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The world’s becoming pretty black-and-white on the bloodiest show on TV.
Sunday's season five premiere of The Walking Dead began by pitting the present against the past. According to white text on a black screen in a series of interstitials, then is then, now is now, and never the twain shall meet. Yes, it's a vast crevasse that separates what being human used to mean and what it means now. The episode really went out of its way to speak in absolutes: then versus now, foe versus friend, bad guys versus good guys, people who eat other people versus people who strongly prefer to not eat other people . . .
But our gang (you know who I mean) is still accomplishing what humankind has always done best: creating and occupying gray areas. I mean, zombies became the group's allies in the battle to escape Terminus, not to mention that they've do their fair share of murdering. And what's allowing them to maintain their humanity? Friendship, you guys.
Despite a number of fancy slogans that refer to their solidarity, it's safe to say that the cannibalistic residents of Terminus are guilty of putting an I in team more often than not. Sure, they've been burned, but who hasn't in the new reality? Not unlike zombies traveling in packs, they stick together because it makes it easier to feed, and in a merciless few minutes of television, we see their method of slaughtering human prey. Equally telling is the conversation Tyrese has with the ball-cap-kid he and Carol take prisoner. The guy confides that he used to have friends, but hardly remembers what it was like beyond that they watched football together. He also associates being a "bad guy" with survival and being a "good guy" with weakness. Well, he learns too late that good guys sometimes kill—although it might result in a tearful confession, because being part of society means answering for your actions. The "good guys" continue to hold each other accountable.
From beginning to end, it was a brutal episode, with emotional land mines every step of the way. Rick is reunited with Judith. Carol, who went far beyond the call of duty to redeem herself, is reunited with Daryl. If anyone was imagining a season the bulk of which would unfold with our friends imprisoned at Terminus—I sort of was—the rapid pace of their escape was a pleasant surprise. (God forbid it turn into another season two, cooped up at the farm.) But the Terminus story line wasn't wrapped up with a bow—Gareth, the scariest hipster since Dov Charney, is still alive as far as we know. Plus, the group of terrifying guys who kidnapped Beth is still on the loose. There are gonna be some showdowns that challenge the characters' extant humanity. As was said, you're either the butcher or you're the cattle—but we know better than to believe things are quite so black-and-white after all.