October 12, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Walking Dead”



At this point in its massively successful run (massive enough to allow AMC to renew the superb but low-rated Halt and Catch Fire last week, so hurray!), THE WALKING DEAD can well afford to take a few chances, and tonight’s Season 6 premiere was its most formally ambitious.  Much of the 90 minutes, written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Supervising Producer Matthew Negrete, and directed by Greg Nicotero, was in black and white, flashing back to the aftermath of Season 5’s finale, and setting up the color present-day scenes, which featured the show’s largest-scale action to date, as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of his team attempted to drive hordes of walkers away from the group’s new home in Alexandria, Virginia.

Although in the end there was no epic battle sequence, thanks to some so-far unexplained car (?) horns that pulled the zombies’ focus back toward Alexandria before they could be eliminated, this was Walking Dead‘s Peter Jackson moment (or at least its Game of Thrones), with more extras, living and CG, than the show has ever featured before.  The episode’s nearly singleminded focus on its set-piece made it feel more like a standalone work than a premiere.  We didn’t get much plot or character development that we didn’t have already:  Rick’s killing of the wifebeating Pete, after Pete killed Reg, the husband of Alexandria’s leader Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), continued to reverberate throughout the town.  It gave Rick unofficial but strong authority, with Deanna’s acquiescence, and his immediate goal was to toughen up the inhabitants.  That seemed to be working well for the previously cowardly Nicholas (Michael Traynor), but not so much for whiny Carter (Ethan Embry), who predictably didn’t survive the episode, his face bitten by a walker and his brain stabbed by Rick when Carter wouldn’t shut up his screaming.

The theme of Season 6 seems likely to be the same one Walking Dead has presented since it started:  how much of their humanity will people have to sacrifice in order to survive their living hell, and afterward how much of them will be left?  For all Rick’s new leadership role in town and Pete’s ugly actions when alive, Pete’s widow Jessie (Alexandra Breckinridge) doesn’t want anything to do with Rick, nor does she want him near her son.  Morgan (Lennie James, now a regular) seems to have a better balance in his life, but of course he was out of his mind the first time we met him.

Because of the nature of the premiere, it’s premature to guess where Walking Dead intends to go in its 6th season–the hope is that a lengthy stay in Alexandria won’t bog things down as previous locations have on the show–but its return was immediately instructive as a comparison with its new quasi-prequel Fear The Walking Dead, whose first high-rated (but not as high as the mothership’s) season has just ended.  It was a relief to be back in a story where all the characters know what walkers are and what they can do, and don’t have to laboriously learn the rules of the post-apocalypse while we watch.  Despite its extended length, the Walking Dead premiere was sharply paced, and the black and white sequences were particularly striking.  In any case, any speculation about where Walking Dead intends to take us is a long-term one, because with the highest non-football ratings on TV, the series will be splattering innards on our screens for many seasons to come.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."