The Walking Dead 5.01: The Butcher

 Posted by on October 13, 2014 at 2:57 am  The Walking Dead
Oct 132014

walking-dead-season-5-premiere-watch-onlineIn its thrilling fifth-season premiere (No Sanctuary), The Walking Dead takes us back to Terminus — the survivors’ concentration camp where our heroes were imprisoned at the end of last season. Terminus is a place with its own special mission, values, and amenities; but you probably wouldn’t want to spend a weekend there.

(Warning: Spoilers follow. If you have not watched this episode, please stop reading now.)

Following up on his dark prediction that the staff of Terminus is “messing with the wrong people,” Rick is working on his escape even while imprisoned.

Go for their eyes first. Then their throats. – Rick

Rick doesn’t get far. He, Glen, Daryl, and Bob are dragged out of the cattle car and into the Terminus abattoir, where the calm functionary Gareth lines them up with other prisoners above a trough. In one of the bloodiest scenes I’ve seen on this already gory show, the butchers of Terminus go down the line of prisoners, beating them and slitting their throats. The trough catches the men’s blood as they die.

Luckily for Rick, a friend is lurking in the spindly woods just outside the camp. Carol and Tyrese have ambushed a Terminus guard, and Ty and baby Judith are taking refuge in the guard’s cabin while Carol stakes out the camp. She lights the fuse on a homemade rocket, blows a camp tanker, and goes in.

We’re friends with the chick with the sword and the kid in the hat. – Carol

The Terminus butchers, disturbed by the blast, start arguing over process. This gives Rick the opportunity to attack them, free himself and the others, and go in search of the rest of their clan. This will not be like the Woodbury Compromise in season 3; Rick isn’t interested in letting any Terminus survivors join the group. “Let him turn,” he says of one of the butchers, wounded but alive after the ambush.

The rest of the episode unfolds in neat triple arcs: The prison group’s efforts to find each other and escape from Terminus; Tyrese’s encounter with the ballcap-wearing hayseed he’s taken prisoner; and Carol’s search for her friends. All the time, a huge stagger of zombies is converging on the camp.

It’s Carol’s arc I found most interesting. She has not hardened but matured, into an observant, resourceful fighter and a great undercover agent. When she gets into zombie camouflage to blend in with the walkers as they explore Terminus, we get terrific shots: walkers on fire but still walking, the reflection of chaos in a car’s broken side mirror.

Carol also finds the places that matter to Terminus: the chilling property room, with its stacks of watches, weapons, and teddy bears; and the chapel, with its permanently lit candles and solitary guard, Mary. Carol manages to disarm her, and Mary confides the real mission of Terminus before she dies.

You’re the butcher or you’re the cattle. – Mary

In the meantime, Rick’s group and the rest of the prison survivors find each other, and Tyrese regains his ability to confront an aggressor. When he takes down Ballcap Hayseed, it’s satisfying on several levels: that jerk had threatened baby Judith (a crime punishable by instant death in Anne B World), and he’d also run his mouth a bit too much for my taste:

You’re a good person. That’s why you’re gonna die today. – Ballcap Hayseed

Shut up forever, you freaking hayseed.

By far the most rewarding scene of this episode — perhaps the past two seasons combined — is the survivors’ reunion at the end. It’s clear from their wordless embrace that Carol is Daryl’s emotional Rosetta Stone; and Rick’s full-bore sprint to hold his baby echoes both his reunion with his family in season 1, and Lori’s death in season 3.

Restored — if not to a place they can call home, at least to each other — the survivors set out for wherever the next place might be. Rick lingers a moment to change the Terminus sign: “No Sanctuary,” it reads now. That’s the kind of episode title that could cast a long shadow over this season.

Random thoughts about this episode:

If I had not had to recap the slaughterhouse scene, I would not have watched it. I understand the power of the scene: the Terminus crew had made the worst possible decision about its survival in the world, and it’s critical not to sugarcoat that. It was just too much for me.

That said, I truly enjoyed seeing Butcher Zombie stumble after the survivors a few minutes later.

The flashback scene at the end felt odd to me. Is it important for us to understand how a place begins to go bad? I felt the flat affect of Gareth and his butcher henchmen told us a great deal about how long Terminus had been bad, and how committed it was to staying that way. We might not have even needed to see the inside of the meat locker, you know?

Finally, Carol is a badass. So say we all.

What did you think of the episode, Basketcases? And does “a stagger of zombies” work for you as a collective noun? Or should it be “a groan of zombies”? Weigh in below!


