Welcome back, Walking Dead fans. If you were hoping for a lot of zombie action right out of the gate, the season 6 premiere certainly delivers. The episode also plays around with time a bit, showing us both the immediate aftermath of Rick’s execution of Pete in last season’s finale and the present-day events involving all that zombie action. But the most interesting part of The Walking Dead‘s season 6 premiere, “First Time Again,” is the introduction of Morgan into the main group and seeing how his relationship with Rick has changed since their last meeting back in season 3.
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A World of Black and White
Though the episode opens on a tense present-day situation, we also get flashbacks that show us exactly how things unfolded after the events of the season 5 finale. Rick, after almost being exiled from Alexandria, shot and killed Pete on orders from Deanna after Pete killed her husband, Reg. This is the situation Morgan walked in on when he was finally reunited with Rick and this is where the flashbacks pick up in the premiere.
Presented in black and white, the flashbacks show us that Rick has gotten so paranoid that he is afraid to trust anyone, even someone he knows, like Morgan. Morgan understands and does not protest when Rick locks him up in one of the houses for the night. Rick lets him out the next day so they can have a chat and get to know one another again.
Rick shows Morgan around Alexandria and they stumble upon Gabriel and Tobin burying Pete and Reg. Rick stops them, saying that they will not be burying Pete inside the walls. Tobin protests, but Deanna backs Rick up and tells him to dump Pete outside of the community. Morgan accompanies Rick on this mission.
Rick and Morgan pick a spot to dispose of Pete’s body. Rick debates just leaving him there without burying him, but Morgan says that is not who Rick is. Morgan starts digging the grave for Pete, but Rick hears something in the distance. Morgan and Rick check it out and discover hundreds of walkers trapped inside a quarry. Rick realizes this is why Alexandria has survived as long as it has. Most of the walkers ended up in that quarry instead of reaching the community.
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The Flashbacks Continue
Unbeknownst to Rick and Morgan, Jessie’s son, Ron, has followed them out of the community to see where they are going to bury his father. After they help Ron get away from several hungry walkers, Rick lets Ron know that if he leaves the community again, he will die because he does not know how to handle himself in the outside world. Rick and Morgan plan to take Ron back to Alexandria, but they decide to finish burying Pete first.
Once they get home, Rick tells the community about the quarry full of walkers and he explains that one of the trucks keeping the walkers trapped in the quarry is about to give way. When it does, all of the walkers will be free and headed straight to Alexandria. Rick says they need to deal with this problem and fast. One of the Alexandrians, Carter, tries to argue that they could just build up the defenses to keep the walkers out, but Rick knows that will not work. Deanna backs Rick up again and most people agree that Rick’s plan is the only option.
Rick asks for volunteers to help with the plan. Most of his group volunteer, but Glenn tells Maggie she should stay behind to keep an eye on Deanna. Carol will also stay behind to get the pulse of the community after everything that has happened. Some of the Alexandrians volunteer and they get enough people to make the plan workable. Despite Carter’s continued arguments against Rick’s idea, they say they need his help because he was there when Reg built the wall and he can help them build a similar wall to direct the walkers on the path they set out. Carter is not pleased about being drafted into this plan.
Rick gets the Alexandrians to help them prepare in advance of the plan. While they are building the wall, a few walkers show up and Rick tells his people to stay back. He wants the Alexandrians to handle it because they need to learn. Alas, Morgan intervenes before the Alexandrians can really do anything, repeating Rick’s words about not taking chances anymore.
Back in Alexandria, Eugene walks in on Carter trying to convince some of the other Alexandrians that they need to kill Rick before Rick gets them all killed. But poor Eugene lacks the stealth needing for spying and Carter finds him eavesdropping. Just as Carter is about to kill Eugene, Rick and the others walk in. Rick gets the drop on Carter and has the chance to kill him, but he shows restraint and lets Carter live.
Later on, Morgan praises Rick for giving Carter a second chance, saying that is the man Rick really is. But Rick confesses that he let Carter live because he knew a guy like that was doomed to die soon anyway. This is after Rick offers to let Morgan stay with his family in his home, having decided that he knows Morgan well enough to trust him around his family. Will Morgan continue to believe the best of Rick or will Rick’s current attitude make Morgan see him in a new, less flattering light?
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The Colorful Present
The Walking Dead kicks off season 6 with a fantastic opening sequence that finds Rick organizing his people and the Alexandrians in a dry run of the plan to steer those quarry walkers in a path away from Alexandria. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and they have to actually put the plan into motion ahead of schedule. Rick’s people are good to go, but the Alexandrians are less thrilled about not having more time to prepare.
