Warning: Spoiler Alert
Ain’t no carnage like The Walking Dead carnage cause The Walking Dead carnage’s justified.
Last season, we left most of our surviving crew reuniting in a box car in Terminus, which was quickly determined to be full of bad news and, alas, not the sanctuary it proclaimed. Rick Grimes has come too far, and lost too much, to give up now. “They’re screwing with the wrong people.”
Has Terminus been a trap all along? We flashback to “Then”, in a similar scenario. People trapped and bound, screaming in the background, trembling voices ruing the decision to come to this place. But this time, it’s Gareth who’s the prisoner.
But, that’s a story for another time. Our group (Rick, Carl, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, and Tara, for those keeping tabs) is quickly catching up on recent events, and arming themselves to the teeth. Their cell’s approached, but their ambush’s foiled as a flash-grenade overwhelms them. Rick, Daryl, Glenn, and Bob get beaten and dragged into the compound.
The inside of Terminus appears to be awful as we could have imagined—the sickening whirr of a bone saw, a few hazy shots of what could easily be a meat processing facility, and, finally, a longer look at the very human body of Alex, Gareth’s recently shot-by-Rick brother, that’s being carved like a side of beef on a table. Glenn, Daryl, Rick, and Bob (as well as Sam, farther down the line) are all bound, gagged, and made to kneel before a trough. They’re about to be executed in a very business-like, detached fashion.
Gareth appears; apparently, cannibalism requires the running of a very tight ship. He’s running numbers and needs some information from the two men who are casually slitting the throats of the other men kneeling before them. As the butchers approach Glenn, the conversation leads to a bit of a snafu with someone’s shot counts, and Gareth gets as pedantic and upset as you’d expect from a psychopath running a slaughterhouse.
It buys our heroes some time, though.
Bob begins pleading through his gag. Gareth indulges him, but is quickly disinterested in Bob’s you-don’t-have-to-do-this message. Rick begins palming the wooden shiv he’s managed to keep in his boot. Because, of course Rick still has a shiv. Gareth’s interested in the bag that his scouts saw our crew hide in the woods before they entered the compound. Knife to Bob’s eyeball, Gareth demands answers from Rick.
Rick eventually gives up the contents of the bag—AK-47s, automatic weapons, a compound bow, and a homemade machete with a red handle that Rick plans on using to kill Gareth.
And then an explosion rocks the building.
Back on the railroad tracks approaching Terminus, Carol, Tyreese, and Judith are still making their way to Terminus. Tyreese is still struggling with the darkness he’s borne witness to—Lizzie murdering her sister, then having to put Lizzie down, and learning that Carol was the one who killed his girlfriend back at the prison. He can’t manage to kill a lone walker that stumbles upon their path. Luckily, he’s with Carol, who has taken to eliminating walkers as violent, desensitizing therapy. They’re soon overcome by a herd. As they attempt to slip away, explosions and gunfire begin to draw the herd towards Terminus.
Cut to a man on a radio, setting up explosives in front of a small cabin and talking some sugar-smack on capturing a “chick with a sword and a kid with a hat.” No sooner than those words leave his douchebag mouth than a revolver’s pressed into the back of his skull, with Carol on the other end of it, wanting some answers.
This unfortunate fool’s name is Martin. He tries to bluff Carol about Terminus and what the fate her friends have met, but the zombie apocalypse has stripped Carol of any gullibility or patience to suffer fools. Like the badass she is, she arms herself to the teeth and sets out to rescue who she can from Terminus, leaving a shattered Tyreese to look after Martin and Judith. Tyreese regards Martin warily; Martin makes no bones about the fact that he is a killer and the “assholes he survives with” are killers, and that the world is simply that kind of place anymore. In another time, with another captor, Martin would have already been fed a bullet; he just happens to be tied up by the one guy whose heart still breaks for the constant loss and inhumanity around him.
Tyreese’s heart’s wounded, but Carol’s has broken entirely and reemerged as the heart of a warrior. She smears herself in walker effluvia and other filth so that she can blend in with the herd as it approaches Terminus. She arrives to see Rick and the others pulled from or put back into the box car while the Terminus staff tries to manage the walkers that are descending on them. With the help of a propane tank, a shot from a sniper rifle, and the kind of fireworks-aiming ability that only a redneck who has played tag with bottle rockets can possess, she triggers the explosion that sends Gareth fleeing from the slaughter area to assess the damage.
