‘The Walking Dead’: When the dead come marching in

The Walking Dead
“First Time Again”
October 11, 2015

Well, look who’s getting all artsy! This, the sixth season premiere of The Walking Dead, told two distinct stories both of which take place on the same continuum: the events that take place immediately following Rick killing Dr. Punchy, which is told in black and white; and Rick’s attempt to secure Alexandria … by putting it in peril, which is shot in color. To simplify things, I’m just going to take each storyline at a time, thereby destroying all the storytelling “nuance” the writers thought they were creating here.

Black & White:

As you might remember, Rick shoots drunk Dr. Punchy on Deanna’s orders, right after drunk Dr. Punchy accidentally kills Deanna’s husband, that nice architect fellow. And everyone gasps and screams and are in shock, but not Deanna who glares over at Father Traitor and informs him that he was wrong. THAT’S RIGHT, FATHER JACKFACE. YOU WERE WRONG.

Abraham carries that nice architect gentleman’s body outside the walls (? I think?) and between taking swigs of grain alcohol, plays with that nice architect’s wedding ring. Abraham is still having A Difficult Time, you see.

As for Dr. Punchy’s family, they too are having A Difficult Time, what with the whole Rick Grimes executing their father in front of them thing.

We also check in on Tara, who is recovering from her head wound she suffered on the fateful supply run where Lt. Dum-Dum and Joel Osteen got Everybody Hates Chris killed. She’s awake and doing much better to Dr. Mullet’s tremendous, and over-exuberant relief. When she jokes that someone needs to send Everybody Hates Chris in to protect her from Dr. Mullet, everyone is like, “uhhhhhh…”

awkward go on brett gelman

Meanwhile, Enid and Carl sit near each other while Rick’s Former Love Interest’s son, Ron, glares. “I GLARE AT YOU,” Ron says. “GLARE.”

As for Rick and Morgan’s long overdue reunion, Rick suggests that they chat in the morning, but not before being all, “HEY MAN, DON’T JUDGE. I CAN’T TAKE CHANCES ANYMORE.”

The next day, Rick checks in with Daryl on the scouting run that led him to meet up with Morgan, and learns that he and Aaron were trapped by the Ws guys. Rick orders that they put more people on watch and that Daryl and Aaron stop scouting. The people that are out there can fend for themselves. Daryl would like to disagree.

Rick then pokes his head into Morgan’s room where Morgan is practicing his jedi moves.

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When Rick asks where he learned this, Morgan coyly answers “a friend.” And that it was “after. After everything.” And then they talk about getting to know each other for the first time all over again.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mullet is manning the gates as a means to introduce us to a new character: Heath. Heath and his team have just returned from a supply run that lasted a couple of weeks, and after a half-second of hesitancy about letting them in, Dr. Mullet opens the gates before giving Heath props for his “hair game.” (To be fair, it is good hair game.)

Rick walks Morgan through the community, offering a little exposition on Deanna and the nice architect fellow and how the Alexandrians are a bunch of wusses. That’s when they come across Father Turncoat and Some Other Guy digging graves for our architect friend and Dr. Punchy. Rick protests that they don’t bury killers in Alexandria. Some Other Guy reminds Rick that it’s not really his decision when who should walk up but Deanna who announces that Rick is right, before ordering Rick to take “it” away.

Rick and Morgan load Dr. Punchy up into the trunk of the car while Ron Punchy watches and glares some more. As they shove the corpse onto the spare tire, Morgan uses zen koans to guilt Rick for the whole killing Dr. Punchy thing and reminds him that they both are killers, so maybe Rick shouldn’t be quite so judgey.

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Rick and Morgan drive the body outside the walls, where Rick wants to just dump it and be done with Dr. Punchy once and for all, but Morgan taps into his apparently unlimited reservoir of guilt to remind Rick that he’s not that kind of man. But before they can get into a further discussion of what kind of man, exactly, Rick is, they hear walkers groaning in the distance. When they investigate, they discover they are above a quarry filled with hundreds if not thousands of walkers.

