The Walking Dead Review – “First Time Again” S6E1

This summer, the only thing we had to pull us through the TV slump was Mr. RobotFear the Walking DeadArrow, 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…

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 6

Pros:

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.

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 7

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.

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 3

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.

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 2

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.

Cons:

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.

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 8

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.

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 1

“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.

The Walking Dead - First Time Again 4

Predictions:

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 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.

The Walking Dead Review – “Conquer” S5E16

Another great seasons in the books! The 90 minute format for the season finale was spectacular, and I hope that AMC will continue to present finales like that in the future. I know that AMC likes to borrow inspiration from the comic books, but this episode’s core story (Rick vs. Alexandria) was almost ripped panel for panel from issue #77 of the comic books (we’ve included the panels below). The events in Alexandria up until Jesus arrives (issue #91) are regarded as kind of boring, but this episode showed that there are more than a few ways to make the subject entertaining until then.

Pros:

Still the good guys: The take-away from his whole kerfuffle is that our team is still “the good guys.” Sure, Rick went off the deep end, but there were several opportunities our crew had to completely slaughter the Alexandrians and the chose the high road – notably Glenn.

TV Morgan > comic book Morgan: Another great separation between the book and show is Morgan’s character. No longer is he the frail insane man we met earlier. He is a Transcendentalist now. He must have found Walden somewhere on his trek from Crazy Town. And he’s a freakin’ ninja.

The Walking Dead - Conquer 6

Minor characters made the big difference here: While the finale focused on the big showdowns (Rick vs. Everybody, Glenn vs. fuckboy Nick, Sasha vs. Gabriel), it was words and small actions by the characters who had the least screen-time that made the difference. It was Michonne and Carl’s words that made Rick decide not to go all “Option 3” on everybody. It was Rosita that brought Abraham and Eugene together again. Jessie was the only one from Alexandria to speak in Rick’s defense. And it was Maggie’s reassured hands that led Sasha and Gabriel together in prayer – arguably the most powerful moment of the show to me.

The Walking Dead - Conquer 4
Raise your hand is you saw this coming.

 

FINISH HIM!: Mortal Kombat fans will be plenty pleased with this episode’s creative fatalities. Whipping a chain to lop off three heads? Check. Decapitating a mofo with an Alaskan license plate? Hell yeah, license plate collecting just gained a whole new generation of collectors. And then there’s my absolute favorite: sticking a gun all the way up inside the rotting head of a corpse and pulling the trigger, while the insides shower you from above. It’s pretty disgusting, but in a creative way.

“Like at Terminus”: No, Rick, not like at Terminus. This is “Option 3” from Gotham all over again. Why is the next step to grab the leaders and threaten to cut their throats? You saw how well that worked at Terminus, and those were actually the bad guys. Rick has been finding a reason to overtake the camp since day one, and I’m glad Glenn could put it in perspective for everybody.

What did the five fingers say to the face??
What did the five fingers say to the face??

Abraham, the eloquent: I don’t know how he does it, but Abraham Ford knows just the right words to tug at heart strings and make me laugh uncontrollably. When the mood gets too harsh, Abe reminds the citizens that there is a “vast ocean of shit that people don’t know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit… and then some.”

Eugene and Abraham bury the hatchet: Abraham repeatedly slapping things out of Eugene’s hands has become a household joke here at Hush. There was even a cosplay idea to just follow one of us around and continuously slap water out of Eugene’s hands. But in all honesty, it was really good for the show to have them finally take a moment and talk things through – especially after the transformation Eugene has gone through lately.

The Morgan-Rick dynamic: As happy as we were to see old friends reunited, Rick and Morgan have taken on completely different paths since they last saw each other – not only in skill, but in psyche. Morgan’s zen-like approach to the Wolves at the beginning (we’re assuming he trapped them in the car to buy himself some space, but we’ve heard other theories, too) is so far left of Rick’s presumed response of “kill them all, brutally.” I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

The Walking Dead - Conquer 3
Donatello still lives on!

 

Cons:

The hype: I know the stars have to do something to hype up the season finales, but this one was a bit much. Nobody important died. I didn’t need to bring my Kleenex. The anticipation of somebody dying (it could have happened multiple times with multiple characters) altered my expectations of the episode change, and so, when nothing happened, I left feeling a tad dissatisfied. It’s like when the people ahead of you in a roller coaster tell you it’s going to be the most terrifying ride ever – even if it’s scary, it’s still not as good as if you had no pretext.

How have the wolves not been mentioned yet?: So it’s not just me, but multiple people in the group have had run-ins with the aftermath of The Wolves. Mutilated bodies, desecrated communities. You would think that somebody would have to mention that “hey, there’s a roaming band of psychotic assholes out there” to Alexandria. Or even to each other.

Oh yeah! And there's a group of people mutilating bodies not too far from here.
Oh yeah! And there’s a group of people mutilating bodies not too far from here.

Still a better love story than Twilight: Jessie and Rick are the most boring story on the show right now. The connection between them doesn’t feel nearly as organic as in the comic books. He wants to play alpha male and take the most attractive female as his mate. Meanwhile, Jessie just wants the R. It’s not romantic, therapeutic or entertaining. Bleh.

