Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TV Review - The Walking Dead Season 6


America's favorite group of zombie apocalypse survivors returns for a new season Sundays at 9 on AMC!

  Season 6 of AMC’s The Walking Dead premiered last week. TWD is one of my favorite shows with its combination of zombie action and placing the characters in the tenuous no-man's land of trying to survive an apocalypse while retaining at least a semblance of humanity. The season will continue through November before taking a two month break and resuming in February for the final eight episodes of the season. When we last left Rick Grimes and his intrepid band of zombie apocalypse survivors in they had stumbled onto the safe haven of Alexandria, Virginia – a walled off community with a solar power grid, running water, and a generally sheltered existence. Deanna (former congresswomen and leader of Alexandria) invited Rick’s group into the town to help teach their group how to survive against zombies and other humans but it seemed that Rick’s group brought more dysfunction than order to Alexandria.

The backdrop of Season 6 is the arrival of Rick Grimes' crew into the heretofore peaceful hamlet of Alexandria...

  On the first joint supply run, Deanna’s oldest son Aden gets killed (along with Noah, the least experienced of the Grimes crew). Then Rick takes a liking to Jessie who happens to be married to Pete, the town surgeon and alcoholic and abusive husband. Rick’s idea of solving Jessie and Pete’s marital problems is to kill Pete and ends up getting in a fistfight with Pete in front of the whole town, ending with Rick waving his gun at everyone and ranting like a lunatic that some people don’t deserve to live in the new zombie apocalypse world. In the season’s final episode a town meeting is convened to decide whether Rick should be exiled when a drunken Pete bursts into the meeting waving a sword and ends up slitting the throat of Deanna’s husband Reg. This convinces Deanna to not only allow Rick to remain in the town – she orders him to execute Pete on the spot which Rick does without hesitation. Also in the final episode we are treated to our first glimpses of the ‘Wolves’, a nefarious pack of survivors that set traps for other survivors using food as bait and zombies as the means of destruction. The Wolves' trademark is to carve a ‘W’ in the heads of their zombie tools and their own foreheads.

  The premier episode of Season six is a flashback of scenes in black and white and flash-present scenes in color of Rick’s group discovering thousands of zombies trapped in a quarry sealed off by tractor trailers that are in danger of giving way under the sheer weight of the zombies pressing against them. Rick concots an A-Teamish plan of letting the zombies out of the quarry in order to lead them away from Alexandria. The flashbacks show Rick convincing the rest of the townspeople to let him carry out the plan and Rick and Deanna’s decision not to bury Pete with inside the town because ‘We don’t bury killers here’. The problem is that Pete’s children are still in town and the oldest son Ron is showing a lot of bitterness towards Rick and it’s certainly not going to help Rick’s budding romance with the widow Jessie. Hopefully Jessie knows that getting romantically involved with a tragic character like Rick is akin to signing your death sentence as soon as the show writers feel Rick needs some stressors but I’m more concerned that Ron may betray the town to the Wolves in the future.

  The main resistance to Rick’s plan comes from Carter, a regular townsperson who Rick needs for his knowledge of how to construct the walls his plan requires to herd the zombies away form the town at a few strategic points. Carter tries to rally the townspeople to assassinate Rick but he is found out. In a great piece of drama Rick holds a gun to the whimpering Carter’s head saying ‘Do you think you’re going to take this town from US? From ME?’ This explains Rick’s world view towards Alexandria – it is now his group’s town and he will be making the decisions. Rick spares Carter’s life but tells his newly arrived ‘consiglieri’ Morgan that he didn’t need to kill Carter because it’s only a matter of time before Carter gets himself killed with his stupidity.

  As Rick takes his team on a dress rehearsal for the ‘zombie’ herding, one of the retaining tractor trailers gets tipped over by the zombies and the team has to put the plan in action immediately. Rick proves psychic when Carter runs into a zombie, panics, and gets himself bitten. Rick gets some satisfaction when he gets to put a knife in Carter’s head to keep his screams from distracting the herd.

When you are bit by a zombie, silence is golden!

  The plan seems to be working and the zombies are ready to be sent on their way when a truck horn sounds in the distance and the zombies turn towards Alexandra en masse setting up a creative cliffhanger for episode two. Is this self-sabotage or the nefarious Wolves?

  In a suprising turn of events there was no zombie herd in episode two, Instead it was completely set in Alexandria. We start by seeing the backstory of Enid, a girl we thought was native to the Alexandria community but was shown seeing her family eaten by zombies, wandering through the zombie apocalypse landscape by herself, catching a turtle and eating it raw, and drawing the letters JSS (Just Survive Somehow) wherever she goes before finally ending up in Alexandria. Meanwhile Carol (zombie killer extraordinaire who pretends she is just a den mother/helpless female to the Grimes crew) is discussing recipes using cream of celery soup with the Alexandrian housewives as she tries to fit in. She puts a casserole in the over, sets the time to two hours, and sees one of the Wolves flash across her window and slash one of her housewife friends to bits.

  This is a harbinger of a full scale onslaught by the Wolves on the community of Alexandria. The town is almost defenseless with most of Rick’s crew on the zombie herding mission. Carol has to kill her housewife friend the same way Rick killed Carter in order to keep her screams from drawing the Wolves but then goes into action. She kills one of the wolves, puts on his clothes and draws a ‘W’ on her head in blood to disguise herself as a Wolves member, and kills every Wolf she can. She is joined by Morgan, who Rick sent to warn the town about the zombie herd changing course and the two end up clearing the town of Wolves with very little help from the rest of the town.

  Aside from the Wolves brutality, the main theme of the episode was the juxtaposition of Carol’s shooting any of the Wolves she encounters with Morgan using his skills with his staff to defend himself and telling any of the Wolves he meets ‘Leave. Please’, even going so far as almost begging one pack of four wolves to save themselves because his group has guns and will shoot them if they don’t leave (all while pummeling the axe and machete wielding Wolves with his staff). In the end Carol's philosophy wins when Morgan kills the same member of the Wolves whose life he spared at the end of Season 5.

  The Alexandrians are pretty useless through the attack. The new town doctor gets a panic attack when a hacked up Alexandrian is brought to her to be sewn together and the rest of the townspeople's contribution to the fight is to either scream or beg for their lives before being hacked to bits or hide in their closets. It is worth noting that Jessie does kill an invading Wolf with a pair of scissors in her kitchen in order to keep her children safe so maybe she will be compatible with Rick in an eHarmony sort of way.

Jessie gets the message about what is needed to survive in the world of Rick Grimes!

  The first two episodes of season six of ‘The Walking Dead’ could not have been more action-packed. I was afraid the new locale of Alexandria and all the townspeople would turn the show into more of a soap opera but instead the showrunners seem energized by the new location. So far the Alexandrians have provided an entire town of ‘red-shirts’, serving as zombie-food and hacking dummies for the Wolves. In the comics Alexandria is pretty much the final destination for Rick and company. I think the television series will follow it’s recurring theme of hope for a new civilization followed by rampant destruction and crushed dreams and Ricks crew (joined by a few surviving Alexandrians) will be on the road again by the season’s end.