Review by Gene
Anticipation for a season premiere of a show you love can sometimes be a bad thing. You don’t want your excitement to skew your thoughts of the episode. So, I had to try and temper my expectations a bit leading up to “No Sanctuary”. Having said that, I feel pretty good in saying that this premiere is probably the best season premiere of the show yet.
It’s also possibly one of the bloodier, more gory episodes yet. Not only do a host of walkers meet their bloody end with a few new methods to boot, but many living people do as well. Suspicions of the Termites (people living at Terminus) being cannibals are confirmed as we meet two butchers and compound leader, Garreth, killing the living and preserving them for food. Before that though, we’re shown a brief flashback to Garreth and others in the boxcar themselves. Some time ago they were overrun by people who took Terminus from them and beat, raped and killed some of them. They were somehow able to turn the tables, but it changed them dramatically. They went from people seeking to offer a genuine place of solitude, to people trapping those who seek them out, and butchering them for food.
But not Rick, and not this group. Rick gets out of his binds, because he’s Rick, takes out the butchers and frees Glenn, Darryl and Bob. While acquiring weapons and walking through the butcher shop, Rick warns them not to hesitate but to kill everyone, because they wouldn’t hesitate. By the end of the episode, and after escaping Terminus with all of our group intact (what?!?!), Rick wants to regroup and go back in to finish everyone off.
The entire group goes against that idea, and a reuniting with Carol is a good distraction from that, but this is a side of Rick we’ve seen pop up here and there. It’s a side that the Termites had fully embraced. We’re pushed a little bit to understand it coming from the them with what they’ve gone through, but from Rick it’s more of a righteous indignation. “They don’t get to live”, he says. Everyone else was thankful to be alive. Rick lost his focus and succumbed to pure bloodthirst. It was Carol’s return that brought a renewed focus to the group and to Rick. Rick left Carol alone in season 4. She could easily be assumed dead. The reminder of life brought him back to reality. Life is precious. It is to be valued and protected. They all had their lives still, so let’s move on.
Speaking of Carol, talk about stealing the show! You’re watching Rick to see how he gets out of this. You’re watching Garreth to see just how demented he is. At one point you’re watching Eugene to learn secrets of the cure (he said precisely nothing, by the way.) We’re watching Tyreese, waiting for that dude to get the jump on him. But behind it all Carol is acting. She’s going into Predator mode (think Schwarzenegger covered in mud, but here it’s walker guts), she’s blowing up the gates, shes securing weapons (Darryl’s crossbow, yes!), and she’s inadvertently responsible for freeing the rest of her group. Quite honestly, if it weren’t for Carol the show would be over. Thanks Carol!
Most people will quickly identify the line of this show being something Garreth said, “You’re either the butcher, or you’re the cattle.” That’s how he sees this world now. Very black and white. Us and them. But something he said to Bob I think is more poignant. Bob pleads with him to let them go. They can cure this if they get to D.C. They can go back to how things were. “Can’t go back, Bob”, Garreth says. Just like that. Very quickly. Almost flippantly as if that were a ridiculous goal; going back. A major theme in season 4 was whether these people can “go back” to how they were before this all. Before they did so many terrible things, or before such atrocities happened to them. With just those four words, Garreth brings that idea to a crushing halt. At least for him.
Repentance. That’s what they were seeking. That’s what “going back” means in this world. Repenting, returning things to normal, or at least how they’re “supposed to be”. While Garreth and the Termites went headlong into morbid and debased acts, our group still clings to a thread of goodness and general morality. While escaping Terminus, they still attempt to free people if they can. “That’s still who we are”, Glenn says. Despite what nearly happened to them, they still had their humanity and still knew the right things to do. There is still hope for this group, though they’re often tested to the point of teetering on the edge and losing themselves.
This makes me think of a scripture we were just talking about at church tonight. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Everyone in this Walking Dead world has gone through horrible things. Some, like Garreth, allow those things to define who they are and what they must do. Others, like many in our group, fight to find a way of escape. A way to get back to the good path. A way to repent, each and every day.
By the end of the episode all of our group is safe and traveling away from Terminus. Where they’ll go is anyone’s guess, but no doubt they’re looking for that “promised land”. A place they can call home and live in peace. But knowing this show, that won’t happen anytime soon. This was a terrific start to the season. If you’ve caught any trailers you know we aren’t done with Garreth. Abraham has yet to sell Rick on going to D.C. so that conversation is soon to come. And Beth’s fate is still unknown, though Darryl is sure she’s alive.
Episode grade: A
I’d love to hear you thoughts, predictions for the show, questions about this episode… all comments welcome!