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And that’s when Ron, who had followed them outside the gates, comes running through the woods, pursued by walkers, and Rick and Morgan have to save his foolish self. They then return their attention to the quarry situation, and realize that the only thing separating Alexandria and a shuffle of one thousand walkers are a few 18-wheelers, 18-wheelers which could go at any time. But they don’t have more time than that to worry about the quarry, because Ron stomps off in a huff. Rick is like, “OH NO, SON. NO SIR. YOU DO NOT GET TO GO OFF BY YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU WILL GET YOUR FACE EATEN OFF BY A FORMER DONUT STORE EMPLOYEE NAMED KIMBERLY.” And then all three go back and properly bury Dr. Punchy, because, as it turns out, Morgan is (sorta) right about what kind of man Rick is.

When they return to Alexandria and share what they found, this new Heath guy explains that he and his group actually came across the quarry scene a few weeks ago: it seems some survivors camped at the bottom of the quarry, using the trucks as gates to protect themselves. When this didn’t work and they turned, the racket they made as walkers drew more and more walkers in with them.

So Rick announces his Big Plan to Save Alexandria: They release all the quarry walkers! Who’s with Rick?!


But Rick elaborates on the plan: they’ll release the walkers and then Daryl and Sasha will lead them past Alexandria and everyone will be safe, the end. (Well, I mean, aside from Daryl and Sasha, who have to somehow get back through the herd, but we’ll worry about that when we get to it.) People begin to agree to help Rick with this plan, including Glenn’s new best friend, Joel Osteen — against Glenn’s explicit instructions.

nick volunteers walking dead

But there is one naysayer, Ethan Embry, who for a change of pace can hardly wait and is like, “Uh, guys? This is a terrible plan that is going to get us all killed.” “SHUT UP, ETHAN EMBRY,” everyone says. “JUST DO YOUR JOB, ETHAN EMBRY.”

And so Ethan Embry, who helped the nice architect fellow build the walls, agrees (for the moment) to help Rick build a barrier wall that will prevent the walkers from heading towards Alexandria at a particularly vulnerable intersection.

Working at the wall, working at the wall, working at the wall. As Carol passes water around to the workers, Rick urges her to stay behind in Alexandria, and Morgan asks her if she’s a cop, too. Carol narrows her eyes.

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Meanwhile, Maggie fills Tara in on the fact that not only did Joel Osteen get Everybody Hates Chris eaten, but he also lured Glenn outside the wall in an attempt to get him eaten, too. Tara, understandably, is like, THE HELL? but Maggie explains that this information is Tara’s to deal with now. She can go to the rest of the community and tell them what she knows, which will get Joel Osteen banished, or she can forgive him. You know, kinda like how Maggie forgave Tara for being party to the monsters who CUT OFF HER FATHER’S HEAD. Something to think about, Tara. Something to think about.

Rick checks in with Deanna, expressing his condolences for her loss, before being like, “But moving on, it’s time we arm and train every last man, woman and child inside Alexandria. The only way to stop a bad zombie without a gun is with a good 12-year-old with a gun.” But before we can get Deanna’s response, some forest walkers swing by to say hello to the construction crew. When Rick’s group wants to save the Alexandrians who are closest to the shamble, Rick stops them because teach a man to fish kill a zombie and all that. But stupid Ethan Embry nearly gets his face eaten before Morgan, et al, rush in to save him because he is a big dumb baby.

And to repay Rick and his group for saving his big dumb baby life, Ethan Embry secretly meets with a handful of Alexandrians to suggest that they kill Rick. The other Alexandrians are like, “Yo, I don’t know dude, that’s a little harsh,” and Dr. Mullet, who happened to be in the pantry at the time looking for Carol’s cookies, overhears the whole thing. Unfortunately for Dr. Mullet, he spazzes out and draws attention to himself, and Ethan Embry is just about to kill him when Rick busts in and is like, “OH HAI. You know, if you’re going to have a secret coup meeting, you really should post some lookouts, you big dumb baby.”

can't hardly wait hestitated

Rick effortlessly strips Ethan Embry of his gun. When Ethan Embry braces himself for his inevitable execution, Rick is like, “Nah. Just quit being such a big dumb baby all the time. Geez.”

