After a seemingly eons-long hiatus and a season four that featured behind-the-scenes turmoil, a very, very long walk to Terminus, and Carl eating pudding, "The Walking Dead" is finally back with its ever-rotating cast of characters and, most importantly, something to prove.
Luckily, MTV News has watched the premiere episode, "No Sanctuary," and can confirm that it's undoubtedly the most (quite literally) explosive, relentlessly violent and ultimately satisfying season-starter the show has ever delivered. We can't give away too much -- besides the fact that Daryl dies in the first five minutes -- but here are four reasons why you might want to tune in come October 12:
1. Its Cold Open Sets The Stakes
As we learned at the end of last season, the people at Terminus aren't so much people as they are soulless monsters who lure in lost souls with the promise of sanctuary, only to destroy them in the least human way possible and steal their watches. The cold open for "No Sanctuary" is probably the most violent in the show's history, which is really saying a lot since this is the Walking freaking Dead. Terminus is, quite literally, hell on earth.
However, the brutality we see in the first few minutes at Terminus is necessary -- it lets us know that this is an enemy even more terrible and unforgiving than the folks we met in Woodbury, hence creating at atmosphere of panic and dread that permeates throughout most of the episode. Our heroes need to get out of here, and they need to get out of here now.
Basically, though of you who didn't like the meandering walk to Terminus will be pleased -- this year, it's less talk, more guns a-blazing.
2. It's A Defining Character Moment For A Fan-Favorite
No doubt about it, Carol (Melissa McBride) has become, if not the heart of this show, then at least it's most consistently interesting character. "Dead" gives her a lot to do in the premiere, to the point where her actions almost feel like the culmination of the last two seasons of character growth we've seen on her part.
This show has almost effortlessly juggled its rotating cast as of late -- as much as we loved Hershel, it's hard to miss him when he's replaced with the likes of Michael Cudlitz and Chad Coleman -- but after all this, it's officially time to change those T-shirts to "If CAROL Dies, We Riot."
3. It Expertly Utilizes The Show's Expanded Effects Budget
Special effects legend/"Walking Dead" executive producer and makeup artist Greg Nicotero directed the episode, and it shows. As a colleague pointed out, the CDC meltdown from season one seems almost laughable compared to what we see in this premiere. This show is often shunned during awards season for its violence and the presence of zombies, and it's a shame, since the showdown we see in "No Sanctuary" rivals the "Blackwater" episode of "Game of Thrones," at least in terms of staging, special effects and emotional stakes.
4. It Features A Well-Earned Emotional Ending
I've mentioned the long walk to Terminus a few times by now, but for good reason -- this premiere is in direct opposition to the meandering we saw during the second half of last season, which is obviously very intentional on the producers' part. All of the anguish due to the characters' season four separation pays off in a huge way at the end of the night, and let's just say fans of Daryl tears will be extremely pleased.
Not Beth fans, though. You're just going to have to keep on waiting on that.
What are you most excited to see in the premiere, "Walking Dead" fans? Any theories as to how the gang might escape Terminus?