Previously on AMC’s The Walking Dead…

We saw some very harsh events at the end of last season and we are reminded of one of the worst ones in this season’s opening with a recap of the deeply unsettling fates of Lizzie and Mika. Then there’s that line again that made me cringe at the end of the last episode and I’m dubious now as to how this is going to pan out.

I must admit to being a bit confused by the whole Then and Now mechanic and spent most of the episode thinking it was a flash forward to after Rick and the gang have escaped and are punishing their previous captors. Perhaps this was intentional, but I suspect it was just down to me being dim until it was made abundantly clear when the second flashback happened at the end of the episode.

After a brief ‘Tooling up’ scene is interrupted by a smoke grenade, we switch to the Grimes-Cam and feel Rick’s confusion and pain first hand as he is dragged out of the trailer and stomped in the face. What follows is probably one of the grimmest scenes yet for this show as four of our favourites and four red shirts are knelt down ominously in front of what looks like a feeding trough. Two of the captors begin casually despatching the red shirts via a clonk over the back of the head with a baseball bat and a swift slitting from ear to ear while they off-handedly discuss today’s gossip. Just as we’re about to lose Glenn, the Terminus head honcho wanders in and disrupts the proceedings. Despite some valiant bartering and threatening from Bob and Rick, Glenn is back on the chopping block again only to be saved by gunfire and an explosion.

We take a break from Terminus to catch up with Carol, Tyreese and baby Judith. They are still on the road to Terminus when they run into a herd that get distracted by gunfire and head off that way in search of their next serving of brains. They happen to run into a Terminus straggler who is boasting about Michonne and laying claim to Glenn’s cap. He fails his bluff roll spectacularly and he is tied up and interrogated. At this juncture Carol decides to go all Rambo and gores up to join the herd and rescue the gang single-handedly, leaving Tyreese babysitting.

Carol wends her way over to Terminus and sees Rick being hauled out of the trailer. So, we appear to be doing even more timey wimey jump aroundiness than your average Doctor Who episode. We discover that, not only is Carol is the cause of the explosion, she is also pinpoint accurate with a firework over long distances. Useful to know. We are introduced then to a new breed of zombie, the Flaming Walker of Doom. I’m a big fan of these… The only way you could make zombies any scarier than they currently are apperas to be igniting them and setting them off into group of unsuspecting Terminusers.

Rick uses the distraction to escape and swiftly despatch the executioners. At this point, this season’s body count really begins to pile up as Carol and Rick tear their ways through Terminus slaughtering zombies and humans alike. We discover a little about the denizens of Terminus in that they did orginally welcome people in, but were then imprisoned, raped and tortured as reward for their benevolence. So, now they have decided to lure people there, bump them off and steal all their stuff. Nice.

Eventually Ricks crew make it back to their weapons stash and Rick is fixing to go back and mop up the survivors before Carol re-appears and takes them to Tyreese and baby Judith and it’s tearful reunions all round. This manages to sway Rick from his path of retribution, but has left enough of them alive back in Terminus that we should expect to see them again at some point in the future. And, speaking of recurring characters, the post credits scene shows us that Morgan Jones is back. He seems to be a bit more in possession of his faculties than when last we crossed path as he now seems to be out in the wild. We’re not sure yet what his motives are, but undoubtedly they will become clear as the season progresses.

All in all I have to say that this was an absolute blinder of an opener and makes me very glad I stuck with the show through the Hershel’s Farm stage. It was, in equal parts horrffic, intriguing, intense and, finally, uplifting. More of this please Walking Dead. You are very much at the top of your game.