By now, hopefully all The Walking Dead fans have watched the Season 6 premier and have had a chance to read and watch all the commentary that hit the internet and entertainment shows before and after Sunday night's episode. The amount of attention the episode received is no surprise given the hype and great marketing the network engaged in to promote the new season. Also, for those of you who watched Fear the Walking Dead, you got to catch many glimpses of the premier. I don’t know about you, but those glimpses had me counting down the days to this past Sunday.
That wait, although frustrating, was well worth it. After watching Sunday’s premier, I was reminded why I loved the show so much, and why I felt something missing from FTWD. Don’t get me wrong; FTWD did a great job easing the gap between the summer months and the fall season opener, but now that I got to enjoy another episode of TWD, I got to pinpoint that missing element.
Because we know the zombie apocalypse takes place, and we knew FTWD was going to show how that happened, there wasn’t a feeling of “something big is about to happen, and it’s about to be epic.” I waited for that, but it never came. What the series did do though is provide background and it set the stage for the violence aspect we saw in the season opener of TWD, a theme that has remained important to the show.
Before I get into that theme in TWD, however, I want to speak about that feeling I mentioned and the cinematography used for Season 6, Ep. 1.
One of the reasons I got so intrigued with TWD in the first place relates to the tightening feeling that happens in the pit of my stomach from the time an episode starts to the time it finishes. I don’t realize it's there though until that thing I’ve been waiting for happens, or until the end of the show when I realize the characters I have come to care about are still alive.
As some of the readers stated in my last discussion on FTWD, we’ve had six seasons to get close to many of the characters, and at this point, I’m fond of all of them. My particular favorite though is Daryl. He’s not a character in the graphic novel, so I’m always left wondering if he’s going to last. Additionally, the writers of the show change things up from the comic book, so we never know how drastic of a change will occur. I think it’s safe to say many of us have been shocked more than once with the show, including the time Carol tells Lizzy to “look at the flowers” and when Beth loses her life.
This episode, the writers and directors went all out, and that feeling set in immediately thanks to the use of flashback. From the get go, the tension builds because we witness some action unfolding and have no idea how the characters got there, or how things took place. We do know by now that we’ll get that information since this method has been used before, but the depth of that back story creates the suspense. This time, we witnessed that depth in black and white.
I liked that approach, and the black and white element had me thinking about the movie Pleasantville where people exist in an artificial reality, which is why the story starts out in black and white. The main characters, however, influence that reality, and as a result, color appears to highlight that change. Alexandria, in essence, is similar. It's an artificial community where people see things in black and white. They know there are walkers, but they know nothing of surviving the walkers’ world. They also fail to understand that survival is fleeting. Rick and his group change that, and like the people in the film I mentioned, the Alexandrians don't know how to react and they're overwhelmed by fear. Rick and the group do understand, so they try to help the community face the truth. Although Rick's approach is abrupt, it's necessary. Despite being abrupt though, he tries his best to keep the residents up-to-date on things, including the quarry filled with walkers nearby and his plan, with their help, to herd the walkers away from the community. That quarry is the reason Alexander has existed for so long, but the residents get overwhelmed by fear.
This fear gives way to stupidity (no surprise) when one of the residents, Carter, tries to convince some of the other Alexandrians to kill Rick who has survived the worst kind of humanity that exists in this new world. To Carter and some of the Alexandrians, Rick is a violent madman who shoots Pete, a husband and a father, in the face without flinching. They don't consider Pete the same man who beat his wife and kids and caused the death of Deanna's husband, Reg. Instead, they see a man and his group who are a threat to their peace and way of life; however, they don’t realize that peace and way of life can’t last in the apocalypse.
In the world of zombies, reality is the color of ash, death, blood and chaos, and when some of the Alexandrians witness this color for the first time, their facial expressions speak volumes. Additionally, Carter losing his life to a walker is no surprise because he failed to face reality. His death validates Rick’s comments to Morgan about the weakness of the people who haven’t experienced life beyond the walls. He explained overall that those individuals who fail to conform to the violence of reality don’t make it, and he called it right.
However, walking that line of violence can be dangerous. As stated previously, on one side of the violence spectrum exists the savage “other.” The individual (s) or group who have no logical thinking and exist outside the realm of humanity. Savages engage in useless violence that destroys communities and societies. They are the plague on humanity that has to be extracted before chaos ensues. On the other side, there are people like the Alexandrians. They’re the weak who depend on others to save the day. In our world as we know it, that’s where the government and corporations exist. They’re the people who have others do their dirty work. In the center resides the hero: the person willing to do what has to be done to solve a problem and rid the world of the savage other. However, if the hero isn’t careful, he or she can fall into the savage category, or into the weak one. We've witnessed Rick go the weak way, but now, he's going in the opposite direction.
In an apocalyptic world, however, savages control the world, and it’s up to those people left with their humanity to try and survive. They can’t beat the dead, and they can hope to win against those living savages who have become worse than the walkers, but that’s it. There's no other option, so those who have survived have to become the savage to fight the savage and find their way back afterward. Sometimes, it's hard to come back after falling that way too many times.
Therefore, it’s no surprise Rick treads on a fine line between hero and savage. We’ve witnessed his internal battle repeatedly. He lost himself to weakness after losing Lori, but the people who loved him, particularly Hershel, helped him find his way back. Now that he’s teetering on the brink of the savage and Hershel is gone, it makes sense that Morgan, who fell the same way, has returned to the scene to help Rick, although he may not know it.
“I’m not the same person. You don’t know me and I don’t know you,” Rick tells Morgan after their reunion. Morgan appears to agree, and throughout the show, he observes Rick. Viewers can tell the man who saved Rick's life and vice versa is not happy with what he sees. Now that Morgan has regained his humanity, it appears he will try to keep Rick from completely giving in to the savage within. What Morgan may not realize though is Rick has had no choice but to accept the savage within because of the things he and his group have experienced, and what he has to do for the survival of his family. He knows it, accepts it and understands it, so only time and more episodes will confirm if Morgan does the same.
With that being said, the season opener didn’t disappoint. The old clenching of the stomach muscles, the dramatic emotion of the characters, the violence, the conflict, the amazing cinematography that makes the apocalypse and zombies seem so real and the feeling of, “I wonder who will die next” are back, and I can’t wait to see what will happen this Sunday.
Previously, I gave FTWD ratings because it was a new show and I didn’t have a bias towards it other than it happened to be a spin-off show for TWD. That’s not the case here, so instead of me rating it, I’m going to ask you, the readers and fans of the show, to do so.
Every week, I will post my analysis and thoughts, and ask you to do the same. I hope you will join me. I will also try to post my discussion on Mondays, but please be patient and keep in mind we sometimes have a lot going on at San Angelo LIVE!, and with only two writers and our publisher who will take on stories when he can, things can get a bit hectic.
Now that’s out of the way, talk to me San Angelo and TWD fans. What are your thoughts on the season premier? What do you think of Morgan and Rick’s relationship? What do you think will happen to Alexandria and its people after Sunday’s ending? What are your thoughts of the black and white approach to flashback? Also, who are your favorite characters, and who do you think will die this season? How would you rate the show?
I look forward to reading your rants on the first episode of Season 6.