Well, whatever accusations get levelled against The Walking Dead this season, the Season 6 opener has certainly ensured that ‘boring’ won’t be one of them.
Starting off at an abandoned quarry that has since become full of thousands of walkers, ‘First Time Again’ is essentially one long (albeit slow) action sequence, putting into action Rick’s plan to somehow divert them from their expected destination of Alexandria.
This may be a new year, but if anything this seems more like the part B to Season 5’s part A. It became a different show in the interim period between the Governor’s attack on the prison and the group’s capture and subsequent escape from Terminus.
Very much in evidence are the lingering effects of last season: suspicion at Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is still high after his execution of Pete; Nicholas (Michael Traynor) is equally mistrusted after his betrayal of Noah and assault on Glenn (Steven Yeun), and in general, no one is having a good time.
Yet at the same time, things seem to be getting better. With Morgan (Lennie James) now around, acting as Rick’s moral compass, he’s definitely less brutal, as evidenced by his mercy towards the merciful (although inevitably still doomed) Carter (Ethan Embry).
In the new world of The Walking Dead there seem to be new rules, as evidenced by Maggie (Lauren Cohan) pointing out to Tara (Alanna Masterson) how they’ve ended up on the same side, despite initially being opponents, and that the same courtesy should be extended to Nicholas. It’s a world defined by practicality, and ultimately by one man’s worldview: Rick’s.
Although it’s his show, we still get time for a lot of strong character moments: a gung-ho Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) irritating the still cold Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green); Eugene (Josh McDermitt) giving his seal of approval to newcomer Heath (Corey Hawkins): (“Good to see someone like me. Fully respect the hair game.”), and Carol (Melissa McBride) continuing to keep up the façade of concerned motherliness.
So it’s a case of so far, so good. Introducing the new status quo while providing a suitably intestine-pulling cliffanger, ‘First Time Again’ definitely does its job well.