“You’re either the butcher or the cattle.”
The Walking Dead has always been about survival, in one way or another. Most of its thematic explorations have been around the idea of who you become in a post apocalyptic world, what you do to survive, what your mindset is regarding your life in relation to others. In our culture, cannibalism is seen as the lowest form of human life, as savage, but it also becomes a lingering question when you must do anything possible to survive.
We don’t get much buildup for the Terminus folks, but what we do ascertain through several flashbacks is that these were good people who went down extremely dark paths. That, of course, raises the question of the longevity of our main group of characters, all of whom have the potential to be molded by their environment rather than by their own agencies. Perhaps, being turned into a walker is just as easy as being turned into a cannibal, and the transformations that occur for both are rooted in the same ideas.
Rick certainly views these Terminus folk as nothing more than walkers. When referring to one of the dead, he tells the others to “let him turn”, essentially aligning the two with each other, and later, he makes a case for everyone to head back and wipe any survivors out. This is less a series about maintaining humanity than it is about survival of the fittest now, and “No Sanctuary” constantly emphasizes that some people are just not meant to live. Gone is the Governor’s town and the CDC and the farm and the prison; everyone is truly in the wild now, with no sanctuary to temporarily shield them from reality. They were constantly on the defensive earlier in the series, but now, they’re all on the offensive.
The episode continues to delve into this theme–although not too subtly, because c’mon, this is The Walking Dead–with the Tyreese-Martin subplot, and we see that Martin views Terminus as a microcosm of the world as a whole: eventually, you’ll all succumb to the pressures of your environment, to the “traps” it may set, to your primal need to survive. He’s able to strike a chord with Tyreese, but it has the opposite effect, ending with Tyreese pummeling a bunch of walkers to death and taking out his anger on Martin (once again, a walker and one of Gareth’s guys being looked at as equals). Tyreese–or Ty-Dog, because T-Dog’s legacy still endures–is a “good guy”, but he won’t die today.
Of course, this show’s discussion of theme always pales in comparison to the action, which is just as exciting as ever and emphasizes just how badass Carol is now. Gimple doesn’t let up one bit throughout the episode, and although it’s pretty certain that the show will fall back into some of its more groan-worthy patterns, this is a solid kickoff to season five. The episode ends with our characters lacking a physical sanctuary, but they do have an emotional sanctuary with each other. They’re surviving. It’s onto D.C.
– “Yeah, so let’s just arrange it so that all the expendable characters are on one side, and all the main cast members are on the other. This way, we can increase dramatic tension by killing off a bunch of random people! Are you scared yet?” Still, pretty intense opening sequence.
-I am very surprised that the Terminus arc is resolved this quickly. Considering this show’s track record, it’s a welcome surprise, but I can’t help but feel this should’ve been last season’s finale. After all, season four meandered for quite a bit of time.
-I would love it if the “We’re all the same!” dude is the hitchhiker.
-Why didn’t Tyreese just crash through the wall like a badass?
-Hi, Morgan. In case you didn’t know, there is a post-credits scene that shows Morgan coming across the “No Sanctuary” sign. He’s a really great character, so I hope to see more of him.
-I’m expecting almost a 9.0 rating for this. At this rate, expect the show to drag on for at least 550 seasons.
-No regular coverage for this one, but I’ll definitely be checking in for the midseason finale in November.
Photo credit: AMC, The Walking Dead