One thing I love about “The Walking Dead” is that when they promise their season will open with a bang, they open with a bang that’s deafening and mind blowing. After season four’s more downbeat opening, season five hits the ground running and wastes absolutely no time exploring the effect the Governor’s raid on Rick’s prison sanctuary has had. After the big raid, every one of the group found themselves scattered all over the country, and desperately looking for safety through the promise of the mysterious Terminus. Much to Rick’s suspicion, Terminus is not the safe haven everyone is hoping for, and he, along with Carl, and Michonne find themselves trapped in a train car with the rest of their group. Meanwhile, Carol and Tyrese are with Judith on their way to Terminus before all roads collide and fate plays yet another hand.
As is always the case with Rick Grimes, he barely survives when we get the full brunt of what Terminus is about, revealing their horrific and sadistic methods for dispatching their hostages and using them as food. Thanks to quick thinking by Carol, Rick and co are able to escape with their lives barely in tact and so begins one of the most emotionally turbulent seasons of the series yet. “No Sanctuary” is a fantastic ball busting season premiere that sets the entrance for a wider arc and more narrative consistency. It’s a season filled with highs and lows and answers every question fans have had since the fourth season drew to a close. After three seasons Rick Grimes is finally the man we know from the comic books.
His experiences in season four have finally made him in to a survivor who doesn’t trust, and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of his family and friends. Rick and co. find themselves looking for another new sanctuary after admitting to one another there is no such thing as complete safety anymore, all the while Beth awakens in a hospital run by sadistic police officers that ensure she doesn’t escape their sanctuary. When she meets another survivor named Noah, the pair bond and decides to try for an escape. Much like every season, five starts in one direction and veers off in to many paths with the group separating once again, driven by the faint hope of something new in the horizon. After spending so much time in the prison and convincing themselves that their harrowing journey outside is over, the group are now back in the wilderness and have to spend a lot of their time relying on one another.
What’s more, they have to decide if they want to confine themselves to one another or welcome in new members. Surely they’ve seen the best of humanity with new member Tara, but they’ve also met the Governor and the Terminites. It also becomes a matter of whether Rick and his group can accept the mysterious trio of Abraham, Eugene and Rosita, all of whom have their own goals for survival which include a trek to Washington that may lead to a cure for the apocalypse. The performances are about as excellent as ever, with Andrew Lincoln really heightening his portrayal of Rick Grimes in to a gradually cynical but street wise survivor. The cast are brilliant across the board from Melissa McBride, and Norman Reedus, right up to newcomers Alanna Masterson and Michael Cudlitz, who just steals every scene as the military bulldog Abraham Ford. There isn’t a single bad performer among the cast.
Gregory Nicotero’s special effects are about as amazing as ever, and though often times the digital effects don’t quite meld with the traditional effects seamlessly, it’s a forgivable caveat that doesn’t detract from the series in any way. For folks that wonder why “The Walking Dead” has been such a pop culture phenomenon, they need look no further than season five. It’s a well rounded, well acted, and beautifully written re-entrance in to the series that is slowly veering in to the comic books with every episode, and yet has also deviated from the source material to concoct its own compelling storylines and character moments as well. “The Walking Dead” is an excellent series that continues learning from its mistakes and increases its quality more and more every year.
Along with the Blu-Ray, there’s a digital copy. Among the bevy of extras, there’s the ten minute look at the building of Alexandria and its purpose in season five as well as its importance to the final half of the season. There’s a great four minute look at “Beth’s Journey” chronicling the story arc of Beth Greene, a five minute look at “Bob’s Journey” chronicling the story arc of flawed hero Bob Sookey, there’s “Noah’s Journey” a chronicling of the story arc of hero Noah, and finally, “Tyrese’s Journey,” a look at the story arc of humble hero Tyrese. There’s a hilarious eight minute video diary from Michael Cudlitz who plays Abraham Ford, and a hilarious video diary from actor Josh McDermitt who plays Eugene. “Rotters in the Flesh” is a five minute look at the nastiest and most disgusting effects of the season.
There are also a slew of deleted scenes for “Four Walls and a Roof”, “Crossed”, “Coda”, “Remember”, “Forget”, and “Spend”. There’s a slew of interesting audio commentaries, including with writer/Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple and Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, both of whom discuss “No Sanctuary.” Producer/Special Make-Up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero and Actor Melissa McBride also discuss “No Sanctuary” in their own audio commentary. For the episode “Self Help” there are cast members Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Michael Cudlitz, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, and Alanna Masterson, all of whom provide a fun glimpse at their experience making the episode. There’s an audio commentary for the mid season premier “What Happened and What’s Going On” featuring executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero and Actor Chad L. Coleman.
For the episode “Them” there’s director Julius Ramsay and Actors Norman Redus and Sonequa Martin-Green. And for “Remember” there’s Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero, Executive Producer Tom Luse, and Actor Danai Gurira. Lastly, there’s an audio commentary for “Conquer” featuring Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist/Director Greg Nicotero and Writer/Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple. There’s “Inside the Walking Dead,” a slew of plot recaps and character explorations per episode. Included are “No Sanctuary”, “Strangers”, “Four Walls and a Roof”, “Slabtown”, “Self Help”, “Consumed”, “Crossed”, “Coda”, “What Happened and What’s Going On”, “Them”, “The Distance”, “Remember”, “Forget”, “Spend”, “Try”, and “Conquer”. Finally, there’s “The Making of the Walking Dead,” a more technical series of short vignettes and featurettes for the season with looks at episodes like “No Sanctuary,” “Slabtown,” “Try,” and many more.