Review: The Walking Dead - 'No Sanctuary'

By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers for S5E1. Do not read without first watching the episode**

 Since Scott Gimple took the reigns on The Walking Dead last season, the show has been getting progressively darker which pleases me to no end! There were rumors that the season 5 premiere was "too disturbing to air" and while that is a dangerous amount of hype, the first episode definitely delivered! Unlike with most episodes of the show, I could not find a single complaint here.

"No Sanctuary" picks up where the finale left off, with our protagonists trapped in a traincar in Terminus. True to Rick's promise of "They fucked with the wrong people"  - yes, I'm pretending that whole "screwed" thing never happened - the gang prepare makeshift weapons to defend themselves. It is to no avail, however, when they are separated and dragged to a slaughterhouse. 

I was pleasantly surprised with the level of gore in this opening scene. As a diehard horror fan, slit throats and gushing blood do not faze me but I did not expect AMC to have the balls to show such graphic human-on-human violence. The walker kills reach ridiculously gory levels but I cannot think of another human murder that was portrayed with such graphic realism as this. Between the Governor, Lizzie, and this, the show is taking a refreshingly bleak turn and finally beginning to match the cojones of its comic book counterpart. 

Speaking of the comics, I still have to wonder if that "baseball bat smock man" was a little tongue-in-cheek reference to Negan. I won't go into specifics but if you know the comics, you know what I mean. Especially considering Kirkman's involvement with the show, there is no way the similarity did not at least occur the writers. Perhaps this means future events won't play out quite as expected? After the watering-down of the Governor, I would expect some things to be changed, but now with Gimple and his penchant for brutality, I'm not so sure anymore! We shall see.

The slaughter-floor scene is a bit predictable what with the nameless "red shirts" and the convenient saves but I thoroughly enjoyed the gore and Rick being a total bad-ass. His give-no-fucks glare to Gareth was fantastic. As soon as I saw that head-tilt, I knew shit was about to go down!

I also found Gareth to be suitably creepy, especially his calm, collected but cold demeanor and the way he knew Bob's name. The whole scene was tense and bleak in a fashion finally befitting this storyline. Rick's ruthlessness in particular this entire episode pleases me. From "Let him turn" to "They don't get to live", my man was one hard motherfucker this episode! Hopefully the gun-fearing, ghost-seeing Farmer Rick is gone for good now.

The only person who could touch Rick's beast-mode this episode was Carol, who moved up yet another notch on the total bad-ass scale when she went full-blown Rambo (in a Clint Eastwood poncho) and saved everyone's butts. The gas explosion; hiding amongst the walkers; sniping the bad guys from inside their own compound; and leaving Tasha Yar/Rachel Creed to be eaten alive - DAMN, woman! I defended Carol's actions at the prison; I loved her for how she dealt with Lizzie; and now she's finally the kind of hero that everyone can accept - even Tyreese. I'm not sure I could adore that woman any more! If Carol dies, we riot!

 The scenes between Tyreese and Martin, the guy from Terminus, were fantastic, as well. The latter was equally menacing, if not moreso, than Gareth. "You're a good guy. That's why you're gonna die today. That's why the baby's gonna die today." What a deliciously nasty line! Thankfully, Tyreese's whiney, crybaby phase ended and he got to fuck up a half-dozen walkers (true to his print counterpart) and how epic was that tackle?! There's the Tyreese I know and love!

The gore and FX were pretty solid this episode...

....even that one face-muncher who looked totally fake but still felt like a nice, old-school low-budget effect: 

Mostly, "No Sanctuary" is bolstered by strong characters, tense writing, and dialogue. I love all the backstory given to Terminus. It imagines what Rick & co could have turned into - or could still turn into - given enough time and pain. They were once good, caring people who were victimized and made to survive. "You're the butcher, or you're the cattle." Great stuff! Love a little sympathy for the devil! The use of the "THEN" bookends was a great touch.

After all the brutality and badassery, the episode ends with a tearful reunion between Rick, Carl and Judith, and between Daryl and Carol. Fangirl hearts exploded everywhere, etc. etc. A nice relief. All in all, a fantastic premiere and I am excited to see where they take it.

Update: I nearly missed the after-credits bit! Since when do they do that?! I caught it the second viewing and HOLY SHIT YES! MORGAN! So excited!!! I was JUST saying how badly I wanted to see him return! I just hope they're not mashing too many characters in at once.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

- Based on the gunfire we hear from different perspective, the protagonists were probably only at Terminus for an hour or two. And this is how they left it:

- I think the Governor started a trend of all the Walking Dead villains being hot, amiright?

- That baby is a great fucking actor!

"Wahhh....oh shit..."

- Rick says they must get away from the giant fire. Ooooh, so giant, black-smoke fires are BAD when you don't wanna attract zombies? Someone should tell Daryl and Beth...

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