The season starts with “No Sanctuary”, in which Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company are hostages at Terminus where Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his cannibals begin to slice and dice them up for an easy meal. Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Bob (Lawrence Gillard Jr.) are taken to a warehouse where Gareth’s goons cut two other guy’s throats. He temporarily stops the butchery to question Rick about a bag buried out in the woods. Before he can continue the interrogation, there’s a ruckus outside the warehouse, courtesy of Carol (Melissa McBride) outside of the walls.
“No Sanctuary” had everything deserved of a season finale. They pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this episode and it stands as one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead to date. The tension and suspense of this episode is truly remarkable. Whilst watching, you feel that at any moment someone is going to die. “No Sanctuary” feels as much a television spectacle as “The Red Wedding” or even “Hardhome” in HBO’s Game Of Thrones. Episode one is very much done in the season finale style, from Rick machine-gunning down cannibals like its target practice to the very good use of gory special effects with episode beginning like a season finale would end.
I enjoyed the whole Terminus escape; from the direction to the effects to the dazzling sets. They pulled out all the stops and it really sets the tone for the whole season. When you fill a place like Terminus full of zombies, it becomes a different kettle of fish. With the practical effects added to the special effects and the mad action shots, you’re going to have one hell of an episode, including a propane tank that goes boom. The first half of season five involved the cannibals and cops storyline whilst the second half was very much based in Alexandria which ended with Rick going full Shane on us.
Season five has given the series some of its best stuff to date. It was fast paced (mostly) but moreover, there were lots of shocking moments with characters being killed without warning. In previous seasons, you can normally see it coming but season five went full Game Of Thrones on us in terms of killing characters without a care in the world. One minute they were there and in the next, they were nothing more than a distant memory. “What Happened and What’s Going On” gave us some deaths to ponder and so did “Spend.”
The arc with Beth and the cops was a bit “meh.” Aside from that, this season plays host some of the best episodes in the whole series. “No Sanctuary” delivers big-time, and transforms Carol into a Daryl-level badass. She’s pragmatic and doesn’t take shit from people. I guess that’s why our dynamic duo get on so well. You need people like Daryl and Carol to make the morally ambiguous decisions that more “touchy-feely” people would have a issues with. She’s deceptive, cold and calculating yet she portrays this sweet middle aged woman when its necessary. It’s highly comical, in a sadistically pleasing sort of way. Season 5b started off a bit shaky. With Rick and company shaken after a tragedy, they walk and walk in their abyss of misery and sadness.
Our protagonists were at their lowest point and I think that’s what the midseason premiere’s saving grace was. Before, they’ve been screwed, but never to this point of desperation. Aaron (Ross Marquand) is the one who introduces us to Alexandria. He really struck me after a couple of episodes and he resonates with Daryl, the forever lone wolf. Aaron’s “niceness” showed Rick that he had to go full Shane and show the Alexandrians that they need to he prepared, and he did this by overthrowing the town with Carol. So, this was the start of the infamous Ricktatorship. The occupants were complacent in their perceived safehaven and Rick had to show them that world isn’t flowers and sunshine.
As Rick seemed to becoming The Governor, the locals came with their own skeletons. They were weak and arrogant but also a danger to themselves and everyone around them. This arc takes us through a debate of right versus wrong and good versus evil. What defines these terms? It goes to show that they are all concepts relative to our own perceptions of them, and our own senses of morality. Alexandria’s many characters also show us that one person’s badness doesn’t necessarily make you good. It shows us that there are many shades of grey, and all it takes is one bad day to push you down a road you can’t come back from.