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TV Review: The Walking Dead 6.1 “First Time Again”
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Tovah Feldshuh as Deanna Monroe and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead
Episode 6.1 “First Time Again”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple & Matthew Negrete
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohen, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Chandler Riggs, Michael Cudlitz, Lennie James
AMC
Air date: Sunday, October 11, 2015, 9pm

Warning – SPOILERS for The Walking Dead Episode 6.1 “First Time Again.”

The end of Season 5 of The Walking Dead taught us that even after all the horrors people have faced in this post-apocalyptic world, that not only is redemption possible, but so is the ability to trust. In the premiere of Season 6, these themes are continued. Plus, it’s confirmed that, more than ever, Rick Grimes is always right.

The second part of Season 5 was centered on Rick and his conflict with the residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone. The residents had been hold up in the community since the beginning of the zombie outbreak, so they have no experience actually combatting the Walkers, and they find Rick’s survival tactics to be overly aggressive. Meanwhile, Rick thinks the Zonies are too complacent, and that is what will eventually get them all killed.

The 90-minute Season 6 premiere, “First Time Again,” is broken up between black and white flashbacks to the events starting from the minutes right after the Season 5 finale, and present-day Safe Zone, where, thankfully, everyone is finally on the same page.

In the black and white flashbacks, after Rick shot Pete in the face (at Deanna’s command, after Pete killed her husband, Reg), Deanna is now on Rick’s side, as are most of the other citizens. But, skeptical Carter still has his doubts about Rick, and not only does he NOT want to follow the former sheriff, he is hatching a plot to kill him! But, like all the other Zonies, Carter is naive and untrained, and is immediately caught in the act of treason by Rick and his group. Here is where we find out if the Rick has lost his humanity… and he’s hasn’t. He spares Carter, and tells the man he can work with them to survive.

In the present, Carter, who helped to build the wall at the Safe Zone, is working with everyone to design and build more fortifications for Rick’s new plan — to seek out the nearby Walkers and lead them away from the area. And why is this necessary? In the flashbacks, we find out that the whole reason why the Safe Zone has unbelievably remained safe all this time is that there’s a nearby granite quarry where the Walkers have been going in to and then becoming trapped. But, the blockade around the quarry is becoming unstable, which means that a massive attack on the Alexandria community is imminent. Sooner rather than later, the residents will be under siege, and even the most experienced survivalists like Rick and Daryl won’t stand a chance. They have to be proactive.

Most of the present-day storyline involves Rick directing the group on the plan — an “insane plan for an insane world.” But then the group has to enact that plan a day early when one of the trucks falls into the quarry, unblocking an exit. Daryl on his motorcycle, and Sasha and Abe in a car, drive slowly to leading the Walkers miles away, while Rick, Morgan, and Michonne shoot off flare guns to help attract the Walkers. Everyone has their orders, and miraculously, everything is running according to plan. Even Nicholas, who is a major screw-up, and who is someone who Glenn cannot trust (he nearly killed Glenn last season!), comes through to redeem himself. This crazy plan can really work. Except, a massive wrench is thrown into it that no one could have possibly prepared for. At the end of the episode, a blaring horn sounds off, leading the Walkers off the road, and straight towards the Alexandria Safe Zone where the most vulnerable citizens still remain! Who is sounding off the siren no one knows, but it’s the last night we hear as the premiere comes to a close.

Now, about Rick being right: Carter the conspirator tells Rick he was right about his plan and how they needed to learn to truly survive. Deanna, who was leery of Rick since she met him, says Rick was right about his predictions (and tells Father Gabriel, who tried to warn Deanna that Rick was trouble, that he was wrong!). Morgan, who has returned to the fold after a few seasons, tells Rick he was right about what’s happening in this new world of the undead and the living who are morally bankrupt. And, of course, Rick’s close-knit group — especially Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, and Carol — have always known that Rick and his intuition are right.

