I had plans for this weekend. I was going to buy groceries and go to the Brooklyn Book Festival. I was going to get shit done.
But then I remembered season six of The Walking Dead is now on Netflix. Plans were scrapped and groceries were ordered online. These are my quick takes after each episode.
EPISODE 1: FIRST TIME AGAIN
Ethan Embry. Oh, Ethan Embry! Such an underutilized actor in Hollywood. You are still my favorite actor in That Thing You Do! I perked up when I saw your face in Deanna’s house. I knew right away that the show was pulling a Nikki and Paulo by putting you there, overreacting to Rick’s plan. You weren’t there last season. I would have remembered.
And what of Rick’s plan? I’m with you; it seems a bit over-complicated. I mean you have a quarry full of walkers so why lead them somewhere else? Two words: fire bomb. Yes, I know. I can hear Rick saying, “Light attracts walkers.” “They’re too close to the compound.” Wah, wah, wah, Rick. You’ve got hundreds of walkers and maybe a dozen people. How many cockamamie schemes do you need to go wrong?
Speaking of wrong… Is it just me or does that pit o’walkers seem familiar? I mean, maybe it’s the use of container trucks, but I feel like the same guys who trapped Glenn and Kenny G at the end of last season might have something to do with these fellas. They’re kind of like the chickens raised on those massive chicken farms where they get no natural sunlight. They’re just being herded for something later.
I didn’t like the format — the cutting back and forth in time. The show runners probably thought it would help clear up what happened to everyone after the season five finale. Making the flashbacks black and white, though… [SIGH] I mean, I do get it. The comic is in black and white. It’s an homage. But still… The show teeter-totters between wanting to be “prestige” and being schlocky. This episode is those two sides dueling and it doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, Ethan Embry, you got too cocky. You thought you were ready to battle walkers and got too eager. You always hunt walkers in pairs! Where are you now, Ethan Embry? Because it’s certainly not in episode two.
EPISODE 2: JSS
Hmmmm. I guess they’ve tried to burn a walker to death before.
The Walking Dead reminds me a lot of the game The Last of Us. Even though their zombies are very different, they both tell the same story: how people not only survive, but live after the human race experiences a pandemic. The game lets you kill zombies with fire.
Thankfully, Carol was back to her badass self. It was like, when she saw her passive aggressive neighbor get hacked down with a machete, she thought to herself, “Things are finally getting fun around here.”
Watching Carol stalk around the compound was like watching someone play a zombie video game. You stay low, stick to the edges, and take them out one by one. It feel good killing zombies and cannibals, but I’m playing a game. Carol wasn’t. The show’s world is real, though, and Carol really looked like she enjoyed taking those weirdos out. I’m concerned for her in a way I’m not for Arya Stark.
Carol’s character arc over the series has been amazing. Watching her progression from a meek, abused housewife to tough zombie killer has made her my favorite character. It seems that she became too tough. She has only love and protection for Daryl, Rick, Carl, Maggie, and Glenn — the tough people in her group who don’t think twice about survival. She has no sympathy and no time for people still living like they’re aren’t dead walking the earth. Her walls are higher than the compounds. If it weren’t for the others in the group, she could be one of the “bad guys”.
But let’s talk for a minute about Enid. Didn’t you think she was with the group who invaded? Didn’t you think she was going to stab Carl in the kidney? I did.
Because I had forgotten her character’s name I thought “jss” were her initials. Turns out they mean “just survive somehow.” That’s a good motto to get you through the zombie apocalypse. You know what won’t? Eating tortoises raw. Tortoises are natural carriers of salmonella; she’d be so way dead before she got to the compound.
EPISODE 3: THANK YOU
The thing that sucks most about contemplating the zombie apocalypse is knowing I’d be zombie food in no time. Fat people don’t last long in the zombie apocalypse.
Episode three is the zombie version of Ten Little Indians where anyone who isn’t top-billed runs the risk of being zombie fodder. Of course, maybe they’d have a chance of surviving if everyone who know what they’re doing would stop running off on their own. Can we please get a season where the gang doesn’t get separated and brought back together? Oh, wait. We did. It was season two and I was the only person who liked it.
The main theme of this episode is: survival is never guaranteed. We’ve seen time and again how — no matter how good you are with a knife, gun, or hammer — you can be killed if you hesitate. And all the Alexandrians do is hesitate. But can you blame them? They are the feral cats that have become too domesticated to survive on the streets. It doesn’t help that they’re too afraid of Rick and company to trust them.
One of the nice things to see continuing into this season, though, is the gang struggling with their humanity. They’ve survived by making hard choices and the Alexandrians don’t know how hard they really were. As omnipotent viewers, we’re frustrated by their apprehension to trust them, but wouldn’t we be the same way? Rick accepts that people won’t make it back; he even tells Glenn and Michonne to keep going. To him these people are strangers, but, as Michonne learns, they love and are just as loved by other people. I wouldn’t trust Rick either.
Before I move on to the next episode I guess I should say something about Glenn. I already know what generally happens to him, so I’m not shocked by the ending like everybody else was last fall. That said, I still wouldn’t believe he was eliminated because (1) Steve Yeun is one of the more popular actors on the show, and (2) I’m pretty sure that Glenn is the last Asian person left alive.
EPISODE 4: HERE’S NOT HERE
Backstory hasn’t been the most important part of The Walking Dead. We only hear glimpses of people’s lives before the apocalypse. It’s a good storytelling rule for the show since they could easily get bogged down in telling character stories. Instead we get side stories — stand alone episodes that show what has happened to characters since we’ve last seen them. A highlight from last season was “Slabtown”, Beth’s episode at Grady Memorial Hospital. These episodes allow the writers a chance to explore how others have survived, whether in- or outside of communities, and how much of their humanity they’ve had to sacrifice.
