If the number are any indication, quite a few of you out there watched “No Sanctuary,” the season 5 premiere of AMC’s hit zombie drama The Walking Dead over the weekend. 17.3 million tuned in on Sunday night, shattering their previous high water mark of 16.1 million the season 4 debut earned last year. There was one mysterious character you may have been wondering about, and now we have an answer for you.
Be warned, we’re wandering into SPOILER country if you haven’t watched the episode, so proceed with caution.
As Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company run around Terminus, stabbing walkers, dodging bullets, and doing away with asshole cannibals in a variety of ways, they encounter the gentleman pictured above, the obviously very sane person with a collection of facial tattoos that he may well have done himself. He is shortly eaten by a swarm of hungry zombies, but his brief appearance is memorable to be sure and leaves a lasting impression.
Later in the episode, near the end, there is a flashback that provides a little bit of context for the residents of Terminus. See, they weren’t always a bunch of human flesh eating butchers. The place initially was the sanctuary they advertised, until some folks showed up, took advantage of the situation, and proceeded to do terrible, terrible things to Gareth (Andrew J. West) and the other residents. You can see how that would alter your perspective, maybe it wouldn’t push you to cannibalism, but you’d come out changed.
When Gareth and others are locked in a train car, listening to his mother scream, the door opens and you meet one of the assailants. Given the circumstances, the level of violence, and the guy’s overall appearance, my initial reaction was to point at the screen and yell, “Holy shit, is that Negan?” For those of you unfamiliar with Robert Kirkman’s comics, Negan is the nastiest villain the survivors encounter, and we’ve been told he’s on his way in the series, which should provide some metaphorical fireworks and some very literal bloodshed and brutality.
That’s not Negan, however. The guy in the train car is actually none other than the crazy guy with the face tattoos, and since he gets eaten, he’s not going play much of a part in the continuing franchise. He is called “Large Man.”
Talking to THR, Greg Nicotero, who directed “No Sanctuary,” said:
He’s one of the dudes that took over Termius. At the end, when they go back into the train car and you see them, that’s the same guy. When they’re saying, ‘You’re either the cattle or the butcher,’ Mary says, ‘We put the signs up because we did want to save this place and want it to be a sanctuary and then they took it away.’ Them being willing to take people in, it was the biggest mistake they made and it turned them. That’s a big theme on the show because it shows how you can start out as a good person and with a few flips of the switch, be not such a good person.
Showrunner Scott M. Gimple adds his two cents, providing a bit of context for both the events at Terminus, and Gareth as a character, who, as we’ve seen in promos, we know shows up again:
Bad people came in and did things to Gareth and his group. Gareth and his group did bad things to people. Does that mean that Rick and his group do bad things to other people? I don’t think Gareth thinks he’s the same as the ‘large man’ or the people that came in. I think he is a lot more pragmatic. [Gareth’s mother told Carol] that they came in, laughed, and took the place over within weeks and they did horrible things and left. Gareth is a little amused by Rick saying that he’s going to kill him. But other than that, Gareth isn’t laughing. He’s very serious about this. There is a gravity to the whole thing for Gareth. It’s the banality of evil but in some ways, it’s another day at the office at Terminus. But they’re not sitting there laughing and enjoying it.
Thus far, the series has paralleled the comics. They’ve diverged in some respects, changing up events, introducing new characters, and mixing things up enough to keep you guessing and to try to differentiate the two properties, but they’ve followed the same rough path. At about this point in the narrative, the survivors encounter a group called the Hunters, cannibals who try to eat some of the characters.
I had presumed that the Terminus group was going to be a kind of stand in for the Hunters, the show putting a new spin on that part of the story. Gimple addressed this topic, and now I’m not so sure. He says:
The Hunters are very purposeful. In the comics, they thought they just had to do what they had to do. There was no enjoyment from it. The only person who seemed to enjoy that sort of thing in the comics was The Governor.
You can take that statement either way. It could mean that the Hunters are still out there, waiting to be encountered. But at the same time, he could be talking about Terminus. By the time we get there, they’re not super excited about what they’re doing, it’s just a necessity, what they have to do in order to survive. I thought I knew where this was going, but now I’m starting to reconsider that stance. What do you think?