TV Show Review

TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD: Season 5, Episode 1: No Sanctuary [AMC]

Melissa McBride The Walking Dead No Sanctuary

AMC’s The Walking Dead  No Sanctuary TV Show Review. The Walking Dead: Season 5, Episode 1: ‘No Sanctuary,’ wasn’t the season 5 premiere, so much as the resolution to season 4.2. The ultimate outcome to all the hope & effort that went into finding a new place, in which our survivors could nurture the humanity salvaged from the prison. Last season ended with Carol (Melissa McBride) & Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) finding their better natures, when confronted by the most innocent of evils, while Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Daryl (Norman Reedus), clawed their way over the bodies of humanity’s darkest depths, only to find it deeper still.

The promise of sanctuary was a lie, at best. It was a recruitment tool for the like-minded, and a trap for everyone else. It reunited Team Rick with Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and introduced them to Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and Tara (Alanna Masterson); but there was no safety in numbers, just yet.

Rick’s closing words, to last season, were about their captors messing with the wrong people. ‘No Sanctuary’ was bookmarked by flashbacks that established their captors as the last occupants of Team Rick’s shipping container prison, and pretty much arriving at the same conclusion. Back when the promise of sanctuary was sincere, the original Terminans learned the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. Listening to the sounds of his mother, Mary’s (Denise Crosby) ordeal, you could see the exact point where once & future leader, Gareth (Andrew J. West), loses it. From that point, the driving principle of Terminus has been “be the butcher, or be the cattle.” Nice slogan; but from where I sat, the word for the night was “karma.”

I may be alone on this, but the thematic parallels between Rick & Gareth came with something of a physical resemblance, as well. Look at their face to face exchange, and tell me there wasn’t even a trace of Dark Rick to Gareth’s face. Despite Rick’s best efforts to rally a break out attempt, the Terminans had enough experience to separate Rick, Glenn, Daryl, and Bob from the others.

I had hoped that my previous review comment, about the meaning of the title, ‘A,’ would have amounted to little more than a cynical aside. No such luck – Soylent Green is people. If cannibalism was meant to take viewrs off the fence, regarding the humanity of the Terminans, then it wasn’t really necessary. The true measure of the Terminan’s inhumanity was the casual indifference with which they went about their grisly business.

As a possible nod, to where the split between Rick & Carol might have affect current events, Rick found himself locking gazes with Sam (Robin Lord Taylor). Last seen in episode 4.04, an episode entitled ‘Indifference,’ appropriately enough, Sam’s disappearance, the death of his companion, and Carol’s indifference to their fate, added up to the straw that got Carol banished from the group. If Rick had any second thoughts, on Carol’s value, he wasn’t showing it. Nor was he showing any concern for Sam’s current fate, at the head of a slaughterhouse lineup. For the Terminans, having gone from the cattle to the butchers was a literal matter. Sam, Rick, Glenn, Daryl, Bob, and three others, were to be meat on the table. If a brief reprise, courtesy of Gareth’s micromanagement, was any indication, the detachment to their approach was all about efficiency, and about as civilized as the new world order permits (sorry, Bob). To me, it just reaffirmed that Humans remain the greater threat, in any given monster story, and that detached bureaucrats make for the worst of that Human threat.

Speaking of detachment, I couldn’t help noting that one or two extra regular cast members would have been useful, for the butchery scene – but as cannon fodder. There was a clear limit to the tension, considering that a line could be (and was) drawn at Glenn. Allow at least one person we’ve come to know (better than Sam, anyway) to die, and then maybe we start worrying about how far the scene will go. At its face, however, the scene effectively summed up the nature of the beast, Rick would be intent on killing, and offered the proper context for how he went about doing it. Karma is a bitch.

The upside was that Robin Lord Taylor was officially freed to focus on Gotham. Counts for something… right?

Back at the container, Eugene finally provided an answer, regarding his supposed cure. Maybe. Eugene is a big talker; and as his ability to sell his own brilliance may be his greatest survivor’s attribute, his “fire with fire” explanation could have been more of the same.

Ironically enough, besides maybe saving them from a Walker herd (that would later come in handy), the trap springing upon Team Rick served to tip off Team Carol. That, and the casual indifference of Terminan outpost operative, Martin (Chris Coy), making a hell of a difference. His remarks & reasonings informed Carol of the approach she needed to take, as she left both him & Judith in Ty’s still too gentle hands. Unfortunately, Ty would fail to recognize the depths of Martin’s shallow outlook, on the way Walker World works.

