The Walking Dead has turned into event television, its return always hotly anticipated as the show continues to follow the ongoing storyline of Rick Grimes and his group, surviving (or not) on a day to day basis in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Six seasons in, the show is still able to entertain but not without a few bumps along the way – especially in the back half of the mid-season.
Starting off with great steam, the season’s opening four episodes were arguably amongst the shows strongest yet. With the exception of flashbacks, episodes First Time Again, JSS, and Thank You all took place over a matter of hours, ramping up the tension and forcing the characters to make rash decisions on a whim that we saw the consequences of later. Mixing up walker attacks with raids by the wolves on Alexandria (and how badass was Carol during that attack?), it felt like anything could happen and everyone was at risk, including fan favourites like Carl or Glenn, but we’ll get onto him a little later.
Special praise has to go towards episode Here’s Not Here. Penned by show-runner Scott M. Gimple, the pace slowed considerably to tell the story of how Morgan went from an insane, desperate shell of a man to a strong, formed, non-killer, sparing the lives of anyone he could. A slower episode that benefitted from its extra running time, it’s clear how much Morgan means to Gimple, after Season 3’s Clear which reintroduced Morgan to the show. For the first time, viewers understood Morgan’s point of view on why he only injured and never killed anyone who attacked him. The episode featured Lennie James and John Carroll Lynch, both delivering outstanding performances in what was a two man act. In fact no single actor can be faulted, everyone was bringing their best to this season. Andrew Lincoln continues to impress the audience as Rick, slowly changing into a man who is barely recognisable when you look back at Season 1. Alexandra Breckinridge also deserves a mention as Jessie, one of the few residents who has grown tougher and stronger from Rick’s influence on the town.
This season in particular has been excellent for cliff-hangers, making the wait for the next episode that little more unbearable. The first episode ended with the massive horde of walkers changing course and heading for Alexandria. Rick trapped in the RV at the end of Thank You surrounded by walkers was also dramatic, even if undermined by its conclusion two episodes later. It’s a shame that the final episode ended on such an anti-climactic note in the middle of the episodes most exciting scene, feeling like the episode had the last few minutes cut from it.
It was ultimately the latter half of the mid-season that unfortunately didn’t live up to the pulse pounding, character driven first half. The pace slowed down considerably and the show suffered for it. None of the episodes were bad per se, they were just boring. Alexandria residents reacting to the attacks by the Wolves makes sense – to show how these acts affect a tightly-knit community who haven’t faced anything like this before is a good idea in theory, but the episode aired weeks after the attack so it was old news. The episode focusing on Daryl, Sacha and Abraham was well done but it felt like it was setting up future storylines as opposed to focusing on the present.
The finale itself was a disappointment apart from the opening ten minutes where everyone tried to scramble to safety as they watched in wide-eyed horror as Maggie, who perhaps seems safe due to her pregnancy, barely made it to the watchtower. As a reader of the comic, when Rick later said how they’d need two walkers, I instantly realised what his plan was and was disappointed that we only saw a tease of it. If it goes as terribly as it does in the comics, the opening minutes to next episode could be one of the shows darkest and most horrific moments.
One of the season’s biggest talking points was Glenn’s ‘death’ in episode 3. On my initial viewing, I thought Glenn was a goner and was devastated by such news. It was too undignified a death for such a vital character but I loved it. It felt real and raw, people die in this world and it was reminiscent of Tyreese’s death, where it was just one walker who got a lucky bite in. Three episodes went by before Glenn’s fate was uncovered, in which time the audience devised several theories on how Glenn might have survived. The most prevalent of these was the resulting answer. By the time the reveal came around, audiences knew Glenn wasn’t dead and it was just a matter of time before the show finally came clean. The mystery was entertaining but it needed to be solved quicker than it was.
Character Glenn’s fate was the subject of discussion following a walker bite.
The Walking Dead’s sixth season was in many ways it’s most ambitious but this only partly payed off. The pacing in the final four episodes along with the attempt to fool its audience, found the show losing its footing and stumbling towards a muddled conclusion. The excitement for the continuation of the season hasn’t been lost but the show is going to have to return to form and really impress to make viewers forgive the latter half of this season and make the wait in between episodes worth it.
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of series 6 on February 14th.