Welcome back, Sunday nights! Any disappointment that I may have had with the finale of Season 4 was entirely quelled by the Season 5 premiere of The Walking Dead last night. I’m fairly certain our neighbors could hear us yelling during the episode. Let’s just jump right into it, shall we?
First off, have you watched the episode yet? Need a refresher? Click Here for a spoiler-filled summary of the episode. All caught up? Good. On to the opinionated blather!
“Good people can be turned bad.” ~Greg Nicotero
I like that the episode jumped back and forth in time a little bit, giving us some insight into Gareth, his brother Alex, and their mother, Mary. It seems that, initially, Terminus was founded as a sanctuary but one of the groups of people they allowed to enter destroyed what they had built with their barbaric ways. The original residents were thrown into boxcars and subjected to frequent beatings, rape, and eventually death. In time, Gareth would help lead the coup that overthrows the villains. But, by that time, many of them had become victims of their environment. Who are we? Who do we become? Those questions have been at the heart of every season thus far. Pair that with the concept from season 4 that “we don’t get to come back” and you have yourself a big, fat, internal struggle for each character. Knowing this tiny nugget of truth about the “Termites” clarified their mantra: Never Again. Never Trust. We First Always.
Speaking of jumping around in time, I loved that they continued their timeline overlaps from the back-8 of season 4. It was always fun to try and figure out how far apart our heroes were from each other based on the “breadcrumb” trails left behind. The gunfire used to corral the leader, the archer, the samurai, and the boy into boxcar A, was just enough noise to distract a horde of walkers from attacking Carol, Tyreese and Judith. Carol’s initial shots fired at Terminus were the distraction that prevented Glenn from being bled out like a pig in a slaughterhouse. I appreciated getting an answer to something that bugged me last season: Why aren’t there any walkers surrounding the gates of Terminus in the large amounts like there were at the prison? It seems the Termites have little “guard shacks” in the surrounding area. When walkers start to build up, they utilize fireworks to distract and deter them. The few that continue on to the fences get a poke to the head. Genius.
Kill or you die, or you die and you kill. Hunt or be hunted. You’re the butcher or you’re the cattle. We get the point; It’s time to nut up or shut up.
This episode had some wonderful special effects. The rotting corpses have certainly been taken to a new level. Though, I still haven’t seen anything to make me fear walkers again like I used to. Since midway through the first half of season 3, things shifted for me and I became more wary of the living than of the dead (as opposed to the hyperventilating panic attacks I had during the first two seasons). I still yell during the show, but now it’s more of a reaction to the gore and gruesome nature of some of the kills. I’m still waiting to be truly scared again. I’m going to regret saying that.
The gore factor was extremely high this go round. The brutality of the slaughter scene at the start of the show was incredible, but to the point of uncomfortable. And the fact that they had Gareth’s brother, Alex, on a slab in the corner…Waste not, want not, I suppose. Rick has reached a new level of badassery since taking a bite out of crime in season 4, instructing his family to “Go for the eyes, then their throats” when attacking Termites. We’ve come a very long way since “We don’t kill the living.”
“That’s still who we are. It’s got to be.” ~ Glenn, trying to convince Rick to take time out of their escape and battle with the Termites to rescue the living still trapped in other boxcars.
Glenn needs to watch his back, though. He has become the moral compass of the series. And, we know what happens to the moral compass, right? Just ask Dale and Hershel. Many people thought that we saw a shadowy glimpse of Negan as the character terrorizing Gareth’s family. Robert Kirkman quickly dispelled those rumors, noting to fans that the man in question had very specific tattoos. This man turned out to be the one locked in the boxcar that Rick and Glenn set free. The man is quickly attacked by a walker and subsequently beaten with a bat by Glenn. Foreshadowing? You betcha!
Our heroes spent the early part of their reunion cleverly crafting weapons out of everything on their persons; belt buckles, shoe strings, pieces of wood from within the boxcar, Michonne’s unimaginable double-ended Darth Maul weapon, and my favorite, Rosita’s giant earrings turned spiked-knuckles. They were poised for a breakout attempt, but the Termites were one step ahead, opening the top of the car rather than the door. Later, though, when the compound is under attack, Michonne can be seen grinning like the Cheshire Cat as she watches the walkers wreaking havoc. I loved that moment, right there.