Carol’s got the stuff, when it comes to doing dirty work (granted, a lot of dirty work stuff was all over her, for this) – not just in terms of her outlook & skill-set, but also her mind-set. That would be well illustrated in the climax to her pillager’s promenade. The stampede method, to storming fortified positions, is a time tested storytelling classic (most creative example: Serenity); but there was something special to Carol walking with the herd, all Man with No Name like. The campaign was a tribute to the likes of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, and other women warriors of modern warfare; but the one shot rocket born ignition was a stretch.

As with Jeff Kober‘s first appearance, last season, I reckoned there’d be no point to having someone like Denise Crosby on the scene without a boss fight. Mary getting the drop on Carol, then telling her to turn around, in order to “see her face,” pretty much made the outcome a forgone conclusion. For all the detached practice, there was still plenty of anger behind the Terminan cause. Carol, on the other hand, knew how & when to switch off. In a match-up of monsters, there had to be a gruesome end. Mary may have been a monster of understandable origins, but she served man-flesh to some of our monsters of choice, and one of her own (literally) was on the butcher block; so no tears for Mary. #Karma.

With Gate Crasher Carol (now with Walker camo poncho, and hidden rifle swinging action) gone into effect, Rick activated. The flip side to detached efficiency, is that if an average sized monkey wrench, thrown into the works, can induce paralytic confusion, then tossing in one large enough results in utter panic. Rick & co. made the most of that panic, eventually freeing the others; but not before another “no good deed” lesson for Glenn, in the form of a crazed solitary inmate. Karma can be oil or water to different people.

A few side notes. I can see a narrative point, to crazy, tat-faced guy’s role in the episode; but why would Gareth & co. keep him alive, that whole time? Michonne’s smile, upon seeing the herd (one of them reaching for her face), was hardly inscrutable; it was a case of the Devil you know, and if anyone appreciates the opportunities inherent to chaos, it would be her. To that point, I’ll add that improvised weaponry – from earring claws, to Michonne’s wood stake Bat’leth – should drive home a simple point. Strip your captives. Try not to have any; but if you do go that way….

Rick wasted no time, switching gears from escape to revenge. Ahab found his whale; and unlike, say, Michonne & The Governor, Rick had an entire class of people that needed to be taken out of the equation. Of course the others called for a check to his priorities – remaining the ‘good guys,’ for the time being; but there may yet be some regret to not finishing the job. We saw Gareth go down, but was he taken out? Karma means looking over your shoulder, when resorting to half-measure extremities.

Satisfactory killing sprees would not be enough, to end an episode like ‘No Sanctuary,’ if our ‘heroes’ were left in a state of fear & loathing – there had to be a moment to exhale. To wit, Carol & Ty.

All the commotion had drawn additional Walkers, that bore down on the cabin containing Ty, Judith, and a captive Martin. Martin talked a lot, for a guy with nothing to say; so naturally, he was looking for an opportunity to get one over on Gentle Ben Ty. Judith remains a source for genuine moments of terror, on this show, and once again, we can thank the worst of humanity for that. Martin did read Ty correctly; but is there really a way to get a read on Bruce Banner, just after you left him pissed? If anyone could survive an order to commit suicide by Walker, it’s Ty; but Martin didn’t know that. If anyone could go from compliantly withdrawn to Berserker rage in no time flat, it’s Ty; and Martin found out what having no friends, to talk a Berserker down, can cost you. Karma means laying hands on smaller necks, gets larger hands around yours.

As for Carol, well, now that Rick had risen to the occasion, by coming down to her level, of course he was happy to see her. Her facilitating the break from Terminus, and a lot of payback, certainly helped. For Carol, I imagine some acknowledgement (if not approval) of her methods, along with the opportunity to repay her second debt (the first was to Ty) was as good a reason for an emotional break as any. Karma is beauty.

Catharsis was the way to finally bring season 4.2 to resolution. Not only were viewers spared another season of alternating stagnation & the chasing of rainbows (Rick altering the Terminus sanctuary sign: take that, season 4.2 sense of hope & purpose); but for those who stuck around for an unheard of post-credits scene, the reward was an update to Rick’s very first bonding session, since awaking to Walker World.

Sometimes karma just is.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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