Directed by: Greg Nicotero
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Melissa McBride
Long time special FX maven Greg Nicotero directed the season six premiere of The Walking Dead and it shows. The zombies are particularly epic in this episode in more ways than one; they look ghastly, and there are hundreds of them. It seems like a fitting episode for Nicotero to take on. The episode picks up a few days after the cliffhanger from last year. The main story is buffed with black and white flashbacks that set up characters more fully and explains why the town is in the situation it’s in.
The focus of the drama is on Morgan and Rick reconnecting. Both men have changed; Morgan is more Zen like while Rick is less human and more hardened. The Rick characterization is where the problems begin for me. We’ve seen these scenarios where Rick goes off the deep end and some sage advice has to remind him of his humanity too many times, it’s played out. I do however appreciate the chemistry between Morgan and Rick and there’s at least one quiet moment that does really work between the two characters. Another moment that works is when Daryl expresses disagreement with Rick’s decision making. Many of the newer people begin to accept Rick as a leader while some that know him best don’t believe all of his decisions are the right ones.
Carol gets some weird scenes in this episode. She has been really great at covering how badass she is with this sweet mom-like exterior. The best examples of this character element can be seen in the last few episodes of season five. She doesn’t get much to do in this episode and when she does get screen time it feels like Nicotero just doesn’t know what to do with her. She seems like she’s going a little wacky in this episode and it doesn’t make sense. It really looks more like bad directing than some new character arc.
There are lots of flashbacks in this episode and they are presented in black and white. The black and white is kind of fun because it harkens back to the first and still arguably greatest zombie movie. The real reason for the lack of color is to quickly break the flashback versus current time scenes up. The contrast works for quickly keeping your feeling about place and time in the episode but somehow it all still feels disjointed and a little cold. There’s a cheat that introduces new characters we’ve never seen before. The cheat would be fine if these new characters brought something fresh to the table but all they really did is rehash a fight that we saw play out last season.
There are a few nice moments in the episode and some great special fx but overall this premiere suffered from pacing issues and being disjointed. It just felt like the creators didn’t know how to get everything moving. With that said the ending is really strong and does leave us in a place where some mysteries from season five will finally come front and center to the main story.