The Walking Dead season six opener, First Time Again shows that there is still plenty of life (sorry, could not resist) left in this long running series about the Robert Kirkman verse of zombies that threaten Rick Grimes and his little band of survivors. The TV show has, somewhat, followed the comic and now, since last season, Rick and his crew have become part of Alexandria. Albeit not without issues, as seen in season five, and the season six opener flashes back to the aftermath of the Pete shooting and Reggie’s death.
This episode sees Rick as General after the discovery of an entire quarry full of the walking dead that were hemmed in by several semi’s backed up to block all exits. This set piece also shows just why Alexandria was such a safe haven. First Time Again is directed by Greg Nicotero and, as usual, the man provides an intense hour of zombie closeups (all the better to see the impressive walker makeup) and some pretty tight editing.
The episode, which deals with relocating the walkers in the quarry, has what may be the biggest walking dead “walk” on television. Grimes orchestrates an en masse move; herding the zombies to move past Alexandria and save the town from a future and imminent invasion. Rick points out that any of the semi-trucks can topple over the edge and release the hundreds of walkers trapped there. This actually happens while they begin a dry run of the zombie exodus, a semi falls off the crumbling quarry edge and, like a slow motion cork, the horde move out of the hole they have been trapped in.
Another minor storyline is Carter, a denizen of Alexandria who may as well have “corpse” stamped on his forehead, or (if this was a Star Trek episode) wear a red shirt. In a flashback, Rick says of Carter (played with a doomed desperation by Ethan Embry) after they discover the man’s plot to kill Grimes:
“I wanted to kill him. So it would be easier. So I wouldn’t have to worry about how he could screw up or what stupid thing he’d do next because that’s who he is. Just somebody who shouldn’t be alive now.”
As Carter proves later during the mass zombie shuffle past Alexandria he is not capable and despite his reluctant enthusiasm, and whole-hearted acceptance of Rick, the man dies at the hand of the man he initially plotted to kill. This, more than anything else, shows why The Walking Dead still manages to entertain and enthrall.
The show continues to sucker punch us. The deaths of the children in The Grove (in season four) Beth’s dying in season 5…While Carter was not with the show long enough for us to be vested in his character, it was his manner of dying that shocked. Rick trying to calm the hapless Alexandria resident who was just bitten in the face. Carter’s shocked screams causing the walker parade to falter, and Grimes having to shove his knife in the victim’s head killing him and ultimately silencing Carter, allowing the walkers to resume their trek.
The result of this action was tantamount to a splash of ice-cold water in the face of the viewer. Michonne and Morgan (Danai Gurira and Lennie James) reflect what the audience is feeling, although Jones’ reaction is more disappointed disgust, while the katana wielding warrior was more distraught that the world had come to this.
A walking dead “parade” was an impressive way to start the new season. This was edge of the seat viewing where, in-between each and every sepia flashback, the viewer counted the ways this plan could, and eventually does, go wrong. At the end of the episode, when that horn distracts the zombie marathon and the walkers head into Alexandria, there cannot be many viewers who did not feel this was somewhat preordained.
While the use of sepia to reveal the “backstory” of who did what and where the plan came from, along with the residual issues from last season was a trifle annoying, it was necessary as Nicotero was able to keep any confusion from hampering the storyline. The flashbacks set up the present sequences perfectly and at no time did the viewer question what was going on.
Stand out moments:
The sight of all those walkers, what appear to be thousands, milling down that path, or “chute” and Daryl, along with Abraham and Sasha, leading them on, looking for all the world like pace vehicles for a marathon.
Eugene still sporting that mullet, telling Scott at the gate:
“I fully respect the hair game.”
By the end of this episode of The Walking Dead, the walkers have been blown off course by the horn’s constant blaring and the previews of next week’s episode looks to be the beginning of the end of Alexandria. This was a excellent start to the season, well done Greg Nicotero, Andrew Lincoln and the rest. TWD airs Sundays on AMC, tune in and get your walker fix.