Later, Rick and Morgan unwind with some quality baby time on Rick’s porch, and Morgan is like, “The Rick that didn’t kill Ethan Embry is the Rick I know.” But Rick corrects him: it’s not that he didn’t want to kill Ethan Embry, he definitely wanted to kill Ethan Embry for being a big dumb baby. But it occurred to Rick that he didn’t have to kill Ethan Embry because he’s going to die no matter what. On account of being a big dumb baby.

Rick then has an awkward moment with Former Love Interest in the armory while he’s picking up some flares for his little project. “Sorry not sorry about killing your husband,” he basically says. And Former Love Interest is like, “Whatever. Listen, don’t be awful to my kids, you don’t get to. Also, too, I’m going to learn how to shoot a gun, and then I’m going to teach my kids. Kthnxbai, but I don’t need your help.”

So everyone heads out to do a rehearsal of the “let’s free all the zombies, what’s the worst that could happen?” plan. Abe, who has decided to ride shotgun with Sasha, asks if she is doing this because she wants to die, and she’s like, “NOPE.”

Over at some building where Glenn, Joel Osteen and this Heath character have been stationed, Glenn warns Joel Osteen — WHO SHOULDN’T EVEN BE HERE — to not try to be a hero. He’ll have a chance to redeem himself for being such a ferret-faced jerk soon enough, JUST NOT NOW. GOT IT? (He does not got it.)

And Rick gives everyone a big pep(?) talk about how this seems insane, but it’s an insane world, and you have to come for them before they come for you, it’s just that simple.

And then Dorothy’s house lands in Oz and we are in …

Glorious TechniColor: 

“I know this sounds insane…” Rick says again, because it’s the same scene. He then details what they are going to do tomorrow when they execute this plan. Except physics has different ideas, and one of the trucks that is holding the walkers in slips off the side of a cliff and suddenly it’s no longer a dry run, it’s the real deal, everyone! MAN YOUR POSITIONS!

And what happens next should be scary and interesting and exciting! Thousands of zombies! Characters inches away from being set upon by a herd the size of which we’ve never seen! That should be full of tension and drama and be utterly terrifying!

Instead, it’s one long walker parade which shuffles along at the exact same pace as your local Shriners in the Fourth of July parade — except the Shriners in the Fourth of July parade are more interesting, what with their little cars and fezzes.

What I’m saying is, I don’t know how the writers made a herd of hundreds and hundreds of walkers boring, but CONGRATULATIONS, GUYS, YOU DID IT.

mission accomplished ad

Right, so after communicating with everyone that this is go time, and not a rehearsal, they release the walkers by driving one of the trucks away, and send up flares to alert Glenn and his group that they’re on their way.

And then Daryl rides his motorcycle in front of the walkers  … really … really … slowly.

Sasha and Abraham also drive in a car … really … really … slowly and talk about how they both are still struggling emotionally and how they both basically have a death wish. In one sequence which should have been exciting, Abraham jumps out of the car to kill some walkers who stray off the path, but then nothing of consequence happens.


The trickiest part of the walker parade is at the turn where Rick and the Alexandrians built a wall. Rick, Morgan and Michonne wait there, and to fill the time, Morgan accuses Michonne of stealing one of his protein bars the last time he saw her.

straight outta protein bars

She totally stole his protein bar.

Anyway, the herd approaches … really … really … slowly. AND THEN!!!! They make the turn.


Meanwhile, Glenn and his team are at some building that is filled with walkers whom they have to dispose of lest their banging and moaning distract the herd and pull them off-course. When they try to open the front door to just let one or two out at a time, they are stymied by a security gate, and forced to break open a window to allow the whole shuffle to come out at once. Glenn orders Joel Osteen to stay back, and tells him to call Rick if things go south. And then Heath has a whine about not being capable of doing this, but Glenn is NOT HAVING IT, and explains that he should be delivering pizzas right now, so.

