If there was ever any doubt that Scott M. Gimple was the man to take The Walking Dead from decent, if inconsistent, television and turn it into must-watch-it-live appointment television, then the Season Five opener, “No Sanctuary” should eliminate that notion. Whereas previous showrunners seemed more concerned with the status quo, resetting quickly whenever there was a shift (especially with regards to their black male characters), and believed that you couldn’t balance character work with zombie action — leading to at least one entire season of wheel-spinning (good wheel-spinning, in my opinion, but wheel-spinning that still taints the reputation of the show), Gimple says fuck that noise. He knows that character is revealed by action. He knows that these people need to be pushed to the brink of disaster. He knows how to up the stakes while still making even the worst of the human monsters our heroes face, at least somewhat sympathetic. He knows that this forces the audience to question where our heroes are heading morally, while also maybe, just maybe, triggering some self-reflection about our own moral limitations. Remember when the popular audience reaction upon learning that Carol (Melissa McBride) had killed Tyreese’s (Chad L. Coleman) girlfriend was to agree with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and banish her? Let me remind you where I stood on that one: Of course, if she’d been with them, it’s likely she would have ended up in the train car with the others, so… As Season Five kicks off, Gimple gets the band back together and drives home the simple fact that Carol is a badass and that Rick was wrong. It’s only now that Rick has embraced his more pragmatic and violent side that fans are fully on-board with him (I know that’s how it is for me — I hated Indecisive Rick), but Carol got there first. And if it wasn’t for her, they’d all be dead and hanging in a slaughterhouse waiting to be slapped on a grill. I’ve said it before, but Greg Nicotero is probably the best, most consistent director for The Walking Dead. And when paired with a script by Gimple, the show is at its best. “No Sanctuary” is almost non-stop action, and when it does slow down, it slows down so it can really drive home just how disturbing things are in Terminus. As everybody kind of already knew, they eat people in Terminus. They may give some a chance to join them, but the bottom line is they are a population of cannibals with a full-on system for harvesting and processing their victims — which provided some of the most disturbing images we’ve ever gotten on this show. And that’s saying something. But they weren’t always like this, and that’s the brutal strength of Gimple’s story. Terminus was originally just what it claimed to be: a sanctuary against the zombie apocalypse. But their kindness was a weakness and they were overrun, tortured, raped, and murdered until they learned to fight back and retake their home. But they turned into monsters in the process. The dualistic belief that they had to either “be the butcher or the cattle” was the problem — just as dualistic belief systems are almost always the problem. There’s no gray allowed there. And when there are no gray areas in one’s moral structure, there are only extremes. If you only see Night and Day, you miss the beauty and complexities of Dawn and Dusk. The storytelling trick this season is going to be in exploring those complexities, now that Rick has jettisoned (for the most part) those simple black and white beliefs, while keeping him from slipping completely into the righteous anger mode that makes it so difficult to differentiate him from characters like The Governor. They’ve got to keep him brutal, but keep him human. And with the cast of characters they’ve built up around him, and the way they keep contrasting their ways of surviving with the villains of the piece, they should be able to do it in very satisfying ways. For example, when he wants to go back and kill every last person in Terminus, that’s a good impulse, but it’s also a dive into darkness that would be hard to come back from. And he might not have gotten the chance to see his little girl again. Or to forgive and be forgiven by Carol. The decision to not exterminate everyone in Terminus will probably come back to haunt them, I’m sure, but for now, getting the emotional payoff of the family reunion is key to grounding all of the characters. And who didn’t cry a little watching Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus) hug? Also, did you catch the bonus scene after the credits? Our DVR cut it off, but after some digging I was able to find it and was so glad I did. Things are about to get even more interesting. The Walking Dead 5.01 "No Sanctuary"4.5Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.