Season Six, Episode One — “First Time Again”
By Jarrod Jones. It seems almost impossible to comprehend, but we’re six seasons and one spinoff into The Walking Dead and it still has a pulse. And it’s a strong one too: chalk that up to the show’s reliably firm grasp on its characters, and it’s heart-rending knack for keeping score of every tragedy that has ever befallen Rick & Co. since the show began five years ago. And in case you needed the reminder, these people have been through some shit. (Just look at the anguish that maps the lines on these character’s faces. Breaks my heart, dammit!) But hope remains, so long as Morgan draws breath. (Love you, man!)
The sixth season of The Walking Dead starts big. No, that’s not right. It starts huge, with a screen-busting wide-angle shot of Rick bellowing something characteristically insane in front of a literal chasm filled with walkers. And since the mood for this episode is decidedly epic, it fractures its narrative for maximum impact. The end effect is more haunting than it has any right to be. And guys, Ethan Embry was on The Walking Dead. Crazy, right?
WHAT WORKED: The word of the day is “bigger”. Everything we witnessed in this episode was a testament to the show’s ambitions for what’s to come, and if this is any indicator of what’s coming, whoo. This is going to be a crazy season.
The ending is quintessential Dead: a hastily-made plan shrouded in doubt falls apart at the most crucial moment. That’s nothing new for this show, but Rick’s ambitious plan to cart a legion of hungry-ass walkers far away from Alexandria goes to shit, not because of something Rick underestimated — or because of some survivor tomfoolery — but from the sound of a bone-chilling horn blasting ominously from their newly-established base of operations. Who’s sounding that horn, consarnit? The Wolves? That little mushface, Ron? This is gonna haunt me for the rest of the week.
WHAT DIDN’T: With sixty-eight episodes under this show’s belt, there’s plenty of plates this series needs to keep spinning. But there were a couple of omissions in this episode that drove me nuts. Chiefly it was the omission of the big-hat wearin’ Carl Grimes that perked my eyebrows more than anything else (More so than the noted absence of the Wolves, anyway.) Where you at, you wee cherubic sociopath?
Ethan Embry’s guest-starring role was a showy reminder that anyone can die at any given moment. (As if you needed the reminder.) And as Carter, this episode’s single anti-Rickian voice of opposition (Deanna, possibly because she abruptly lost Reg last season, kept pretty quiet this week), Ethan Embry’s presence was The Walking Dead equivalent of a Starfleet lieutenant sporting a dreaded Red Shirt. As a one-off character, Embry was pretty distracting. Mostly because he’s Ethan Embry.
Eugene still drives me nuts. There’s one mullet too many on this show.
“We’ll do it live!” – Rick. “We’ll do it live“? The hell?
“This is a bad idea.” “This is the only idea.” – Glen, captain obvious.
“I’ll show you how.” – Rick, flexing his new catchphrase.
“I just grabbed the bull by the nutsack. I’m livin’, darlin’. Just like you.” – Abraham.
BEST MOMENT: That opening. The bug-fuck insanity of the opening sequence — where Rick & Co. talk through the incredibly arduous task of herding one thousand walkers away from Alexandria in front of said one thousand walkers — is The Walking Dead at its most ambitious. The shifting, pulsating mass of dead flesh is wholly apparent even in the face of some muddy CGI, and the desired effect of brutal finality is achieved. Practical effects are as dazzling as ever in this sequence — that one walker literally tearing itself through a narrow opening is one of the history books — and it sets a high bar for the remaining fifteen episodes. Here’s hoping!
EPISODE’S MVP: Rick Grimes. Andrew Lincoln’s reluctantly grizzled leader is still the impetus behind The Walking Dead. And it looks as though the compromises Rick has made over the course of five seasons has effectively morphed him into a man with an unblinking conviction to simply survive, quite possibly at the risk of losing his own humanity. That’s never been more apparent than with this episode, and it’s ideas like that that make this show compulsively watchable. (Though the zombie gore helps, too.)
BRAY OF THE DEAD:
– Hey, Abe, I know that ‘pouring one out’ is supposed to have some symbolic meaning, but dammit, man! We’re rationing! Every little drop of booze counts.
– Times someone points a gun at someone’s head and doesn’t shoot this week: 2
– I liked the marker balloons. Made everything so much more festive.
– I guess the walkers are too good to eat their own brains.
– Rick’s gonna haveta learn that “I know this sounds insane” ain’t no way to start a sentence.
– Dude, Ethan Embry was on this show.