What They Say:
First Time Again – Rick and the others have a difficult time assimilating into Alexandria; a new threat arises that could bring the group closer together.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The sixth season of The Walking Dead gets underway and it’s an interesting experience from the get go. Having quite enjoyed the show over the first five seasons, this one has the odd feeling because we’re coming into it after going back to the beginning with Fear the Walking Dead. Both shows are definitely different and have vastly different approaches to them, but just the shift of going from a new cast and those early experiences – where you have to reset your expectations – to a very established show where the cast has bonded together in a way that the families of Fear haven’t makes for some really interesting dynamics. I find myself enjoying Fear a lot more now that it’s done and I’ve processed it a bit, but it’s got a ways to go before it catches up to this series and what it’s established.
With the last season ending as it did with the death, killing and the arrival of Morgan on the scene, things do get dealt with here as a sort of flashback sequence that’s mixed in a bit. it’s done with a nice bit of style, going the black and white route as we catch up with everyone and where some of the fallout has hit with them. There’s definitely loss to be had here, but also some recovery from other events that went on, such as Tara feeling better. As the episode proper gets underway with this after the opening tease, it’s a good reconnect overall that also makes clear the general mood of everything. Just the reactions of everyone seeing that Tara is awake after what she went through is great. Of course, it’s also tinged by what she’s missed as of late, which means the body count has to be dealt with. Just the look on their faces over it says it all
This flashback period is certainly interesting as it progresses, giving Rick and Morgan some time together to start getting acquainted as they are now, meeting again for the first time. We also get some arrivals with a team that had been ranging for a few weeks prior to Rick’s group arriving. That brings Heath into the show and his first meeting with Eugene is just the right kind of humor about it. But there’s also some harshness that’s coming into play with Deanna not wanting Reg’s killer to be buried in the same plot as everyone else. That’s not going to go over well with his son, of course, as he hears all this play out and has no place for his father. It just provides further resentment towards Rick on top of everything else he’s figuring out in relation to his mother as well. It’s complicated but not complex, full of emotion.
What they trip to dump the body leads to is what drives the present portion of the episode as they discover a quarry where there are hundreds and hundreds of walkers milling about in that are going to be a problem. That horde is what we see at the start of the episode as the barricades that they put around it aren’t going to hold out any longer. With the foreknowledge of it, Rick has them putting together a really good funnel system overall across a big distance to direct them away from Alexandria. It’s a plan that they wanted to do a dry run on but weren’t able to due to things going wonky fast. But what we see of it in the present is really well executed with how it unfolds. Not everything goes right, but with Rick’s team and several from Alexandria like Heath actively involved as well as Morgan, it’s got a good sense of professionalism about it.
There’re a lot of tense moments as it plays out – for both sides of the story. The herding of the horde is pretty intense as we get those driving in front of it trying to direct it and those behind the barricades doing their best to help with the flares all while trying to make sure that the barriers will hold. The scope of what’s riding on it is there to be sure and that gets well reinforced in the flashbacks as they talk about how one wrong turn can cause the whole of Alexandria to fail. Not everyone is on board with the plan of course as there’s always someone that just finds it to be something that they can’t believe in for a whole host of reasons. Part of all of this is to explore the dynamic of the residents of Alexandria with how they’re coping with these changes. Some of it is Deanna reasserting herself in order to give them all a purpose, but others know that Rick’s influence is growing and that’s a bitter taste for them considering some of what Rick’s done. It’s not the most subtle exploration, but it gets the job done.
While there are a few twists and turns along the way, the episode, for the most part, plays out in a straightforward enough way with the structure involved. There are some great character moments throughout that makes it clear where everyone is at this point in time. The fallout from what happened at the end of last season is dealt with to varying degrees and to varying success as there’s still going to be issues coming from this for some time to come. The character dynamics are at their best here tonight and it’s compelling to watch it unfold. It’s also fantastic to see them going as big as they do here with the herd of walkers that came together in a creative way that ends up the way it does. It explains away some of the protection Alexandria has gotten as well, which is good. But it’s also just a great series of sequences all around as we see it play out in past and present. I really liked that they went with the black and white side to it and I know that’ll get a lot of attention. It works perfectly here to really enhance the mood.