The Walking Dead: First Time Again Review

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead is adapted from previous source material. This review is not meant to compare similarities and differences between the show and comic. It’s meant to be read purely as a take on the episode as it stands.

That being said, SPOILERS AHEAD.

“I know this sounds insane. But this is an insane world.”

Eschewing the traditionally slower-paced introduction of season’s past, “First Time Again” dropped viewers right into the thick of things. The opening sequence showing off Rick barking orders to a team comprised of trusted allies and new soliders was pretty powerful, as Rick clearly embraces his role as leader. That role has generally been something Rick reluctantly embraces, but after the events of last season it’s clear he’s willing to step up and accept that people are looking to him for guidance. And that guidance is overseeing a massive plan that aims to reduce the threat of the impending walker horde by leading them away from the community.

The episode jumps back and forth between past and present, with the past conveniently delivered in a sepia-toned color. It was a little jarring at first, harkening back to when AMC re-released the entire first season that way. Once it was established as flashbacks though, it made a lot of sense and helped keep things clean as far as keeping track of what’s what. It’s pretty clear that the events leading up to the present were chock full of excitement.

Much of the flashback obviously filled in the gaps, but what was most powerful was how quickly Deanna seemed to acquiesce to Rick’s rule. A good chunk of last season was Deanna feeling out Rick and his crew, trying to decide whether or not they could be trusted. Deanna clearly felt she could trust Rick and the others, but there were actions that seemed to indicate he may have other motives at play. Rick has never really wavered on protecting those who mean something to him, even if it comes at the expense of other survivors. After the events at the end of last season, Rick’s message became abundantly clear to Deanna about surviving.

Rick defers to Deanna for decisions relevant to the community, but it’s pretty clear that Rick is running the show. Her support is what helps Rick rally support for his cause, however reluctant it may be.  What was most telling was Rick’s offering condolences to Deanna for her loss while brandishing a pistol on his waist and an assault rifle in his hand. Rick has essentially become someone who rules by fear, yet his crew have seen enough bad stuff to know its necessary. Every survivor who came with Rick clearly has little fear about such an ambitious plan to lead them all away; the survivors who were already in the community are the ones who are more fearful.

And that dichotomy of fear makes for a facsinating dynamic, seeing as how Rick’s group are pretty unphased by anything that comes their way. That difference was displayed best while building the wall at the intersection of Redding and Marshall. A group of survivors working on the wall are set upon by some walkers, which Rick seizes as an opportunity to give them a little test. Obviously they failed pretty miserably, offering up some fairly harmless shoves here and there before Morgan jumped in. This event was the catalyst for a mini-revolt on the part of a few of the resident community inhabitants, which was promptly squashed by Rick.

One of the more interesting “redemption” stories was that of Nicholas, who quickly became a foil for Glenn. Everything postive that Glenn stands for Nicholas seemed to be the opposite, sacrificing Noah to save himself and then trying to kill Glenn. For whatever reason now, Nicholas feels an almost unhealthy obsession with atoning for those transgressions. It’s possible that he’s actually coming to the realization of doing what it takes to survive, which would be a good thing for him and the other citizens of the community. Just about every citizen in the community just doesn’t know the way things are.

“First Time Again” is establishing a tone for the entirety of season six. That tone is that survival is paramaount and will likely come at all costs. It’s a lesson that Rick’s group learned a long time ago and it’s one that the community’s residents are getting a harsh taste of whether they like it or not. Despite the relative comfort of Rick’s group, there are some indications that some of his team are getting a little weary of the seemingly heartless decision-making. Daryl wants to bring in new members, while Rick doesn’t. Morgan and Michonne are getting a little concerned about Rick’s relentless approach to consider good in people first.

Rick recognizes the person he’s become and the decisions he’s forced to make. He also readily acknowledges that his plan to lead a massive horde of walkers away from the community is completely insane, but he views it as a necessary evil. And—despite a few hiccups along the way—the plan does seem to go off without a hitch. That is until the loud horn blares in the distance, alerting Rick and the others to the idea that the community is under attack. It’s likely that the assailants are the Wolves referenced in last season, but as of now it’s a little unclear.

If the community is coming under attack from a rival group, it will provide a clear direction for the season. Whether or not that direction maintains the fervor of the first episode remains to be seen. What is pretty established though is that Rick is the new, de facto leader of the Alexandria community. He’ll do whatever he feels is necessary to protect its inhabitants. How his friends react to his willingness to survive remains to be seen and will be an intriguing subplot for the remainder of the season.

4 out of 5 Stars


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