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The Walking Dead, Ep. 6.01, “First Time Again”

The Walking Dead, Ep. 6.01, “First Time Again”

The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 1, “First Time Again”
Written by Scott M Gimple, Matthew Negrete
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on AMC

“That’s how it is. You always think there’s one more peanut butter left.”

One thing that you have to love about The Walking Dead is that every season there’s a new stake and a higher cost to consider for our survivors. Every season has seen Rick’s world get smaller and smaller, starting with herds on highways and the Center for Disease Control basically throwing in the towel at the mercy of the zombie apocalypse. Now Rick’s world has gotten so much smaller, as has everyone else’s. It’s always been a wonder to Rick and everyone else why Alexandria has remained untouched and generally oblivious to the outside world and the infected. Rick accidentally gets an insight into that question when he and his comrades discover a massive quarry that’s managed to trap about ninety percent of the surrounding walker population and keep them trapped between a bunch of cleverly placed trucks and RVs.

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But all that has changed as the erosion of the quarry has allowed the dead to seep through. The leak signals the dead are heading for Alexandria, making survival in the land of the dead ten times harder than it ever was, and Rick has to work fast and become the basic bastard of Alexandria. “First Time Again” is set a few days after the finale of season five, which saw Morgan walk in on Rick executing Pete in cold blood. Murder and execution can change even the noblest individual, but Morgan’s entrance has signaled a somewhat symbolic return to the status quo. Morgan is still familiar with the Rick of old who used to think twice before hurting a human being. Now Rick is doing whatever it takes to assure the safety of Alexandria, and it’s a terrifying notion to behold. Morgan is a changed man who has centered himself and somewhat relieved the guilt of allowing Duane to die at the hands of his zombie wife, and this slowly mounts into a conflict between him and Rick.

The Walking Dead S06E01

Rick has changed massively since the night he shot Pete, and this is jarring. Hell, I am somewhat disappointed with how Rick has changed his idea of survival, despite still being a man I’d follow into hell’s bowels. Rick has decided he’s not about to let anyone take Alexandria from him, thus he’s willing to take on dissension from local citizen Carter. Carter attempts to stage a coup against Rick and his allies, which goes disastrously. Rick is headed in the realm of the Governor and even Shane, to where murder is becoming a means to an end. What’s making the journey into darkness so much more complicated is that he has an army of people willing to talk him down off the ledge. Morgan is slowly speaking up, and even Daryl is willing to talk to Rick, preventing him from shooting Carter when he finds Carter planning to take him down. I’m not sure I like that Rick is willing to stop recruitment for Alexandria. This can’t lead to any good consequences, especially with his most loyal soldier Daryl.

A few weeks ago, Rick was feeding ground up acorn to his toddler daughter, and now that he has power over Alexandria he may be turning away other starving children and desperate families. Despite that, I still keep the faith in Rick. He stumbles, but he definitely has a plan, and the best intentions. How long will it be before Morgan decides to rope Rick in? How long will it be before Daryl defies Rick and goes out to find more survivors? How long will it be before one of Rick’s clan decides to stage their own coup? Rick’s decisions are becoming a test of loyalty for the group, as he begins practicing some methods that seem convenient at first sight, but are cruel. Along with abandoning recruitment, he also decides to bury killers and criminals in the woods (granting him a few bonafide enemies), and even almost sacrifices a few of the town’s workers just to teach them how to fend off a zombie attack.

The Walking Dead S06E01

But in the end, it’s going to become a struggle for the audience and characters. Rick’s methods seem harsh every now and then, but he’s also concocting grand plans to save Alexandria and keep its walls up. This includes the massive parade of the dead to herd them from the quarry into another location entirely. The epic scale of the sequence is both unnerving and awe-inspiring, as Daryl leads the charge on his bike. Abraham even exits a car at one point and begins wrangling in stray walkers. Gregory Nicotero keeps getting more and more ambitious as The Walking Dead becomes more and more his pet project. “First Time Again” has a double storyline in which we assemble the pieces of what’s happening to our characters with flashbacks. As an ode to the comics of sorts, the flashbacks are shot in stark black and white, and they key us in on some truly interesting moments of character development.

We get to see how Eugene truly feels about Tara when he walks in on her fully conscious and coherent (the heartbreaker of the night is when she asks for Noah to come protect her), we understand what Maggie and Tara feel about Glenn allowing Tyler to survive after he tried to kill him in the forest, and we get to meet Heath, finally. Corey Hawkins portrays the hero from the original comic books with pitch perfect precision, posing as a force to be reckoned with who will also befriend much of the original cast members. Keep an eye on Heath. If the show is wise enough to portray him the way they’ve portrayed Michonne and Glenn, he’ll become a fan favorite very soon.

The Walking Dead S06E01

“First Time Again” plays fairly coherently, with a timeline that’s compelling and absolutely engrossing. I wanted to see how Morgan would adjust to this new society, and he seems about ten steps ahead of everyone else. Despite Rick having to isolate him for a while, their interaction is golden, as he becomes an immediate team player and obliges Rick with a Q&A about how he’s lived since “Clear.” Morgan immediately begins bonding with Daryl and Michonne and shockingly, even seems to see right through Carol’s suburban façade. He’s never met her, but he is one of the very few people that know what she’s up to. Can you really be an oblivious Suzy homemaker after all you’ve seen in the apocalypse? Even the sheltered denizens of Alexandria aren’t completely myopic to what’s outside.

A lot of “First Time Again” gladly plays out like the comic books, with the return of Morgan, the introduction of Heath, and the attempted coup. While some of the roles have changed, much of the dynamic is there, allowing for more insight into Rick’s mindset and willingness to keep Alexandra. Much like the comics, he even declares, “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?!”. Much of “First Time Again” relies on answering the larger questions about Alexandria, and Morgan’s ability to cope with meeting his old friend. Now onto the smaller, more pressing questions, like who taught Morgan how to stick fight, and where those damn Wolves are lurking. Personally, I think the horn in the climax of the episode is Pete’s son seeking some revenge against Rick and Morgan, but the popular opinion is that it’s the Wolves coming to really mess up Alexandria’s serenity. Only time will tell.

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