Now and then, then and now—The Walking Dead has never been afraid of playing with time. Last season, under the direction of then and
now current showrunner Scott Gimple jumped from a relatively linear first half minus the Governor’s interlude to a non-linear second half of vignettes centered on individual characters and groups. This bombastic season five opener features the Terminans (AMC’s press materials’ official term) imprisoned awaiting death, torture, and who knows what else. Is this the future? The past? What is time?
Where we left off: Everyone, besides Tyreese, Carol, and Judith (RIP Lizzie and Micah!), reached the end of the line at Terminus, only to realize the “end of the line” is literally their doom. Corralled into a storage container, the gang anticipates the Terminans’ plans to eat them. Actual cannibals as in Shia Labeouf.
Now: The first glimpse we get of our heroes (okay, protagonists, what is a hero in the world of The Walking Dead?) is of their hands preparing makeshift weapons out of wood, belts, nails, and bits of leather—anything and everything they can use to jump the Terminans once they reopen the container. We hear off screen the reunited group catch each other up—the Terminans didn’t buy Eugene’s DC crusade, Beth was taken alive by car, Tyreese is maybe still out there.
The gang’s weapons are all for naught as they get blind-sided by a canister of tear gas. Rick, Daryl, Bob, and Glenn get picked up and brought into a room of horrors—a human slaughterhouse. With bins marked BURN, FEED, and WASH and a duo hacking away at an already dead cadavar (later revealed to be fellow Terminan Alex), the trough the guys are placed next to does not look promising. Zip-tied, gagged, and quivering with anger/fear, Rick, Daryl, Bob, and Glenn bend over the trough as four more men from container D are brought over in the same position. Chance of at the very least every one of those other guys dying? 100%. One of the “red shirts” may look familiar, especially to Gotham fans. The first die (baseball bat to the head, throat cut to bleed out into trough) is Sam, Robin Lord Taylor a.k.a. Oswald Cobblepot. Another goes. Then another. Then another. And no, it doesn’t get any better. I’ve watched a lot of TV but holy moly is this the most gory thing I’ve seen on basic cable. On a related note, I feel like this is knowledge that should be committed to muscle memory.
The Walking Dead writers may be fans of nonlinear storytelling, but they’re even bigger fans of Deus ex machina. Just as Glenn is to be dispatched with the rest of D, Gareth walks in and interrupts to write down the executioners’ shot counts. Blah, blah, blah stalling talk form Bob and threat/interrogation from Gareth and the boys of A are saved when shots ring out nearby, followed by a rollicking explosion.What’s happening?! Turns out, it’s bad ass Carol! But let’s back up.
While Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Carol faced off against the Terminans in the season four finale, Carol, Tyreese, and Judith observed a pack of Walkers heading down the tracks to the end of the line, attracted to the noise. The trio make their way to a less Walker-infested track due east and run into a Terminan blabbing about the “chick with the sword” and “kid in the hat.” Bad news Bears for the random Terminan, Carol confiscates his fireworks and heads out to save the gang. Tyreese and Judith hold down the cardboard cabin, keeping watch over the tied-up Terminan.
Tyreese: Carol, how’re you gonna do this?
Carol: I’m gonna kill people.
Carol is an efficient and driven killer, but she doesn’t take outward joy from it. She has a mission, and she sticks to it. Something that is necessary albeit brutal can be executed (natch) without excessive cruelty. Carol is the best.
Camouflaged in mud and Walker guts-shrouded poncho (very in this season), Carol makes her way to the Terminus fence. She watches as Rick and the guys are dragged into the slaughterhouse. In one gun she aims a firework rocket at Terminus’ heating/gas/I dunno-but-it’s-explosive tank and shoots a hole into the side of the tank with her other gun. BOOM! The tank explodes sending Walker bits flying, breaching Terminus’ gates, and attracting even more Walkers to the cannibal compound.
Rick uses the confusion of the explosion break out of his ties with his trusty shard of wood. A little stab here and there, the Terminus executioners are killed, and Rick frees the remaining guys. The guys grab weapons from the slaughterhouse, which is far more disgusting than imagined. I may or may not become a lifelong vegan after watching this show.
Rick hesitates to save people imprisoned in another container on their way back to their people. Glenn is steadfast that they have to save them—that’s still the people they have to be. Yay, Glenn is the new moral compass of the show! Wait…we all know what happens to moral compasses on this show. Uh oh.If Glenn dies, I’m done with the show. Not really, but my heart will be eternally broken.
Glenn frees the crazy guy inside the container, who laughs and screams, “WE’RE THE SAME! WE’RE THE SAME!” until a Walker eats him. That’s life, man. Rick uses the three-sided confrontation to his advantage. He waits for armed Terminans to kill nearby Walkers before he grabs a straggler, disarms him, and guns down the remaining Terminans up ahead. While a new batch of Walkers finish off the Terminans, Rick returns to the guys and says, “We don’t have to double back.” Ha. Understatement. Rick and Carol are neck and nack for winning the title of most bad ass of the week.
