The Walking Dead is back, and it’s not pulling any punches! If last season’s finale was big, then last night’s premiere was downright epic.
The extended episode felt as though it was specifically tailored to every type of viewer’s needs: part introspection, part zombie overdose, character development, humor; I’m sure the haters will always find reason to complain, but I, for one, couldn’t hope for a better premiere.
My initial plan was to take notes and blog as I watched, but you can’t really do that with a gripping show and not have it take away from the experience. More than that, the constant jumps in timeline would have made it tedious for anyone kind enough to read this post, so I’ll just record some random thoughts here:
- The showrunners weren’t kidding when they teased about the massive scale of this episode (and, presumably, the entire season): both the opening scene and all the overhead shots of the walker horde were phenomenal. The quarry scenes were spectacular, the walkers absolutely terrifying.
- I loved the format of switching between black & white and color shots to convey the jump between past and present. Not only did they brilliantly denote the time shift, but also the mood in each scene: the flashbacks were more subtle, esoteric, contemplative. The color shots were in-your-face, packed with action, and did a great job of bringing us right back to the here and now.
- It’s wonderful to see the walkers become the big threat again, instead of the conflict between ‘our’ group and their fellow Alexandrians. At the end of Season 5, it looked like it could have gone either way. This episode managed to not only tie up several loose ends regarding the rocky relationships between Rick, his group and the members of the community (all the while leaving others open-ended for future exploration), but to band them together against the common enemy, who – for now at least – is the massive horde of walkers trapped in the quarry.
- It was also satisfying to get answers to the question no one really asked last season: how come the community stayed safe for so long? Even though Deanna had mentioned that the area had been evacuated early on during the apocalypse, it still didn’t explain how no passing herds gathered outside the walls of Alexandria. Now we know where these walkers ended up.
- The main question facing us at the end of last season was if and how the tension would be resolved between Rick, his people, Deanna, and newcomer and old favorite Morgan. We don’t have a definite answer just yet, and that’s fine by me; the two need time to get reacquainted. They may know each other, but they’re getting to know each other for the first time again. A lot has happened to our group since Rick & Co last saw Morgan in “Clear”, and a lot has probably happened to Morgan, thus his transformation from raving lunatic to zen warrior. All the events that intervened may have hardened Rick; in the past few episodes, they had shaped him into a more ruthless, somewhat unhinged leader. Last night, he appeared more pragmatic, but just as determined to survive. In order to do that, he needs make the rest of the Alexandrians into survivors, at any cost.
Rick’s not taking any chances any more.
- Morgan, on the other hand, seems to think that all life is precious these days. Even the lives of the people who tried to kill him, as evidenced in last season’s finale scene with the Wolves, as well as his almost divine intervention in saving Aaron & Daryl from the truck walkers. He wants to give Pete a proper burial. He insists that, deep down, Rick knows that’s the right thing to do. This makes me a little fearful for Morgan’s survival on the show. We’ve seen what happens to whoever acts as the moral compass in The Walking Dead.
- This also has me worrying about Glenn. He’s the one holding it together more than anyone in the group, it seems, and steadily acts as their collective conscience. He gives Nicholas a second chance, and to everyone’s surprise, Nicholas seems to be living up to Glenn’s expectations. He knows that the only way to stay alive is to do everything he can to redeem himself. If the season premiere is any indication, he’s headed in the right direction.
- Redemption and second chances were one of the running themes of last night’s episode. Glenn tells Maggie what happened with Nicholas in the woods and asks her to relay this to the group to help decide what to do with him. Exile is one solution, but to someone like Nicholas, this is as good as a death sentence. Maggie and Tara’s exchange about the matter is beautiful: they were on opposite sides of the fence not too long ago, when the Governor launched his attack against our group. Glenn sav
ed her, and she’s now as much a part of the group as the rest of them. Doesn’t Nicholas deserve as much?
- Father Gabriel is looking for redemption as well, but Rick’s not too eager to give him that chance. As much as I would like to believe that he’s turned over a new leaf, and, along with Nicholas, has abandoned his former cowardly ways, I don’t trust him just yet. Glenn is willing to work with Nicholas; will the rest of the group be as gracious to Gabe?
- And what about Carter? Using the character of Carter as the voice of dissent in those meetings was brilliant. With Deanna in Rick’s corner, having finally seen the light in terms of what needs to be done to keep Alexandria safe, Rick is calling the shots. It’s nice to see the sheltered people of Alexandria defer to him, but it’s more realistic to acknowledge that not everyone’s just going to fall in line and get with the program. Carter is a sceptic, and rightly so. He hasn’t lived out there. When he tries to stage a coup, he crosses the line. Later, when faced with a walker attack, he just freezes. Maybe Rick’s school of hard knocks attitude is too much for him to take, but when the plan seems to be working, he’s not beneath acknowledging Rick was right, and offering to shake his hand. Carter’s untimely (and gruesome) demise seemed to serve no other purpose than to drive Rick’s home. Just before the walker got him, we see Rick in flashback confessing to Morgan that he wanted to kill him during the confrontation with Eugene, but realized that people like Carter aren’t meant to survive anyway. A few minutes later, he puts Carter out of his misery, proving his point.
- Rick’s relationship with Morgan has yet to be fully explored, but it’s not the only one that’s in the balance. Daryl has felt like an outsider from the minute he passed Alexandria’s gates. His bromance with Aaron and their field trips to find more recruits keep him sane. Rick feels they don’t need more people; Daryl begs to differ. Like Aaron had told the group when he first met them, it’s the people that are their most valuable resource. There’s strength in numbers. As much as Daryl respects Rick, he expresses his disagreement, but ultimately agrees that it’s Rick’s call. It was a wonderful scene, and it shows how far Daryl has come, too.
- Sasha seems to be back to her former self, but has Abraham gone a bit cray-cray now? That monologue in the car was disturbing, even by Sasha’s standards. His successful attempt to keep the walkers in line was reckless, and I can only hope he doesn’t go off his rocker.
- Eugene was brilliant in this episode. His interaction with Tara was so sweet, his exchange with Heath so hilarious, even that “Hello” in the scene with Carter was amazing and had me laughing out loud. He quickly went from harmless coward to finally growing a pair last season, and now he’s one of the sweetest members of our group, providing comic relief to boot.
- Daryl leading the walker parade was the epitome of cool. I only wish they had music playing as they went (I guess music would keep the walkers ‘engaged’, but might also attract walkers from around the area, therefore putting the whole operation in jeopardy, but didn’t you wish “Welcome to the Black Parade” was playing during those scenes? Was it just me?)
So what’s in store this season? Who was blaring the horn at the end of the episode? Was it the Wolves or a traitor in Alexandria? So much to look forward to next week!