Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 6 Part 1: A Look Back and A Look Ahead

I've been politely asked about a dozen times (you know who you are) to do a post on the latest season of AMC's The Walking Dead. I initially couldn't think of a good idea, but eventually decided to write about the first half of season 6. I've read all the comics to date (they are at issue #151), and I feel that I can apply that knowledge to what may or may not happen in the second half of season 6. Let's start with a look back at the first half:

Here's Not Here

I'll begin with the Morgan centric episode "Here's Not Here", which was actually episode 4 but mostly took place before the season 6 timeline. This was really a character building episode, and helped to explain Morgan's "no kill" attitude. It was actually a really well done episode though, even with its 90 minute runtime. A new character, Eastman, was introduced for the first time in The Walking Dead universe and it was a shame to seem him go. However, he would have a lasting impression on Morgan, as he went from killing any living person in his way to the most peaceful member of Rick's group. We don't know the extent of it yet, but Morgan's kindness has already let several of the Wolves run free.

First Time Again

The season 6 timeline really starts with the premiere episode "First Time Again". We jump right into Rick and company attempting a "dry run" to herd a horde of walkers away from Alexandria. This quickly turns into "we'll do it live" and everyone is split into their groups to direct the walkers. This ultimately sets up the events of the entire half season, which takes place over the span of only a couple days. The groups could have used that dry run though, as each one encounters some difficulty at some point in time. While I won't go into too much detail recapping these episodes, the premiere does an excellent job of jumping back and forth between flashbacks and present time. Each flashback was there for a reason, and had a specific consequence in the present. The episode ends with a huge portion of the horde veering off from the desired path, attracted to a blaring truck horn. We find out the source of that soon...


Just Survive Somehow. The flashback parts of this episode focused on side character Enid, and her quest from eating turtles to arriving at Alexandria. But the real action -taking place before "First Time Again"- occurs when the Wolves invade Alexandria, hacking and slashing their way through the streets. Carol drops her house-wife routine and is back to being a bad ass during the invasion, while Carl and Jessie also get in on the action. As one of the Wolves attempts to drive a truck through the main gate, Spencer snipes him from the watchtower; unfortunately this causes the truck to veer into the tower, and thus the horn from the previous episode begins to blare. Morgan helps Spencer turn off the horn, and eventually the Wolves are defeated. Of course, some retreated with a gun thanks to Morgan's kindness and refusal to kill. He would later take a stranded Wolf hostage, but not until after Aaron finds out that Alexandria was discovered thanks to pictures of the complex he had lost previously. To wrap it all up, Enid leaves Carl a farewell note: Just Survive Somehow.

Thank You

This episode focused on the characters away from Alexandria, as it takes place directly after "First Time Again". The truck horn is still blaring as the different groups attempt to lead the horde of walkers away from Alexandria. Plenty of unimportant Alexandrians die in the effort, but the main cast survives as the horn fades out. Everyone is split up at this point: Rick is heading for the RV to redirect the breakaway herd, Daryl (before splitting off) is with Abraham and Sasha leading the horde, Heath with Michonne. Glenn is with Nicholas, who decides he's had enough and shoots himself on top of a dumpster. His lifeless body drags Glenn down into a group of walkers and is seemingly torn apart, but we are unsure of Glenn's living status for quite a few episodes. Meanwhile Rick makes it to the RV only to be ambushed by 2 of the Wolves that Morgan allowed to escape. They shoot at Rick with the stolen gun, and thus an injured Rick is forced to kill them and the other Wolves outside the RV. The gunshots draw the attention of Daryl, who decides to turn back around and meet up with Sasha and Abraham again. Michonne and Heath make it to a burning Alexandria as Rick tries to start the RV...


The fifth episode of the season takes place chronologically after "Thank You", but aired after "Here's Not Here". Rick, on foot, makes it through the gates of Alexandria as the walker horde attracted by the horn follows closely behind. After a few character building moments, Jessie (Rick's new love interest) delivers a great quote: "We have to fight it. Because if we don't, we die." Denise, forced to be the doctor of Alexandria, is shown to be learning nicely. Maggie, attempting to slip away from Alexandria with Aaron in an effort to find Glenn, reveals she is pregnant. Deanna, who had been slipping in and out of comatose dazes, fends off a walker before Rick rushes over to kill it. At this moment she decides she wants to live, and relinquishes her leadership to Rick. The episode ends with a shot of walker blood leaking through the wall, suggesting a weakness the Alexandrians will have to deal with soon.

Always Accountable

This episode follows Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha, who were absent from "Now". They've reached the 20-mile marker leading the horde away from Alexandria. The group is attacked, and Daryl is separated. Sasha and Abraham emerge victorious, but Daryl is knocked out by a man (later identified as Dwight) after being distracted by a mother and daughter. In a case of mistaken identity, they hold him at gunpoint. At one point he flees with his dufflebag, and discovers it contains his crossbow and a cooler of insulin. Daryl's conscious gets the better of him and he finds his captors to return the insulin. As luck would  have it the group is attacked by another group led by a man named Wade, who is clearly "working" for someone else to take back what Dwight and his family took. Even though Daryl helped them through the ordeal, he is double crossed as his motorcycle and crossbow are stolen. Instant karma, however, as Daryl stumbles upon a truck (that Dwight's family was originally looking for) and meets up again with Sasha and Abraham. The word "help" is heard on the radio when trying to contact Rick.

