When we last left our ‘Walking Dead’ heroes, they were all (well, most of them) trapped inside a train car at the mysterious compound known as Terminus awaiting their fate. Atypically for the show, the Season 5 opener doesn’t make fans wait long to see what happens.
In fact, believe it or not, the whole Terminus storyline is wrapped up in one tidy, action-packed episode.
This week’s premiere is bookended with a couple of short sequences in which we see that the people now running Terminus were once prisoners themselves in the train cars. It’s not really important from the standpoint of these characters, but it’s a method by the show-runners to communicate that good people can sometimes turn evil – and perhaps a hint as to what may be coming for one or more of our favorites this season.
Inside train car “A”, Rick gets the group ready to attack whomever opens the door next. However, the Terminus guards surprise them by dropping a tear gas canister through the roof – effectively disabling and disorienting everyone inside. When we next see Rick, he’s bound and gagged and joined by Daryl, Glenn and Bob – who are lined up in front of a metal trough with four others from a different train car.
One by one, starting with the guys from the other car, the guards hit the prisoners in the back of the head with a baseball bat, then slit their throats. Fortunately for our heroes, Gareth (the head Terminus guy) shows up before the guards take a swing at Glenn and delays the killings for a few minutes. Bob makes a plea for their lives that gets ignored. Gareth insists that Rick tell him what he’s hidden in the bag outside of Terminus’ fences. Rick confesses that the bag is filled with weapons, including a machete, which he promises to kill Gareth with. Then, just when it looks like the killings will begin again, the building is rocked from a large explosion outside.
We then jump back in time a little bit to find Tyrese, Carol and baby Judith following the railroad tracks to Terminus. When a Walker approaches them, Tyrese tells Carol that he’s not ready to kill anything again – so Carol has to take care of it. As she does that, she sees a whole horde of additional Walkers moving toward them. Carol and Tyrese (carrying Judith) run through the woods until the sound of gunfire from Terminus distracts the Walkers, leading them down the tracks toward the noises.
Carol and Tyrese then come across a guy from Terminus (if the episode ever gives his name, I missed it) preparing to set off firework rockets to distract the Walkers again and draw them away from Terminus. They overhear him chatting on a walkie-talkie back to base about how Michonne and Rick have been captured after putting up a fight. Carol sneaks up on the guy with her gun and takes him prisoner. He tries to feed her a story about everything being a big misunderstanding, but she doesn’t believe him for a second.
Carol decides to go check out what’s really going on at Terminus while Tyrese stays behind with the baby to guard their new prisoner inside a small cabin. Carol covers herself with the blood and guts from a Walker corpse to mask her human scent so that she can make her way with the other Walkers toward Terminus. When she gets to the fence barrier, she witness Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob being pulled out of the train car and dragged into a building. After a minute, the horde of Walkers lurch toward Terminus.
Carol first fires a bullet into a propane tank to start it leaking gas, then she shoots one of the firework rockets (taken from the guy at the cabin) towards the tank, causing it to explode and blow open the fence (taking a bunch of Walkers with it). At this point, viewers realize that the large explosion Rick and the others felt earlier in the episode was Carol blowing up the tank.
Back at the cabin, the prisoner is just begging to be killed as keeps goading Tyrese about how he and Judith are going to die if Tyrese doesn’t just leave. Eventually, the prisoner gets his hands on Judith and threatens to strangle her if Tyrese doesn’t go outside – even though the cabin is surrounded by Walkers. Tyrese opens the door, is grabbed by Walkers, and disappears as the door slams shut. Later, the prisoner (who’s no longer one, obviously) notices that he doesn’t hear any more noises coming from outside the cabin. When he goes to the door to investigate, he’s thrown backward as Tyrese bursts back in. On the floor and on top of the guy, Tyrese punches him in the face over and over and yelling, “I won’t!” But he does.
While the Terminus butchers are distracted, Rick uses a wooden shank he made in the train car and hid in his boot to cut his way out of his ropes. He kills the two butchers and frees his three friends quickly thereafter. They head out into the main yards of Terminus, where a battle is raging between the Terminus guards and the Walkers. Rick and crew eventually make their way back to train car A, where they free the rest of our heroes.
Meanwhile, Carol sneaks around the compound until she finds herself in the room filled with candles and odd messages scrawled on the floor and walls. There, she’s cornered by Mary (Denise Crosby). Carol is able to distract her with a spray of gunfire, and the two women fight, which ends with Carol putting a bullet in Mary’s leg. Mary gives her a sob story about how everyone at Terminus used to be good people until they were forced to become what they are. Rather than finish her off, Carol instead lets some Walkers in to eat her. Ahhh… dinner by candlelight!
With Terminus burning to the ground, Rick and the others make it to the other side of the fence and dig up their hidden bag of weapons. An obsessed Rick insists that they need to go back and finish off everyone else from Terminus. However, Carol appears and Daryl runs over to give her a big hug. Rick hugs her too, making it obvious to her and everyone else that she’s welcome back inside the group. Rick is distracted from his thirst for revenge, and Carol leads everyone to the cabin. Rick is reunited with his young daughter, and Tyrese finally gets to see Sasha again. Abraham tells Rosita that they’ll talk to Rick later. (This is obviously a reference that Abraham believes the group should be heading towards Washington, D.C.)
The episode ends with Rick spray-painting the word “No” above the word “Sanctuary” on one of the signs along the train tracks inviting people to Terminus.
Also, although I’m not sure if it was supposed to be part of the episode, an odd post-credits scene shows the reappearance of Morgan (Lennie James) as he comes across the sign Rick changed. He notices an “X” with a circle around it on a tree and heads off in a different direction. However, because this was a post-credits moment and the “X” looks suspiciously like Microsoft’s symbol for the Xbox, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was some promo ad for a new Xbox One ‘Walking Dead’ game featuring Morgan as the main character. If so, both Microsoft (which advertised its Surface tablet at almost every commercial break) and AMC have sunk to new levels to promote a product, even if it’s a tie-in to the program.
Finally, it’s important to note that Beth – who was separated from Daryl last season – is neither seen nor spoken about in this episode. Her fate remains unknown.
All in all, this is a pretty entertaining season opener. I thought for sure we’d be stuck in Terminus for at least the first half of this season, but the show-runners wrapped that storyline up rather quickly, leaving future episodes open to any and all possibilities.