In a different world, our gang of intrepid survivors would have been stuck in Terminus for the long haul. We would have had episode after episode of the group trying to figure out the reasons and motives of the people there, who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy, and at some point, several episodes down the line, we would have finally had confirmation that yes indeed, Terminus, is run by cannibals, and they’re apt to restock the butcher’s shop with the flesh of our heroes. At some point though, someone decided to hit the Etch-a-Sketch and say, “Screw it! We’ve got to find some way out of this place.” As a result, we say goodbye to Terminus and hello to a brave new season of The Walking Dead.
The action-packed season premiere didn’t waste any time picking up nearly immediately from the season four finale. Most of the survivors, scattered to the wind after the collapse of their prison utopia, are reunited in a boxcar at Terminus. Rick and the others try to MacGyver weapons from whatever materials they can in the boxcar, but it’s a moot point when their captors drop in tear gas from the roof and take away Rick, Glen, Daryl, Bob and three others, including Sam (last seen in season 3A’s “Indifference”).
Any doubt about Terminus being home to cannibals is quickly answered when Rick and Co. are taken to an elaborate human abattoir where they’re lined up against a long sink where a pair of men, in turn, club victims over the head and slit their throat. The town motto of Terminus, we learn later, is “You’re either the butcher, or the cattle,” and they appear to take those words rather literally. Anyway, Sam and the no names are culled (don’t worry about Sam, his portrayer Robin Lord Taylor has a bright future as Gotham’s Penguin), but just before it’s Glen’s turn, an explosion rocks Terminus. What? Who?
I’m not sure if it was the plan all along, but it was great to see Carol go Die Hard as the episodes hero. Leaving Tyreese and Judith with a prisoner, a scout from Terminus they overhear talking on a walkie-talkie about taking a “samurai and a kid” they took captive, Carol goes at it alone with a pair of high-powered rifles and disguised in blood and guts as a walker.
Her impressive one woman takedown of Terminus exploits a horde of walkers marching through the area. The well-time explosion that we see in the slaughterhouse catching the butchers off guard was also Carol’s doing, a distraction that allows Rick to use a splinter of wood in his boot to cut himself free and stab their captors. Upon freeing the others he has one order: no one from Terminus gets out alive.
With all the gun play, cannibalism and zombie human torches going on around Terminus, the majority of the drama in this episode is carried by Chad Coleman, as Tyreese continues to struggle with his lack of desire to kill, even if its the right thing to do (right being relative if you happen to live in a zombie apocalypse). The Terminus scout goads Tyreese with the idea that whatever happens in Terminus, the day will likely end with his and Judith’s death. Tyreese being weak because he refuses to accept the occasionally necessity of killing.
When walkers surround the lone cabin in the woods, the scout takes the opportunity to grab Judith, forcing Tyreese outside or else he’ll snap Judith’s neck. Tyreese obeys, but I do wonder if the scout really had it in him to kill Judith since he tells Tyreese not to “make” him harm the baby. Whether intentional or not, it was one of the little things that highlight the idea that the people in Terminus were not evil cannibals out to eat people because why not and it’s the apocalypse. Also, it implied that the scout wasn’t completely jaded and cynical anymore than Tyreese is naive and trusting. Ultimately, Tyreese finds his inner killer, somehow taking out all the walkers and returning to the cabin to kill the scout one small nick at a time. (Or did he? We never see the body.)