Spoiler alert! The following contains details from "The Walking Dead" Season 5, Episode 1, entitled "No Sanctuary."
Post-apocalyptic morality can be hard to define, but if there's one thing pretty much everyone can agree on, eating people is not okay. Especially if you aren't even a zombie.
That grim realization, among others, awaited our survivors inside the walls of Terminus during Sunday's Season 5 premiere. What was supposed to be a sanctuary turned out to be a veritable butcher shop of horrors, although how it became that way is just as complicated as the many ethical dilemmas we've seen play out on "The Walking Dead."
First, we start off with a flashback from the point of view of Terminus ring leader Gareth. He and his group are locked in a train car just as Rick and the gang are now. A scared voice says, "We should have never put up the signs." Gareth explains that they were trying to do something good and "be human beings." Nope, that analogy never gets old.
As we flash forward to present day and Rick's group using whatever scraps of metal they can find inside the train car to prepare for battle, we know that the current "bad guys" didn't start out as such, but their actions make that hard to believe. Rick, Bob, Glen and Daryl are taken from the car, tied, gagged and knelt before a trough with other prisoners to be systematically slaughtered like pigs. We're not even five minutes into the episode before we see a man's throat slit and it becomes clear that these people are cannibals. Cannibals. Who fight zombies. Cue Alanis Morissette!
Now is the charismatically evil Mr. Gareth's time to shine. He comes into the slaughterhouse holding a clipboard like some blasé middle manager, asking his two henchmen about their "shot counts" as they kill more prisoners and drain them of their fluids. Bob manages to get Gareth to let him speak long enough to say the usual, "You don't have to do this," but ends up with a knife in his face when Gareth tries to get Rick to tell him where the bag of guns is.
After a coy back-and-forth between Rick and Gareth, it looks as if Glen is about to receive the baseball bat/machete one-two punch, that is until a huge explosion rocks the entire facility.
Before we find out how the explosion occurred, we see Carol leading Tyreese and baby Judith to Terminus. She doesn't plan to stay once they find the others, solidifying her lone ranger status on the show. But judging by how shaken Tyreese is (he barely has it in him to kill a walker and is reluctant to even finish the trip), Carol is going to need to stick around for a while.
After avoiding a herd of walkers, they happen upon a cabin in the woods, one of the Terminans is idly chatting about Michonne while he sets up fireworks (a useful walker distraction tool, it turns out) out front. Carol rolls up on him, ties his hands and leaves him in the cabin with Tyreese and the baby while she makes her way to Terminus alone. Poor Tyreese, aka Mr. Mom, has to babysit AND put up with this dude's manipulative drivel about the state of things, although he does make a pretty good point about friendship.
The guy rattles off a few good quips about what it means to save a baby in the apocalypse (it's like saving an anchor when you're stranded at sea) and tries to get into Tyreese's head by suggesting he take off with the baby alone. When he realizes Tyreese isn't going to succumb to the power of suggestion, he takes advantage of walkers approaching the cabin to get his hands around baby Judith's neck, threatening to twist unless Tyreese goes outside. Let's just say, the plan backfires when Tyreese realizes he can not only kill walkers again, but also sneak up on this chatty, would-be baby strangler and pummel his face to a pulp.
Carol, now nearing Terminus, utilizes the ol' "cover yourself in walker blood and entrails" method to prevent being noticed by the horde. Somehow it actually looks good on her, probably because she pulls off some of the most badass moves we've ever seen on the show while wearing it. Like, shoot-a-firework-into-a-fuel-tank badass. This causes the aforementioned explosion, saving Glen & co. from being slaughtered and causing THIS to happen:
Terminus descends into fiery chaos. Even Mary, the once saint-like woman who lured the first of Rick's group into false security with a warm plate of (ugh) food, is now crawling away from fiery walkers and saying, "Oh shit." Walkers are everywhere, on fire and eating people's faces, but Carol just strolls in all casual an starts picking off Terminans with her scope.
