The Walking Dead bursts back onto our screens in a blood soaked, explosive first episode…
Well, I don’t think I expected that season opener to escalate quite as quickly and violently as it did! I was anticipating a drawn out battle of wits and violence across several episodes as the group struggled to free themselves from Terminus’ grip, but I have to say that the slaughter that went on here was actually very effective after last season’s smaller scale approach. I shall just warn regular readers now before continuing on with my review that unlike my film reviews this will be full of spoilers, you may want to stop reading if you have yet to catch up with this latest episode!
No Sanctuary‘s opening has to have been one of the strongest, most affecting openings to this show of all time. For a programme which has desensitized me to bloody violence to the extreme that zombies eating the faces of living, screaming people doesn’t even affect me anymore, it is fantastic to receive proof that chilling violence can still deeply affect a viewer when it is handled right. Watching people have their throat’s slit over a metal trough like cattle is one of the darkest things that this show has thrown at us yet and it gave us a real moment of dread where it looked like one of our leads may actually die. It’s been an uncomfortably long time since that has happened, which doesn’t bode well for the safety of the group this season.
There seems to be a real emphasis on efficient, economical storytelling here. We have the episode bookended by the flashbacks which immediately give us a considerable insight into Terminus’ inhabitants and complicate our realtionship with them no end. There’s also the collection of voices at the beginning of the episode which I really liked as a techniques for quickly filling us in on the key conversations which the gang have had between seasons. And finally there’s the pace at which this episode speeds along without once compromising character development nor plot. It’s a pretty impressive piece of writing all in all, especially when the show is famous for often taking its time with its plots.
I’m very interested to see how the show develops in terms of the humanity of its characters. Most of the gang are still muddling through but it’s clear after this weeks episode that Rick is really teetering on the edge after delivering his line about wanting to slaughter Terminus’ fleeing inhabitants. The line between good and evil barely exists now and there is the room for some potentially fascinating mirroring across characters and their developments. Did anyone else think that Rick’s murderous inclination had something of The Governor to it? After all both men wanted (however briefly) to wage an unnecessary attack on a compound of people, motivated by extreme retribution. I’m not saying that Rick is anywhere near becoming the next Governor, but his shadow was certainly lurking in Rick’s eyes in this episode. After all he was only brought back from the brink by the revelation that his daughter was still alive, a comfort that was of course sadly denied to The Governor.
Talking about character transformations, as is duly noted everywhere across the internet Melissa McBride’s Carol is by far the most developed and interesting character on the show now. I can remember back when it was a somewhat bizarre sight to see Carol shooting a gun, not anymore. McBride sells storming that base in ways few people can, and her quieter work is as excellent as always. Plus, it was beautiful to see Carol and Daryl’s reunion, although a fair amount of that was down to Reedus’ facial expression and bear hug run. The other character to undergo a transition is Tyreese, his return to killing was very nicely handled and didn’t weaken the tragic elements that came in Season Four. He could have an interesting future ahead of him as the group’s new Hershel/Dale. A figure who provides the group with caution and the staying of a hand when it comes to killing… but I’m not entirely convinced that that is where he is headed.
There are a lot of unanswered questions which are going to be really interesting to watch play out over this series such as how is Morgan’s return going to be worked into the show? Who is leaving those symbols for him to follow? Also there’s the question of how Carol is going to function within the group now. She is undoubtedly a changed woman from when they all knew her before, and for my money she is the strongest and most capable one of them all. She certainly has a far more level head than Rick at the moment. The of course there’s also the question of Beth and what’s happening to her… lots to look forward to! For now I’ll leave you with the Zombie Kill of the Week, thanks for reading!