Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Walking Dead S6x1 First Time Again

Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
In the fifth season finale of The Walking Dead, its concluding moments left us in an epic wake of confrontations. Rick, drenched in walker guts, gave an impassioned speech to the community's members and its skeptic leader Deanna. He declared that they needed to learn how to protect themselves from walkers, asking how many of you would I have to kill to save you? Pete, an alcoholic husband Rick had a previous violent brawl with, interrupted his rally cry and slashed Reg's (Deanna's husband) throat with a sword. Soaked in her husbands' blood, Deanna delivered a swift kill-order. Without the hestitation or moral conscious Rick used to exude, he executed Pete. Just in time one of the show's favorite characters and mysterious madmen Morgan walked in to witness it.

Season 6 titled First Time Again commenced in a bigger way, much more than previous seasons. Past premieres have taken us on different joy rides, ones of escape or waiting for battles to begin. This debut was like a movie, setting a stage for the upcoming long dark road ahead; one that is more suspenseful than ever before. We don't quite know who to trust, when the villains will sweep in on our favorites, and if our anti-heroes will stop from becoming their own worst enemies. Steadily full of action and conflict as well as insight into the one and only Rick Grimes, the ground work was laid for what's to come.

A list of questions and favorite moments from this past week's episode is below. Please be aware of spoilers - consider yourself warned. Let me know what you think about the upcoming season in the comments below! Hope you enjoy!

6. Black and White versus Color
Producer/Director Greg Nicotero with Writer/Producer Scott Gimple made a highly unique decision to split the premieres' timelines into different color tones. The past was represented with black and white, and the present was shown in color. Though Walking Dead has had numerous plots and characters explored in previous episodes, only a few exhibited duo timelines. The fifth season premiere had two scenes showing how the cannibalistic chambers Terminus evolved, splitting the present from the past with simple title cards "Then" and "Now". That structure, to me, might not have worked here, the titles becoming too repetitive and wasting screentime.

The switch confused some who aren't familiar with greyscale movies or tv shows, but the switch was initially made to prevent that confusion that still rose. Can't win 'em all! I didn't mind the black and white tones separated from the color, though I don't think a full-colored episode would've confused me either. I'd love to see this style used again, only if the episode really called for it.

5. Out of Danger? Not Yet
Why hasn't Alexandria been pummeled by walkers? While outside Alexandria's walls burying Pete's body, Rick and Morgan found the answer: a deep, vast quarry filled with thousands of walkers. Trucks were blocking their passage from invading the community, but the barrier was only temporary; one heavy rainfall or continued over-crowdedness could lead to a major disaster.

The "present" timeline involved was Rick herding the walkers out of the quarry in an ingenious, if not impossible plan. Daryl with Sasha and Abraham headed the death march, guiding the walkers down a highway lined with the same barriers protecting Alexandria. The long road towards changing the tie of the walkers were most suspenseful scenes; one misstep could divert the walker's attention.

Of course, that what;s us hooked for next week. Just when we thought they were home-free, a blaring sound of a truck or car near home, began attracting all of the walkers towards Alexandria's gates. That long zoom-out in the fiinal moments was one of the best cliffhangers the show has had.

4. Father Gabriel, Denied!
Father Gabriel's ass was saved by Grimes' and the group last season on a few occasions. In return  for their aid, he tried to convince Deanna that they were murderers and didn't deserve "paradise"; casting himself as a saint and the others as helpers of Satan. This didn't work.

After Rick's impassioned plea from season five, and his ability to step up to the plate during the premiere, nobody is having Father Gabriel. Even when offering to assist the group in their mission, he was DENIED. But will this denial push Gabriel to get revenge or did he do so already by literally blowing the horn?

3. Get Into a Fight, Become Brothers
The last time we saw Glenn and Nickolas last season they were beating the holy hell out of each other. And, rightfully so: Nickolas lured Glenn into the woods to try to kill him, and Glenn showed mercy. As part of the unit helping Rick to collect the walkers, Glenn captained a team with Nikolas and a newer character Heath. They didn't break out into a fight or disagreements, but apparently after a fist fight nearly leading to death, bros just made-up about it.

