The Walking Dead: First Time Again

Could this be a symbolic crossroads for Rick as a character?
"I don't take chances any more."

My favorite show about the hopeless fight for survival during the apocalypse is back!

The point of this episode is that people have to change, and not only the original residents of Alexandria, who have to learn to fight and shoot and start being proactive about their survival. Rick has to change, too, and boy howdy, he absolutely does not want to change. Morgan coming back into his life was big time symbolism that Rick needs to get back in touch with the man he used to be at the beginning of the series. It might be too late for that.

Rick did try, or at least he went through the motions to make it appear that way. He didn't kill Carter when Eugene literally stumbled over the "let's kill Rick" murder plot. But later, Rick told Morgan that he knew Carter wouldn't make it in this world, anyway, and voila.

Morgan and Michonne were upset when they realized that Rick had killed Carter. It's not that Rick shouldn't have done it -- Carter was dead anyway, and his screams were endangering Operation Gauntlet and the lives of everyone in Alexandria. It was that Rick killed Carter exactly as if he were a walker, and showed absolutely no compassion whatsoever for him. Interesting that Rick spent most of this episode with many band-aids on his face, almost as if he was wearing a mask.

With Deanna a grief-stricken figurehead, Rick is now convinced that he is the only one who knows how to keep the people of Alexandria alive. The thing is, Rick may be a natural leader, and he may have outstanding survival skills -- but he was dead wrong about a solution to the problem of those thousands of quarry walkers. That herd. Every time they showed it, I thought wow, this is absolutely nuts. Moving that many walkers out of the neighborhood en masse was like transporting a live nuke with loose wiring on a truck with bald tires. There was just too much that could go wrong, and obviously, something did. Why didn't they even talk about other possibilities? What about Molotov cocktails and great big bonfire at each end?

Daryl wants to continue recruiting, and Rick said no. Pete should have been buried within the walls for the sake of his children Ron and Sam, and Rick said no. I think these are both big mistakes on Rick's part. He needs to listen to people, not just impart survival wisdom and give orders. Carter was the only one who was seriously questioning Rick's plan, and look what happened to him.

I think there is still a good man inside Rick. He's still the guy who just asked Morgan to move in with him, and gave him baby Judith to hold. Rick honestly wants to keep Pete and Jessie's son Ron alive, but didn't realize that Ron isn't going to listen to the man who executed his father and who obviously has romantic designs on his mother. Rick's hard line has probably just lost him whatever chance he ever had with Jessie. Not that I want Rick with Jessie. I'm a Rick/Michonne shipper, big time.

The stuff that isn't about Rick and Morgan

The action at the tractor place highlighted the confusing relationship that now exists between Glenn and Nicholas. Glenn is such a good guy. Who else among our characters would have let Nicholas live after what he did? And now Nicholas appears to have become Glenn's acolyte. Maybe he'll save Glenn's life someday. Or possibly the opposite, since this is The Walking Dead. (I also liked how Maggie compared what Glenn did with Nicholas to what Glenn also did with Tara, who was one of the Governor's people.)

There also seems to be a strong and oddly touching relationship forming between Abraham and Sasha. Abraham was in such a bad place last season after he learned the truth about Eugene, but now he seems to be on his way out of it. And he's determined to bring Sasha with him. Lovely. I enjoyed all of their scenes together.

I also liked the fence-building scene where the Alexandrians were terrified because walkers strayed into the build, but our guys showed them how to take out the walkers without a fuss, without firing a gun to draw more. It was a simple, well shot demo of the difference between the two groups.

Black and white

Cinematically, this had to be one of their best episodes. The division between the black and white scenes and the ones in vibrant color made it easy to tell what was happening when. The Walking Dead is so stark anyway, and the black and white was not only a call back to classic zombie movies, it made the scenes at the quarry and in the woods something special. Epic, even.

Since I'm praising, I also thought the shot of the broken Deanna sitting by a puddle of her husband's blood was excellent. So were the burial scenes within the Alexandria walls with the church tower visible on the outside, some obvious symbolism that God isn't with them. Rick also rejected Father Gabriel as a member of the away team. I get that -- Father Gabriel is so squirrelly and unreliable, but he's wearing his turned around collar again, so again with the God-isn't-with-us symbolism.

