It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
With kids being strangled,
And everyone telling you “I’ll eat your ear.”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s the scare-scariest season of all.
With those BBQ greetings and gay Terminus meetings,
When dead come to call.
It’s the scare- scariest season of all!

That’s right kiddies, the leaves are turning and the chill in the air has been quickly matched by the chill down my spine as the realization just set in… The Walking Dead is back! As always the following episode recap may contain spoilers and bad taste, reader discretion is advised.

We open with a little time travel and a whole lot of dicks in a box. It’s a flashback to the Terminus crew who are trapped in a boxcar, a la our heroes. It’s an interesting attempt (that will be revisited throughout the episode) to show that they were good people who circumstances made bad. It’s an intriguing argument to make and one I’ll comment more on at the end of this article.

We cut to our heroes, right where we left them last year, in the boxcar. We have a pretty cool Rambo moment montage of them suiting up, using everything at their disposal as weapons; buckles, buttons, ear rings, etc. After a few helpful hints from Rick (go for the eyes and throats first), the Terminus crew comes to collect the cattle. Except they are smart about it and toss in a flash bang from above, overpowering our heroes and putting them in some real peril. And here we thought they were about to get away. It was a nice way to make the audience uncomfortable and wonder if one or more of their favorite characters were going to get written off.

To the carving station. So as we learned last year from BBQ Mary, Soylent Green is people and now we get to see how the sausage is made. Literally. In one of the most disturbing scenes in recent memory, the brutality of man is on full display as our heroes and four red shirts are brought into the slaughterhouse, bound, and unceremoniously placed in front of a trough for some mass bloodletting. As expected, the four red shirts die rather quickly. Right before Glen takes a baseball bat nap, the guy whose name I never remember tries to explain their mission. Saving the world, turning things back the way they were, etc. The butchers don’t care. Gareth comes in with his little clipboard and is all business. Rick tells him about a machete with a red handle that he’s going to use to kill him. (Please let this be foreshadowing) Right before the slaughtering starts up again we hear some gunfire and the place is rocked by an explosion.

After a brief message from our sponsors, we resume with Carol, Tyreese, and baby Judith all hanging out in the woods. They are going to Terminus but Carol is not going to stay. She’s not a people person at this point. Ah, here we go, our first Walker! Thor is being a whiny little emo bitch so Carol has to do the rekilling. Unfortunately this Walker is part of a Horde so the three run and hide as they watch the rather large group of Walkers go by. Some gunfire gets the attention of the Horde and they all start shambling to Terminus. Carol and Co. come upon some annoying guy on a walkie talking shit about a chic with a sword and a kid in a hat. Carol explains to him they are her friends and plans are made to go to Terminus, but all cautious like. Judith and her wet nurse will stay with the walkie guy in a little shack while Carol goes and kills people. She lathers up in Walker guts and heads out with the horde. Tyreese and the douchey guy share some small talk. He’s talking smack and trying to use dime store psychology to get under Tyreese’s skin.

Carol does some recon from the fence. She quickly assesses the situation and takes action. Carol is not one to sit on her laurels while there are asses to be kicked. (What an amazing character arc Carol has had) She blows a hole in a big-ass propane tank and uses a bottle rocket to ignite it. This creates a massive, beautiful, plume of boom! Somewhere a Mythbuster is giggling madly. We have another cut to Martin talking crap to Tyreese but I’m not the least bit interested in that.

We see some satisfying shots of the burning Walkers and Carol walking in with the horde. Back at the slaughterhouse the butchers are about to resume their butchery, because, you know, a steady job is hard to find in the apocalypse. All that time in a prison wasn’t wasted as Rick quickly takes out the two butchers with a shiv he undoubtedly learned to make last season. At this point we get a little peak back in the boxcar. Maggie (my one true love) is rallying the troops and getting them ready for when Rick comes back. There will be fighting. We also get some nice shots of the chaos in the streets as the Walkers feast on the denizens of Terminus. I don’t know why they don’t get along; they both have so much in common; like sharing the same diet. ‘Call of Duty’ Carol gets in some nice snipe shots as she helps the Walkers penetrate the desperate Terminus defenses.

