The 90-minute premiere Sunday night of The Walking Dead began its sixth season where the fifth ended in March: with a bang—a gunshot, to be precise.
Abusive husband, alcoholic, and danger-to-us-all Pete Anderson (Corey Brill) lay in a pool of his own blood beneath the smoking barrel of Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) iconic revolver. The moment merged two very different perspectives: the residents of the Alexandria Safe-Zone, blissfully ignorant of the apocalyptic horrors beyond their walled community, and callous Rick’s bloody taste of reality. Later, standing feet away from a herd of blatant CGI zombies, the practical ones complete with severed limbs and exposed ribcages, the main character justified his newly formed Rickstatorship:
“I know this sounds insane, but this is an insane world,” Rick said. “We have to come for them or they come for us. It’s that simple.”
Depending on one’s appreciation for the character, Rick’s psychological state has either become more engaging or repetitive. Longtime fans witnessed a similar side of Rick back in season three’s prison setting and even toward the end of last season. Veteran characters should recognize Rick’s behavior, but no one attempted to stop him. It seemed like more than a coincidence that the old crew fell to the back burner while Rick’s reckless demeanor was gently prodded by the ignorance of randomly added character Carter (Ethan Embry) and returning fan-favorite Morgan Jones (Lennie James).
The Walking Dead trailers have always intentionally misled viewers. Season six’s trailer implied some heavy confrontation between Rick and Morgan. If true, anxious fans will have to keep waiting for Morgan to deliver a blow, as the staff-wielding badass spent the entirety of the first episode delicately reminding Rick of the humanity they once shared.
“You’re still the same man I met back in [season one],” Morgan said to Rick. “The one who came back and told me it wasn’t over. That was you. The same you that’s right in front of me right now.”
He was awesome with that staff, though.
Carter also provided a voice of reason for the residents of Alexandria, but it was short-lived, literally. Rick called it first.
“Somebody like that,” he said, “they’re going to die no matter what.”
Submitting to the Ricktatorship does not cost Carter an arm and a leg, but instead a chunk of cheek and ultimately his life. Carter failed to survive less than two hours on TWD, but the shocker was who killed him.
Carter’s killer (spoiled in the AMC video below) plunged a dagger into the wounded man’s neck to avoid detection from nearby zombies. The killer’s morality was already in question, but dispatching Carter without hesitation showed the extremes the cold-blooded character was willing to take, leaving audiences to wonder what else this character will be capable of in the upcoming episodes.
Overall, TWD showed more of the same. Rick and the group find a new home, some new people interfere and conflict, and a herd of zombies eventually run everyone out of town. Much like the fanbase, the herd of zombies mindlessly lumbers to the next plot point, which is a convergence of zombies and survivors at the gates of Alexandria, where the survivor’s eventual eviction will occur.
Though it was more of the same, season six of TWD further explored the darkest bowels of the human psyche. The first episode balanced blood, guts, zombies, and human indecency, but it’s the investment in these apocalypse-stricken characters and their fates audiences care about. Though it’s unlikely the show’s popularity will decline anytime soon, entering season six with no endgame in sight may have been the beginning of Walking Dead biting off more than they can chew.