Review by Lauryn Angel
The Walking Dead returned on Sunday night with “First Time Again,” an episode that many fans are already calling the “best episode ever.” It certainly featured more zombies in one place than ever before, as the Alexandrians are faced with a quarry full of the amassed undead. There’s definitely a lot of action, too, as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) hatches a plan to lure the impending zombie threat away from Alexandria. The episode starts with the plan being put into action, and it’s a great way to open the season, satisfying those of us who have missed the zombie action (and maybe didn’t get enough of it in Fear the Walking Dead).
The episode then backtracks to the aftermath of Rick killing Pete – after Pete himself brutally murdered Reg. In her grief, Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) seems to have surrendered Alexandria to Rick, acknowledging that her people are not capable of handling the threat the outside world presents. Rick sees it as his duty to train the townspeople, but the Alexandrians are not happy about living under a Ricktatorship. Morgan (Lennie James) attempts to reconcile this Rick with the man he knew previously. Morgan doesn’t pass judgement on Rick, exactly, but it’s clear that he doesn’t always approve of Rick’s methods.
Visually, this is more interesting than previous episodes. First, because of the sheer number of zombies. But also because director Greg Nicotero made the decision to use black and white for the flashbacks of Rick taking control of Alexandria, while using color for the scenes in which Rick’s plan to maneuver the zombies away from the suburb is in full swing. Symbolically, the black and white could be seen as a representation of the way Rick views the Alexandrians: they can follow his lead, or they can perish on their own. The “strong vs. weak” paradigm is at play once again. Of course, it could be that Nicotero simply wanted to use color to highlight all the gory zombie kills that occur when Rick and the group are forced to abandon the run-through of the plan and “do it live.”
I don’t know that this is the best episode of The Walking Dead, as it does retread a lot of the themes of previous seasons. And while there is some dissent to Rick’s taking over, that dissent is eliminated a little too neatly. “First Time Again” is, however, and excellent opener to a new season, planting seeds of discord that will hopefully flower more fully later this season. And that cliffhanger certainly has this fan eager for next week’s episode!