The Walking Dead: 601 “First Time Again” Review
Reviewed by Owen Bush.
The Walking Dead is now a legend in drama TV, its roamed the streets for years with its religiously high ratings and every-year AMC confirms it savaging another record to become almost definitely the most popular apocalyptic show ever to air. For me, TWD has ranged from being daring, crucial and sophisticated in its attempts to distinguish itself from other zombie thrillers, to a little tedious, sometimes repetitive and a little boisterous in its use of death to convey shock and public-appreciation. The premieres, however, have always been high-octane, thrilling and sometimes, surprisingly the best episode in the whole season. The sixth season opened with “First Time Again”, and luckily, it didn’t fall away from that crucial pattern, but, it didn’t have some aspects of some of the less-intriguing episodes of TWD, and whilst it’s still another spectacle of a premiere, it still left me quivering with doubt for the season to come.
First Time Again felt like a rebirth of the actual usage in conveying horror through the show’s main theme which, of course, is the walkers. For a while now, I have felt like they were almost toys for the creators to mess with, to create bad-ass visuals and a background to the dread that comes from human interactions rather than the sense of urgency to run from these feverishly horrific beings. The sixth season premiere felt very honest with its use of the walkers, as if, yes, Rick and his team were, for the most part, suitably well acquainted with several different ways to kill them, but no, the walkers were still very much in-control of their life, for, throughout the episode, they’re the topic of political debate and reasoning – the lifeless beings toss life and death for the group incoherently, without even realizing.
The premiere introduced something that the show could’ve done years back, and that’s the concept of a muddled chronology, twisting the present with the past to amount to an abyss of mystery and tension – to find out how it all links, and where those links correspond to the fate of the future. I’m still torn on whether I liked the black and white filter plonked on the top of the usually bold palette of colours, for, it almost felt like the majority would’ve been able to understand the difference between past and present anyhow, the lack of colour almost felt like AMC was shoving the message in our faces – we get it, it’s the past (to be fair, on some of the comments I’ve read on articles people were confused at the chronology, so maybe AMC knew that people would get even more bewildered without the obvious cliche). These scenes tended to work really well, especially at the beginning of the episode, for, it seemed as if we couldn’t see how they ended up in the mess of hordes of zombies, and I grew brilliantly impatient at trying to connect the dots, and for the most part, being entirely wrong. The mystery returned to a show that began to grow a little predictable with its sequences, especially that of that whopper of a cliffhanger, which solely worked perfectly as an introduction to the following episodes, almost as if a part two of the premiere was only a week away.
Unfortunately, though, that predictability didn’t fade completely. Carter, as a villain, seemed only a rehash of previous events in Season 5, however, on a much smaller scale – it almost felt like his death was looming, and he didn’t even have any of the substance and intrigue that at-least made Season 5B’s villain Pete Anderson a little antagonizing (and I mean, very little, c’mon, he was no Governor). It felt like a villain wasn’t needed in the episode, for, the walker-driven activity was far more exciting and fascinating to watch, it felt a little unnecessary and because of his death, the whole past sequences felt almost subsequently irrelevant, with Carter’s death more of a moving point for the coming plot, rather than something that felt meaningful and truthful.
For me, one of the highlights of the episode, and something that made it stand out far-more than the constant switch in perspective in Season 5, was the subtle, yet delicate and intricate developments of character. It didn’t feel directed, or in-any-way purposeful to the plot-development, but rather, like they were a group and that they were facing those issues together, whether it be Maggie confessing her sadness to Tara over Glenn’s forgiveness, or Sasha and Abraham pondering over their need to better themselves – it flowed naturally, rather than the inconsistent partings of Season 5. Furthermore, of course, the big questions raised at the end of Season 5 was that of Morgan and Rick’s friendship, and this, didn’t seem melodramatic or cliche in First Time Again, their friendship and bonding felt fragile, almost as if they were learning the differences and similarities between each-other, and consequently, how they can lead from one-another.
Whilst a little inconsistent in the effectiveness of the transitions from past to present, the whole build-up of tension and discreet horror was a clever and resourceful way of engaging the audience with the upcoming season and for them to continue to tune in every-week for both their gushing zombie-action and also, the hearty, raw and elegant scenes of the exploration of human nature. This week, it was leadership and the trust we put on someone, who, we may not have known for long. Andrew Lincoln, once again, showed us why TWD has such a gripping center, and that’s with Rick – who continues to be as fulfilling and captivating than ever, because he’s so real to human emotion. Rick, finally, taking charge against those who deceit him with an almost generous and menacingly confident plan only to fall against the dominance of fate stands true upon many of us, whom, against our confidence and best-intention, understand that some things just don’t work out.
And things royally did not work out. With a sharp and cruel turn-around, Rick was only a pawn in the bigger game, with possibly one of my favourite ever cliffhangers in TWD history and all that conquered it to hit that 1st place was a cryptic and fairly casual horn that eerily roamed the forests. It was so brutally unexpected and subtle, that it wasn’t till I realized that I had no idea which direction they could go with this, that it became that ever-bit-more epic.
Inconsistent, and both repetitive and predictable at times, The Walking Dead premiere “First Time Again” was not perfect, but luckily, its dark intention and cryptic motive moves it towards a new era for the show – one of far more originality and horror. Filled with a rather-missed sense of mystery, the premiere did have me hooked – whether it be by its reintroduction of dread from the walkers, or the sincere human emotion poured out through our trusted characters. With a brutal cliffhanger like that, I certainly will be waiting in eager anticipation for next week’s episode.