I will freely admit that my life got in the way of me delivering timely recaps of the first three episodes of The Walking Dead’s sixth season. As I sit here and reflect on last Sunday’s shocking ending (or, near ending) and think about how all three episodes covered different aspects of one epic day in the lives of these survivors, I’m sort of glad it happened that way.
The fact is that we must first give the creators and producers of this show an old fashioned 80’s slow clap for the production values associated with bringing us what amounts to a movie every week. Whether they’re sixty of ninety minutes of drama and gore, they are incredible achievements. This season’s opener, with its deft use of black and white to delineate between past and present in the show’s timeline, was a thing of beauty. There was tension from the get go, and neither the characters nor the audience were given time to catch their breath as we watched Rick have to hurry up to implement a plan to redirect a humongous herd of walkers, that had been trapped in a quarry, away from Alexandria.
As we watched the native Alexandrians implode under the stress and in many cases lose their lives due to inexperience and refusal to do what Rick said (hi, guest star Ethan Embry! Oh, um, bye, Ethan Embry!), we learned that those left back at home were stressed in a different way. We watched Jessie and her sons cope with the loss of Pete, while Deanna was still in shock over Reg’s throat being slit in front of her. Rick and Morgan got to know each other again and reached enough of an understanding to move forward. But as the episode wound down, and it looked like the plan was working, a very loud horn freaked out everyone, including the walkers being led away. Suddenly, half the herd was heading toward the noise, and it was coming from inside the walls of Alexandria. All I could think was that someone was trying to sabotage the mission and get Rick and his folks killed.
That first episode also established the fact that Glenn is on a mission of his own, to rehabilitate the terrible Nicholas. Glenn is good people, and that’s why we love him almost as much as Maggie does. Another person he once believed in enough to trust when he might have killed her instead was Tara, since they met in the whole prison melee when she was on the side of the Governor. Now, Tara is awake after her near death experience in the disaster that lost us Noah. So, clearly his instincts paid off that time.
The brilliance of episode two was that we didn’t pick up immediately with the noise, and it was easy to forget for a while that we were even waiting for that answer. We spent a quiet bit of time observing Enid, Carl’s treehouse-mate and fellow teen, and seeing how she came to be knocking at Alexandria’s walls. She has a mantra–“JSS” (Just Survive Somehow)–that she puts everywhere she can, and her origins are still slightly ambiguous when she and Carl are forced to hole up in the house as Alexandria comes under attack. Attack from whom, you ask? That would be The Wolves, who have made it inside the walls and are murdering suddenly and viciously, slashing though the town with abandon, but with no guns. Morgan, who has come back from the outside group, and Carol, who is officially as badass as they come (especially when things look most bleak), are the only hope these untrained individuals have.
We find that Morgan would rather stun and frighten and injure his attackers than actually kill anyone, which is a very dangerous proposition with these crazies. Carol is the polar opposite, able to kill the Wolves and put wounded Alexandrians, destines to die and turn, out of their misery without hesitation. We also spend some time with Jessie, who embraces her own inner badass while killing an intruding Wolf with a pair of scissors. If Rick ever gets back to town, we can’t imagine how turned on this news will get him.
About halfway through the hour, we discover the origin of the sound–it’s a truck horn jammed by a zombiefied driver laying on it. Spencer (Deanna’s other son) is not quite up for the task of dislodging it, but luckily Morgan happens by at the right time. After a battle that takes place throughout the hour, we find that Morgan, Carol, Rosita and Aaron have eradicated or scared away the Wolf threat for the time being, but we have an idea they might be back.
The third hour of the season finds us back outside town, with Rick and company doing damage control and just trying to survive the walkers who’ve broken off from the herd being led away as they head back to town. Rick is racing to an RV, Glenn is with Michonne, Nicholas (ugghh), newcomer Heath and a ragtag crew of Alexandrians who might as well be wearing red shirts. The entire hour, in retrospect, seems like one huge foreshadowing of Glenn’s demise, with parallels carefully drawn between those we’re just meeting and the pizza boy we adore.
His enduring humanity catches up with him, as his trust in Nicholas, both as a worthy ally and a halfway decent navigator, proves to be his downfall. While Michonne is left with the others and Rick has to fend off stray Wolves in his RV, Glenn is led by Nicholas into a literal corner while trying to find a building to burn down in order to distract a mini-herd. There is only a dumpster for the two of them to stand on as the walkers close in. When Nicholas proves to be the coward we knew he always was and blows his brains out, he takes Glenn down into the pit of walkers with him. What the internet is speculating and hoping is that somehow the guts being gobbled up are not Glenn’s and he’ll live to fight another day, mostly because his apparent death seems like a rip off for one of this show’s most beloved characters. It wasn’t nearly the epic setpiece we feel he deserves, nor the heroic demise we expected to witness. Speaking of which, no one lived to see it happen, so Maggie will never believe her husband is dead without proof.
We won’t have to wait long to see how things turn out, but there is another 90 minute interlude tonight that appears to focus solely on Morgan and how he ended up in his current mindset. It may sound sort of dull, but with this show, that’s not possible for long.