When we last left our intrepid heroes at the end of Season Five, Rick Grimes was in quite the pickle, with blood on his hands literally and figuratively, largely responsible for the murder of Alexandria co-founder and wall builder extraordinaire Reg and directly responsible for the murder of Reg’s murderer, his crazed wife beating drunk of an adversary Pete. Flash forward a bit and Rick is back in in the begrudging good graces of Reg’s wife and town head honcho Deanna, leading a team of familiar and new faces to solve the issue of an nearby zombie infested rock quarry that threatens the lives and well-being of the Alexandria residents.
After the (in my opinion) failed experiment of boring “new coke” spinoff Fear The Walking Dead (the “Joanie Loves Chachi” of Walking Deads) , the Walking Dead classic formula returns to its fall season Sunday night glory relatively unmolested. Parading around with his face all bandaged up like Marv from Sin City after last season’s ride out a window and subsequent brawls, Rick’s days may be numbered back in the role of hard decision making badass pragmatist if the previews showing Morgan calling his leadership into question (the seeds of which are already being sewn) are anything to go by but right now he’s firmly in what I like to call “Comics Rick Mode”, as opposed to, let’s say “Pussy Jack From Lost” mode as far as being a wishy washy pain the the ass goes.
Rick gets a current challenger in the form of Carter, played by former 90’s teen star Ethan Embry, he of Disturbing Behavior, Can’t Hardly Wait and of course, Empire Records fame. Between Embry on TWD and Liv Tyler on The Leftovers, it feels like Sunday night TV is being invaded by the former ER crew. Maybe the bald chick will show up on Homeland. This ain’t no Rex Manning Day though, and given the usual fate of those who think they know better than Rick you can probably guess how things turn out for ol’ Carter.
Speaking of Lost, several flashbacks make up the bulk of this episode, conveniently rendered in black and white, getting viewers up to speed on what happened in between the Season 5 Finale and the present day. It’s an interesting plot device and striking visual gimmick but after a while the episode as a whole falls prey to “FX Syndrome”, where an show’s length is extended artificially using scenes that probably were best left on the cutting room floor, a ’la the agonizing final season of Sons of Anarchy. Thoughtfully editing this Premiere into the usual hour-long run time probably would’ve made for a stronger presentation overall.
And speaking of the comics (as we tend to do ad-nauseam, because this website is called Riot Nerd, not Riot Well Adjusted Adult), Heath (played by Straight Outta Compton’s Dr. Dre, Corey Hawkins) makes his debut here in fine form, he and Eugene even having a short aside about their similarly ridiculous panel accurate hairstyles, and constant talk of this newly discovered “zombie herd”, a constant threat in the books, is also refreshing. Steven Yuen’s Glenn moves more into his continued hard ass leadership role, which will be awesome to see until comics villain Negan shows up and well, uh… yeah.
Regardless of minor nits though, it’s Walking Dead, so you know it’s good. Ever since the Sophia burst out of the barn midway through Season 2 this series has been the closest thing to a sure bet on all of TV and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. Happy Fall, Happy Halloween, and Happy Walking Dead!