Heads Up

Glenn lives! Though this should come as no surprise to comic readers, as we know what is (possibly) in store. As Glenn escapes the walkers, with no thanks to Nicholas, Enid appears again to help but quickly disappears. Back at Alexandria Rick notices the crack in the wall from "Now", so formulates a plan to reinforce it. The Alexandrian are also getting lessons with guns and machetes, in an effort to be prepared for the worst. After a dumbass plan nearly kills Spencer, we discover that Ron has stolen some ammunition for the gun Rick had given him. He follows Carl with the gun and bad intentions. Morgan is still keeping the captured Wolf alive, but Carol is on to him. Glenn and Enid arrive, but the damaged watchtower falls over onto a wall.

Start to Finish

Predictably, walkers filter through the collapsed wall. Everyone scrambles, and we hear the source of "help" on the radio: Eugene. After the commotion dies down, it is revealed Deanna was bit. She decides to take her own life when the time comes, but dies with great plans for Alexandria. Rick again formulates a plan to re-route the walkers, this time with the help of Jessie. This is interrupted by Ron and Carl, who get into a fight and break a window allowing walkers to come into the house. Rick and Jessie defend them, while Carol discovers Morgan's captive Wolf. She attempts to kill him, but Morgan interferes and knocks her out. Morgan is then rendered unconscious by the Wolf, who takes Denise hostage as he runs away from Rosita, Tara, and Eugene. Rick steals a page from the season 1 playbook, as he covers himself, Jessie, Sam, Ron, Carl, and Father Gabriel in walker guts to escape the house. Sam is the weak link here, as he continually says "Mom" which attracts the walkers. Finally, in perhaps the most important scene of the season, Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha are stopped by an unknown biker gang. They are told to give up everything they have, simply because "your property now belongs to Negan."

So what does all of this mean for the second half?

To pick up right where "Start to Finish" left off, the second half of season 6 will definitely introduce this Negan character. Although the TV series is around issue 80 of the comics, Negan is on the horizon despite being introduced in the infamous issue #100. I won't spoil that here, but a quick Google search will tell you all you need to know. Glenn plays a big role in that specific book, and I think he will serve the same role in the series. Daryl, who is not in the comics at all, may be the only substitute for Glenn. 20 issues is a lot of material to cover in only 8 episodes, but expect the on-screen introduction of Negan, and Lucille, in the season finale. Before that, it will be interesting to see what role the Saviors will play. Surely the first scene with Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha will provide some insight into how the show will deal with the Saviors. Though the characters are different, I expect the scene to end with our trio on top albeit a bit bloody.

As a comic reader, the Wolves are intriguing. There was a group called the Scavengers in the books, which seems to serve as a parallel to the Wolves. However, there is still some mystery to the Wolves... are they associated with Negan and his group the Saviors? What is their motivation? They seem more concerned about killing instead of surviving. Both groups certainly caused a ruckus in Alexandria, and serve as the catalyst for the horde attacking and leading to "No Way Out".

Speaking of "No Way Out", it will be the title of the mid-season premiere and is the title of the next comic book arc starting in issue #80. In that issue, the leader Douglas (not Deanna) relinquished his leadership to Rick; obviously this already happened in the show. Expect to see even more training and wall reinforcement in Alexandria, as Rick will be much more proactive than Deanna. Also expect to see her son Spencer take on a bigger role in the show.

Since Andrea is long gone in the show, I expect to see Jessie take on her comic book role at least in some capacity. Her relationship with Rick will continue, and I don't see her death playing out like the comics. She should serve a larger role in the second half of the season. Then again, she may die in the premiere, just as her son Sam likely will. I think Sasha may pick up some of Andrea's elements as well, including her sniper capabilities and romantic ties to Spencer.

Morgan is also a character on the chopping block, though I don't think we'll see his death this season. He just came back, and even had an entire episode devoted to him. They've developed his character a lot this season, and there hasn't been a payoff yet. Things could change quickly, but I think he's safe for now. His peacefulness provides a great contrast to Rick's brutality.

One of the most iconic scenes aside from issue #100 takes place in issue #83. While escaping the house using the walker gut poncho method, Carl gets shot in the eye. He survives, but is essentially missing a large portion of his face for the rest of the comic's run. I don't think they're going to do this on the show, for the same reason Rick still has both of his hands. It would require a lot of CGI and quite frankly probably wouldn't look that good. I can see something happening to Carl, but nothing as serious as getting an eye shot off.

Overall there's not a ton more that goes on the issues from the mid-80s until 100. I can see the show covering it pretty quickly, while adding and subtracting some elements as they usually do. Some plot points have already been covered (Rick taking over, Deanna/Douglas dying, Nicholas being a coward, Maggie's pregnancy) or are impossible due to character deaths (Andrea ending up with Rick, Sophia being alive, Carol being dead). Abraham should see his leadership type role with the construction crew increased, and expect Heath to become more of a main character. Hopefully Abraham sticks around longer than he did in the comic, which saw his life end in issue #98. This is one death I can see playing out exactly the same, yet I wouldn't be surprised if a less-liked character took the bullet arrow instead.

But easily the biggest plot point before issue #100 is introduction of Paul Monroe, aka Jesus. He comes from another community nearby led by Gregory, called the Hilltop. He is an excellent fighter, but he also serves to recruit Alexandria to participate in a trading network with Hilltop and 2 other communities (Negan's Sanctuary and Ezekiel's Kingdom). Obviously this eventually segues to the introduction of Negan, which I predict will happen in the season finale.

Negan is easily the best/worst villain in the comics, meaning he is most reader's favorite but also the most evil. He kills people at will, and demands half of the other communities supplies. I mentioned Lucille earlier, but she's not a person. No, Lucille is Negan's barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. She'll get some action in the finale, probably leaving the viewers to say "WTF" as the screen fades to black...

Lastly, and certainly least, Gabriel will continue to be a useless character

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