Spoilers might turn… up.
AMC’s The Walking Dead 6×01: First Time Again resume its grim march again without any huge deaths or new baddies but still giving us one heck of an episode. What we get it is a huge gathering of walkers at the bottom of a quarry. The only exits are barred by trailer trucks, with a slim chance of one getting out once in a while. Rick has a plan to herd them away from Alexandria. However, after the events on last season’s finale, the trust in Rick or in Rick’s group is still up in the air.
Sometimes it’s not the story you have to tell but how you tell it. The episode treats the overarching task of herding the roaming walkers as the main story while side stories are told as a break from the main narrative. I’m trying really hard not to call them side quests because they’re not. Everything becomes part of the main story in the end. Well, almost.
As the episode begins, Rick and his main lieutenants are about to do a dry run with a hesitant group of Alexandria’s residents on how the herding will happen. They’re at the quarry. And because either Rick is a prophet or God has a weird sense of humor, one of the trucks that has been close to the edge of the road leading up the quarry picks that moment to fall off the cliff, leaving a massive gap. And that means no dry runs. They have to do this now.
Here’s where the episode uses the technique of past scenes filmed in black and white. This instantaneously tells us that this is something that already happened. TWD is hardly the first nor will it be the last in using this plot device. I particularly enjoyed it because the comic book source is in black and white, so it was a bit of a treat to see the characters that way. I should point out here that I’m not expecting (nor judging) the series to follow the comics. Much in the way of Game of Thrones, there are two continuities to follow.
Rick doesn’t have a direct antagonist to deal with, but he does have flak left behind. Carter, a man who helped Deanna’s husband, Reg, built the walls is doubting that Rick has the best interest of the group at heart. At some point he even conspires to kill him. Eugene hears the plot and gets found out. Carter is aiming a gun at him as Rick and company walks in. It takes no effort for Rick to disarm him, but now what? It’s a tense minute as Rick reminds him who’s in charge – in the most vain and egotistic speech. Do you know who is it you’re talking to? This feels like Rick is back into a power trip. It takes one word from Daryl to bring him down from that high.
And that is because the comforts of Alexandria has soften some, but for others the idea of having a safe haven – a home, is something that they might not be ready for yet. Sasha and Abraham are driving on a car alongside Daryl, who’s on a bike, drawing the walkers forward. Abraham notices a few straying from the road and leaves the car to drive them back. It seems it’s now Abraham, and not Sasha, who has a death wish.
Glenn also has his hands full. He and Nicholas made it back from last season’s finale. Nicholas is a bit aimless, so he’s focusing on Glenn right now. In weirdly understandable way, Nicholas sees in Glenn an example to follow. When Glenn and new face from Alexandria, Heath are trying to clear a store full of trapped walkers, Nicholas’ actually comes back to assist. At this stage, Glenn is growing into a leader.
Rick does have a new ally and a mentor in Morgan. The tormented father has found some sort of inner peace, potentially taking the place of Hershel as the man who keeps Rick human. Morgan is not incisive, though. He’s there for when Rick needs him. However, at some point while building some of the deflecting barriers to keep the herd moving away from Alexandria, a bunch of walkers attack the builders. Carter is one of the ones asking Rick for help, but Rick seems to turn this into a test and tells them they can defend themselves. Morgan breaks rank, followed by Michonne and the rest and takes out the threat.
Rick doesn’t fare well in other exchanges either. After Pete’s son follows him and Morgan, he almost gets caught by walkers. Rick and Morgan come to his aid. Rick also tells Ron he can’t defend himself yet. Later on, he shows up at Jessie, saying he’s keeping his distance but wants to help show her and her boys how to shoot and defend themselves. And this is WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS. Rick can’t be close to Jessie. Rick can’t be close to Jessie and Pete’s children. Rick can’t be thinking he’s a savior. To paraphrase Jessie’s words, if they need someone to help them out it has to be anyone but Rick. The fact that Rick wants the events from last season behind him does not mean it has to be so. Jessie’s husband and Ron and Sam’s father died at the hands of Rick Grimes. Rick even decided not to bury Pete in Alexandria because he considers him a killer.
Back in the present, Rick’s plan to herd the walkers seems to be working. People crack a smile. Carter says it out loud. If you are long time fan of the show you know that the moment that people relax and say everything is going fine is the moment that… Yeah. Carter shakes Rick’s hand. Reconciliation. Carter will die in 5… 4… 3… Yeah he gets overconfident and moves on forward to get bitten by a walker trapped in a tree. And starts screaming. That derails the herd so guess what new bff Rick has to do now. He has to snap his neck. Morgan and Michonne exchange a glance. Morgan tells her he knows it had to be this way. Michonne agrees. That still does not make this a kodak moment.
With the derailment addressed (aka Carter was going to die anyway), the herding continues until a loud siren is heard. A loud siren coming from Alexandria. The herd of walkers breaks formation and scatter through the woods towards Alexandria. The plan is fucked. We never did cover anything related to this siren in any of the flashbacks. This appears out of nowhere.
Great storytelling in this episode. There’s no shockers, but we get back in the midst of things with all characters accounted for. Obviously, it sets up some great expectations for the next episode.
- Rick is back on his power trip. Which is it’s good we have Morgan. Rick may be too far gone to come back… or that’s what the show is going to make us believe. Deanna is giving him full control, which is not the best situation. She has to reign him in, or Morgan, or Daryl, or Michonne. However, I’m against doing one of those stupid “interventions” because that will go sour in a hurry.
- Glenn’s dynamic with Nicholas is kinda interesting. Nicholas is almost a child in his understanding. He has switched from bully to lost soul and now sees Glenn as a big brother. Nicholas requires adult supervision. I would almost group him in with Eugene.
- The scene with Rick and Jessie illustrates how patronizing Rick can become. It’s almost like he considers this a gift. The fact that he’s taking Jessie and her kids for granted might just fly over some people’s heads. Rick is blind to his own patronizing. He’s almost considering himself responsible for her and her kids. Why does it seem in Rick’s mind he’s about to step in a husband/father role? Yes, Pete was an asshole. Whether killing him was excessive or not is not the issue. Regardless on how you play it, Jessie has the right to be left alone. Please keep this distance. Please do not change this into a romantic relationship ever.
- Deanna needs to start making decisions with her head again. This will take time, but that might be a luxury we don’t have.
- The siren wailing from Alexandria that screws up the whole plan in the last minute can’t be an accident. The fact that it is not stopping tells me that something has happen to Alexandria, otherwise there would be someone to make it stop. I really hope this doesn’t turn out to be Ron or Sam or another kid just “accidentally” turning on a siren. This sounds more like an invasion.
That will do for now.