The two butchers remain to watch over Rick, Daryl, Glen, and Bob, complaining like they got delayed in their product processing by bad work order, instead of temporarily delayed from murdering humans by an explosion. Their distress is short-lived. Rick manages to cut through his zip-ties and proceeds to stab both of those dudes in the head. The rest of the group’s freed and they set out to rescue the rest of their crew.
I feel like the utter gore of the scene the men find themselves in can’t be understated. While carnage of “bad guys” and walkers has been a constant throughout the series, the blatant, ritualistic murder that’s being performed at Terminus is a game-changer for this story. Food is scarce in this world, but is it necessary to lure survivors from miles around so that they can be killed and eaten? The wickedness that humanity is facing continues to escalate. But, at least a slaughterhouse has plenty of walker-killing weapons to pillage.
Carol continues her assault on the compound, unsure what kind of evil she’s facing. She finds the room of belongings stripped form Terminus’ victims—weapons, accessories, clothes, and a heartbreakingly big pile of toys. She enters the creepy shrine, where presumably the citizens of Terminus light a candle for those who they are about to chow down upon. She’s caught by that ultra-bitch Mary, who begins tearfully explaining the story of Terminus—“It wasn’t like this in the beginning, people came and raped and killed. We got the message, though. You’re either the butcher or the cattle…” And though possibly true, Mary, but we notice how you’re still alive and were very cozy with the folks who were trying to kill the actual good people in our story. Carol has completely had enough of everyone’s nonsense today—she shoots Mary in the leg, and then opens the door for the walkers to feed on her.
The men fight their way across the compound, laying waste to as many walkers and Terminus inhabitants as they can. I’d do no justice to the calculated ferocity in which these characters battle through the herd if I tried to describe it here, but this episode might be worth watching solely for the way that Rick can wield an automatic rifle.
The remainder of the group waits in the box car, discussing the possible cure that Eugene can produce (Spoiler alert: weaponized diseases vs. weaponized diseases, there might be something in DC that will trigger a mass-extinction of the walkers), but they aren’t idle for too long. Rick rips open the doors and they spring into action, clawing their way across the herd, shooting Gareth in the chest (so no way is he actually dead), and escaping the burning wreckage of Terminus.
They reach the cache of weapons that Rick hid in the woods before they got captured. He’s eager to go back in to finish the job, but the rest of the group wants to move on. A burning horde of walkers and no defensible borders is enough to seal Terminus’ fate, according to them.
The discussion might have continued, but they’re approached by a familiar, armed-to-the-teeth face. Daryl sees Carol first; they can barely stand up to embrace each other, weighed down with relief that the other is still alive. Rick understands that Carol was responsible for the ambush that lead to their freedom. Her past crimes are, at least temporarily, redeemed.
Back at the cabin, Tyreese is still waiting with Judith and Martin. A small group of walkers approaches, clawing at the windows. Tyreese looks outside and, in an instant, Martin is grabbing Judith by her neck, threatening to kill her unless Tyreese goes outside, unarmed, and lets the walkers take him. Tyreese’s anguish over his situation paralyzes him, but he slowly drops his weapons and steps outside. He’s out there just long enough to take care of the walkers with his bare hands, before launching himself back into the cabin to wrestle Martin away from Judith. He doesn’t exactly mean to punch Martin in the face until he dies from it, but that’s what happens.
However, the situation has stabilized by the time Carol leads the crew back to the cabin. Rick and Carl reunite with Judith. Tyreese’s reunited with Sasha. Terminus is burning. The group sets out to find shelter for the coming days, recommitted to protecting each other and staying alive. The trauma and gore of the earlier bloodbath slips away for a breath or two, and we’re given a chance to smile and cry with relief that a father can hold his daughter, that a brother can hold his sister. The hope for the future is tenuous and temporary, but in this moment, it’s so real that it’s the only thing that matters.
Rick defaces the sign for Terminus as they depart. “Sanctuary For All” now reads “No Sanctuary.” Not in this world. Not right now.
We then flash back to Gareth imprisoned in Terminus. He’s flung into a train car with Mary, the two now revealed to be mother and son. Another young woman’s taken off, presumably to be raped. They shake in fear and devastation, but Gareth promises his mother that they’re going to “take it back.” But, the message is clear, you’re either the butcher or the cattle.
The episode closes with a hooded, masked figure approaching the sign for Terminus that got defaced by Rick. I was hoping it would be Beth (since I haven’t watched any of the trailers for this season and have no idea what’s happened to her), but, in an even better reveal, it’s Morgan! He appears to have more of his marbles than he did in our last encounter. Let’s hope he’s shored up his bravery and can join the rest of the group soon. They need to go find Beth!
The Story Continues Next Sunday at 9:00 pm on AMC.