Recurring Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Stephen Yeun, Lennie James, Melissa McBride, Danai Gurira, Michael Cudlitz, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Josh McDermitt, Alanna Masterson, Tovah Feldshuh
I haven’t seen Fear The Walking Dead. I cannot offer a review based on anything but speculation or rumour. However, I have heard that the general consensus of the spinoff show is that it takes the universe of the Walking Dead and slows the narrative right down to a crawl, so we can truly dissect the characters caught in the origins of the Walker apocalypse. As a result, the actual Walking Dead show kicks off with a point to prove. This show is the big brother and it is going to be miles more action-packed. The first three episodes of Season Six are show-stopping, made all the more hard-hitting by how a large part of you expects it to start slowing down.
Episode One cuts forward in time, filling in the gaps via flashbacks. The premise of this season: Rick has found a quarry full of Walkers. It turns out the reason that Alexandria has been so lucky when it comes to avoiding the Walkers is that a quarry situated a few miles away from the city has been acting as a geographical trap for roaming herds. The pit has been filling with Walkers, stopping them from actually finding their way to the town. However, the sheer size of the Walkers means that the quarry is bottling up and before long, they will break free and an unstoppable army of zombies will descend on the helpless citizens of Alexandria. Rick comes up with a plan to release the Walkers on their own terms and draw them away from their sanctuary. The plan seems fool-proof. However, the entire season consists of this well made plan crumbling to pieces around them. Alexandria consists of people who have never had to experience the new rough way of living, petty disputes are brewing in-camp and a dangerous new threat, the Washington Clan, have finally made their way to Alexandria, tracking new arrival, Morgan, and see new potential for creating chaos. The brilliance of the sixth season of Walking Dead is that the entirety of this half of the season revolves around this event. It almost progresses in real time. It creates this sense that you are a part of every detail, not missing a single shred of the horror and tension that the writers can come up with.
Of course, the real reason Season Six will stick around in our minds as one of the better seasons of the Walking Dead is the way they write a good cliff-hanger. Without divulging into spoilers, something pretty major and social media breaking happens at the very end of episode three. Something guaranteed to cause chaos on every forum from here to Terminus. However, the thing that made the twist ending so genius was not the fact it happened. This is the Walking Dead and sudden, shock reveals are a constant part of the experience. For all intents and purposes, we should have seen it coming. No, the real power of the moment was the uncertainty. The Walking Dead robbed us of closure and as the fourth episode began, we tuned in impatiently, demanding answers. And the writers didn’t give them to us. In fact, they didn’t in the following episode. Or the episode after that. It got to the point, where the Walking Dead had the power to drop a shock on us and not bring it up for, potentially, the rest of the season. And this is why I love the Walking Dead. It is in no rush. It will take its time on a moment, if it deems that moment worthy of dissecting properly. This season focuses on that one plot point of distracting the Walker herd and tells the story and character arcs it wants to from that structure. It cuts between characters, finding a comfortable pattern with designating each character an episode to focus on their struggles. Daryl gets put on the side-lines for a lot of the time this episode, but that is fine, because the writers give him an entire episode to be the hero in his own Walking Dead adventure. One episode strips away the rest of the cast and the only main star in the story is Lennie James’ newcomer, Morgan, as we track his journey throughout the seasons of the Walking Dead. The writing is never anything less than strong and it is made all the more gripping, because there is this unconfirmed shock hiding in the background, demanding viewers to catch the next episode. The writers of the Walking Dead are very cruel, but the correct kind of cruel.
That being said, there is still some ways to go before the Walking Dead is that perfect show. This season’s problem is a desperate need for a character cull. As the show takes its time to explore Alexandria, there is a sense that it has no choice but to spend whole episodes doing very little, because it has to start focusing on the several character arcs it needs to line up. And it is hard to see which ones to cut, as every story is intriguing in its own way. Personally, I didn’t need the new supporting character of the nervous doctor thrown into the position of the Head of Medicine, although perhaps the show is going somewhere with that storyline. I think the dynamic of the Alexandria citizens are interesting. They are not bad people, just misguided, naïve and totally out of their league. It is interesting watching Rick struggle between the expectation of him to help this people and the internal instinct that he needs to cut and run, taking his trusted but small group with him. However, the first episode of this season and the closing handful of episodes suffer from the fact that there is now too much that needs to be touched upon. Some of the more interesting stars aren’t getting the time they need to make an impact and for that reason, the Walking Dead’s sixth season only feels like it is touching base, rather than truly giving us what we want. The finale is explosive and full of action-packed and tense showdowns, but never really resolves anything, because there is too much to squeeze into the script. As a result, the Walking Dead’s mid season finale’s only real job to is to set up the next half of the season for 2016. A little disappointing and confirms my belief that we need a serious killing off of characters. Mind you, with that post-credits sequence, maybe that is the game plan…
Final Verdict: The sixth season’s writing is strong, especially with a great shock in Episode Three, but it has too much to talk about, inevitably slowing it down too much.