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twdno1

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“No Sanctuary” is the best season-opener of “The Walking Dead” since the first ever episode. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the writers managed to fit so much action into one episode, because one of my biggest problems with the show in the past is that it’s just been incredibly dull. This episode was certainly not boring, it was fast-paced, dark, and worthy of being part of a television show about a post-apocalyptic world in which zombies outnumber humans. There was very little melodrama in the episode and it definitely took a step away from the soap-opera-like feel of previous seasons.

(SPOILER ALERT) The title of this season opener refers to the fact that Terminus isn’t the safe haven that it had been claimed to be, as well as to the sign which Rick (Andrew Lincoln) alters at the end of the episode. The scene takes place after Rick and his group escape Terminus and are reunited with Carol (Melissa McBride), Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Judith. Rick sees one of the signs which members of the group had previously read, a sign which suggested that Terminus was a place of refuge from the horrors of the outside world. In an effort to aid future survivors Rick uses blood to cover what had previously been written on the sign, leaving all but one word and then adding his own above it. As the camera turns towards the writing we see that it reads, (yes you guessed it), “No Sanctuary”.

Season four ended just as the finale seemed to be picking up steam, something which really frustrated me at the time because I was enjoying the episode, so the fact that “No Sanctuary” picked up right where the show had left off made a lot of sense. The feeling of excitement at the end of season four carried over into this episode and brought us back into “The Walking Dead” universe seamlessly.

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(SPOILER ALERT) The scene in which Rick and the group are getting themselves ready for an all-out battle with Gareth and the rest of the cannibals from Terminus is a very clever way to begin the season, as we see our heroes arming themselves with whatever they can find, and this scene demonstrates that for the rest of the season they are going to be a lot more ruthless. The group aren’t cowering in the corner of the storage container scared for their lives, they are suiting up, preparing to face their foes head on. They are going to fight to survive and that will surely make this season a lot more interesting than many previous seasons, as Rick is no longer a mourning farmer, and Carol isn’t a broken woman lacking in self-confidence, she’s a completely new character and has made a huge transformation.

The more gory moments in this episode were really satisfying, and the lack of remorse shown on both sides of the battle was very refreshing. I’m not easily put off by blood and guts, so nothing in the episode really bothered me, I enjoyed seeing the way in which the Terminus inhabitants went about their business and then I also enjoyed how they were destroyed in a sea of walkers, bullets and fire. What’s not to love?

However, I did have a couple of problems with the special effects in the episode, as I felt that the huge explosion (seen on the trailer for the season) was pretty ridiculous. The damage it caused in relation to the blast didn’t seem to match up, and how Carol aimed her firework at the gas canister was quite miraculous. That particular scene didn’t look all that realistic, as I mentioned on the preview, and I was acutely aware that I was watching a television show at that point.

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Nevertheless, the effects were impressive in other areas, and I was particularly enthused by the makeup on the walkers, because it actually seemed as though an effort had been made to make them look threatening and true to what you would expect if such a creature were to exist in real life. Furthermore, it was pleasing to see walkers make a significant appearance in the episode, because the way in which Woodbury, Terminus, and the prison acted as walker-free zones really made me wonder why walkers are even a part of this show if they are going to be ignored for the majority of each season. I am aware that “The Walking Dead” is designed to be a show about how humans would react to this kind of worldwide catastrophe, but it is set in a zombie apocalypse, so to remain credible it has to feature a lot more walkers than it has done in the past.

In this episode, both groups seemed as though they had found their home in this world after the world, and the fact that the show runners weren’t afraid to show what the vicious folks at Terminus had been up to since the outbreak was both surprising and very welcome. I loved the way that the people at Terminus dealt with our heroes as though they were just meat, or ‘cattle’, and I felt that these individuals had the potential to be very interesting villains. (SPOILER ALERT) My only issue here is that I wanted them to be around for a much longer period of time, because you can really get behind your heroes when they’re fighting murderous cannibals, and it was a shame to see most of these characters die so early on. However, I’m sure that we’ll see Gareth (Andrew J. West) again in the not too distant future, and that he will prove to be an extremely hateable antagonist.