But, sometimes it’s not all that great to be right, especially when you predict that it’s too late for some people, like Carter, for instance, who Rick says “doesn’t get it” and that somebody like Carter is “gonna die no matter what.” And die he does, after his inexperience gets him bit right in the face by a Walker, and Rick, knowing that there is no alternative, must stake Carter through the head to not only put him out of his misery, but prevent the man from rising again.

Of course, every time Rick has to kill someone, there’s Morgan showing up right behind him to see just the last second of the altercation. That’s what happened when Rick shot Pete, and again with Carter. Morgan, who has been through many transitions himself, is there to remind Rick of his humanity, and of the man he was. That man is still there, for sure — it’s the man who spared Carter’s life when he had every reason to kill him — but there’s another side to him, the side that knows how to survive, even when it means having to make a difficult decision. But, even with all Rick has had to do, he’s still a good man, there’s no doubt about that. He’s not the Governor, he’s not like the Terminus people, or the rapist cannibals, or like the Wolves, who undoubtedly will return this season (they’ve been leaving their W mark all over the dead, and two of them attacked Morgan at the end of last season).

Some noteworthy things from the Season 6 premiere:

— A new character from Robert Kirkan’s comic book series is introduced: Heath, played by Corey Hawkins, who starred as Dr. Dre in this summer’s NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton. Health was one of the Safe Zone group who has returned from a run, and it’s obvious he will play a good part this season.

— When Health is nervous about enacting Rick’s plan a day early, he says, “This was supposed to be a rehearsal,” to which Glenn replies, “I’m supposed to be delivery pizzas, man.” This is a great callback to the young pizza delivery boy that Glenn once was.

— Rick finds Father Gabriel digging the graves for Pete and Reg, and tells him that they should only bury Reg there because they “don’t bury murderers inside their walls.” Reg’s widow Deanna comes out and agrees with Rick, and says to bury Pete outside. When Rick and Morgan go off to do this, Rick says they should just leave the body there, but Morgan starts digging the grave, once again reminding Rick of his humanity and of his true self. “I’m a killer, Rick,” Morgan reminds him, “I am, and you are, too.”

— In the previous season, Daryl had gone out on a run with Aaron to look for more survivors who could be assets to the Safe Zone. When they return, Rick tells Daryl that they shouldn’t go out and look for more people. That anyone already outside should be left to fend for themselves, but Daryl disagrees. Daryl has come a long way from the person he was, someone who everyone at thought was just as bad as his brother Merle. But, he has more of a moral compass than most of the characters.

— Carol continues to play the long game, pretending to be just a simple, happy-go-lucky housewife. Only Rick’s close group know that she is fierce and trained, is so much more than meets the eye. The Zonies all seem to take Carol at face value, yet soon after Morgan comes into contact with her, he sees right through her, much to her surprise. (Don’t look at the flowers, Morgan!)

— In their preparations for the zombie run, the Zonies finally come face-to-face with a walker attack on their community. It’s a small one, so Rick decides not to intervene, but to instruct the Zonies to fight their attackers. Unlike most characters we’ve come across in this universe, the Zonies immediately crumble under the pressure and don’t even try to defend themselves. Instead, they cry to Rick for help, but he tells his group to stand back. When things go south, Morgan steps in again Rick’s orders, prompting Rick and the others to jump in before anyone got killed. “You said you don’t take chances anymore,” Morgan says to Rick. From the outside, it could look like Rick was taking things too far, but it was a lesson that had to be taught.

This spectacular premiere of Season 6 far exceeded expectations, especially after its prequel spin-off Fear the Walking Dead failed to make us feel invested over the course of its six-episode run this Summer (I have higher hopes though for Season 2). The Walking Dead is just a whole other level. I felt this way after watching the series premiere five years ago — Rick Grimes IS The Walking Dead. He’s showed us that hope, trust, and redemption are possible even under the most impossible of circumstances, and his intuition is incredible. He’s a true leader you can feel really good about following. And those he keeps close to him are those who share his values and his journey, and they continue to learn from each other. And they are the ones we will always root for.

Welcome back, The Walking Dead, we’ve missed you.

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