‘The Walking Dead’ Wows With Season Six Premiere (TV Review)

[rating=9.00] “First Time Again”

“I know this sounds insane, but this is an insane world,” we hear against an all-black screen, before cutting to a shot of Rick overlooking a quarry full of walkers. Clearly the show looks to be wasting no time after the excellent season five finale, complete with the Lord of the Flies-esque ending when Morgan walks in on Rick performing an execution, proving that this show is capable of still surprising viewers despite its straight-forward premise.

“First Time Again” is told in a fractured timeline, and pulls it off to great effect. While we’ve seen flashbacks to life “before,” and they dabbled in it during season four, having to semi-retcon The Governor’s story after a glaringly flawed season three finale, it’s done remarkably well, with black and white shots intercut to catch up the audience into the integration of Morgan, as well as how the tide has turned in Alexandria since The Ricktatorship 2.0.

We meet a handful of new characters, who are rushed in their introductions, but somehow still feels organic. Most of the Alexandrians have taken to Rick as their leader, save for Carter, who second-guesses him, even plotting against him in secret. Even Daryl disagrees with him on the notion that they now become insular, instead of roaming around, actively seeking new members, but begrudgingly admits “it’s your call.”

For an episode that’s able to pull off a fairly complicated narrative, it’s a fairly straightforward premise: lead the quarry full of walkers out and away from the community. It’s a plan with lots of moving parts, and the back-half we see it in flashbacks. Building walls, fortifying a path, and a utilizing the size of their community to do so. Okay, so it’s not entirely subtle, but even at the show’s best, subtlety is not its strong suit.

It also sets the stage for a potentially dynamic season. Carol is still playing the innocent housewife roll, though it’s not fooling Morgan. Maggie tells Tara about their importance to one another after being on opposite sides of the fence on what she calls “the worst day of my life.” Glenn takes a chance on Nicholas, despite the whole attempted murder thing, in the interest of survival in numbers.

Most interesting, of course, is the second reunion between Rick and Morgan, who always seem to meet under the most extreme circumstances. While Morgan had become some kind of post-apocalyptic Kane, wandering through the world with a notion that all life is precious, to Rick, who’s really about a half-step away from psychopathic warlord. Despite their polar opposition, Morgan is the one who reminds him “I’m a killer, Rick. You are, too.”

Once it draws to a close, flawlessly merging its two timelines, and keeps the level of tension at Breaking Bad-levels for the full 90 minutes, before leaving you a satisfying blend of a cliffhanger and a twist ending. In a show to find its stride so late in the game, “First Time Again” feels like a reinvigorated series and the beginning of something great.

Then again, they’ve always had great season premieres, before the regular, boring season.

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