Synopsis of 6×01: The people of Alexandria discover that their longevity isn’t based just on the community’s sturdy walls but on dumb luck. Now they have a herd of thousands to deal with—not to mention the interpersonal consequences of last season.

Rating: ★★★★☆

As Chris Hardwick said last night on the Talking Dead, summer is officially over now that The Walking Dead is back! Every year the wait seems harder and harder to get through. After the events of the Season Five finale we’ve been waiting to see what came next for Rick and his group—and especially the people of Alexandria. They managed to survive peacefully for so long and things have changed for them very quickly with the arrival of our favorite band of survivors.

It’s not that big of a surprise, then, that the episode starts with a very brief flashback to Rick shooting Pete. That moment is a turning point in Alexandria, and it’s hardly the last flashback we get. The entire episode is told through a blend of flashbacks and present day scenes distinguished only by the fact that those scenes set in the past are show in complete grayscale.

The primary problem in this season premiere is a real doozy.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
It turns out that Alexandria really just got lucky in it’s survival. The low number of zombies in the area wasn’t a fluke. Alexandria’s survival revolved around dumb luck. While Rick and Morgan (and Pete’s oldest son, Ron) are out laying Pete’s body to rest away from the good people of Alexandria, they discover that the thousands of zombies that should have shown up around Alexandria had in fact been stranded in a quarry. Newcomer Heath, whose group was on a supply run for the entirety of Season Five apparently, explains that it started out with a group of survivors who barricaded themselves in the bottom of the quarry and blocked off all the entrances with huge semi-trucks. But then they ended up turning into zombies, eating each other, and luring in every other zombie in the area as the noise they made resonated off the quarry walls.

If you remember back to the first season, this is basically exactly what the Atlanta survivors did. This could have been them. (Not that many of them are still alive so maybe that quick of an end would have been preferable.)

Unfortunately, the quarry which has contained the zombies for so long is a powder keg waiting to explode. The semi-trucks keeping the zombies in are already starting to give way and begin slipping in to the quarry themselves. And a trickle of zombies is already escaping one at a time through a breach between trucks. A number of flashbacks revolve around Rick coming up with a very risky plan to release the zombies and shepherd them away from Alexandria.

Carter, one of the Alexandria survivors, is opposed to this and becomes vocally opposed to Rick’s leadership in general. But Deanna, in her grief, basically makes Rick’s word law and goes along with things, dragging Carter and the others along with them. This, of course, gives Rick the opportunity to force some of the Alexandria residents out of the safety of their homes and into the world beyond to work on building walls and funnels for the zombies. Predictably they freeze up when faced with zombies… and Rick almost leaves them to their fate.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Ethan Embry as Carter and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
While some of the flashbacks revolve around figuring out the problem and how to deal with the zombies in the quarry not all of them do. Morgan tries to get Rick to give in to his better nature, gets to know Carol, and moves in to Rick’s family home. Rick awkwardly creeps on Jessie, who tells him she’s going to fight to keep herself and her boys alive no matter what he thinks of the others in Alexandria. Carl holds hands with his own lady love interest, while sitting on a roof flicking around a lighter in true teenage angst fashion (with Ron sulking in the background). Tara finds out about Noah. Rosita explains why they gave Nicholas a second chance.

A lot of very deep character moments come in those flashbacks.

The scenes set in the present are much more crucial. We watch they put their plain into action. Daryl leads a procession of zombies on his motorcycle while Sasha and Abraham ride alongside him in a car trying to draw the zombies away. Abraham’s behavior throughout the episode is pretty disturbing and he seems to be taking Sasha’s place as the incredibly disturbed member of Team Rick this season. (Seriously, the dude’s getting scary.)

Things go pretty great for the most part.

Corey Hawkins as Heath - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Glenn, Heath, and Nicholas form their little power team and take care of a group of trapped zombies that could have diverted the whole herd. The walls Carter designs to funnel the zombies in a right angle turn stay standing. Abraham manages to redirect the few stragglers that get away. But then it all goes to shit. Carter gets bitten and his screams pull away a large group of the herd. After Rick puts him down it looks like things are all good.

… until a very loud, very diverting horn starts blaring in the direction of Alexandria.

I’ll give you one guess as to who is probably behind that. The Wolves—who have been basically been boogeymen throughout the last half season or so—seem ready to make themselves known. And the teaser for next week’s episode looks really intense. We’re hopefully looking at a pretty fast-paced, action-packed season. But only time will tell how things progress.

I’m actually pretty sad that Carter bought it this episode, I think he could have been a good foil for Rick moving forward. Instead any sort of internal, background conflict was snuffed out pretty damn quickly. Yes, I know that it was meant to prove a point Rick made during the episode, the people of Alexandria are weak. They are the sort of people who are always going to die in situations like these. It’s just a matter of when.

At least we got Heath out of this episode. Heath—who Eugene sees as a kindred soul because both of them have awesome hair styles. He respects the hair game.

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