FINALLY! The Walking Dead is back!! and this is a moment that each and every one of us addicts have been waiting for, for a really long time! (probably not actually that long but you know it felt pretty fucking long) We have long awaited the return of our favourite zombie-slaying gang, yet apprehensive about how we would be introduced to them given the major cliffhanger that Season 4 ended with. Luckily however we weren't faced with some easy-riding opener like Season 4, and instead were presented to a hellish, spectacle of an opener that can only be described as epic. This folks was the season premiere of The Walking Dead Season 5, and it was amazing.
So far The Walking Dead has has it major highs and its unintentional lows, mainly due to it beating around the bush without actually tackling it head on in any given situation - Episode 1 "No Sanctuary" does the complete opposite, and delivers one of the most hard-hitting, pulse-pounding, effectively tense episodes the entire show has to offer. It's one hell of an explosive episode (literally), and every TWD fan will be drooling with utter delight as they watch the tense episode unfold before their very eyes. It's an almost perfect episode that blows the doors wide open for a whole season dedicated to a psychotic Rick, a Rick we would all love to see.
The episode begins in one of the most horrible of manners - we are immediately thrown in to a tense atmosphere that is heightened by the "kill or be killed" sense of survival, and it is this theme which runs throughout that keeps things from feeling limp and loosing its sense of control and taut tension. Luckily, the thrust into deep and dark territory had the unnerving tension built from the word go, and it's the shockingly brutal violence that highlights this in the best way possible. It's also the sense of constant danger with Rick and co. that keeps thing feeling fresh, and although it's the first episode of a new season and only 15 minutes in, we can't help but feel that they are in constant peril; when Rick starts to go full crazy, that's when things begin to get really crazy.
We then battle a double-narrative as we are re-introduced to Carol, Tyreese and little baby Judith who find themselves getting closer and closer to Terminus. This narrative broke away from the hectic set-up the rest of the gang were experienced, and proved to be a more settled aspect of the show that was a lot more beneficial than one might have thought. It was the change for Carol that boosts their narrative along, and for the first time ever, her character becomes somewhat of a major bad-ass which is amazingly refreshing to see. The tie-in between the two narratives work very well, and the juxtaposition of the linear set-up proves extremely effective. One moment in particular that sees Carol being responsible for saving Rick and co.'s lives by shooting a firework into an oil tank causing a huge explosion of flames and flying bodies was outstanding, and made us love Carol even more. The Tyreese moments however did feel a little slow but helped develop his character some more, even if it wasn't entirely necessary but still effective in its display.
Explosive action continues throughout the entire episode which is presented in such a beautifully tense manner, all thanks to Nicotero's superb direction, and his striking tonal shifts compliment each other perfectly. We don't see the change until the final act of the episode in which all the gang is reunited, and the reactions are both heart-warming and surprisingly touching. One in particular where Rick finally gets to hold baby Judith is beautiful, and even the Carol and Daryl moment is positively sweet. What really makes these moments perfect is that even though they escaped, Rick wants to go back and finish them off, and it is this ruthless attitude that highlights upon Rick's sanity even more, and battles with the question of "what has Rick become". It's a nasty touch but it's very much bitter sweet.
Did You Notice: At the beginning of the episode when all the guys are down on their knees ready to be slaughtered, Rick looks over and see's Sam at the other side? Don't remember Sam? He was the guy in Season 4 who shoulder was popped back into place by Carol when she and Rick went of a drive together alone shortly before Rick told Carol never to come back to the prison?
Also, there was a lot of speculation about who that character was towards the
end who raped and murdered the Terminus folk, and many claimed it to be Negan due to his appearance. As confirmed by Kirkman, it wasn't Negan, and instead was the guy with the tattoos on his face who attacks Glenn when he opens the container to let him out.
Finally, stay to the end credits as you are in for one hell of a treat that will surely have you gasping for episode 2.
No Sanctuary was a superb start to what appears to be an amazing fifth season - boasting some beautiful moments with pulse-pounding action, Episode 1 proved to be one of the biggest, baddest and best episodes the show has had to offer to date, and by the looks of things it's only going to get better from here.