Phew.  That was one hell of a season premiere, gang.  I can’t remember one that packed so much gore, emotion and story into one hour.  The reason this show resonates with so many is because it can be satisfying on so many levels all at once, and that shone through in this gripping episode.  The long, agonizing opening scene was brutal.  The cold calculation with with the butchers murdered their “cattle”, then sliced their necks for bloodletting into a trough was startling and intense.  Luckily, the arrival of Gareth, who is like the office manager for the worst company ever, saved, quite literally, the necks of Glenn, Daryl, Rick and Bob, who were next at the trough.  His appearance also sets up a potential rivalry between him and Rick, since he seemed to survive the chaos that ensued.  Everything was stopped short by an explosion, and that’s when the time jumping really began.

 

We quickly catch up with Carol, Tyreese and baby Judith, who happen upon a Terminus guard talking about Michonne and Carl over his walkie talkie and take him hostage, identifying themselves as friends of the “samurai and the kid with the hat”. Tyreese and Judith stay with him while Carol covers herself in zombie guts (nice callback to season one!) and heads to Terminus. Thinking quickly, she shoots a hole in their propane tank and lets a bottle rocket fly.  It takes out a lot of the zombie horde.  While the remaining walkers are busy eating people’s faces off, Carol can walk in amongst them,  capping people until the walkers detect her.  In the wake of what we now know is the explosion Carol created, Rick uses the knife he managed to hide to kill their captors.  Then, the guys stumble on a horrifying human meat locker and Rick says to kill these sick people without hesitation.  Yeah, I don’t think we’d need a vote on that.  The Ricktatorship is back in full effect!

Carol see Daryl’s crossbow and his watch (that she gave him, maybe?) in the Terminus Lost and Likely Never To Be Found and throws the bow over her shoulder. Rick gets a gun off a Terminus guy and the foursome keep going. Carol stumbles on the crazy candle room and Denise Crosby at almost the same time.  They tangle, and Carol kicks the onetime Tasha Yar’s butt.  The person they call Mary on this show explains that while Terminus was originally a sanctuary as the signs said, people arrived who raped and killed and the survivors of those atrocities had to take it back.  They live by the disturbing motto, “You’re the butcher or you’re the cattle.” Carol shoots her in the leg while asking after her friends.  Mary won’t tell her their whereabouts, only saying “it’s what it had to be.”  Carol opens the door so walkers can come in and feast on Mary, the woman who was just the other day offering newcomers plates of BBQ Human on arrival.  It seems only fair.

Back in the shack, the completely non-sympathetic Terminus guy Tyreese has been guarding threatens Judith, making Tyreese put down his weapons and go outside (into the waiting horde) or he will snap her neck.  Her cries are like a gut punch.  Eventually, it gets quiet outside because Tyreese has killed all the walkers with, I guess, his bare hands.  He’s a bad, bad man.  Furious about the entire situation, Tyreese punches the guy over and over, fulfilling the guy’s prediction that someone had to die today.  And it sure as hell isn’t going to be Tyreese when he’s got a baby to protect and a sister to find.

In the train car, Sasha asks Eugene for more information about this supposed cure and his response is that it dies with him.  After some more prodding, he finally explains that he worked for the human genome project and believes he can “flip the script.”  I suppose that remains to be seen.  Once our foursome springs them from the car, it’s a bloodbath;  our guys against the hordes.  It was at this point that I knew the Talking Dead In Memoriam segment could potentially take up half the show.  (If you don’t watch that, by the way, you’re missing a lot of fun and often some pretty insightful talk about the show.)

Following another amazing display of carnage and viscera, everyone is reunited in the woods, planning their next move.  While Rick wants to make sure they’re all dead, the majority decide it’s best to move on (The Ricktatorship is off again!); of course, Abraham wants to chart a course for D.C.  Just like that, we’ve essentially wrapped up Terminus.  But then, the other threads come together.  The Carol and Daryl reunion, so very long in the making, is amazing. Rick approaches Carol and asks, “Did you do that?”  He may have banished her, but she bombed a horde of walkers for the group so they’re all good again, you guys. Hugs!  Those are immediately followed by the happy tears when Carol says simply,  “You have to come with me.”  I got chills when Rick and Carl ran to embrace the baby daughter and sister they thought they’d lost and Tyreese and Sasha were reunited.  There was a quick Tyreese and Rick moment that seemed to convey that all the information was on the table, and everyone was good.  The band–minus Beth at this point–is back together.  Talk about an emotional payoff for a season spent pining for them to find each other.  The group heads out and Rick puts a big, fat “NO” on one of those sanctuary signs.

In the tag, we see that in fact Mary and Gareth (a mother and son, it seems) were once in the cattle car themselves, determined to take the camp back, just like she explained to Carol.  So, the butcher/cattle analogy is very apt.  After the credits, we see a masked man tracking the Terminus markings on trees, who takes his mask off to reveal he is our friend Morgan from way back when.  He even looks moderately sane this time around.  What could it all mean?  I think we’re in for an exciting season, guys, and given the pitch black way it kicked off, we better get ready for a lot more of everything that makes this show the most popular on television.

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