Daryl is leading the charge to get the walkers moving. He is out in front on his motorcycle, using the noise to lead the walkers out of the quarry. Sasha and Abraham are close by in a car, helping him lead the walkers where they need them to go. Glenn, meanwhile, is tasked with dealing with some walkers in a nearby building. They are making too much noise and the group is worried that it will be enough to distract their herd of quarry walkers from the path. Glenn takes Heath and Nicholas to help him deal with these walkers, despite still not trusting Nicholas.
Fortunately for Glenn, Nicholas actually seems to have learned something and is genuinely helpful in taking walkers out of the building. Glenn and his group rejoin Rick and company to keep driving the quarry walkers down the road. Carter, who has begrudgingly come around to Rick’s plan after seeing how well it is going, is sent to the front to help direct the walkers. Alas, a rogue walker grabs Carter and stars chowing down.
Rick deals with the walkers attacking Carter, but Carter’s screams start distracting the other walkers and Rick tries to get him to quiet down. Carter keeps hollering, so Rick ends up killing him just as Morgan and Michonne come along to help.
The plan continues moving along, but then a horn starts blaring out of nowhere. The quarry walkers start veering off the path to follow the sound of the horn. Rick and his people try to figure out where the sound is coming from and they realize it is far away — far enough away that it sounds like it is coming from Alexandria. Rick and his people take off for home with the quarry walkers hot on their trail.
Who is blaring that horn? Is it some kind of emergency signal from the people back home or have the Wolves arrived to cause trouble for our people?
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— While most of the screen time in the premiere is taken up by the main plot, there are a lot of little emotional beats scattered throughout the episode. Abraham and Sasha have an interesting dynamic that highlights that they both might have a bit of a death wish, despite claiming that they are actually trying to live. There is also a fantastic scene between Morgan and Carol in which Morgan sees through Carol’s helpless housewife ruse to the warrior underneath. Rick and Daryl have a few conversations about whether or not it is worth the risk to try and recruit new people into the community. Daryl thinks they should take the chance, but he ultimately leaves the decision up to Rick.
— Toward the end of the episode, Rick and Jessie have a very intense chat where Jessie tells Rick that he cannot be the one to teach Ron how to survive because Ron will not listen if the advice is coming from Rick. Jessie tells Rick that she asked Rosita to teach her how to survive outside the walls so she can teach her boys. Apparently, she took Rick’s words from last season to heart and she is going to fight, but it is unclear where Rick and Jessie stand now.
— Another development in this episode is that the rest of the group learn that Tara has woken up. Seeing Glenn, Maggie and Eugene lighting up when they realize that Tara is okay is a highlight of the episode for me. Tara also learns about Noah’s death, Nicholas’ role in it and Nicholas’ attempt to kill Glenn. Apparently, Glenn told Maggie the truth about what happened with Nicholas, and Maggie decided to keep it quiet because she knows how people can turn their lives around. It happened with Tara, after all. Tara decides to follow Maggie’s lead and keep Nicholas’ secret so he is not exiled from the community. I understand giving someone a second chance, but I still do not trust Nicholas. Here’s hoping I am wrong and Nicholas will continue to step up and make amends for the things he has done.
— We also meet a few new characters in this episode, though the only ones who get any real screen time are the now-deceased Carter and Heath. Some fans will recognize Heath from the comics. Heath is the leader of a run team who have returned after weeks away. Eugene lets Heath and his team inside the gates despite neither of the men knowing the other, which seems like a big risk to me. Heath gives Rick some information about the quarry walkers and is one of the first Alexandrians to volunteer to help.
— Ethan Embry gives an excellent performance as Carter, but I can’t say I’m sad to see him go. Aside from a general dislike of the character, having Embry on the same show as Sonequa Martin-Green gives me flashbacks to one of the worst storylines in Once Upon a Time history. Greg and Tamara are better left forgotten.
What did you think of the season 6 premiere of The Walking Dead? Do you like the switch between the flashbacks and the present-day action? Did you like the use of black-and-white versus color to distinguish between the two? What do you think of Heath? What did you think of Carter? Are you surprised Tara and Maggie decided to follow Glenn’s lead and give Nicholas a second chance? Do you think that decision will come back to haunt them all? Will Rick’s group get back to Alexandria in time to help protect the community or will those left behind have to step up to defend themselves? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9pm on AMC.
(Image courtesy of AMC)