WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. Read on only if you've already seen "The Walking Dead" Season 5, Episode 1, titled "No Sanctuary."
Unlike last year’s premiere, the Season 5 opener of "The Walking Dead" jumped right back into the action, barely leaving us any time to catch our breath. But after experiencing six long months of walker withdrawals, the fast-paced storytelling was a welcomed blessing.
The last time we saw our beloved zombie survivors, they were imprisoned in a boxcar at Terminus. Leaving us with the words “They're screwing with the wrong people,” it was obvious that Rick and the gang were more determined than ever to escape.
"The Walking Dead" has become such a cultural phenomenon that to say the expectations for this season were high is an understatement. As a longtime fan, not only was I excited to be sucked back into the post-apocalyptic world, but I was expecting great things too. Luckily, the premiere managed to live up to its hype and my personal predictions.
Expectation #1: A main character will die immediately
It’s not unusual for a main character to die on "The Walking Dead," no matter how beloved they may be (I’m looking at you, Hershel!). That’s one of the great things about this show -- the uncertainty. Before this season even began, there were already rumours floating around that a major character would be killed off. Based on previews, my knowledge of the comic books, and the premiere’s opening scene, I assumed it would be my beloved Glenn.
Much to my relief, Glenn was spared, but not before the show shocked us all with the most ruthless deaths we’ve ever seen! With Rick, Daryl, Bob, and Glenn as witnesses, two Terminus men knelt four lesser-known captives (aka expendable characters) over a steel trough and slit their throats one by one, a la Sweeney Todd.
As uncomfortable and disturbing as this scene made me feel, I have to admit that I absolutely loved it. Before you automatically assume I’m disturbed, let me tell you why. Opening the episode with this incident immediately dropped us hard and fast back into the reality of the post-apocalyptic world -- a world of violence, cruelty, and constant insecurity. The eeriness and shock value of the deaths were a brilliant depiction of the Termites’ insanity. So while the deaths left us uneasy, they also left us with more burning questions regarding who the people of Terminus are, and what happened to them to make them this way.
Expectation #2: Farmer Rick turns badass
As the protagonist, Rick has the most extreme ups and downs than any other character on the show. From not wanting to be a leader to starting a Ricktatorship and then transitioning into farmer mode, it almost feels like he’s stuck in a constant identity crisis.
From where we left off last season, it was clear that Rick was finally ready to jump back into leader mode, a role in which he feels most at home -- so it was unexpected that he employed extreme logic when it came to keeping his crew safe. For instance, as the gang was trying to escape from Terminus, Rick was hesitant to help free anyone but his people. He only changed his mind when Glenn insisted and said, “That’s still who we are. It’s got to be.”
After the crew escaped Terminus, Rick absurdly insisted on going back to kill any survivors of the sanctuary. While I enjoyed his aggressive demeanour, I also realized that with the return of badass Rick comes his cloudy judgment. The man needs to find a balance between the two this season, or he may very well go insane or be the cause of some rather unfortunate casualties. Only time will tell.
Expectation #3: Forever in Terminus
It was widely expected that Rick and company would spend a great deal of time in Terminus, captive or not. So what a great surprise it was when we watched our beloved gang escape in a single episode.
We're so used to seeing Rick spend time negotiating with others, it was a nice change of pace to see the gang kick ass immediately instead. The intense action pulled us right back into the post-apocalyptic world so quickly. It was like we'd never left.
Expectation #4: The Termites are the villains
The people at Terminus are evil. At least, that’s what we thought going into the season premiere. In the episode, we learned from Mary that Terminus wasn’t always a cruel and crazy place. During an encounter with Carol, she explains: “The signs were real. It was a sanctuary.” Unfortunately, everything went downhill when a group of people took over and began raping and killing as they pleased. “But we got it back because we fought,” Mary said. “And we heard the message: You’re the butcher or you’re the cattle.”
The flashbacks at the beginning and end of the episode were a nice touch to demonstrate exactly what Mary was talking about. While it’s automatically assumed that Mary, Gareth, and the rest of Terminus are pure evil, it’s clear that their traumatic experiences made them this way (disturbing much?). Going forward, it will be interesting to learn more about Gareth and his people and to discover who the true villains are this season.
Expectation #5: The surviving groups will continue separate paths
Season 4 was the first time we witnessed our beloved zombie survivors split up into different groups. This occurred after the defeat of The Governor at the prison. While this was not my favourite storytelling approach, I expected it to carry over into the first half of Season 5. After all, how do you expect to find your friends so quickly without modern technology in a zombie apocalypse? That’s why I was surprised when Carol’s path swiftly led her back to Rick and the gang at Terminus.
Now can we just take a moment to recognize how badass Carol is? The woman is basically fearless as she walks alongside a horde of zombies, camouflaged in another walker’s blood and guts. She risked her life to help save Rick and the others and she is constantly proving that she is one woman you don’t want to mess with.
While Rick had banished Carol last season for killing two people infected with a virus, she was instantly forgiven after Rick discovered her act of bravery. Their reunion was then made even more heartwarming when Carol led the crew back to where Tyreese and baby Judith were waiting. All this time Rick and Carl thought Judith was dead, so to see their reunion was beyond bittersweet.
- I was really impressed with how innovative Rick and the group proved to be at the beginning of the episode when they made close-range weapons out of belts, zippers, and so on. Too bad they proved useless against the Termites, who used a gas to sedate them.
- Year after year, the walkers just get more and more terrifying! Props go out to Greg Nicotero, the show’s special effects supervisor, for making them look more decomposed than ever before!
- Tyreese is such a softie and that worries me. His morals and his wits conflict, leaving himself and Judith open to potential dangers. Luckily Tyreese is incredibly tough or else his encounter with the Terminus man could have ended way worse.
- “You’re either the butcher or the cattle” will no doubt be a recurring theme this season.
- How adorable was Carol and Daryl’s reunion? Daryl’s "almost cry" from happiness basically melted my heart.
- Morgan is back! This was a pleasant surprise as it always seemed his story was unfinished. Here’s hoping he crosses paths with Rick again some time soon.
- Where the heck is Beth?
“The Walking Dead” airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. EST on AMC.