This summer, the only thing we had to pull us through the TV slump was Mr. Robot. Fear the Walking Dead, Arrow, and The Flash have all been disappointing at best. But The Walking Dead brought back some quality television. It seemed impossible to follow up Season 5, but the episode not only succeeded, but stayed on a par with the level we ended with last March. Without further adieu…
Thank God F*ck the Walking Dead is over: The sense of excitement, chaos, absolute gore, music, color scheme, and terror the perfect introduction after the severe disappointment of Fear the Walking Dead. And all of that just took place in the first five minutes. Can we also talk about character development, story sequencing, and the use of suspense to create terror? Fuck you, Fear the Walking Dead. I hope you are all dead at this point in the ‘pocalypse.
Still the good guys?: It’s beginning to become clear – much more so than in the comic books – that Rick is not a good guy. Sure he went off all half-cocked and beat the shit out of Pete in front of the whole community, but that was a victim of passion. In this episode, he’s plain cold-hearted. Refusing to bury the guy you shot in the face? He’s not even making friends amongst his own people anymore.
Rick is a total Shane: While Morgan has gained a sense of calm “after” via the bo staff and meditation, Rick has spiraled into an aggressor. Morgan is the Season 1 Rick Grimes while Rick is now the Season 2 Shane. Additionally, Rick makes comments that seem like what The Governor would say.
Hair game proper: It was funny, but note, Eugene: Dreadlocks are much different from your mullet. There is no game whatsoever in a mullet.
Real talk with Morgan Jones: “I’m a killer, Rick. I am and you are, too.” The ability for Morgan to call out Rick is a rarity in this series. The problem is that any time any one from “our” group has called out Rick, he has turned out to be right. Morgan “knowing” Rick but being a group outsider will hopefully allow for a voice of reason in our anti-hero.
Protein Bars: One of the best moments in the episode was the exchange between Michonne and Morgan about his last peanut butter protein bar. Not only did it break up the tension, it was true. Michonne did actually take Morgan’s protein bar.
Tara/Nick parallel: Glenn saves people. That’s all there is to it. Tara would be prison chow if Glenn didn’t go out of his way to rescue her from her miserable situation. And same goes for Nick. Although, Tara was much more caught in a bad situation than Nick, who created bad situations, but when you’re a good guy like Glenn, you just save people. Shoot, even Rick Grimes owes his life to the pizza boy.
Use of black and white for flashbacks: From the first scene of the replay of Rick’s crime switching from color to black and white, and the use of black and white a color through out to signify time was a brilliant use of medium. Even more so, it was absolute fan service (in a good way) and a great homage to the comics, which are all drawn in blacks and grays only.
This plan is kinda stupid, but it was forced to be: The first go-through, it was a little unclear about why the plan of driving the walkers out 20 miles was even a plan. And while that was the plan all along, upon the our second viewing, we realized that when Rick and the Alexandria compound groups showed up, they did not expect to have to herd the herd that very minute. Carter yells, “This was supposed to be the dry run!” and Heath says “This was supposed to be a dry rehearsal.” With the latter line, it was pretty clever for Glenn to say “And I’m supposed to be delivering pizzas.” It’s a pretty good metaphor for life, pre and post zombie apocalypse. We are all supposed to be delivering pizza, but instead we are doing what we need to do to survive.
Alexandria is full of pussies: Rick may have been a tad bit of an ass, he is also kinda right about the people of Alexandria and their quest for survival. His power play of showing that A) the people of Alexandria don’t know how to handle walkers and B) that Rick and group do (and so well) is proof that they need Rick as much as he needs those walls.
Building the Walls (AKA Character): We could go on and on about the use of black and white, but one final piece about it: The black and white flashbacks provided great character insight and therefore development. Something we sometimes lack when things are too fast-paced is development, so the quiet moments paired with the action and how people react allowed for a lot of great reflection. Additionally, when Rick had a gun to Carter’s head, he admitted that the community was about him. He has used the other group member’s name for so long, but rarely admitted that this is about himself. Finally admitting that was a big thing for him and a show of self-awareness.