And I just loved the clusters of party balloons at the check points, red at the beginning all the way to green at the end. Sasha and Abraham in the lead car with the parking lights made it feel like a parade, too. Such a contrast to the images we usually see on this show. Well done, Greg Nicotero.

Bits and pieces:

-- Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) and Lennie James (Morgan) have been added to the main cast credits. Martin-Green absolutely deserves it. What she did with Sasha's loose cannon grief last season was excellent. And everything is better with Lennie James in it.

-- I loved that Morgan saw Carol for who she really is. Nobody else has.

-- Lots of new characters. Heath, Scott, Annie. Heath stood out because of his wild hair and his courage during the Glenn-led mission at the tractor place.

-- I loved Josh McDermitt (Eugene) in this episode. One thing this show has always lacked is a little comic relief, and Eugene makes me laugh. For some reason, Carol doing her happy homemaker bit makes me laugh every time, too.

-- Carter showed a lot of courage when his incipient mutiny was discovered, and said that it was all him in order to protect Tobin, Olivia, Spencer and… who?

-- The walkers disintegrate a little more every season. This time a lot of them had bones coming through. Ick.

-- Glenn asked Maggie to babysit Deanna. He was right that it's an important job. You know, maybe Glenn should be running things. I've thought that before.

-- Thanks to Aaron, Daryl has a badass bike again.

-- A little talk of the W's. I'm sure we'll hear more soon. Maybe they're the ones behind the horn sounding.

-- We have a new baby actress playing Judith, for obvious reasons. Carl being six feet tall when he's still supposed to be twelve or thirteen is bad enough.

-- DrNanaMom, our Walking Dead reviewer, has bowed out, and I'll be doing it this season. Thank you so much for covering this show for five seasons, Doc.

Notes from Talking Dead:

This week's guests were executive producers Scott M. Gimple and Greg Nicotero and actor Ethan Embry (Carter). A couple of tidbits: Gimple said that he no longer wants to be specific about how long it's been for the characters since the pilot -- probably because Carl is way too big now. And Chris Hardwick announced that The Walking Dead's midseason will begin February 14, and that Talking Dead will be covering every episode of the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, starting next spring with season two.


Rick: "I know this sounds insane. But this is an insane world."
This scene began and ended the episode, first in color, and at the end in black and white.

Abraham: "Damn straight. We'll do it live!"
Was that a little homage to Bill O'Reilly?

Eugene: "Holy shit."
Tara: "Thank God. Nothing happened to your hair."

Eugene: (to Heath) "I fully respect the hair game."

Morgan: "Back when you were in that place where I lived, did you take one of my protein bars?"
Michonne: "No." (except I remember that she did)
Morgan: "See, I could have sworn there was one more peanut butter left."
Michonne: "That's how it is, isn't it? You always think there's one more peanut butter."

Heath: "This was supposed to be a dress rehearsal."
Glenn: "I'm supposed to be delivering pizzas, man."

Carol: (to Rick, about Deanna) "She's in charge. But you're in charge now."

Abraham: "That was a mess. And Pete, his face just... blowing up like Pompeii, right when we were cheek to cheek. I still think I got some of his brains in my ear."

Sasha: "What the hell are you doing?"
Abraham: "I'm just grabbing the bull by the nut sack. I'm living, darling. Just like you."

I thought this was an excellent premiere with a lot of interesting set-up and a killer cliffhanger. Four out of four peanut butter protein bars,

Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.


Will said...

Have you read the comics? I follow what is happening in the show, and I don't want to accidentally spoil anything. I think I know where this is going, but that is all I'm going to say.

Billie Doux said...

Will, I haven't read the comics and don't want to know -- so thanks so much for asking before posting anything!

Enid said...

I went back and forth on watching this again. I was set to before Fear The Walking Dead came on. Yet, watching the other show kind of took a bit of a toll. It kind of made me think too many shows about the worst and the worst not getting better. However, I did find myself intrigued enough to view the season premiere. Billie, I liked your take on the B&W of the episode harkening back to early zombie pics. Yet, I also thought is it representative of the Black and White thinking Rick is engaging in at present. He's not open to seeing other ways or listening to others. He's taking this line of there is only one way of doing things--his way. Maybe I'm complicating it a bit. It's just it crossed my mind. Sorry, DrNanaMom is no longer reviewing. However, it's great having you stepping in, Billie.

