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‘The Walking Dead’ Season 5 Premiere Recap: “No Sanctuary”

On the return of one the most anticipated premieres on television: Carol becomes the hero that The Walking Dead truly deserves.

We couldn’t possibly have wished more out of the fifth season premiere of The Walking Dead: there was blood, sweat, and gore as per usual, but also tears and joy (confusing, I know). We suffered, but we were happy about it. But first, let’s back up a moment and remember how things used to be at the end of Season 4.

When we last saw our favorite apocalyptic gang, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) et al were ensnared by Terminus’s cannibalistic hands, locked inside a trailer car but nevertheless reunited. The only ones that seemed to evade capture were Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), Carol (Melissa McBride), and baby Judith.

If there was any doubt of the petrifying nature of the show and of the repetitive/stale zombie execution-theme, the first five minutes immediately squashed that. We first see Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) lined up on their knees in front of a surprisingly sanitary bath, mouths and hands gagged. Two men armed with butcher knives and aprons drowned with blood stains step behind each one starting at the far end, and one by one, sock the prisoners in the head and slit their throats. Right when they approach Glenn, the mysterious Gareth (Andrew J. West) steps in and pauses the execution.

A byproduct of Season 4 was the return of badass Rick, willing to rip out the throat of another living being for the sake of family. As the executioners run through each person, Rick prepares an escape plan and gets the upper hand on the two executioners, freeing himself and Daryl, Glenn, and Bob (the others aren’t so lucky).

Over on the other side of the forest, Carol, Tyreese and Judith continue their trek through the forest in search of Terminus, and perhaps a reunion. They happen across a scout from Terminus, who they manage to take hostage. Tyreese watches over him and Judith while Carol goes on a secret mission only she can really pull off.

Paying homage to the good ‘ole days of Season 1, Carol essentially cosplays as a zombie by smearing entrails over her body, becoming one with the zombies and joining the walker forces in search of Terminus (why hasn’t this self-defense been employed till now?!).

Upon arrival to Terminus, Carol single-handedly manages to blow up a propane tank and cause an explosion, after which all hell breaks loose. A huge flood of zombies parade themselves into Terminus, momentarily distracting the leaders while Carol gets the upperhand. In the meantime, Rick and the gang do a fantastic job of maneuvering themselves out of the dead and undead’s reach, getting to the cable car with everyone else, and swinging out of Terminus for good.

carol judith the walking dead melissa mcbride

Everything swings in clockwork action for the gang, and it keeps getting better. They reach the forest and just as fate would have it, Carol re-emerges. Daryl immediately runs over to Carol and gives her a heartwarming 20-ish minute hug. Once they reach Tyreese and Judith back at the cabin, Rick’s demeanor visibly changes as he and Carl become a complete family once more, clinging onto baby Judith. Sasha embraces her brother once more, adding onto the reunion list. There were tears on both ends of the screen.

Here are my top five moments from the episode:

1. CAROL. I honestly can’t believe how infatuated I am with Carol. I’ve always been a bit ambivalent towards her character, but ever since “look at the flowers” it’s been a one-way ride up. It’s been a subtle evolution, and we really can’t thank the writers enough for how well Carol has blossomed. The pinnacle of her badassdom was definitely at this episode, but it probably won’t be the last. Let’s be real: If it wasn’t for Carol I’m pretty sure Rick’s neck would be slit across the bath in Terminus with his body hung up in their slaughterhouse. She’s so unwavering in her determination and power, and honestly it’s just really awesome. Remembering her roots in Season 1 as a victim of domestic abuse from her pig of a husband, I couldn’t be more proud of her journey, which includes swinging around a rifle OUT OF NOWHERE and bringing down her opponents like it’s just another day in the life. One question still remains: Will Caryl actually be a thing? Tune in to find out.

2. Rick: Rick is BACK. He’s got the moves and the looks, annihilating the Terminus residents left and right without a second glance. While the grand catharsis of his character was at the season finale in March, it’s without a doubt that Rick will continue to one-up anyone who tries to stand up to his family. He’s dorky and we love to hate on him, but it’s nice to know that he’s got our back once again.

3. Terminus: WTF is this place, and how can we get more? While I’m super stoked that the gang is safely outside Terminus borders, I’m still hungry for more information on the place. It’s clear from the trailer and the flashbacks at the beginning and end of the premiere that Gareth is still very much a relevant character, so we’re guaranteed to learn more about the very beginnings of this “sanctuary” and how it became what it is today. The slaughterhouse composed of decapitated and mangled corpses hanging from the ceiling added a new freak show element to the show, which would be a very nice taste after becoming accustomed to the usual mangled (and often goofy) walkers. It’s not that they’re not scary: we just need a variety.

4. Reunions: Not much more to be said about this. Comradery is strong, smiles are being shared, morale is up. I’m expecting “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” to be the opening of next week’s episode.

5. MORGAN IS BACK: The final scene of the episode shows a well-built man wandering close to where the gang was just located, near the Terminus-sanctuary sign that Rick corrected. He pulls off a gas mask to reveal none other than Morgan (Lennie James), Rick’s old protector from the very beginning in Season 1. When we last saw him, he was a delusional and hopeless man, alone without his wife or son to keep him company. He and Rick had a rough start, but ultimately departed on good terms. His re-appearance is super exciting as he walks away following a trail of a curiously-marked sigil on surrounding trees. What the hell is going on, why is he being brought back, and what’s with the gas mask?? As we’re all left in the dark, we’re only hoping that he only brings good intentions on board.