The Walking Dead season six premiere review: Andrew Lincoln gave powerhouse performance but episode lacked urgency'
Andrew Lincoln gave a powerful performance in the season six opener, but the episode lacked urgency
Grab your weapon, put on your best Walker-slashing outfit, and prepare to do exactly as you’re told: if the opening episode of The Walking Dead season six is anything to go by, the “Ricktatorship” is back in full force.
The term was coined by fans of the series to describe the way its lead, ex-Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), likes to assume absolute control when things aren’t going too well. Survival, in Rick’s zombie-ridden world, will always triumph over silly pre-apocalypse values such as democracy, listening to what other people think, and talking things through. When we last saw TV’s most badass dad, at the end of season five, he’d publicly executed a man (admittedly a dangerous, abusive murderer), and tacitly informed the sheltered residents of walled settlement Alexandria that, from now on, he was boss.
Consequently, in this episode, we saw Rick leading the people of Alexandra in a mission to draw hundreds of snarling, semi-decayed Walkers out of a nearby pit. The horde had accumulated there over several years, the not-too-streetwise undead tumbling into the abyss one by one and finding themselves unable to escape. The only thing blocking their way out was a well-positioned abandoned truck, liable to fall at any moment. It was a ticking time bomb of a situation, given their proximity to the settlement, and Rick was right to want to tackle it. But his bloody single-mindedness, and military-like insistence on controlling every aspect of his plan also hinted at another kind of danger altogether: could Rick have become too ruthless for his own good?
While Lincoln’s performance was gripping, and the scenes of the huge Walker-infested pit both gory and dramatic – those pale, nameless zombie extras really do make the show – the structure of the episode itself was a little odd, with a series of lengthy black and white flashbacks filtered through the main event.
As individual scenes, these flashbacks were revealing: we saw that long-lost Morgan (Lennie James) was already trying to act as a softening influence on his old friend, quietly intervening to get Rick to do the right thing . We also saw that Melissa McBride’s Carol – possibly the most deadly, hard-headed character in the entire series – is maintaining her pretence of being a helpless former housewife, assisting Rick by spying on the Alexandrians from within (although Morgan didn’t seem too fooled, correctly noting that she was always alert and “ watching”.)
Ultimately, however, while these hints at future conflict were intriguing, the decision to flip between backstory and main event was too jarring, removing any sense of urgency: this was nowhere near as tense as the explosive cannibal showdown that marked the beginning of season five.