And so it begins again. Last we saw of Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the gang, they were holed up in a holding container in Terminus, where they’d been escorted at gunpoint by the quite possibly cannibalistic citizens of said community.
Things were looking as bleak as they could be, with even Rick’s pronouncement that ‘they’re screwin’ with the wrong people’ seeming more like bravado than anything else.
His boast seems even more empty when himself, Daryl, Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr) are lined up in the slaughterhouse, as what was (very bloody heavily) implied about Terminus becomes brutally confirmed.
This is the most like a horror show that The Walking Dead has been since its inception, combining the sudden dawning of impending oblivion that characterised The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with the more immediate visceral bloodshed present in the likes of Saw and Hostel.
It’s a good thing, then, that one-woman liberation army Carol (Melissa McBride) shows up to save the day, just like we knew she would. Rick is usually the one people talk about when they discuss how the world of The Walking Dead changes people, but in truth it’s her whose transformation is arguably the most pronounced.
Going from meek, abused wife and everyone’s expected next victim to calm, collected and ruthless warrior, it’s hard to remember a character experiencing such an about turn from expendable to indispensable – kudos to McBride for selling it to us.
Another who impresses is Andrew J West as Terminus head honcho Gareth. Showing calm indifference, nonchalantly balancing the books as his crew smash skulls and slice throats in front of him. As good as the second half of Season 4 was, there was a distinctly Governor-shaped hole.
As far as big bads go, Gareth will certainly do – at least until whenever Negan shows up.
Even in a show like this there has to be some light, which is truly provided by a moment that can only be described as totes adorbs. You’ll know it when you see it.
Moments like this are much needed, especially after a conversation Tyreese has with a bound prisoner, who describes looking after baby Judith to ‘saving an anchor when you’re stuck in the middle of the ocean’.
All in all, ‘No Sanctuary’ snugly fits into the ‘solid season opener’ category. Combining the things The Walking Dead is best known for – Rick and crew de-living the undying, more introspective moments of reflections and some truly wince-inducing final moments (as far as deaths go, having your face eating off by a burning zombie is a pretty shitty way to go) – it’s definitely a case of ‘job well done’.
The ending doesn’t exactly leave us any the wiser over where things are heading – indeed, at times it feels more like a season finale than an opener, such is its effectiveness in tying up most of Season 4’s loose ends – but in all honesty, we’re just too pleased to have it back again to care too much. More of the same next week, please.