Not much to say about tonight's WALKING DEAD season 5 opener. Featuring some very welcome brutality and ugliness, it was a very solid episode--by TWD standards, outright great.
There were a few problems. The exposition between Carol and Tasha Yar was very poorly executed--Carol is on a rescue mission where every second may count and she stops right in the middle of it to listen to Yar fill her in on the backstory of those at Terminus. Rick wanted to go back and kill the rest of the Terminus gang but everyone else balked, ham-handedly setting this up as something that will return to bite the group in the future.
My major regret regarding "No Sanctuary" is about something really obvious that the writers didn't quite sew up. The episode is bookended by flashbacks showing what happened to the Terminusians in the past, the subject of that ill-placed exposition. Their story is that a group with guns once took over the Terminus and
raped and brutalized them, but they were eventually able to take it
back. And then, of course, they became monsters themselves, going so far
as to take up cannibalism, mirroring the living dead monsters outside.
In the flashbacks, their conquerors are raping women, and we hear the
victims screaming in the distance. Back in the present, one of the same
women chosen for rape is, at one point, shot by Rick, and we see zombies
devouring her in a moment very reminiscent of a rape, as her screams
echo those we heard in the flashback earlier. There are, in fact,
multiple zombie attacks on women in the "present-day" portions of the ep, and the staging always echoes rape. A
stronger association between all of this would have been welcome--I suspect the point will be lost on most TWD watchers--but
it would be stupid to complain; this kind of complex, multi-layered, even--gasp--subtle storytelling is light-years
ahead of anything TWD has ever managed. Considering the source, I was very impressed. All of this brings me to my regret though. The story of the Terminusians is, in part, a cautionary one, a glimpse of the depths of barbarism to which people can descend in such trying circumstances unless there is serious commitment to retaining their humanity. In the course of tonight's ep, Rick and co. free one of the prisoners the Terminusians had taken, probably a remnant of the renegade band that had captured the complex and had so tormented them. As he's released, he dances around maniacally changing "we're all just alike now!" When the Terminusians captured Rick and co. at the end of season 4, Rick's final line, after he and the others had been locked in a train car, was something like "they don't know who they're screwing with." In the final flashback showing the tormented Terminusians also confined to a train car--maybe even the same one--their final line (and the one that closes out the ep) should have also been, "They don't know who they're screwing with." That would have been as good an ending as it could have had.
While this was definitely one of the best episodes of TWD ever produced one would
like to receive it as an avatar of things to come, some caution is advisable.
Last season also began with two great eps, also among the best TWD, and
it still fell back on the bad old Mazzara habits as it went along, becoming
very uneven. Hope for the best, I suppose.
 My initial comments were maybe a bit too brief, so I've expanded them slightly.
ADDENDUM (13 Oct., 2014) - Lebeau points out something really obvious--this ep should have been the season 4 ender. It's what half of season 4 built toward, and everything about it would have worked better as a finale. In any event, this quick disposal of the Terminus storyline is a tribute to the Gimple Gang too and another example of how far TWD has come. Is there any doubt that, if Glen Mazzara was still showrunner, the same story we got from this one episode would have been made to fill more than 8 and would have concluded only after the mid-season break? If then?