Published on October 13th, 2015 | by Bean0
The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 1 – Premiere “The First Time Again”
WARNING! CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Season premieres and finales are The Walking Dead’s strongest hands; the show is at it’s best when allowed to make bold moves and no season has come in with as much swagger as “The First Time Again”. With a re-boot vibe, the show opens on the past season’s final frames – Morgan finding Rick executing the porch-douche Pete – only to immediately drain the scene of colour, fade to black and cut straight to a disorienting point in the not too distant future.
The grandeur of a shot like Rick speechifying against a backdrop of untold hordes of walkers in a massive quarry plays like a scene from Helm’s Deep. While Rick may these days lack the humility of Aragorn, he certainly possesses the ability to rouse his forces like a hero. But things aren’t nearly so simple, and Gandalf definitely isn’t coming to save the day. In fact, there are already rumblings in the ranks as their ‘plan for tomorrow’ kicks off without warning.
As the camera takes in the tiny group of Rick’s, new faces abound. The show revels in the bewildering panic of the scene and the confusion these obvious newbs create for the viewer. Nameless check-shirt dude (turns out to be Carter, played by ‘Grace and Frankie’s Ethan Embry) whines that this was supposed to be a rehearsal; well buckle up, chump, you don’t get do-overs in the zompocalypse. Rick delegates like a pro, but the numbers are vast. Whatever they’re plan is, we’re not privy to it, and we must place our trust in the team to get it done, as the camera lingers over hundreds of fetid corpses lumbering towards us.
Post-cold open, we drift back in time to the aftermath of the Pete/Reg mess, and the show takes another bold step, choosing to shoot all scenes pre-quarry in black and white. For a show well in it’s stride, such a decision marks an interesting aesthetic turn. Part of the visceral feel of The Walking Dead comes from the grime and initially I resisted the monochrome, feeling the substance had drained out of the world. Everything looked too clean or ordered. But the choice grows on the eye, lending the scenes an other-worldly quality, like a newly harrowing dreamscape.
“The First Time Again”, for all it’s leaping back and forth, gels nicely, and the narrative of preparing for a risky plan benefits from simultaneously showing the plan in action. Given the necessarily stately pace it takes to lure thousands of walkers down a road, and then up another one for twenty-odd miles, the scale of the horde would start to be meaningless or become less effective if not intercut with how we got to this point, a neat side-step and a good sign that even in it’s sixth season, The Walking Dead is taking nothing for granted.
So what has been happening? Rick and Morgan share a number of ‘I know you/you don’t know me’ scenes, which might have been repetitive were it not for the excellent chemistry Lennie James and Andrew Lincoln bring to the table. Setting up the disparity of their world-views early on without bringing them to any conclusions hints at further developments down the road, but ultimately there is friendship at their core. As the title references; this is their introduction to one another, again. Michonne takes in his presence quietly, concurring at pivotal moments that times are grim, but with a touch more resignation than Morgan.
Daryl seems antsy to get back to recruiting, but must be a team-player for the time being. Other than that, he rides his hog a lot, reeeeeally slowly. Carol and Morgan meet in an interesting moment where he shares his observations of her to her. Part of Carol’s badassery that may stem from her history with a violent husband is a self-preservationists tendency to appear bland. She gives nothing away to this new arrival, keeping the mask of sweetness in place while clearly assessing the person before her. She senses his desire to see the good in people, a response that may not occur so naturally to her anymore, whatever her demeanour suggests to the outside world.
Pete’s son Ron acts recklessly, earning himself a dressing down from the man that just murdered his dad, and Jamie draws some boundaries concerning how they go forward; i.e, not together. It’s nice to see her stepping up and taking responsibility for the training of her children and forging a path for herself independent of Rick, who not only needn’t be everybody’s saviour, but quite clearly should not be hers. She’s more than capable, and takes charge of her family as it’s head.
The main dissenting role in Alexandria falls to Carter (ever since Paul Reiser in Aliens, that name just means jackass to me) – the first thing we see him do is bitch, and he continues to do so in one way or another throughout “The First Time Again”. From repeatedly naysaying the Pied Piper plan to inciting an uprising against Rick and nearly executing Eugene for overhearing his crap idea, the turn in the road as he concedes Rick was right is a clear red-flag.
Moments like this needn’t be so signposted – Rick’s discussion with Morgan tell us explicitly that people like Carter are gonna get themselves killed one way or another. Ok, great, we know – but the character’s entire purpose is to raise the question about who should or shouldn’t be alive in the new world, a philosophical shit-storm that’s been brewing since day one. Good actors like Embry ought to be brought on for better characters than ‘existential whingey cipher who gets his face bitten off’.
That aside, Season 6 is off to a rollicking start, and the episode ends in a precipitous fashion as, wouldncha know it, the plan goes tits up. Not for want of trying on the part of our heroes, who have valiantly risked their necks to divert the orcs away from the shire, but as the terrible horn sounds in Alexandria, and the undead inexorably head for home, the cliffhanger is a whodunnit; the ‘Wolves’ or a grieving, unhinged adolescent?
REVIEW BY NINA CLARK
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