This episode spotlights Morgan, a fan favorite since the pilot episode. For most of his screen time he’s been a gauge of how bad life has become. His first appearance showed him to be adapting to survival, but conflicted with making the really hard choices. His next appearance had him over the edge with grief and surviving despite himself. By the time he rescues Daryl and Aaron in Alexandria he is the most different we’ve ever seen him.
I have several questions when it comes to the zombie apocalypse: If we all have the virus that turns us into walkers, what’s the point of killing them? If all we’re doing is killing walkers, what’s the point of life? Why continue living? On this show people have lost children, spouses, siblings, friends, and enemies. Why do they keep going?
Morgan’s episode answers those questions with one answer: connection.
Lost to himself, Morgan finds a peaceful man and his goat. Luckily, that man is someone who went through his own apocalypse before the walkers arrived and is able to guide Morgan back to presence. Turns out the path to being humane is aikido, which is a martial art concerned as much with the well-being of the attacker as it is with the safety of the attacked.
It was good to see some Morgan’s journey and get a better picture of the other way he was trying to tell Rick. He even had me convinced that a little time and patience could make a difference for our survivors. But by the end both the viewer and Morgan see that choosing life is easy when you’re a hermit with a goat. It’s harder when you’re looking into the eyes of someone who has chosen evil.
EPISODE 5: NOW
This show can be really heavy handed when it comes to foreshadowing. The last few episodes set in Alexandria make me think something bad is going to happen to Rick or Carl care of Dr. Pete’s oldest son. You don’t have that many menacing close-ups without something about to go down.
We’re still dealing with the aftermath of the werewolves attack, though. That means there are lots of scenes of Alexandrians getting over their fear to figure out how to survive. They’re not getting the hang of it.
It doesn’t take a zombie herd to know that Alexandria was doomed from the get go. Walls are great for keeping out walkers, but too many people put up blinders when they stepped with those walls. For instance, why would you not grow food as soon as you started living there? Supply runs are dangerous, but growing food on your spacious lawns is safe. Why would you not have everybody on rotating guard duty? That way everybody sees what walkers look like and they won’t become complacent.
Alexandria is pretty, but it’s just as much a prison as the actual prison was. Only the inmates don’t want to leave. Reality storming the barricades has broken many from their trance; you can tell, though, that they don’t want things to change. They want to keep playing make believe of a normal life.
Last thoughts: I don’t like how this show ignores time. How long has it been since the walkers arrived? Looking at Carl tells us that it’s been a few years. Looking at Judith tells us that it’s been two tops. Stop trying to alter the timeline, The Walking Dead! Also, Rick, why are you kissing that woman? You killed her husband like a week ago.
EPISODE 6: ALWAYS ACCOUNTABLE
It’s 12:30 pm on a Sunday. I have ten more episodes to go. I should make these quick takes shorter.
Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham have an episode together. Sasha and Abraham get all existential, while Daryl comes across three strangers. Sasha and Abraham are boring. Daryl kind of is, too, but at least we begin getting more hints about the big, bad wolf out there. They make people kneel and you have to kill someone to stay alive.
The last we see is Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham heading back home when they hear someone say help over the two-way radio. Personally, if I didn’t recognize the voice I wouldn’t respond. Those three are a bunch of softies, so they’ll probably end up in a wacky adventure.
EPISODE 7: HEADS UP
As I’ve been watching each episode I’ve been struck about the toll constant death has on life. About how someone can hold onto their humanity despite having to do savage things. A lot of other characters have been mentioned, but not Rick who’s the most vital to this question.
Rick has always been made out to be the moral compass of the group. He tells Morgan why he didn’t kill him and explains to Deanna why he didn’t leave Spencer to the walkers. While he still saves people, he’s becoming a separatist. He confides in Michonne that the Alexandrians aren’t prepared to fight the walkers and yells at Tara for risking her life to save Spencer. Rick’s survival instincts are making him ruthless. Of everyone, he is the one I worry most about. As a natural leader, he can speechify anyone into doing what he thinks is best. So will be next for what is best? Walker fights? Cannibalism? Kneeling?
EPISODE 8: START TO FINISH
What did I tell you? What. Did. I. Tell. You.
That little punk — the son of Dr. Wife Beater — was totally going to kill Carl and/or Rick Grimes. Carl was badass, though. Instead of telling Rick, he confronts the kid like they’re in a western, which I suppose they are. That kid better not mess with Carl anymore. Carl’s a deadshot.
Walkers are everywhere. Been there. Done that. Although the post-credits sequence was intriguing. A bunch of bikers show up to confront Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham. The lead one says everything they own now belongs to Negan.
I haven’t read this far into the comics so I have no idea who Negan is (although I do know who plays him.) I have feeling that we’re just going to be getting the Governor 2.0.
EPISODE 9: NO WAY OUT
Oh dear. Another one bites the dust for Rick. I can’t say that I’m sad to see her go. I’m sad about how she went, but I won’t be missing her and her kids anytime soon.
Is that harsh? Sorry. I guess I take a little bit after Carol that way. One of those sons was a psycho-in-training and the other was so emotionally arrested that he got himself and his mother killed. Of course, that might not have happened if the kid didn’t have Carol’s words going through his head. But what part of shut up does the kid not understand?
At least the heard is gone.