Warning: Spoilers ahead!
“You’re either the butcher or the cattle”
Last night, The Walking Dead Season 5 premiered with a bang, literally. After some viewer complaints of a season 4 that was slow and meandering, AMC’s hit zombie apocalyse series is back with a full quiver of tension, horror, satisfying reunions and a past character’s surprise return.
When we last saw our rag tag band of survivors, they were locked in a train car awaiting their trip to freezer camp at the hands of the cannibalistic “Termites”. Carol, Tyreese and Judith were en route to Terminus, and Beth was nowhere to be found.
After plotting to get the best of their captors with crude weapons made from wood chips, Rick, Daryl, Bob and Glenn quickly find themselves bound, gagged and kneeling over a bloody trough waiting to be turned into next week’s tritip. There is no longer any doubt about what happens at Terminus – we see the meat butchering take place on stainless steel tables out in the open. It’s all in a day’s work for the Terminus butchers, who might as well be slicing up steaks at at the local grocery.
After a cruel moment of teasing us with the sure death of Glenn and the others, Carol saves the day with a massive explosion that distracts everyone just long enough for our survivors to unleash hell. In the ultimate karmic payback, Barbecue Mary becomes dinner for a horde of hungry walkers, for which Carol has opened the door.
The Walking Dead Reanimated For a Sixth Season
Carol has already established herself as a major badass over the past few seasons, but her strength and cunning in rescuing her survivor family from Terminus have solidified her as an unlikely, potentially iconic heroine. It’s difficult to find another original character on TWD who has experienced a more profound change than Carol. She has evolved from the weak, bullied, mother of of the ill-fated Sophia to a strong, fearless, zombie killing powerhouse. The uneasy dynamic between Carol and Tyreese finds Carol as the protector, with Tyreese as the gentle giant caretaker of baby Judith. In fact, it takes the threat of Judith getting her tiny neck snapped by a Terminus lowlife to bring out Tyreese’s killer instincts, which have clearly not been far beneath the surface. Despite knowing that Carol burned his girlfriend, Karen, to a crisp, the two have become unlikely allies and there is a sense that that the wound may have somewhat scabbed over, pardon the pun.
For all of Carol’s badassery, she still has a vulnerability that we get to see during a very satisfying reunion with Daryl. Not to mention, a “sensitive Daryl” moment which is sure to reduce the throngs of Norman Reedus fans to quivering pools of jelly. Carol, Daryl and the crossbow are together again, and it is glorious.
Rick, who spent previous seasons struggling to carve out a corner of peace in this crazy world, has now gone full on warrior. It is not enough that his herd escaped Terminus with their hides intact, Rick wants his enemies dead, or suffering, or both. Don’t expect him to be tending the radishes anytime soon.
As the season opener ends, all is right in this post-apocalyptic world, if only for a brief moment. Most of group is reunited, and we get to see Andrew Lincoln hold a baby, which renews our faith in all things good. Lest the episode end on a note that is too warm and fuzzy, the closing gives us a couple of jarring moments to set up the rest season. The first is a flashback to Terminus, where we see Gareth, Mary, and the original Termites being brutalized, presumably by the baddies who attacked them during their pre-cannibalism days. This reveal, along with Mary’s confession to Carol, is likely to set the stage for an alliance of sorts between Rick and what remains of Gareth’s group. Lastly – and one that we’d heard rumors about but couldn’t confirm – is the return of Morgan! He just misses the group’s exodus, so whether he will join up with them or will take off on another sub-plot remains to be seen.
For all of it’s good vs. evil contrasts, The Walking Dead is far from one-dimensional. Even the worst evildoers are given a backstory to help us understand how they became that version of themselves. In this post-apocalyptic world, how can one survive and maintain one’s humanity? Is it even impossible? It’s a question that The Walking Dead has asked since the episode one, and it appears it will be asked even louder this season.