Shooting at the walkers, shooting at the walkers, shooting at the walkers. At one point, Heath and Glenn start to find themselves in over their heads, but then Joel Osteen steps in and helps them and everybody is fine.


The more difficult parts of the plan taken care of, the entire group meets up in the woods. All they need to do at this point is monitor the parade from the sidelines to make sure the walkers don’t go off-course before they get past Alexandria, and then Daryl and Sasha will lead them another 20 miles away before turning back without getting themselves eaten or inadvertently leading the herd back with them. Somehow. Don’t worry about it.

Except some walkers have plans of their own, and begin wandering off into the forest having become as bored with this parade as we are. Ethan Embry heads off to go try to kill them, only to get his big dumb baby face bitten. Screaming in the woods, screaming in the woods, screaming in the woods. Rick finally catches up with him and is like, “SHUT. UP. GOD. YOU’RE RUINING EVERYTHING,” before stabbing him in the back of the head. Morgan looks on disapprovingly, but what is Rick supposed to do, Morgan? YOU GOT A BETTER PLAN, BUDDY?

R.I.P. Ethan Embry. I guess.

Anyway, the walker parade keeps shambling along until suddenly, from the direction of Alexandria, a horn begins to blare.

So, that can’t be good.

LOOK, before you get all huffy with me, I didn’t hate this episode. Hate is a strong word. But I am deeply impressed that an episode with a staggering number of zombies could be so draggy. I understand that we a lot of exposition to get through, which rarely makes for compelling television. And I also understand that to make the horn at the end of the episode carry a punch that we needed to believe that our protagonists had almost made it through the woods (so to speak). And I also understand that it was important to establish that Rick has not only taken charge of Alexandria, but had also had come up with a viable plan that might have worked. But couldn’t there have been one or two more harrowing moments in there? Or, at the very least, more of Carol threatening children? You know, the stuff that we come here for?

The good news is, as those of you familiar with the comics know, more action is definitely coming, and it looks as though it will come as soon as this next episode. So I’ll hold off on being too harsh about this season until we see how it all shakes out. (BUT THERE BETTER BE SOME MORE CAROL, OR WE RIOT.)

carol! sunny twd

As far the episode itself is concerned, there’s not a lot to dissect. As I noted before, this was a largely expository episode, one whose purpose is to introduce a few new characters, remind us where we have been, and set the stage for the rest of the season. There’s not a lot of time for much else. That said, I thought it was interesting that balloons made another appearance in this episode, having last been seen in last season’s penultimate episode, “Try.” At the time, I thought that the balloon that haunted Rick was supposed to symbolise the Alexandrians’ collective innocence and fragility, and was maybe a figment of Rick’s imagination. After all, why on Earth would the Alexandrians have a helium tank sitting around? Are they making Party City runs? But nope! The balloons are real and the Alexandrians must have an ample supply of helium, for whatever reason, as the balloons in this episode were only supposed to be rehearsal balloons. So remember, kids, when the zombie apocalypse finally happens, store plenty of ammunition, water and helium tanks.

The other interesting thing in the episode — and frankly, the only compelling moment — was the loud alarm that was raised up in the direction of Alexandria at the end of the episode, drawing half of the herd towards those left behind Alexandria’s walls. The symbolism of it bears a resemblance to the Old Testament story of the Battle of Jericho. In the story, God promises Noah and the children of Israel the land of Canaan. The problem, however, is that the Canaanites happened to be living there at the time. But when God promises you something, you get to just take it, which is what the Israelites did with the city of Jericho. The folks living in Jericho were already terrified of the Israelites, and closed up shop only to have the Israelites march around their city for six days. On the seventh day, the Israelites marched around the walls some seven times before blowing their rams horns and yelling and screaming, which, somehow, caused the walls of Jericho to fall. And once the Israelites were inside the city? They killed every single man, woman and child but one, Rahab, who had betrayed her people assisted the Israelites. So what I’m getting at is that if this horn attracts enough walkers, they can knock down Alexandria’s walls, and the (mostly) women and children inside are in trouble. Big trouble.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC at 8 p.m.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.

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