  22 Responses to “The Walking Dead 5.01: The Butcher”

  1. A “lurch” of zombies? Unpleasant as the butcher/cattle dichotomy was intrinsically, perhaps the chief mistake of Gareth and company was running with it literally.What if he had said hammer or anvil?
    Did anyone find the Holocaust references over explicit? (The dropped gas canister, the stacks of items stolen from the victims.)

  2. And how about the return of Morgan at the end of the credits?

    • My recording interrupted that part — I wasn’t sure whether it was this week’s or next week’s.

      I was excited to see him, though. Rick pretty much owes his survival in the post-walker world to Morgan; among other things, his old friend’s return could signal a change of leadership.

  3. They’re calling it a “swarm,” but I’m liking “stagger.”

    I think we were shown what happened to the people of Terminus because we haven’t seen the last of their tormentors. Professor Spouse and I think we recognized one of them from the comics. There may also be Terminus survivors. Rick wanted to go back and kill them all but was distracted from that because Carol reunited him with Judith.

    Pretty sure Hayseed’s name was Martin.

    I think the Terminus people were a hideous disease vector waiting to manifest. They were butchering people, feeding them to other people, and then butchering THOSE people. How long before that goes horribly wrong?

    Great recap.

    • Thanks, Boss Lady! 🙂

      Agree: I think we saw Terminus as clearly as we did because we’ll need to recognize it when it returns, in whatever form. There was nothing haphazard or accidental about that place: its goals were clear (lure the living, harvest their bodies and belongings, repeat), and its structure told us that it never intended to move on to anything else.

      Here’s where I think the parallels to Nazi Germany are intentional, and useful. The Nazis intended to build an Aryan-centric new world, so they carefully documented everything they did. Even when leaders were instructed to burn these documents, the fact that they existed at all indicates how much they believed in what they were doing.

      The bit of post-explosion dialogue between the butchers actually contains the word “protocol.” These people are humanity’s worst nightmare, and it’s going to take more than one fire to put an end to their vision.

      • I’ve just been reading showrunner interviews, and that flashback guy is NOT the villain we thought he was. But you’re probably right about seeing these people again.

      • “…instructed to burn these documents…”
        Toward the very end of the war in Europe, Himmler instructed one of his secretaries
        to go to an SS facility, locate certain documents and have them burned. She said, later, that the SS officers there let her in, were very polite and brought the documents and helped her burn them. She said they looked like ledgers.

    • I’m only catching up to last season and recently watched an episode where the “cattle” car is first seen. Turned to the Hubby and said ” reminders of the holocaust”

  4. Do we know for sure that Tyrese killed “Ballcap hayseed” (whose Detroit Tigers cap seemed somehow apropos in this apocalyptic world)?

    They pointedly DIDN’T show the actual coup de grâce. I’m just sayin…

    • I’m going to say that anyone from Terminus we didn’t SEE die may not be actually dead. They seem to be a pretty hardy lot.

      Related queston: Could intrinsic evil be a survival strategy? Discuss!

    • Notice that we only know that Gareth, himself, was shot and Mary was left to die.

      • Mary was shot in the leg and left with a bunch of zombies coming at her. She’s dead dead dead. Gareth not so much.

  5. I like Morgan, but I’m not at all ready for his diatribes. It’s the actor. I didn’t care for his lectures in Low Winter Sun, either. It’s his voice. I can only take it in spurts. Interesting how they threw that after the credits. I bet a lot of people DVRing the episode missed that.

    My only complaint was the “almost” Glen the two or three times. One convenient interruption is enough. The explosion was it. Anymore than that was “this isn’t Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett Show.” I hate cheesy, unnecessary shit like that, though. For me, it doesn’t create suspense or drama. It jogs me right out of belief.

    • Re: the second interruption. Two coincidences in a row are much more likely statistically than people assume. (A few more and the odds against go stratospheric then, astronomical.) However, in fiction, it has to not only be plausible or possible but to <> seem <> so.

  6. Rick, watches the smoke and says that he doesn’t know whether the fire at Terminus is still burning or not, Carol says it is, which he accepts. She presumably knows from the color of the smoke, a call-back to Lizzie (or Libby?), who taught her that. Rick is soon persaded that the Terminus problem is terminated. A strange twist of fate in the wind?

  7. SEVENTEEN! million people saw this on Sunday night.
    That’s more than watched an actual NFL game that was opposite it.
    Just absurd.
    Who’s on this show, John, Paul, George, and Ringo?????

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