Which brings me to the real meat (no pun intended) of the episode: Carol. We’ve seen in the past what these dire and extreme circumstances can do to a person. Shane, Merle, Phillip, Michonne; the apocalypse changes you. Rick spent so much time resisting it, that it cost him dearly. And, when he finally decided to harden up, he nearly lost everything else that remained. He finally decided to go full-on Shane, as they say, but took it too far. He is a killing machine and it wasn’t until his entire group defied his orders to go back and finish off the remaining Termites that he even realized he was being unreasonable.
Carol, however, is a perfect example of how to balance those changes. She was entirely underestimated for the first 2 seasons of the show by their entire group. She took her losses, which were great, and her fears and she hardened her heart. But, Carol managed to do so without losing her sense of self in the way that Phillip did. She didn’t play sides the way Merle did. She didn’t emotionally shut down the way Michonne did. And she didn’t succumb to desperate delusions the way Shane did. She became practical. A realist with a touch of cynicism. She never makes the same mistake twice, as she learns every step of the way. She has been building defenses since before the ZA, surviving with Ed and protecting Sophia. She is damaged goods, true, but her coping methods far exceed anyone’s expectations. Employing tactics learned from observing others since season 1, Carol fearlessly walked away from Tyreese and Judith and marched up to Terminus, blew it all to hell, and single-handedly rescued their entire group. She didn’t need to do that to redeem herself to Rick. She did it because she knew it was the right thing to do.
Step by step as she methodically made her way into and through Terminus…it was beautifully choreographed. When she found the room with victim’s personal items, my heart broke. I’m sorry, the table full of teddy bears, denoting how many children they had killed…ugh…gag. Carol immediately recognized the watch that she gave to Rick just a week or so before (the watch she had given to her husband Ed). Then, she spotted Daryl’s crossbow, grabbing up both items and continuing on with her mission. She took out Mary LIKE. A. BOSS.
Okay. You’ve been waiting for me to get there. Here it is. The Carol/Daryl reunion (Caryl, for those who “ship” it) was a highlight for me. I applauded. I teared up. My hearts exploded. I’ve watched the scene 20 times. I’m sorry, Beth who? The reunion of Rick and Carl with Judith was equally as touching. And, I loved the bit at the end with the reveal of Morgan. If you recall, back in the episode “Clear”, Rick tried to convince Morgan to come to the prison. He refused. Timeline wise, approximately 3 months passed between the events of season 3 and the start of season 4. And the entirety of season 4 takes place in the span of what? 2 weeks? So, at some point, Morgan decides to find Rick. By the time he reaches the prison, it’s been destroyed. Like everyone else who left the prison, he made his escape via one of the many sets of train tracks and has been following the trail of signs for sanctuary. Until he reaches the sign that Rick marked out. Morgan then follows markings on the trees and heads off through the woods. At most, he is only a day or two behind them. That is a reunion I am eagerly awaiting!
All in all, they did a bang up job with the season premiere. I’m assuming, given his presence in the trailers, Gareth will reunite with our little group of survivors. Will they accept him? Will Rick immediately seek corporal punishment as he did with the other Termites? At what point will Rick and Michonne address the fact that Tara was with the Governor’s group that murdered Hershel and destroyed the prison? Will Rick apologize for banishing Carol? Will Eugene confess that he is full of shite and has no cure? Sasha and Michonne are on to him, hence their constant pressure for details. Sistas always know when a brotha is lying and they’re going to call him out on it, wait and see.
Given a lot of the spoiler pics that went around the internet this summer, one can assume that the bulk of season 5 storyline will be traveling north towards DC. This brings them back through Atlanta, which as you know, is overrun. I’m hoping that means a season full of walker action and good old fashioned scary stuff like season one had. With the confirmation that season 6 has been green-lighted, you can guarantee Negan is coming. Maybe not in season 5, but definitely by season 6. I’m excited about the introduction of Father Gabriel next week. And, though I’d rather just let her slip away into oblivion, I admit, I am curious about the facility holding Beth hostage, and wonder if they will be the antagonists for this season.
Sorry if this was long-winded. I am still just too excited about the premiere to properly blog about it. What were your thoughts on the episode? Favorite moments? Hopes for the season? Share in the comments! We’re heading to Walker Stalker Con Atlanta this week, so my episode 2 recap may come a little late depending on how exhausted I am.