The title of the first episode of The Walking Dead’s fifth season, “No Sanctuary,” refers to Terminus, the sanctuary turned nightmare where our heroes found themselves held captive at the end of season four. As we get a fuller view of the place and its not-so-friendly inhabitants, replete with brutal executions, heartless rhetoric, and cannibalism, it’s clear that the safe haven Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company fought so valiantly to arrive at is, in reality, worse than the Governor’s tyrannical stronghold. In fact, by the end of the episode, the term “no sanctuary” becomes a sort of affirmation, a renouncing of the idea of having a home in the zombie-riddled dystopia that the world has become.
Alternatively, the term is a more genial variation on “all hell’s broken loose,” and that’s its more apparent usage in relation to our gang’s escape from Terminus. The sight of the establishment’s personnel, who are denoted by a hyper-cynical sense of bureaucracy, slitting men’s necks as if they were hogs ends up only being the teaser to a gruesome bit of mayhem when the zombies encroach on Terminus. It’s the sort of sequence that may help bring back viewers who’ve grown weary of the show’s general lack of blood and guts last season, as faces get gnashed up in close-up and people are wounded and left to be dined on by whole hordes of the undead.
Of course, the group’s escape was only allowed through the sense of forgiveness and faith that Rick has defended valiantly for the past four seasons, as its revealed that Carol (Melissa McBride) engineered the entire breakout. The rampage she enacts is the sort of gonzo act of atonement the series has become known for, but it’s also a confirmation of the hardened heart she’s now ruled by. Speaking with Tyreese (Chad Coleman), her unlikely traveling companion, she insists that he has to toughen up and drop his sentimentalism and faith in others lest he get betrayed or worse. The episode belongs totally to McBride, who shows Carol’s honed, ruthless mind for strategy and survival while also suggesting the still toiling, unfeeling killer that put her in a bad spot with Tyreese and the group in the first place.
As Rick and the others are laying waste to Terminus, Coleman’s Tyreese finds himself in the middle of one of the show’s familiar two-handers with a member of the Terminus crew. The casually vicious cynic, played by Chris Coy, essentially accuses Tyreese of delaying the inevitable by not looking out for number one and, err, not eating other people. Whereas Tyreese has continued to build and sustain relationships, this man refers to his colleagues as “assholes I survived with,” a familiar rebuttal to the concept of having faith in one’s fellow man, no matter what the scenario happens to be. And much like Rick, Tyreese is given a trial to see how far his empathy and trust in others will go, one that ends in a fatal, bloody beating. For Coleman’s gentle giant, there’s no more hiding away from or excusing the savage desperation and cruelness of man, or the dead-eyed hunger of the zombies, in this new world. To put it another way, there’s no sanctuary left for anyone.
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