We are then treated to some truly gruesome shit as Rick and Co. enter the smoke room. There are slabs of people hanging on hooks and what I imagine is a pretty rank people smell. Rick makes it perfectly clear to anyone listening; none of these people get to live. They spy another boxcar full of people. Glen, the new conscience of the group (which means he will die this season) tells Rick they gotta let those people out. “It’s still who we are. It’s gotta be.”

Next we find Carol in the Lost and Found. She picks up Daryl’s crossbow and a watch, which was a nice touch and rather telling considering how she viewed the last one she had. Rick and Co. are outside trying to get to the boxcar holding the rest of their group. Objects are dumber than they appear as Rick spies a group of Terminus gunmen moving forward and mowing down Walkers with some mediocre shooting. They pass by, focused on the Walkers when Rick comes up behind one and has a pretty nice Sam Fisher moment, dispatching the one and taking out the group with his weapon.

Carol makes her way to the Never Again room. The creep factor of this make-shift memorial gone wrong never fails to make my skin crawl. There she comes across Tasha Yar. There is some gunfire exchanged and a pretty desperate ground grapple. Carol, of course, comes out on top. Tasha explains that the signs were real at one time. Terminus was all that and a bag of chips. Then people came. Murder, rape, laughter… for weeks. They got out, they fought, and they got it back. They heard the message. “You’re the Butcher. Or you’re the Cattle.” Ain’t nobody got time for that so Carol shoots her in the leg. She opens the door and lets Mary feel what it’s like to be on the other end of a people feast.

Back at the shack (remember that?) Martin got out of his restraints and jumps right to Judith, placing his hands around her throat. The baby is crying, attracting Walkers outside. Tyreese freaks out and puts down his weapons so the douchey psycho doesn’t twist off the baby’s head. Martin commands him to go outside, you know, with all the Walkers. Tyreese complies. There is a whole lot of noise and then the Walkers fall silent. Seems like Tyreese finally grew a pair, or read the comic and learned how he is supposed to act, and charges through the door. He tackles Martin and beats the life out of him while shouting “I won’t!” It’s a pretty catchy mantra.

Back in the boxcar people are pressing Eugene for answers. Just what is this cure? But he is reluctant to offer up that information. He eventually does. Something about weaponized diseases fighting weaponized diseases. Fighting fire with fire. I love the way The Mullet talks. So arrogant, so pompous. Sounds good to me. Rick opens the boxcar and our heroes have their moment. The world’s deadliest Walker fighting force is unleashed and the carnage is glorious to behold! I mean, Michonne has a dual bladed lightsaber and is going all Ray Park on the Walkers. The group, needless to say, successfully fights their way out.

Rick still wants some blood though. He is firm about the fact that none of them get to live. His group is not fond of that, wanting to just leave. The fences are down and everyone is FUBAR so there’s no point in going back. Then the prodigal daughter returns. Daryl and Carol lock eyes and he runs to embrace her. It doesn’t matter if you are on Team Carol or Team Beth, the emotional impact of that reunion tugs at your heartstrings. Hell, even Rick gets caught up in the moment, thanking and hugging her. Carol leads them to the shack and more reunions are had. Two families are reunited. Tyreese and Sasha embrace as do Rick, Carl, and Judith; all with a huge plume of smoke in the background as Terminus burns. All these happy endings are making me nervous. Finally, as the group heads out down the tracks Rick stops to make some changes to the terminus sign. No Sanctuary.

Flashback, we see the Terminus crew in the boxcar as the rape gang comes for another victim. Gareth assures his mom they will take Terminus back. “You’re either the butcher, or the cattle.” (Ok, I understand what they were trying to do. Showing all this horror and how these barbarous acts have become so rote. Trying to show how the people of Terminus weren’t originally bad people, circumstances and some unthinkable experiences made them so. I don’t buy it. I’m not seeing any shades of grey here. They are freaking eating people. Luring them in with the promise of hope and then butchering them if they are weak or unwilling to go along with the program. I’m sorry, that is evil. Pure, unadulterated, irredeemable evil. All the flashbacks in the world aren’t going to make me think otherwise. Rick and Co. were faced with that same choice and yet they retained their humanity.)

And just when you thought the episode was over, ‘The Walking Dead’ decides to pull a Marvel with a little stinger. Seems Morgan is back and apparently hunting Wolverine. He’s looking none the worse for wear and I’m excited to see what he’s been up to. All in all, a great finish to the best season premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’ in recent memory!