Carol moseys into Terminus with the rest of the Walkers. As Walkers chow down on Terminans, Carol cuts down more cannibals with her automatic weapon. Heading into the buildings of Terminus, Carol manages to find Daryl’s bow amongst confiscated items. She grabs it and finds herself in the spooky shrine room.
Inside, an armed
Tasha Yar Mary a.k.a. Denise Crosby in a bad wig surprises Carol and orders her to drop her weapons and turn around. She drops Daryl’s bow and motions to drop her gun when she whisks around and shoots Mary in the leg. They grapple, knocking down candles and mementos, but Carol soon gets the upper hand. Mary rambles about how at first, Terminus really was a sanctuary until bad people took control, raping and killing as they pleased. And by people, I mean men because of course. Against all odds, the remaining original Terminans regained control and opted a new philosophy: “you’re either the butcher, or you’re the cattle.” Evidently, they took this “message” quite literally.
Carol is uninterested in the past—she wants to know where Rick and the guys are. She shoots Mary in the leg again to no avail. Mary laughs and squeals, “You could have been one of us. You could have listened to what the world is telling you.” I hope this isn’t a foreshadowing for Cannibal Carol because I’m so not down for that.
Carol lets in the Walkers at the door and slips past them as they head straight to Mary. Cannibals getting devoured alive by the undead has a nice feeling of poetic justice. Bye, Denise! See you sporadically on Ray Donovan and Star Trek reunions!
The remaining gang continues to craft makeshift weapons from inside the train container prison. After some prodding from Sasha, Eugene finally explains why he thinks he can create a cure for the zombiepocalypse. He was part of a ten-person team at the Human Genome Project to fight weaponized diseases with other weaponized diseases. Blah, blah, blah, I stopped listening because it’s all a bunch of malarky. If that’s not obvious, then I don’t know what show you think you’re watching. I like Eugene and Rosita and Abraham as characters, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think Eugene is full of shit. Just then, Rick and the guys free them. Together, they fight their way to the fence and make it out alive. In the melee, Rick manages to wound—but not definitively kill—Gareth.
Making a pit stop for the bag of weapons (courtesy of The Claimers), Rick wants to head back to finish off the Terminans. Everyone else wants to get as far away from Terminus as possible. Before a decision is made, Carol reveals herself. Daryl runs over to her, and they embrace. I wish I could write “they embrace and make out for the remainder of the episode,” but it’s touching nevertheless. Rick is choked up with gratitude, realizing she is responsible for saving them. They embrace, too, and Carol looks just as relieved and grateful for his response as Rick is for her brave actions.
She takes them to Tyreese and Judith, safe (and alone) at the cardboard cabin. Tyreese managed to kill again, enlivened by the Terminan threatening Judith and sending him out to die by Walker. Tyreese and Sasha reunite just as Rick and Carl reunite with Judith. Yay, family!
Rick declares the gang should leave, just as they all said in the first place. Abraham still wants to head to DC but is content with getting away from Terminus and sticking with the group for the moment. The ragtag, formidable group of survivors returns to the tracks, walking the opposite direction from whence they travelled for so long last season. Rick crosses out a Terminus sign, adding “NO” above the word sanctuary, with mud. It’s going to wash away anyway, but I understand the rationale.
The rationale I don’t understand is why Rick dashes off into the woods, presumably back towards Terminus and away from his family and friends. No, Rick! You just found out your baby daughter is alive! Ah!
Instead of following Rick, we head back to the Terminus of yore. Mary is dragged back into the container prison as another woman is swapped into her place. Gareth and the others comfort her, bemoaning and crying against their abuses. Gareth vows that they will take Terminus back. “You’re either the butcher or the cattle,” he tells a brutally assaulted Mary, his mother. Trust in the mentally shattered psychopath. That should work out well.
Walker of the Week: This Walker’s on FIRE! A flaming Walker eating a man’s face is a pretty spectacular sight. Well done, Greg Nicotero and the special effects team.
Most Bad Ass of the Week: This Carol’s on FIRE! All the awards to Carol! Rick and the others all had their moments, but this premiere episode belongs to Carol the Courageous. Her arc has consistently been the most dynamic and unexpected throughout the series, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to develop.
All the Questions!
- Is the series going to continue to show the evolution, or should I say cannibalization, of Terminus? Is that interesting? I don’t think I find that all that interesting.
- Why oh why did Rick leave the group to go after the remaining Terminans? I understand they are scourge that threatens all that is left of humanity, but ensuring the direct day-to-day safety of your family seems more important.
- Where are they going to go? Will some, but not all, join Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene to Washington, D.C.?
- Will Carol stay with the group? She was prepared to leave Tyreese and Judith at Terminus, assuming it was a safe haven. Ha, it wasn’t!
- Who took Beth?! Ugh, I gots to know!
For more The Walking Dead on The Wannabes, check out Sam Clemence’s recommendations to make TWD season five the best season yet!
UPDATE: Silly me, who didn’t watch the premiere live, missed one of the most exciting parts of the premiere: Morgan (Lennie James) is back!