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  • The Walking Dead “No Sanctuary” Review (Season 5.1)

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    The following review contains spoilers for the Walking Dead season 5 Episode "No Sanctuary"

    The characters of AMC’s popular zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead have come a long way through four seasons. It doesn't seem that long ago that no one had faith in Rick as a leader and he himself was not very confident that he was up to the task. It doesn't seem that long ago that Carol was content doing laundry, preparing meals, and getting beat by her sexist husband. In a two episode span, these two characters have made huge leaps into who they are, leaving behind who they were. This is the biggest take away from the Season 5 Premiere, "No Sanctuary."

    To be honest, I was not a fan of Carol before Sunday’s episode. With the exception of the second half of season 4’s "The Grove", I thought the Carol-centric episodes of last season were weak entries and I never seemed to care much before them either. The show does seem to have a problem creating powerful and respectable female characters. To an extent, they righted this wrong. I can say I am now a Carol fan. This was basically her coming out party.

    [caption id=attachment_998" align="alignleft" width="300]Melissa McBride Carol in Terminus. No Sanctuary Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier from the season 5 premiere No Sanctuary[/caption]

    It’s not just because they made her an action movie badass or because she threw out the claws against Mary, it’s more than that. Melissa McBride put forth a great performance. She clearly has the potential to be a leader of this show, from both an acting and character stand point. I didn't expect that to ever happen in The Walking Dead when we had the likes of Lori and Andrea setting the precedents, probably the only two protagonists on the show that people were glad to see bite it.

    Let’s give credit all around, however. McBride performed admirably, but director Greg Nicotero and writer Scott Gimple deserve some praise, not just for Carol’s part of the story but for the whole episode in general.

    had me feeling incredibly uneasy and was the scariest moment from any Walking Dead episode. The special effects were solid throughout Carol’s assault on Terminus and the group’s escape that followed. All the actors were on the top of their games (the ones that needed to be there). The ending packed a blitz of emotional punches in a short time span. We had Carol reunite with Daryl and share a nice moment with Rick when he realizes he survived because of her help, we have Rick and Carl finding out that Judith is still alive, and a silent but moving exchange between Rick and Tyreese. And, of course, the return of Morgan at the very end.

    [caption id=attachment_1000" align="alignright" width="300]Morgan of Walking Dead in No Sanctuary The most unexpected moment of "No Sanctuary" was the surprise return of fan favorite Morgan Jones.[/caption]

    It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, however. The Terminus butcher teasing two swings to the back of Glenn’s head only to be interrupted both times was predictable, although I was still on the edge of my seat. Many characters didn't play much of a role and only got nudged at best in terms of their development. While Tyreese had a nice moment of badassery that I loved watching in the moment, reflecting on it made me realize that it was actually pretty silly. I get that they were trying to paint him as a “good person” ignoring the fact that he has to get his hands dirty sometimes in this new world but to only tie the Terminus Termite’s hands together was mind-boggling. He and baby Judith nearly died because of it. In the grand scheme of things and with how well the episode turned out, these things could be considered nitpicking. If you have to nitpick for flaws then that’s a pretty good sign of the overall quality.

    As much as I loved the much improved Carol, there were two aspects to this episode that really put it over the top for me. Rick and the opening scene. I can’t speak for everyone but the Rick we saw in “No Sanctuary” and season 4 finale “A” is the Rick I wanted to see for a long time. I don’t want to see the Rick that gets his ass kicked by the main villain *cough* the Governor *cough*. I want to see the Rick that does whatever is necessary to keep his people safe *cough* Joe *cough*. No matter how impossible the situation seems, I want to see Rick delivering lines like he did to Gareth when he told him what weapon he would use to kill him. Rick had no legitimate reason to think he could get out of there alive but he had all the confidence in himself anyways, and I love that. Rick finding Judith was an otherworldly reminder of the passion and emotions that drove Rick to do the brutal things he had done. He deserved that payoff and it was great to see him get it. Judith could be the key to stopping Rick from becoming the next Governor or Gareth.

    [signoff predefined=Movie Review Signoff" icon="icon-quote-circled]To be honest, I was not a fan of Carol before Sunday’s episode. With the exception of the second half of season 4’s The Grove, I thought the Carol-centric episodes of last season were weak entries and I never seemed to care much before them either. The show does seem to have a problem creating powerful and respectable female characters. To an extent, they righted this wrong. I can say I am now a Carol fan. This was basically her coming out party.[/signoff]

    [caption id=attachment_1001" align="alignleft" width="300]Rick Grimes, Carl and Judith Reunited Rick and Carl are reunited with Judith in a heartwarming moment that emerged from the ashes of Terminus.[/caption]

    As I mentioned earlier, the opening scene was easily the most terrifying thing I had seen in any Walking Dead episode. I never cared much for Bob but I really did not want to see him get taken out that way. No one would deserve that. I felt awful watching the first four victims get taken out even though I had no connection to them, minus Sam (Robin Lord Taylor) who came back just to be brutally disposed of.

    What really sold this scene for me was Glenn. He looked genuinely terrified throughout. He didn't have to say a single bit of dialogue to draw me in to how nightmarish this moment was. I’ll split this credit with Greg Nicotero, however, who used an Alien throwback by not telling the actors what was about to happen. Just like the famous

    in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, they had no idea what was coming. Imagine if Steven Yeun had no idea whether Glenn was supposed to survive this scene or not, even though it is fake I think there was some authentic fear that came through there. This turned out to be very important because I knew, deep down, that Glenn wasn’t in any real danger. This was made obvious by bringing in some fodder to take out in order to create a faux sense of peril for those we actually cared about. It’s not the first time they’ve done this and it won’t be the last.

    [caption id=attachment_1002" align="alignright" width="400]Glenn in Walking Dead at Terminus. Butchers with Baseball Bat Glenn almost met his end twice, did he use up all is luck?[/caption]

    The last thing I want to go over before the final verdict is two very brief scenes involving Gareth and the history of Terminus. The episode was bookended by two quick looks into Gareth and his group before they became the cannibals of the present. In just a couple of minutes combined, these moments really made me eager to see more of their story and how the show will present it moving forward. While they tried to create sympathy for the Governor, it was very hit or miss to me. They may have already topped all of that with much less screen time.

    All in all, this episode was a bit shallow and didn't try to balance the whole cast, opting to focus on a fraction of them instead. It was predictable at times but I don’t think anyone expected just how crazy things were going to get. This is a good example of how less can be more. I've had my issues in the past with how The Walking Dead approaches pacing and character development. Sometimes, they nail it like in the season 2 episode “Nebraska”. Other times, it’s completely botched, see (but not again) season 4 episode “Still”. They usually do a solid job on action heavy episodes but they still got in some great moments and progressions for a few of the characters. No Sanctuary, coupled with season 4’s finale “A” might be the best two episode sequence we’ve gotten yet in terms of combining extreme mayhem with character development.

    What's your final verdict on "No Sanctuary"? Rate the episode and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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