Review by Gene
Season 5 of The Walking Dead was the highest rated season of the show thus far. In my opinion it contained the best premiere, a couple of the most impactful deaths (Beth & Tyreese), and the best reunion (Rick & Morgan) the show has seen. Considering our group was left in a bit of limbo in a new community when the season was brought to a close, there is no shortage of interest for season 6. As it played out, the season 6 premiere can be summed up int two words: building trust. (spoilers ahead)…
Trust between Morgan and Rick. Trust between Glenn and Nicholas. Trust between the original Alexandrian community and Rick’s newly arrived to group. And who can blame them? This man now calling all the shots is the same one they just saw covered in blood pointing a gun at everyone and shooting a long time resident in the face. Now he’s telling them they must go on the offensive and clear a massive herd of walkers before they are able to reach the town walls. Tough sell.
Central in the development of this episode was the rebuilding of the relationship between Rick and Morgan. Previously existing family ties not withstanding, Rick and Morgan have the longest held relationship of anyone on the show. Morgan has come to a place of relative peace from the last time Rick saw him, and places the highest value on human life now. “All life is precious, Daryl”, we recall him saying after he saves Daryl and Aaron from the trap set by the Wolves. Rick is constantly balancing his sense of ruthless protection and justice with his humanity. He is quick to take the life of nearly anyone at the moment they become a danger to the group. Morgan provides a well-timed counter-balance to the direction in which we saw Rick heading at the end of last season. This balance is evidenced in his handling of Carter (Ethan Embry) when he happened upon him threatening Eugene’s life. Had Morgan not been there we may have seen a different reaction from Rick when he came across an act of treason.
As the title suggests, both Rick and Morgan are coming at this for the first time again. Neither of them are the same men they once knew. No other dialogue between them in this episode better exemplifies that than what Morgan said to Rick as they were burying Reggie and Pete. As Rick describes the situation in the town you see a smug sense of boastfulness develop in him as he places his ideals and outlooks above everyone else’s. They’re not at his level. He and Morgan come across the burial of Pete and Reggie when Rick interjects, not allowing Pete to be buried inside the walls. As Rick describes to Morgan why he had to kill Pete, we have this interaction.
Morgan: “We do have a cell.”
Rick: “Not for killers.”
Morgan: “I’m a killer, Rick. You are too.”
As Rick settles into this realization, his developing savior complex takes a hit. In reality he’s no better than Pete. He’s a killer too. This is a reality none of us like to face in ourselves. We like to point at the other guy and show how bad he is while taking all attention off our own faults and flaws. What Morgan hit on was a gospel truth which many are never ready to admit. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23. We may not all be killers, but we’re all liars. We’re all prideful and full of lust and envy. We’re all boastful. None of us measure up to righteousness. Rick is no different.
I see the new development of Rick and Morgan’s friendship as a pivotal influence in the direction of this season. Even as this episode came to a close we have another controversial decision by Rick to kill a man putting the group, or at least their plan, in jeopardy. Morgan and Michonne both witnessed it and both, reluctantly, yielded to its inevitability. As the heavy-hitters of the group head back to potential disaster at Alexandria, the tension between the worldviews of Morgan and Rick will begin to take center stage in the coming episodes.
Episode Rating: B+
This won’t go down as the best season premiere in show history (that title belongs to the season 5 premiere), but it’s a solid one none-the-less. Greg Nicotero made an interesting visual choice of showing character and plot development in black and white, and “current time” events of leading the herd away in full color. I think this was a good choice in that it made a somewhat dull plan become more succinct as we were constantly brought back to what led up to that point. I didn’t like the choice to kill Carter. We now have no original town members as antagonists to Rick’s direction. Deanna is a shell of herself after her husband died in her arms and seems like nothing but a yes-woman for Rick. The only remaining inner-conflict is Glenn and Nicholas, which seems to be working itself out, and potentially Daryl’s desire to find more good people despite Rick’s aversion to the idea. Not much there, which could lead to fabricated inner-conflict. The conclusion of the episode was a terrific teaser. We’re left to believe the Wolves have descended on the town which is left almost completely unprotected. It will be a race for the major players to get back in time.