Inside, Rick uses his wooden spike from the train car to cut through his restraints, promptly taking care of the butchers who were left to slaughter his friends. Rick, Glen, Daryl and Bob escape into the next room to find human torsos on meat hooks, really driving the point home that farming is NOT the preferred method of survival for these folks.
With Maggie, Michonne, Sasha, Carl, Sgt. Abraham and the rest of his crew still trapped in the train car, Rick and company take advantage of the chaos, gather weapons and head out to rescue them. Glen, ever the humanitarian, suggests they free the other train cars as well -- "It's still who we are." Unfortunately, the first guy they rescue bursts out like a maniac yelling, "We're all the same! We're them!" before promptly being devoured. As the survivors press on, Rick snatches an automatic weapon and uses it to take out both Terminans and walkers. At this point, they are all the same.
Meanwhile, Carol is taking her own little tour of the facilities and comes across a room filled with the possessions of the victims: wrist watches, stuffed animals and hey! Daryl's crossbow! She emerges into an even creepier room, the one filled with candles and messages of, "Never Again," "Never Trust" and "We First, Always" written on the walls. Mary rolls up on Carol, but quickly learns you shouldn't bring a hand gun to a machine gun fight. When Carol overtakes her, Mary starts to give her "I know I'm about to die" speech, explaining that the welcoming signs were real, but "people came and took this place ... they raped and they killed and they laughed." Terrible, of course, but what happened when her group "got it back" was a whole lot of cannibalism under the mantra, "You're either the butcher or you're cattle."
At this point, Carol has heard enough. Instead of putting Mary out of her misery, she sics the walkers on her and leaves her for dead. And undead! (I'm sorry).
Inside the train car, Sasha asks Dr. Eugene Porter -- whom, I might add, has not let being captured damper his sassiness in any way whatsoever -- just what he knows that can save the world. After first playing the "it's classified" card, he reveals some information about his past. He worked with a team of scientists on the Human Genome project, specifically on weaponized diseases to use against weaponized diseases or, as he puts it, "Fight fire with fire." In other words, he believes he can create a weapon to kill only walkers. Even though he makes no mention of a cure for the whole, everyone-turns-when-they-die thing, he can confidently say that the plan sounds pretty...
Finally comes the moment we've been waiting for. Rick opens up the train car and urges his crew to fight their way to the perimeter fence. Maggie, with her greased up collar bones and impossibly white teeth, goes nuts with a small knife, while Carl and Michonne pull off an impressive kill with a double-ended sword. Rick gets a shot off at Gareth that doesn't appear fatal, but who cares! The group escapes Terminus with their entire crew in tact. Plus, the place is on fire.
The reunion continues as soon as they enter the woods, despite the fact that Rick is digging up weapons to go back to Terminus and finish the job. Carol puts that suicide mission on hold when she casually strolls over to the group and stuns everyone. Daryl cries! Rick cries! When he asks in disbelief about the explosion -- "Was that you?" -- it's clear that this makes up for Carol's euthanasia back at the prison. All is forgiven, especially when Carol leads Rick to the cabin and the one thing he's been searching for since the prison fell.
Again, commence the "Awws." Rick and Carl totally lose it when they lay eyes on baby Judith, Sasha totally loses it when she sees her brother, Tyreese, and Sgt. Abraham, Dr. Porter and Rosarita are all like, "What the hell is going on?" It's a really heartwarming moment.
The reunited group -- now a baker's dozen -- sets off along the railroad tracks, stopping to amend the Terminus signs along the way. We end with another flashback to Mary, Gareth and co. in the train car, being held prisoner by the raping pillagers who seemingly drove them to cannibalism. Gareth utters the "butcher or cattle" mantra once more, surely not for the last time, and we're left with knowledge that next week's episode is called "Strangers."
As bloody as this season premiere was, no main characters were lost and the most defenseless member of the group has been reunited with her family. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Beth, who was last seen being taken away (albeit alive) in a hearse on her way to God knows where. Terminus is no longer a sanctuary (even for cannibals) and Washington, D.C., is still pretty far away. With the new group solidified and at least one clear mission, as long as Rick doesn't take up farming again this season should cover some interesting new ground.