The Walking Dead season 5 opens with shock, awe, and cannibals

Season 5's tagline demonstrates the extent to which the characters will go to defend themselves and their loved ones' lives.

Kat Shambaugh

Season 5’s tagline demonstrates the extent to which the characters will go to defend themselves and their loved ones’ lives.

Cameron Hines, Sports editor, News copy editor

When the writers and producers of The Walking Dead  billed the season premiere as the show’s “best episode yet,” I was understandably skeptical, considering last season’s masterful finale. But every time the apocalyptic series appears to reach its zenith, it takes another step forward, which begs the question, “Just how good can this show get?” Based on the early returns in the premiere, “No Sanctuary,” The Walking Dead seems destined to ascend to greater heights in season five.

When we left off in season four, Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Carl arrived at Terminus, a supposed safe haven, only to find themselves brutally locked in a train car by mysterious leader Gareth. There, they reunited with their former companions Glenn and Maggie, among others, and Rick vowed revenge on the scheming “Termites.”

Fast forward to the present, and the suspicions of cannibalism were indeed true; Terminus proves nothing more than a trap for desperate wanderers, an institution of evil. Graphic details aside, our heroes narrowly dodge a gruesome slaughter. The same cannot be said for a couple of unfortunate redshirts.

While easy to jump to the conclusion that Terminus deserves no mercy, their backstory reveals a history of torture from marauding clans. This insight does not necessarily garner empathy for the cannibals, but muddies the distinction between “good” and “evil.” In this world, there are only those who are willing to do what is necessary to survive.

What shielded Rick and Co. from certain death? Nothing else but a surprise attack on Terminus by Carol, previously banished from the group by Rick himself. With multiple strokes of ingenuity, she causes a major distraction in the previously fortified area, while a herd of “walkers” swarms. Terminus gets their comeuppance, and Rick’s group escapes intact for the first time in a while. One thing to remember, though: Gareth, unlike most of his people, appears to survive, only getting grazed by a bullet. Undoubtedly, he will return to the fold at some point, possibly for revenge.

Shows cannot live on action alone, which is witnessed in “No Sanctuary.” Three emotional reunions occur at the end of the exhilarating premiere: Carol and Daryl, who hold a very close bond, and understand each other more than anyone else; Rick and Carl with Baby Judith, who they thought perished when the prison fell; and Tyreese and Sasha, siblings who also lost each other at the prison. Complying with the nature of the show, however, these happy times are due for a turn at some point, much to the dismay of some.

One area that The Walking Dead has historically succeeded in is visual storytelling. The show can often relate themes and developments to the audience through imagery alone. In this episode alone, the show tells us that the people of Terminus are cannibals, without saying anything. Strong character development also remains a primary feature on the show; Carol has completely transformed from meek housewife to apocalypse warrior, and Tyreese appears to be overcoming his aversion to violence.

“No Sanctuary” has me looking forward to the rest of the season in a manner that no other premiere has achieved. With so much uncertainty surrounding the next endeavors for the group, the sense that anything can happen is paramount. In all likelihood, the group will head to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to cure the outbreak, with the supposed inside knowledge that newcomer Eugene holds. No matter what comes next, I have complete faith that the writers, producers, and cast will allow The Walking Dead to remain as one of the crème de la crèmes of television.

The Chant’s grade: A+