TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.1 – First Time Again | FanboysInc

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.1 – First Time Again

By Mike Sains

The sixth season of The Walking Dead opens with an immediate central conflict: The Alexandrians have found a massive rock quarry overrun with walkers; we’re talking in the tens of thousands, maybe more. For the purposes of this review, we’ll now refer to that place as The Walk Quarry because I enjoy puns. Rick, the clear-cut leader and alpha of the group, brought a large team – a team that features plenty of familiar faces and new ones alike – to deal with this problem. To make a very long story short, the group devised a way to usher and lead these walkers out of The Walk Quarry. Things don’t go well.

To make a long story long, this is an episode that tells the story of one planned operation that goes awry. Within that story there are many, many moments laced with pretext that are established in the past, a past that we as an audience become privy to through the use of black and white flashbacks. It’s a real shocker for people used to watching this show for its linear storytelling style. It almost makes you feel as if you’ve missed out on an episode that happened before the one you’re watching. But it works because the format flips a story that could have felt very familiar and repetitive for a show like The Walking Dead and makes it feel thrilling and cinematic.

I am impressed with the way this season has decided to open the show, putting the audience in the middle of a massive problem and then working its way back. It shows, to me, a marked improvement in the storytelling and the editing. Speaking of the editing, it is the breakout star of this episode and I hope to see more experimentation in this department. In terms of the plot, by diving headfirst into The Walk Quarry quandary, the show can effortlessly introduce new characters like Heath, Scott, Annie, and Carter while creating a desire to know more about all of them.

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.1 - First Time Again

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Ethan Embry as Carter and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

 

Speaking of Carter, he’s played by longtime character actor and Vacation film franchise alumn, Ethan Embry. Adding him as a guest star is an interesting and slightly jarring choice. How a guy as noticbly affable as Embry, I mean Carter, could have gone unnoticed for the many episodes that we spent last season in Alexandria, has gone over my head. But his acting chops and his instantly charming but also irritating presence works well. As an actor, Embry tends to play guys who are a bit of a punk-ass. More on that later.

In terms of the characters we are already familiar with, Rick and Morgan make a great pair, serving as the yin and yang of this world. Rick had a horrible, spiraling season last year, but, was ultimately proven to be not only a bit crazy, but philosophically correct in his brutal cynicism.  On the flip side of that coin, Morgan the outsider, sees this philosophy as a problem that he’s not yet ready to confront. But that doesn’t mean he won’t check Rick’s attitude sometimes. This plays well throughout the entire episode. In that respect, it was really quite strange to see Rick, the one who went nuts on everyone, treating Morgan with such initial tepidity, housing him in isolation like some kind of feral animal. In the end though, it was just a precaution, as Morgan and Rick are now serving as the one and only buddy-cop team in the entire post-apocalyptic world.

In regards to the prophecy told to Deanna last year, the priest was wrong about Rick and his group and is told so to his face. Thank god. In fact, he and the other traitors from last year have all been swiftly put back in their rightful places as cowards. That does feel, as a long-term viewer, quite satisfying. But anyone who knows anything about this show can intuit that the treacherous ones are all also likely to flip out or betray the whole group somehow. Speaking of Deanna, she’s gotten used to giving Rick control and has clearly grown more hardened since the death of her husband, Reg.

As far as the rest of group, here’s the full rundown: Daryl is bummed because he wants to take in new people but Rick is being a hard-ass about it. Abraham is still a powder keg and Sasha still seems to have her new found intensity; they look to be gravitating towards each other as a result of their crazy-ass kinship. Tara looks good again and plays well off of Eugene the coward AKA Mr. Kentucky Waterfall. Eugene is still bad at doing much of anything that doesn’t involve saving his own butt. Carol is still a looming bad-ass, but, in a new twist, Morgan seems to see right through her coy act and I personally think there could be a love interest brewing between these two. Speaking of love, Carl is still weird and found himself a weird little girlfriend who has a Zippo affectation; isn’t that creepily adorable? Glenn and Maggie are still the most competent people in the entire group and share everything with one another.

And lastly for the new characters we haven’t seen much of yet, Ron is now a thing. Ron, son of Pete, the abusive husband and Jessie, the abused wife. Ron, who almost falls into The Walk Quarry because he’s too inexperienced, Ron who also won’t listen to a word Rick says. I get that part, seeing how Rick killed Ron’s father last year. Even if Pete was an abusive monster, a boy has a hard time forgiving a man for killing his only dad. I believe young Ron will either be a huge problem or an X-factor; I can’t tell which just yet.

TV REVIEW: The Walking Dead 6.1 - First Time Again

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Now that we’ve totally circled back to where we were when we started, the way the plan unfolds is tense because there’s a new paradigm that we are all aware of: there are lives at stake and only a handful of seasoned zombie killers are peppered in with a large group of people who are not suited to handle this situation. There are thousands of decaying walkers involved in this plan and only a few people who know what to do. The rest say things like, “this was supposed to be a dry run”, to which Glenn has to remind them, “I was supposed to be delivering pizzas, man”.

So, with Daryl running point as some kind of expressionless, sad biker pied piper of zombies, the group coolly and calmly starts to wrangle the horde with relative ease. The plan that they all devised together – shown in a civil but fiesty town hall-style meeting flashback which reveals Embry’s Carter to be an irritating but thorough event coordinator – seems to be working. And then, of course, there’s a small glitch that requires Carter to go out on his own, and of course, his punk-ass gets bit right in the face. In a Kevin Hart-esque style, Carter truly was not ready.

With that, what’s to be done? Well, it’s up to Rick to try and silence the screaming Carter to no avail, so, he knifes Carter in the base of the skull. RIP Carter. You were super annoying but also good at planning. This is a moment that clearly demonstrates how right Rick’s need is for hardened troops rather than useful idiots; you don’t get to live in this world and have your first reaction to a zombie attack be, “please help us”. You need to fend for yourself or prepare to die. This is exactly what happened.

Although, Carter’s untimely demise isn’t the end. In proper Sunday TV fashion, of course, there’s a cliffhanger right at the end of the episode: someone went and threw a monkey wrench into this entire plan and is leading the massive zombie horde straight to Alexandria, which just so happens to be totally unguarded.

FBI SCORE: 9 out of 10. Overall, “First Time Again” is an inspired, stylized episode that solidifies The Walking Dead as the most cynical show on TV. Those with too much empathy or too much humanity are bound to be torn to shreds by those with none, be them dead or alive.

Random Observations:

Alexandria Virginia sure does look like rural Georgia for some reason.

The Wolves are coming…still.

Morgan is a bad-ass who apparently knows martial arts. He was taught by a friend after he went nuts. He’s very mindful of his protein bars. I’m willing to bet his friend shows up soon.

Eugene got the best one-liners. “We had a meeting last night”. “I respect the hair game”.

Mike Sains

Mike Sains is a writer, editor, and podcaster for FanBoysInc.com and other outlets online. When he isn't writing, editing, or podcasting, he's collecting comic books, Funko Pop and Hikari Sofubi figures, and vinyl records of all kinds. He also likes free stuff. 😉 Follow him on twitter @MikeSains

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