattle.
So what are the other survivors up to while everyone else is running around playing Cops and Walkers? Well, they’re wisely prepping for a fight, especially since Michonne notices a stray Walker trying to pry its way into the rail car. They take this time to turn their attention to Eugene in order to ask him the question that viewers have certainly been pondering: just what is this cure he has figured out? The short version is that Eugene was part of a think tank that developed weapons and cures for genetically engineered microorganisms used in bioterrorism. Now, he thinks he can reverse engineer a bug that will take down the Walkers, if he can only get to DC and its vast resources. No one else knows what he’s talking about, so it’s clear that their job is to protect him at all costs, but first they’ll have to get out of that railcar…
Cue Rick and his about-to-be-slaughtered buddies, who take advantage of Carol’s distraction to free themselves and take out their would-be butchers. This immediate vengeance was very, very satisfying to watch as it was clear that these guys were unequivocally bad, right? (More on that in a minute.) Rick & Co. used their survival experience and their shorthand together to methodically take out a number of the Terminus security team, along with a few Walkers along the way. They even stopped for a moment (wisely or not) to rescue another train car full of victims from a group of encroaching Walkers, thus retaining a sliver of their humanity. Before long, they rescue their own people and quickly make their way out of Terminus, stopping to pick up their bag of weapons and supplies before hitting the road.
Except Rick isn’t ready to go just yet. Even as Terminus burns and Walkers plague the area, he wants to gear up and slaughter every last butcher in the place. It’s probably a better idea than it seems at first blush, but the arrival of Carol (and the resulting reunion) puts thoughts of revenge out of mind for a bit. The reunion of Carol and Daryl? Heartwarming. The reunion of Tyreese and Sasha? Eh, okay, that’s nice. The reunion of Rick and Carl with Baby Judith?? Best moment on this show so far. Played absolutely perfectly by not only the actors, but by the editors who built the tension between groups throughout the episode. Bravo, team! The only problem with this strong of a start is that it’s going to be hard to top it this season.
Odds & Entrails:
- Sorry, folks. Definitely dropped the ball on the body count this week. On the plus side, there was enough murder, mayhem, and destruction for everyone to enjoy. I can’t even think of a favorite effects moment, to be honest. Great stuff on display in this hour.
- Let’s talk about the Terminus flashback for a second: We see Gareth, Mary and the others imprisoned in a railcar of their own, discussing the wisdom behind posting signs for Terminus, all while they hear screams outside. The episode’s end features another flashback to that same time, when it’s revealed that another group has overtaken Terminus in order to rape, murder, and feed on the people there. It’s an interesting moment to show that, A) Gareth and Mary and their ilk were once believers in a peaceful settlement that have now learned to be the butchers rather than the cattle, B) that this loss of humanity can happen to anyone, and C) that this team has come back to reclaim what is theirs once before, so perhaps it’s not wise to allow them to escape into the night. A very interesting little aside here, one that’s worth keeping an eye on.
- How fun was that Terminus setting for the cast and crew? A great playground to work in, for sure!
- Martin: “You get used to it.” Tyreese: “I haven’t gotten used to it.” Martin: “Of course not. You’re the kind of guy who saves babies. That’s like saving an anchor when you need a boat.”
- Rick: “Don’t! Let him turn.”
- Rick: “We don’t have to double back.”
- Mary: “The signs? They were real. It was a sanctuary. People came and took this place, they raped, and they killed. People left over weeks, but we got out and we got it back. And we heard the message: you’re the butcher, or you’re the cattle.”
- Tyreese: “I won’t!”
- Don’t worry, gang. I didn’t forget about that last little teaser. After Rick smears mud over the Terminus signs so that they now read “No Sanctuary”, we see a solitary masked man walking the tracks in their directions. He notices a circle with an X carved into a nearby tree, and then pulls off his mask to reveal himself as … Morgan Jones (Lennie James), a fan-favorite character introduced in the first season and seen occasionally throughout the seasons. Maybe, if this episode’s reunions are anything to go by, we’ll see a reunion between Morgan and Rick before the season’s end.
Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the season five premiere of The Walking Dead in the comments below, and we’ll see you next week!