The Walking Dead has never really been about the dead. It’s about the living, and the myriad ways in which people adapt (or don’t) to a new world order, one that thrives on chaos and death. Even the credits in season five reflect the new world; candles dribble wax and axes drip blood, buildings crumble under nature’s influence, crows light in trees waiting for corpses to rot. There’s no nostalgia for the past here, no remaining love for order and beauty. As a wise person utters in this episode, “It’s time to return to our regularly scheduled shitstorm.”
The opening sequence of the season five opener calls to mind a haunting statement from the final episode of season four: “The more people become part of us, the stronger we get.” In a flashback, Gareth (whose name I apparently spelled incorrectly last season) and Mary, trapped inside the cargo container and flickering in dying candlelight, desperately ask themselves what they are now – who they’re becoming. As in season four, nobody really knows who they are in this post-apocalyptic mess, and as people flail, scrabble to get a grip on normalcy, things get messy.
Back in the present, our band of increasingly morally ambiguous outlaws prepares to fight its way out of the shipping container. They’re ready to go out swinging, but aren’t prepared for a smoke bomb dropped through the roof. It incapacitates them just enough to allow the cannibals to bind and carry Rick, Glenn, Bob, and Daryl to the killing trough, along with four others who don’t belong to us. As the eight men kneel, prone, in front of the metal trough, burly men in plastic raincoats first knock them unconscious, then slit their throats, gushing blood into the trough. First one, then the next, creeping ever closer to Glenn. The viscous fluid pools around the drain as our quad of men watches, helpless. Just as the butcher reels back to take a mighty swing at Glenn’s head, Gareth shows up to ask for their shot count. “I’m sorry, it was my first roundup!” the second butcher says, distracting everyone for long enough to save Glenn’s life. In the midst of chaos, it is in fact bureaucracy, red tape, a “required quota” that saves our protagonists.
Bob tries to talk Gareth down – he’s the nice one. Rick, on the other hand, eyes him with utter rage and contempt. Gareth is after the bag of guns they stashed in the woods, and as he holds a wickedly sharp knife a millimeter from Bob’s eye, Rick gives him the info he needs. It contains some AK-47s, an arsenal of other weapons, and a machete with a red handle. “That’s what I’m gonna use to kill you,” he tells Gareth – and you know what? I wouldn’t fuck with Rick at this point. The man is hardened and he’s not kidding.
And suddenly, the world explodes. Read more