What is this, Survivor?: Too much pre-apocalyptic television is to blame for this malarkey. The one-by-one story defense on why they shouldn’t vote Rick off the island is just dumb. It took the town hall thing a little too seriously. It looks like it worked, though, and both Pete and Reg were voted off in Rick’s stead.

Come at me, bro: Carol’s complexity has turned her into a frighteningly-unpredictable character. After throwing Rick under the bus like that in front of the group, I’m not so sure that she’s not playing double agent. If she’s turning into a sneaky two-timer, her stock will plummet for me.

The Walking Dead #77 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
The Walking Dead #77 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

Sasha is so emo right now: How sad and dead inside do you have to be to lay down in a pile of corpses? We get that she’s really sad about Bob and Tyreese – I mean, Rick went bonkers for half a season… But Sasha isn’t Rick, and watching her incrementally break down with PTSD is just as scary as it was with Rick.

The Walking Dead - Conquer 5
Life is pain… I think I’ll lay next to some corpses.

 

Glenn and Maggie are a couple, right?: In the books, Glenn and Maggie are inseparable. They are the Jay-Z and Beyoncé of the zombie apocalypse. In this show, they barely speak to one another. It’s a letdown, as there aren’t really any other couples left in The Walking Dead (aside from Aaron & Eric and Abraham & Rosita) aside from our power couple, so why is the show afraid to let love in?

Easter Eggs & Tidbits:

Morgan’s staff: Just as Michonne flicks the blood off her katana after a fresh kill, Morgan tries to do the same by cleaning off his bo staff. However, he finds it much more difficult to wash out the blood, which is perhaps a metaphor about how each stroke affects the characters. Because of Morgan’s past, wiping the sin clean is a more difficult thing to do for him. Also, Michonne’s sword has now slaughtered two close human characters, Herschel and now Reg.

Pete’s drunk murder: Long, sharp objects are not toys, and when Pete stumbles in drunk to get angry with Rick, he accidentally slashes Reg’s throat, almost an exact parallel of the comic book murder of Douglas’ wife Regina’s murder.

The Walking Dead #77 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
The Walking Dead #77 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
TWD 77 rick do it
The Walking Dead #77 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

 

Alexander Davidson: The origin of Alexandria began with this man right here. Aaron mentions him by name and details the story of how he was exiled for his manipulative rule over the community. It’s a theory that The Wolves are led by Davidson, as they follow similar scouting tactics as Alexandrians do.

Father Gabriel shirt: During Father Gabriel’s stroll, which included a walker kill, a good cry in the fetal position, and a tussle with Sasha on the ground, his shirt stays white. There’s no way that was an accident – these writers are too clever. I played around with the idea of purgatory, that God is mocking him by keeping his clothing pure and white. I don’t know; I’ll leave that metaphor up to somebody with a better theological point of view.

I don’t need my sword here: Michonne played around with the concept in the book, and that’s just what it turned out to be: playing. As much as she wanted Rick to blend in and accept the new system, there had to be a part of her that knew the world outside the walls were still as dangerous as ever.

TWD 80 sword
The Walking Dead #80 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

 

Face full of Band-Aids: If you’re thinking to yourself, “there’s no way Rick needs that many Band-Aids,” then you would be right. However, after the scuffle with Pete in the books, both Rick and Pete must have shared a toilet paper roll between them to put their faces back together.

TWD 77 rick bandages
The Walking Dead #77 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

 

Predictions:

Domino effect of bad crap: There was a lot of shitty things set into motion here. If the TV show continues to directly follow the comic book lore like they have been, it would appear that The Wolves are going to be the group of DC Scavengers found around issue #75-80. Their tactics are congruent with those of the Wolves, and they even use the same “you got it, I want it” mentality. Engaging with them also brings on a massive horde of walkers to Alexandria, killing several key players (including Douglas) and giving Carl a big ol hole in the head in the process.

However, in the TV show, they are much more frightening and sadistic. Also, the wall is much shorter in this rendition of Alexandria, and The Wolves seem much more intelligent and sneaky than in the books. Knowing that AMC wants to drag out The Walking Dead forever, we know that they will want to make The Wolves the main antagonists for the first half of Season 6, but there’s also a lot of The Saviors (Negan’s group) in this group of bad guys, so blending the two stories together seems logical since not much happens between the DC Scavengers and meeting Jesus.

TWD 75 trapped
The Walking Dead #75 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

 

TWD 78 little pig
The Walking Dead #78 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

 

Glenn is going to regret not killing Nicholas: Once a snake, always a snake. Glenn has turned the cheek too many times. He may have bought whatever coward’s loyalty he gained from not killing Nick this time, but he’s bound to switch sides on The Survivors the first chance he gets. In the comic books, his coupe for power is met with “Do you have any fucking idea who you’re talking to?” and a good punking, but things were pretty close to going the other way, too. Watch out for that guy…

Steven Yeun at Emerald City Comic Con 2015
Steven Yeun at Emerald City Comic Con 2015

Music from the Episode:

The song that made the walkers boogie oogie oogie into the food trucks was “Love and Mercy” by Gazelle Twin. You can find it on the upcoming Season 5 soundtrack, here, but below is the original Brian Wilson track.


 

Hush Comics gives “Conquer” a A- for doing the phrase “season finale” justice without needing to go over-the-top with a key characters depth, and showing us that The Survivors are still the good guys. It just could have done without so much fluffing.

All images belong to AMC and are credited to Gene Page.