Everyone’s favorite zombie show returned for its sixth season Sunday night, and unlike that other zombie show, this one was definitely worth the wait. It’s hard to think of many other TV series that have gone this deep into their runs while maintaining such a high level of enjoyment. ‘The Walking Dead’ is back, and it’s as good as ever.
Like many prior episodes of the show, this season premiere throws us right into the fire and has us play catch-up, with a scene involving Rick and the gang overlooking a large rock quarry that is packed to the brim with Walkers. The Walkers are trapped inside the area with a big cliff on one side and a pair of semi-truck cargo containers angled to block their escape on the other. But Walkers are starting to make it through, and Rick already has a plan in operation to take care of them.
After the opening credits, viewers see some scenes in black-and-white and some in color. The black-and-white scenes are flashbacks covering what happened before the opening, while the color scenes are a continuation of Rick’s plan to herd the horde of Walkers out of the quarry and away from the community of Alexandria. The opening moments in black-and-white begin with a lot of reunions, including Glenn returning (with Nicholas, who had just tried to kill him) and reuniting with Maggie.
After a conversation with Daryl in which Rick conveys that he feels they shouldn’t be searching for any new people to bring into the community (Daryl disagrees), Rick refuses to let Pete’s body be buried next to Reg’s in the graveyard. Rick insists that they won’t be burying any killers in Alexandria, and Deanna agrees with him, telling Rick to take the body into the woods outside town and “Leave him to the trees.” Rick and Morgan head off to bury Pete’s body, but unbeknownst to them, they’re followed by Pete’s son, Ron.
While digging the grave, Rick hears a noise and goes to investigate. It’s here that he and Morgan discover the huge herd of Walkers trapped in the quarry, and Rick notices how close they are to getting free. They also discover that Ron has been following them, when Rick has to save him from a couple of stray Walkers.
Back in Alexandria, viewers are introduced to a trio of new characters – most notably Heath (Corey Hawkins), who has returned after an excursion and has to argue with Eugene to get back inside the community. For those keeping score at home, Heath is a new African-American member of the cast, which means – if past history is any indication – that we’re about to lose an African-American member of the cast in the coming weeks. Let’s hope it’s Gabriel and not Morgan.
Rick returns to Alexandria and holds a group meeting to tell the others about what he and Morgan saw and his plans to take care of the Walkers. After a short debate, everyone agrees to Rick’s plan and a request is made for volunteers. In a humorous moment, Gabriel volunteers and Rick immediately shouts “No!”. Among those who do make the cut are Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Nicholas, Heath, Abraham and Sasha – the last two of whom will ride together in a car helping Daryl (on his motorcycle) slowly lead the Walkers away from Alexandria once they’ released from the quarry.
Before the plan gets underway, Eugene overhears Carter (Ethan Embry) plotting with some others about killing Rick. Carter catches Eugene snooping on them and is about to put a bullet in his head when Rick, Daryl and Morgan storm into the room. Rick disarms Carter and points his gun at him, but decides to let him live, telling Carter that he’d like them to try to work together. When Rick’s plan is actually in action, Carter realizes that Rick is doing the right thing and his plan is working – followed shortly thereafter by him getting grabbed and bitten in the face by a Walker. Carter’s screams of pain are so loud that Rick has no choice but to kill him quickly. Morgan looks on and seems upset by what Rick did, but comments to Michonne that he understands it had to be done.
While Rick and the others are taking care of the big swarm, Glenn, Nicholas and Heath have been tasked with taking care of a handful of Walkers trapped inside a farm equipment building that are making too much noise and may distract the horde from Rick’s intended path. When they discover the door to the place has been sealed up with a large metal barrier, they shoot out the windows and allow the Walkers to come out that way, so they can take care of them one at a time. Nicholas shows a bit of bravery in killing a number of Walkers and demonstrates that he’s trying to make amends.
After a few problems, it seems as if Rick’s plan is working and the Walkers are being led safely away from Alexandria. However, all of the sudden a loud and constant horn blares. Rick and Michonne both immediately realize that it’s coming from the direction of Alexandria. The episode ends with the army of Walkers changing course and heading directly toward the gated community.
This was a really entertaining episode. If there’s one negative I took away from it, the series currently contains way too many characters to keep track of. We barely saw Carol, and I believe that Carl only appeared in one scene and had nary a line of dialogue. Rosita was virtually non-existent as well. Of course, if past seasons are any indication, this premiere will be one of the few episodes where we’ll see the entire cast together. Indeed, it looks like next week will focus on what’s going on in Alexandria while Rick and the others are out herding the Walkers. Still, I think the show-runners need to cut the cast, as a lot of fan favorites are going to get the short end of the stick when it comes to characterization. Daryl, for example, was given very little to do, even though he’s probably the show’s most important character next to Rick.
One of the things I really liked and something I hope lasts more than a season is the relationship between Morgan and Rick. There’s a great moment where Morgan tells Rick that, despite all he’s gone through, Rick is still the same man he met back at the beginning of the series. There’s also a nice moment of trust when Rick allows Morgan to hold baby Judith. If the show-runners allow it to happen, the friendship between Rick and Morgan could become the strongest element of this series and something we remember it for long after it has left the air. Let’s just hope that actor Lennie James wants to stick around and that the producers have a long-term plan for his character. (One good sign is that James has been promoted to the main cast list on the opening credits – which indicates that he’ll be around for at least most of this season.)
There’s a lot to talk about with this premiere, and I only had a chance to touch on some of the important stuff above. There was more going on, including Abe acting a little crazy in the car with Sasha, and Jessie telling Rick that she didn’t want him interacting with Ron. What did everyone out there think of this season premiere? What were your favorite moments, and where do you think the show is heading this year? (If you’re privy to actual spoilers, please keep them to yourself. Speculation only!)