‘The Walking Dead’ picks up pace in season 5 premiere

Danai Gurira and Chandler Riggs continue to survive and fight against hordes of the undead in season five of the smash horror hit.  (Photo provided by amctv.com)
Danai Gurira and Chandler Riggs continue to survive and fight against hordes of the undead in season five of the smash horror hit. (Photo provided by amctv.com)

After season four’s mid-season interesting, albeit hit-or-miss change in pace, season five of “The Walking Dead” premiered on Sunday with an engaging, exciting and at times even emotional episode. While season four’s second half delivered some daring, above-average episodes, namely the Carol-centered “The Grove,” the season five premiere is quite possibly the best episode in a very long time in terms of balancing action with character.

The episode, titled “No Sanctuary,” pulled out everything in the arsenal of “The Walking Dead” to promise fans a (hopefully) fast-paced and character-driven season. The series has always mishandled this delicate balance, never really settling on a specific direction or pace. This may be due to the symbolism of the setting: a post-apocalyptic world where precious moments of peace can be interrupted in a heartbeat with chaos, where everyone is always on the move. It’s that or die in the world of “The Walking Dead.” But the series has always been criticized for sup-par writing and poor character development.

Season four looked to change this with a step in the right direction. While splitting up the characters mid-season was a strange change in pace, it looked to focus on each of the characters a little better than in past seasons. With the group finally coming together again in “No Sanctuary” it looks like we can expect big changes and events. And if the episode is any indication of how the rest of the season is going to be, then we can expect a truly gritty, violent and exciting season five, may be the best season of “The Walking Dead” to date.

The episode picks up not long after season four ended with Rick dropping the infamous “they’re screwing with the wrong people” line. Indeed, the cannibals of the “sanctuary” of Terminus were messing with the wrong people, and by that I mean Carol. Carol, played with intense emotion by Melissa McBride, quickly became a fan-favorite in season four when she stopped being a damsel in distress and took matters into her own hands. Separated from the group for nearly a season, Carol saves the day as only Carol could. Carol isn’t the only one who gets a chance to shine this episode, though. Tyreese, played by Chad L. Coleman, finally stops feeling sorry for himself and deals a good deal of damage. And Andrew Lincoln’s Rick steps out of his “farmer Rick” phase and returns to the respected, “ask questions later” Rick we all know and love.

The episode hits all the right notes, delivering a fast-paced but still emotional episode, which is rare for “The Walking Dead.” However, the show has always been impressive in raising moral dilemmas about survival, and this episode was no different, begging the question of whether the Terminus cannibals were right in what they were doing. Is everyone just doing what they can to survive? Is Rick’s crew any better? It’ll be interesting to see whether the remaining people of Terminus, if any, come back to haunt Rick and the rest of the group.

And lastly, how about that after credits scene? It’s just one more thing to get viewers excited about this season.