Billie Doux said...

Enid, that's a great point about Rick's thinking being black and white, too. It's his way or the highway. The highway with the metal plates on either side.

Paul Kelly said...

After six episodes of the undead-lite Fear the Walking Dead, I'd forgotten just how much I missed zombies. I'm not even a zombie person, but tonight's Walking Dead really made me appreciate them, and damn did we get a lot of them. I don't think there was much wrong with this episode. Everyone's on the verge of cracking, the world's a pile of shit, everyone looks like they smell, and Eugene's hair's anachronistically magnificent. In other words, classic Walking Dead.

Marianna said...

Great review, Billie! I especially appreciated the notes from Talking Dead. I recently got rid of cable and downloaded the episode of The Walking Dead, but I haven't found a way to watch Talking Dead, which makes me sad.

The only thing I didn't like about this episode was Carl was barely in it, but I'm hoping the next episode will be about what happened in the community while they were gone and Carl will be featured.

Jess Lynde said...

I won’t be commenting much this season, because I’m trying hard to dial back on the unhealthiness of my obsession with this show --- which means my poor husband is now getting subjected to weekly 15- to 20-minute “here’s what I thought of TWD this week” brain dumps --- but I wanted to briefly chime in this week to say that I also like the addition of The Talking Dead notes to the reviews, since I’m cutting that out of my TWD diet, too. It’s nice to still get any good bits of intel that crop up in the post-show discussion. Thanks, Billie!

That said, I don’t care what you say, Scott Gimple: I’m holding on to my timeline obsession. I get where you are coming from, what with the Chandler Riggs aging issue and your inability to properly represent winter in Northern VA when you film in Georgia in the summer. But I’m still gonna keep tracking the passage of time. You can hand wave all you want, but we both know it's still only been about 18-19 months since the global outbreak (which means they should be coming into their second winter right about now). I can’t let all my show obsessions go! Not cold turkey, anyway. :)

Docnaz said...

Jess, I know what you mean. My husband never got into the show ( and it took me awhile to really get into it). I drive him crazy with my obsessiveness. I try not to push it on him too much, but sometimes I can't resist.

sunbunny said...

I wasn't a fan of this one at first. The in media res opening technique is so overused it turned me off immediately. And then I was thinking we were looking at a massive time jump between the the black and white parts of the episode and the color ones instead of what? a day? Ultimately, I liked the way the structure of the episode broke up the (sorry) boring emotional fallout of the season finale with the tension or Rick's stupid "let's move a thousand zombies it'll be fine don't worry" plan. Considering the damage that herd had on Hershel's farm in season two, I'm not sure Alexandria will be habitable for long. (If, indeed the horn noise was coming from Alexandria and if Rick can't fix things)

I'm with Billie, I was all for lighting up the quarry. At least thin the numbers out Rick! They tried to sell the urgency of it with the truck collapsing but it didn't totally work for me.

I like Heath. He seems borderline competent which makes him an oddity among the Alexandrians. Aaron can handle himself too, to be fair. And the both obviously lack the experience Rick and his group have.

Interesting contrast between Glenn and Rick. I really liked Maggie and Tara's conversation about Glenn and Nicholas as well.

Heather said...

After watching this ep, my first thought was: I have really grown to love the core group on this show.
I get pretty geeked up every new season when I see the promo stuff for TWD, which makes for fun, excitement and anticipation. Oh sweet, sweet fandom.
On the other hand, the same problematic issues with the writing that I've always felt were present, linger, but the things I like continue to outweigh the things I don't. (Something in the design and production of this show requires me to say this aloud at the beginning of each season, apparently!)
More than anything, I love just laying eyes on Rick, Michonne, Darryl, Judith (!) etc. Not sure about the tension Morgan's presence will bring to bear -- I'm, so far, wary. I'm still not terribly invested in Alexandria as a group. The horde is interesting... ("Like cops at a parade." Ha!)
Love the review, Billie. I'm glad you're picking up the torch. :) I also adore this group here on Doux that watches TWD and have very much enjoyed the show more because of you all.