I missed the start of Walking Dead‘s sixth season due to familial complications, but after finally getting to watch it sometime later, I didn’t regret the missing coverage. You see despite being an hour and a half premiere (as Walking Dead is want to do) and using a fancy black and white gimmick, it was absolutely inconsequential. Viewers responded in kind, making it the lowest rated premiere in several seasons.
That’s what makes episode 2 so weird. It works much better as an episode overall, but I feel like the first two episodes could’ve been combined and it would’ve made a stellar premiere. Instead, we’re left with two halves of a story. Then again, at least it was interesting…even if we’ve seen all this stuff already on this show.
So last week we found out what was keeping Alexandria safe this entire time. Zombies have been gradually pouring into a nearby quarry, and after Rick stumbles on it, he recruits some of the gang and Alexandria folk to help corral them out of there. It’s a pretty stupid idea in general since it would’ve made much more sense to try and thin out the mass as much as they could’ve before letting them escape, but that’s beyond the point. It just means that most of Rick’s crew (save for Carol, Carl, Morgan, Rosita, Eugene, and whatshername) are out of the town for the moment. There was also this side plot where Nick Papageorgio was trying to conspire against Rick for taking over their town, but Rick shut that down pretty quickly before Papageorgio got his face bitten off. It’s pretty stupid all around. All potential plots brought up in that episode are quickly pushed aside in favor of more violence. Speaking of violence, this episode was full of it. But what makes it stand out more so than the general stuff we see on the show is how gruesome it really is when you stop to soak it in (which happens a few time in this episode).
As mentioned before, this episode is basically the season premiere’s second half (and merging the two stories would’ve fixed the premiere’s bloating problem). Carol gets to be a badass in more ways than one as she first shuts down some lady for complaining about her cooking skills (as Rick has given her the task of blending in with the townsfolk to figure them out), but these small moments don’t last long before the season’s big bads show up as the Wolves (folks with ‘W’ carved into their foreheads) run in and start slaughtering folks talking of freeing them from their way of living. It’s a pretty violent struggle between the two groups, but Carol and Morgan are really the only ones holding their own. Carol goes incognito (complete with “W” etched in blood) and slays a bunch of the invaders, and Morgan is still struggling with the fact that he doesn’t want to kill any living being despite the fact that these new enemies clearly pose a violent threat. It’s not like past enemies like The Governor’s folks (as those were just scared people), so these new bads are striving to kill. And not only kill, but mutilate, as we get glimpses of. As their name suggests, these guys are almost savages as their attacks don’t stop when someone is dead.
Beyond all of the action of the episode, there’s not really much else. So unfortunately, this episode feels incomplete as well. It’s great to look at as the well directed action is both fun and gruesome, but no one of consequence is ever in danger. At one point, Rick’s new love interest lady is in trouble and savages her way to safety, but I don’t care enough about her to care. Still, there are themes present that are more interesting than the usual creeping mortality the show drapes itself in. See the Wolves aren’t an interesting baddie because of their overt violence, but because Alexandira represents the first time the group’s ever been close to forming an actual society. They’ve had safe havens before, but Alexandria’s the closest to complete. But with nearly every townsperson dead, it’s pretty much a reminder of how there’s no such thing as civilization anymore. And the loss of that hope is much more gripping than “people are bad, Coral.”
Anyway, none of this will matter if the show can’t get us to care about anyone other than the big three characters. This episode had a B-plot introducing Alexandria’s new “doctor” Diane, but the dialogue during all of those scenes was so bad it held the rest of the episode down. The faux love triangle between Coral, Enid, and that abusive guy’s kid isn’t entertaining yet, so right now it’s just annoying that Coral’s probably crushing on someone who’s gonna die soon anyway. Now the big thing I have a problem with is Morgan. What is going on with Morgan’s character right now? I know the show’s trying to turn him into the focal point of the show’s morality, but this stupid wounded warrior schtick is grating. He magically shows up every time someone needs to be judged (like with Rick in the finale, when Rick killed Papageorgio before he turned into a zombie, and when Carol was killing Wolves) and it’s made him more annoying than not. The show’s trying its hardest to make him seem cooler with his dialogue (“Leave. Please.”), but it’s being underminded by his actions.
There are nuggets of good plot here, and seeing as how Alexandria is technically in tact before the giant mass of zombies make its way to the town, I’m sure that plot’ll be thrown out the window in favor of more wandering zombie action. If The Walking Dead gets better at balancing the zombie action with its character work attempts, we could be in for a good season.
- Enid gets a little more background in the episode’s cold open, and it’s fantastic. Quick cuts, the titular “JSS” (which ends up meaning “Just Survive Somehow”), and quite brutal choices make for an interesting look into her unknown character. Too bad she’s probably one of the Wolves. We all heard the little “We” she threw in when talking to Carl.
- Speaking of Carl, he needs a damn haircut already.
- Seriously, if you combined the two episodes it would’ve been a great episode. Tension built would’ve mattered, we could’ve eliminated all of the boring planning talks, and we would’ve just seen the plans in action rather than have to resort to black and white flashbacks (which didn’t even work as a storytelling device anyway as none of the flashbacks actually revealed things of use).
- But really, shut up Morgan.