The mercy and forgiveness Glenn shows towards others and saving their lives make him a palpable and underrated leader. But, is our hope for Nikolas already lost? Echoing Glenn's words in a previous episode, the core members of the group feel something like blood-relative to us. We've been invested in the them for so long; is it wrong that we want to cast cowards out and not hold onto a little bit of faith they may be good people?

Similar to my stance with Morgan (below), Nickolas reminds me of the prisoners Rick encountered in Season 3. He and his group were instructing them how to clear walkers and giving them their own cellblock. In return, the leader tried to kill Rick several times before well, you know, shit happens. After we begin to believe Nickolas is a changed man, will our faith backfire?

2. Is Morgan Trustworthy?
First Time Again evoked some heavy nostalgia and excitement for fans waiting to see Morgan reunite with Rick. Their reunion was a newish meeting of the minds for two characters who believe they know each other so well, but not as much as we think.

They've both killed people and walkers to survive. They both reached unstable mental plateaus and managed to come back. This allows them to share a self-awareness of psychologically shattering and rising again. But, Morgan's return has called for a belief in his apparent sanity. Declaring a zen-like changed state of mind that all lives are precious, has given us a reason to trust him. From our depth of seeing his camaraderie with Rick in the pilot, and then his mental anguish years later, he feels like one of the group.

Something to me found it difficult to trust Morgan - for now. The way he spoke to Carol about seeing through her nice act was one red flag. The other was when he approached Michonne about the last peanut butter bar she ate from his stash. Why not assume it was Rick's son - Carl? Why bring it up in the heat of battle against the walkers? It was a funny moment, but the way he is keeping tallies on people; his laser-like focus and observations that gives me hesitation. Rick said during the premiere he doesn't take chances anymore, but Morgan is a chance; a risky one; one that even they disagree about how much they know about the other. In a reality check, it's very little. Can we trust him?

1. Rick.
He was in fine form as a leader - even if he was too pushy. His stance still stems from a place of safety for the greater good, however, his readiness for others to protect themselves is turning them off - like Jessie, who has heeded his words but still wants to maintain her distance...since he killed her drunk, abusive husband and all.

Rick was transformed at the end of season four when he ripped out Joe's throat in order to save Daryl, Carl, and Michonne. That evening, clarity forced him to accept his brutal nature and doing what it takes to survive without carrying as nearly as much of the brunt he used to.

He could've flipped a switch to kill Carter, a member of Alexandria opposing leadership and even threatened to kill his group off. But, Rick chose not to. Instead he decided Carter is too clumsy and stupid to survive in this world anyways, and he'll probably have to kill him when the time is right; when he is bit and will turn. Which he did, without question; it was necessary.

Now, he understands people will die under his watch, by him, by a walker, by someone else. It's an insane world now more than ever. True survivors have to be willing to go after threats, or they will not make it.Rick confessing his feelings to Morgan, of deciding the life or death of another member was powerful, but sad and uncomfortable. We've reached a point where we can discern who will be an asset or mistake, clumsy and stupid versus sharp and tactile in our necessities to survive.

What about family - will he drop them like flies too if they are slowing him down? Is his decisive nature going to accelerate his or someone elses' demise?

Additional Notes:
  • Did anyone else catch that the ComicCon trailer to Season 6 was mostly the black and white scenes shown in color? Clever marketing bastards. This was a little disappointing because I hoped Rick's epic line “Do you have ANY IDEA who you’re talking to?” was going to be a huge unforgettable scene, and it was kinda swiped under the rug.
  • Eugene was exceptionally amazing in this episode - his humor was refreshing and I'm looking forward to what his exact role will be in Alexandria.
  • What is going on with Abraham and Sasha? Is that an affair in the works?
  • Will Ron (Jessie's teenage son) grow jealous over Carl's relationship with Enid?
  • Maggie's conversation with Tara about how Noah died, was beautiful. She instilled Tara as one of the most important people in her life, letting go entirely that she was on Governor's side when her father was slain. This is how they are giving Nickolas another chance because they gave Tara one.

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