Gentle readers, it’s time. Our long national nightmare is over. No longer are we held in the iron, unrelenting grip of a drug-addled child, a hapless school teacher, or a surprisingly bad ass barber. We have thrust off the shackles of our oppressors, and we can once again relish in a world where the only thing before Walking Dead is The, and not some instruction of fear. Our first loves, the Ricktocracy, are back on our televisions, and with them comes all of our renewed hopes and dreams for the zombie apocalypse.
Honestly, it was nice to get back to the main crew that we originally got hooked with. While the characters in Fear the Walking Dead may one day hold a similar place in our hearts, the original flavor is generally going to be preferred (isn’t that right, Coca Cola?) and seeing the return of Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn, Morgan, Sasha, Maggie, Carol, and the rest was a welcome sight for the week. It certainly didn’t hurt that the season opener for The Walking Dead carried an immediate impact, strong storytelling, a useful and creative back-and-forth between color and monochrome, and stakes raised ever higher. Rick’s group was seeing some levels of acceptance within Alexandria, despite what happened with Pete and Reg at the end of last season. Of course, not everyone is on board, but the community somewhat surprisingly bands together to follow through on Rick’s plan with regards to the giant walker herd in the quarry (and how awesome was that shot, in all seriousness). Even the best crafted plans are bound to go wrong, which just made everything feel that much more immediate for the characters. All in all, the first episode of Season 6 inadvertently served as a reminder of everything that Fear the Walking Dead currently is not, although there’s still plenty of time for that show to get its legs under it. In the meantime, let’s go back, and look through the first episode of this season, where it feels like it’s the First Time Again.
Because the story began in media res for the color segments, and in black and white for the flashback “how we got here” story, I’ve decided to double up on the usual 5, instead grabbing five moments from each of the two segments. And trust me, like with every good episode of The Walking Dead, there are so many more stupid moments that aren’t making it onto my list.
The Black & White Top 5
The black and white section showed everything that led from Pete’s death to the eventual “trial run” that the survivors were going to go on. It also did a fantastic job of setting up the conflict between Morgan and Rick, who are definitely coming from two different viewpoints with regards to other survivors. When paired up with the color segments, the monochrome helped present similar aspects of the story in different ways, and it was such a stark visual, it’s no wonder AMC has been taking time to go back and remove the color from older episodes, as well.
Most of the episode, Rick actually seemed like he had his wits about him. Apparently being forced to kill a man really sharpens up his mental faculties. And yes, Rick trying to enable Carter’s group to get some experience with walkers was a bit reckless and unnecessary, but you can sort of see the logic behind it, especially for his plan to truly work. So why is Rick here? Dude, just give Jessie some time and space. You literally just killed her abusive husband in front of a bunch of people. Surprisingly, Rick, that isn’t a turn-on.
4. Father Gabriel
While Rick was trying to continue getting friendly with a newly-minted widow, Father Gabriel actually didn’t have a whole lot to do. So why does he end up here? Well, given the man’s overall lack of skill in dealing with walkers (yes, he’s shown that he CAN, but that he’d also rather not), and the fact that he sold out the Ricktocracy to Deanna, maybe asking Rick if he can be part of the plan wasn’t the best idea. You’ll have to find some other way to prove your worth.
We start getting to the real meat of the stupidity in the flashback sections of the episode. Rick and Morgan are hauling Pete’s body far outside of Alexandria for burial, because Rick doesn’t want a murderer buried within the walls (yes, we’ll ignore the fact that Morgan brings up, about how most survivors are murderers at this point). Ron, Pete’s eldest son, decides to follow. Sneakily. Alone. And completely unarmed. Into the wilderness where walkers could lurk, and the man who killed his father is definitely going to be. Look, I totally understand Ron wanting to know where his father gets buried, but he could have asked for a map. And an armed escort. Walkers surprising him almost led to him falling off the cliff, which would have deposited him squarely in the midst of the giant herd of walkers.
I’m not going to ding Carter for his belief that, even though he’s predominantly lived within secure walls, he knows more about survival than a man who made it all the way from Atlanta to Washington, with a decent-sized group still fairly intact. After all, Carter’s worldview makes that belief completely plausible. And he doesn’t appear here for his plotted coup of Rick, because, again, his worldview would make that decision make perfect sense. So why is his name on the list in the black and white section? Well, maybe for the exact thing that Rick called him out for, not setting a watch of any kind. It lead to Eugene of all people discovering what was going on. Although, speaking of Eugene…
First Eugene, after mild debate, lets Heath inside of the gates, despite not knowing at all who he is. In fact, Eugene was only at the gates because he had gotten suckered into watching them for Holly. Then, when stumbling upon Carter’s plotting, Eugene almost gets himself killed. Clumsiness of body is excusable, especially given that Eugene has spent his time being protected by Abraham and Rosita. Clumsiness of mind, when trying to talk his way out of Carter’s cross-hairs, especially for a person who pretty much only survived BECAUSE they knew how to talk to people? Looks like Tara talking about his hair made Eugene lose some of his verbal mojo.
Color Top 5
The color segments of the episode showed us the “present day” aspect of the story, and the results of Rick’s plan to lure the walkers away from Alexandria. Their presence may have slightly diminished the concerns for the characters in the black and white sections regarding survival, but again, they really helped to show a contrast. One of the starkest moments was the one between Rick and Morgan after interrupting Carter’s coup attempt, followed by the fall-out when the plan started to shatter.
Situational awareness is a big thing in any sort of combat situation. So why on earth did Glenn, who has plenty of experience fighting the dead, turn his back to reload his pistol? Maybe he was making sure that one hadn’t circled around behind, but still, dude, face forward.
Abraham is seemingly getting to a place where we previously saw plenty of other characters, including, notably, his driving partner, Sasha. He’s starting to become intent on taking risks, and seems to drop the indication that he’s only agreed to go along with Sasha for her part of Rick’s plan because he believes that she isn’t planning on coming back. When you add that to his jumping out of the car to lure the walkers back on course, despite Daryl being in better position to do so, it chalks up to a guy who isn’t really with us anymore.
Last season, Nicholas was directly responsible for the loss of Noah. He also almost cost Glenn his life, and clearly is only still part of the community because Glenn decided to spare him. So why would you even think about arguing with the man who has plenty of reason to want to see you offed? Although that redemption that Father Gabriel needs to find, mentioned above? Nicholas is doing a much better job of securing it, thanks to his quick thinking when Glenn and Heath found themselves a little overrun.
Glenn appears a second time, although the second instance on the list was actually chronologically first in the episode. The need to remove a nest of walkers from the path was critical, as it was stressed repeatedly how their noise would probably draw the herd away from the intended destination. Glenn has his small strike force ready to go, and they get ready around the glass doors of the shop, ready to pry them open. Through this whole thing, though, they all somehow missed the huge metal shutters behind the door, effectively sealing it up?
Congratulations, Carter! You made both lists this week, and you clearly won’t be around to do so again. In the color section, Carter had plenty of concerns about the team’s readiness to enact Rick’s plan. However, when it was time to fan out along the side of the highway and keep the herd moving in the right direction, Carter insisted on taking point, and didn’t keep his eyes looking anywhere other than the road, practically running right into a rogue walker. Carter can’t be blamed for freaking out after having half of his face bitten off, but his reactions that created the situation left a bit to be desired. Maybe let the actual combat-tested people take the lead next time.
And that wraps up the first episode in our return to The Walking Dead. Next week’s episode seems like it should be set up as a good one, with the siren blaring bringing the herd straight to Alexandria’s doorstep, and most of the skilled combatants out in the woods. Thanks a bunch for reading, and feel free to chime in!