Where’s Carl??: Our only mention of Carl is when he is sitting with the Wolf girl and Ron looks on. While I understand that we are supposed to gain sympathy for Ron because things keep getting taken from him (he family unit/dad, his girlfriend, his community), The Walking Dead is the story of Rick Grimes. Most of what informs Rick’s decisions are based around Carl, Judith, and the safety of both. It needed to be mentioned why both children were virtually missing this episode.
Daryl’s passive-aggressive response: After such a strong bonding moment last season (ya know, where Rick took a bite out of that one dude’s throat?), Rick and Daryl should be like THIS. The way Daryl handled the situation was super childish, especially considering he missed the opportunity to call bullshit when Rick said that people out there need to learn to survive on their own. Excuse me, Rick??
The Wolves are not a priority… At all?: There have clues dropped for a half-season now. Massacred bodies, truckloads full of corpses, decimated communities… not normal shit. But also not really a concern to the group. I can understand that there is a more pressing matter at hand, but shooting off dozens of flares when you know they’re nearby is moronic.
Where were they leading the walkers?: 20 miles out? And then what? Were they going to be just corralled there until they all escaped again? What is their plan as far as Daryl on his open bike and 1000’s of walkers? It doesn’t make sense.
Easter Eggs & Tidbits:
A budding romance: With both Abraham and Sasha bonding over the previous tragedy, it seems like they are getting close in more than a natural way. I mean, just a bit ago, Sasha was lying in a pile of bodies. And now they’re giving each other winks and smiles. This could be the affair from the comic books that split Abe and Rosita. By the way, where was Rosita? That’s okay, we don’t care either.
F*ck Wit Dre Day: Welcome to the show, Heath! Viewers may recognize actor Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton, where he played Dr. Dre. Heath is a big deal in the comic series, so look for him to stick around a bit, unlike that Noah asshole.
The Crystal Ship: Whoo! A BrBa reference! While it wasn’t the exact model of Walt and Jesse’s methmobile, it was a reminder that AMC does/did other stuff than TWD.
“That isn’t the only reason”: The f*ck’s that supposed to mean, Maggie?? We think she’s preggo. That would sure fit in with the comic book storyline. It’s also uncomfortably close to the demise of one beloved character… Too soon, AMC!
Father Gabriel’s new purgatory: As big of a dickbruiseface as Father Gabriel was by narcing on the group, you can’t help but feel bad for him. He was confused and afraid, but those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Let’s just say that Gabriel gets shit on a lot this episode. Deanna tells him he was wrong about Rick and Rick straight-up dismisses him when he asks if he could help out.
Morgan’s friend: Who is Morgan’s friend? Who taught him all those fancy moves? Well, you can bet your sweet ass it wasn’t Donatello. All signs point to it being none other than Paul from the Hilltops… Or Jesus as he is commonly known as. That would open A Larger World to fill in the gaps.
Eugene, world’s worst spy: Have you ever like Eugene more than you did in this episode? He is a buffoon, but he is our buffoon. In the books, it’s Glenn (much less adept and clumsy Glenn) that stumbles upon the conspirators in the book. In the comics, Nicholas (coincidence? I think not) beats the crap out of Glenn and goes a bit ballistic on the town before Rick arrives and gives his speech.
Carl turning a blind eye: Ron got that super creeper look on his face. Maybe he figures that if Rick takes his dad away (useless piece of poo that he was), Ron will get back at Rick by taking Carl away from him. Of course, Carl now has the power of puberty on his side, but all signs are pointing to him getting shot in the face.
Wolves at the gate: There’s no way that The Wolves aren’t the ones causing issue for Alexandria at the end of the episode. It’s pretty obvious that they’re the ones that set up the trucks, and I’m guessing they were prepared for the truck to topple. Maybe they were using the walkers for bioenergy? Who knows?
Wolves used quarry for “safe keeping”: Heath said there were “maybe a dozen” walkers last time he was there. Plus, the only other time we have seen semi trucks in the series was when Daryl and Morgan got caught in the semi truck trap. Was this whole plan devised by the Wolves? Including the horn?
Hush Comics gives “First Time Again” an A for use of sequencing, character development, and allowing the audience to feel in a constant state of fear.
All images belong to AMC and are credited to Gene Page.