After seeing this episode I would say that my biggest error in the preview was claiming that the group would stay at Terminus for much longer than they actually did. After seeing the trailer, I was expecting the group to stay at Terminus for at least three or four episodes, and I thought that we would see the group sway Gareth into escorting them to Washington in order to rid the world of walkers and bring things back to the way they were before the dead roamed the earth, but instead we see that Gareth doesn’t really want to go back, or at least he doesn’t think he can, because it’s just too late for that. (This notion is definitely an ongoing theme of the show and I think we can expect to see this be carried through to the end of the storyline with Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos). I was pleased that the show proved me wrong because it demonstrated that it can still be unpredictable after airing for so many years, and because I feel that what actually happened in this episode was much more believable than what I was expecting to occur.

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In regards to the rest of the season, I don’t really want to watch the group as they make their way to Washington or as they forage for supplies, just because it’s pretty awkward that they are happy to play follow the leader with Eugene and Abraham. However, I’m hopeful that the group won’t spend too long travelling to their destination after things accelerated so quickly at Terminus, and I do think that it will be interesting to see the end point of the storyline, because either the world will return to the way it was (which is clearly not going to happen) or Eugene is lying and we’ll get to see him pay the price for that deceit. I really dislike Eugene as a character, so that possibility fills me with glee. There’s no way that there is really a cure to all this trouble, even the show runners themselves don’t seem to know how “The Walking Dead” will end (or how the apocalypse started), so I definitely don’t believe that Eugene knows as much as he is claiming to.

(SPOILER ALERT) I wasn’t happy with the fact that nobody significant was killed in this episode, because in such a chaotic and heated battle there would have been casualties on both sides; someone should’ve strayed from the group and been attacked, or at least been taken hostage by Gareth as some sort of bargaining tool to get revenge on Rick and Carol for slaughtering his people. The fact that Gareth is still alive and well means that he is sure to reappear at some point, which I’m not complaining about because he is an interesting character, but this means that when he does finally come back there will be no surprise on my part. When this kind of thing happens in a television show you start to lose faith with the writers and never really believe that anything truly interesting will happen, because the story telling is clearly lacking.

Gareth got shot to feign death, so that less involved viewers would think that he wasn’t going to appear again, but anyone who has watched as much television as I have can recognise a cliché when they see one. The best way to deal with Gareth’s character would’ve been to just ignore him for the latter half of this episode, because then the majority of the audience would forget about him until his reappearance. I may be wrong again, because as a series regular we may continue to see Gareth in each episode (which would be great), and in that case I rescind my criticism, but I was frustrated that we saw Gareth take a shot which was never actually going to end his life, and then we were left to ponder whether or not he would appear again in the near future. Obviously he will, it is a well known fact that Andrew J. West is a regular cast member for this season, so why did you waste your time filming this scene?

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All the performances in “No Sanctuary” felt believable, and the actors playing the villains at Terminus did an exceptional job of making me despise them in such a short period of time. They were vicious, ruthless and extremely blasé about the horrendous things they were doing, which gave off the feeling that they had been doing this for a very long time, and that killing meant very little to them. I wasn’t as thrilled with Carol’s appearance in this episode as other reviewers have been since the episode aired, because I don’t believe that her character would change this drastically, or that she would have lasted this long in the first place. Nonetheless, almost all of the returning characters remained likeable, and the actors did a good job on the whole.

The ending of the episode frustrated me slightly, because it felt too optimistic and did venture into the realm of the overly campy. Given the fact that the group has nowhere to go and no means of getting there, and the fact that they have just gone through something so traumatic, they should probably be less joyous and focus on the task at hand. I did appreciate the fact that they got the group back together, because seeing them forming separate relationships did get pretty annoying, and I feel that the show works much better when we see the group struggle to come to a consensus regarding a moral decision, or when they are working together to try and overcome a much stronger enemy. Still, they have scarce amounts of food and water, nowhere to sleep and no means of transportation, so if it were me I’d worry about that rather than having a group hug.

“No Sanctuary” was a very promising way to begin season five of “The Walking Dead”, because it had the right amount of action to keep the audience interested, and brought the group back together just as things were becoming slightly tiresome. It seems as though the writers have taken some of the criticisms of the show on board, and have attempted to include more walkers and more violence in this episode. I welcome any change to the formula at this point and I was pleased that instead of talking about what they were going to do, Rick and the others actually took charge of their situation and acted for once. This episode was thoroughly enjoyable, and now I’m very optimistic for what lies ahead (please let there be a Carl-related death soon… please!).

8/10

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