The opening 15 minutes of “First Time Again” are an instant reminder of everything that's great about The Walking Dead these days. You want big action set pieces? The walker swarm here dwarfs everything we’ve seen before. You want surprises? Well, hey, here's Morgan and Rick working together – in complete contrast to the path we all thought they were going to take after their bloody reunion last season. You want jokes? Here’s Eugene telling a bemused Heath that he likes him because he “fully respects the hair game”. There's even a sense of hope, something that this show vitally needs to avoid being a relentless misery-fest. In short, it has everything that Fear The Walking Dead lacked.
Plot-wise, this is a fairly simple affair. Rick is more or less running Alexandria now (though there is still opposition in the form of Carter – more on him later). He’s formulated a plan to divert thousands of walkers away from the Safe-Zone, but to do that he needs to train up the still-too-green Safe Zoners in the ways of zombie killing. All this is told in scenes that intercut the recent past and present – and between colour and monochrome. And, in truth, it drags on rather too long. It’s great getting to spend extra time with the characters, but at over an hour long it’s a slog in the middle.
Still, there was lots of good stuff here. After skirting around the edges of the show for five years, Morgan fits right into the ensemble. He’s as tough as Rick, but perhaps wiser and more careworn. There’s a lovely scene between him and Carol where he misunderstands her history, but sums up her role in the group perfectly. Should Andrew Lincoln ever decide to leave the show, he’d be more than capable of filling his shoes as leader...
Of course, the big development comes in the final 20 minutes when Eugene stumbles upon a conspiracy to murder Rick. For a moment it looks like our big-haired pal is doomed, but then Rick wanders in and beats the snot out of chief conspirator Carter. This is where the episode’s unusual structure really sings. In the space of moments we see Carter and Rick as mortal enemies, then working together as allies, then Rick telling Morgan that Carter would end up dead from his inherent uselessness and then, finally, Carter getting his face bitten off by a walker. It was a clever, economical bit of storytelling.
Rick finds Carter and finishes him off, partly to put him out of his misery and – more importantly – to silence him so that he doesn’t alert more zombies. It’s brutal, it’s efficient and it’s clear that neither Morgan or Michonne are happy about it – though it’s not as if Rick had much choice. Their distaste feels rather contrived. Still, despite the padding, this is a confident first episode. The question now is, who set off that alarm at the end?
“I'm not gonna kill you, but the longer you make me wait the more you motivate me to beat your ass.” - Heath to Eugene.
Good to see Rick shooting down the treacherous vicar at every single opportunity this week...
"Thank god nothing happened to your hair."
That's a sweet moment between Eugene and Tara at the start. They've developed a nice rapport over the last few episodes.
|Writer||Scott M. Gimple & Matthew Negrete|
|The one where||the gang make a plan to divert a herd of walkers away from Alexandria. And then everything goes tits up...|