I once was lost, but now I’m found.
I was just as excited about The Walking Dead as everyone else when the show premiered in 2010, and played my part in making it the biggest hit in the history of basic cable. But I must confess that somewhere between Herschel’s farm and the Governor, I got bored. Bored with the thinly drawn characters, bored with the endless debates about whether to stay or go, to kill or spare. It seemed this show couldn’t have someone go to the bathroom without a 7-minute scene of grim deliberation. I quit watching, and I totally missed the prison season and the Terminus season. When I stuck my head back in midway through season 5, I was delighted to see that all the characters I disliked – Herschel, Lori, Andrea, the Governor – were gone.
Even better, the show had begun a fascinating storyline: its main protagonist, former sheriff Rick Grimes, having lost his pregnant wife and countless friends and associates in all manner of zombie attack, was starting to lose the moral authority that made him the de facto leader of his little traveling party. The moral authority that led him to take down his best friend, Shane. The moral authority that found him back in uniform as the new Constable at a gated community called Alexandria.
Having stumbled upon this little citadel, which had managed to keep the walkers out for long enough that its citizens had resumed relatively normal lives, Alexandria’s leader, a former Congresswoman named Deanna, put Rick in charge of security for the community. It might have been a great idea, except that Rick almost immediately locked eyes with a winsome blonde named Jessie. Sparks flew, butterflies fluttered… and her abusive husband Pete stubbornly did not just disappear in a puff of smoke.
After five years of increasingly brutal measures to get what he needs, Rick is no longer one to sit around and wait for something. A fight with Pete alienated almost everyone including his own group, and facing exile, Rick made a convincing – if brutal – case for his security methods, first by tossing a dead walker that had infiltrated the gates into a town meeting, and closing by shooting a drunk and aggressive Pete in the face. I wish I would have had season 6 Rick as my 10th grade geometry teacher, because this guy gives zero Fs.
Complicating matters is the return of Rick’s pre-apocalypse neighbor Morgan, who first filled him in on what happened while Rick was in a coma. Morgan appears to have acquired some excellent staff-fighting skills, and his moral compass does not seem to be spinning the way Rick’s is, so in addition to endangering the loyalty of his group with his increasingly unstable behavior, he is confronted with someone who knew him before any of this, one of the few people who can credibly call him out.
This is the best possible direction for the show to take, in my opinion, because not only does it bring conflict by the bowlful, it actually feels earned, organic, and realistic. It makes perfect sense that after five years of roaming the increasingly bleak, violent zombie apocalypse, Rick would begin to lose his ability to play well with others, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, series star Andrew Lincoln (Rick) talks about the new season’s central conflict:
I think that what’s happened, which is very intriguing, is a community that suddenly is not just about fight or flight. It’s about rebuilding and starting over. People have choices again. It’s not just about following one leader. It can’t be, because it’s not, and a lot of the other characters in the show realize that — that they have space to actually make decisions for themselves and what they want in this community. Which is fascinating, because it becomes more of a society. It’s not a dictatorship, but it’s certainly run by a very pragmatic woman that is realizing that she has to change, because she’s ill-equipped. She has no information about what is out there, and this guy does. So maybe it’s a leader and a general. I don’t know.
Rolling Stone’s Noel Murray sums up what the rest of the characters have been up to:
When our little makeshift family agreed to become part of the safe zone, they did so with a cocked eye, having been burned before by promises of a better, safer life. Over time, however, they’ve started forming connections with the Alexandrians. Daryl has become one of the community’s “recruiters,” alongside the man who brought them to the area in the first place: the kindly, brave Aaron. And though Glenn had a brutal brawl with cowardly supply-runner Nicholas outside the walls, they ultimately decided to bury the hatchet (figuratively, for a change). And then there’s Carol, who’s become a cookie-baking happy homemaker and chum to all… although we the home viewers know that she’s just putting on an act, and that she’s really on her guard, ready to surprise her new neighbors with her ferocity whenever she must. As the new season begins, she’s still maintaining her air of passivity. Knowing Carol and her deep dark streak, this masquerade can’t go on much longer.
Norman Reedus (Daryl) tells Entertainment Weekly what to expect in season 6:
A lot of internal conflict, a lot of characters that you didn’t see having beef are starting to have beef. A lot of mistrust, and a lot of conflict inside the walls of Alexandria on how that place is supposed to be run, and who’s willing to trust whom. A lot of things went down in the last season that are causing a lot of people to try to figure out who’s going to screw them over and who they can trust. Alliances are being formed and a lot of the old-school loyals are starting to band together, and you don’t know what that means or where that’s going to end up. A lot of alliances are being formed at this moment, a lot of conflicts on both sides of that wall. There’s a lot going on.
Calling season 6 “The Mission: Impossible of seasons,” Lauren Cohan (Maggie) tells TV Insider about her character’s developing relationship with Deanna:
Her gut just tells her that it’s good, it’s right and it’s the structure that we need. We can’t keep roaming. We’ve found safe holes, but we’ve never stopped to create a philosophy or follow our hearts. As a group, what do we want to create that’s something that we will really fight to preserve that goes beyond just projecting the people that we love? You can’t only keep fighting for the people around you because there has to be a grander purpose. Deanna has this very firm, solid philosophy that is bigger than any of them, and that’s why I think Maggie feels so strongly about it. If everybody knows their place and everybody’s working towards a greater goal, then you can all coexist. You don’t have to love each other, and there are characters that she might have some reservations about, but you just have to keep finding the common purpose that we can work towards. That’s what Alexandria has represented, even within tragedy. Maggie respects and loves Deanna so much that in Season 6, she helps give some of her own strength back to her.
Lennie James, the actor behind the most intriguing character of the new season, discusses Morgan’s predicament with Entertainment Weekly:
On one level for Morgan, reconnecting with Rick is going to be really hard, and it’s going to be really difficult, and is going to be a large chunk of their finding out about each other in season 6. For me, one of the other big things about Morgan is that right from the beginning he’s only ever been in a group of two at the most. It was him and his son, and obviously as fans of the show know, between season 3 at least and where we are now — he’s spent a huge amount of time on his own. This is the first time he’s going to be part of a group. All the things that the group went through Morgan is kind of going through. On top of that, he doesn’t know whether or not he’s right for the place. It might be sensory overload for him and he’s been to the darkest corner of his psyche, and he’s fought his way out, and he’s not sure whether being amongst these people is a good thing or if it will force him back into the corner.
And Noel Murray thinks we might be in Alexandria for a while:
Even though the writer of The Walking Dead comics, Robert Kirkman, is one of the show’s main producers, he hasn’t really demanded that the TV version copy his graphic novels beat-for-beat. Instead the series has been following the creator’s rough outline, with the first five seasons covering more or less his first 78 issues. If it stays on its current course, then like its print counterpart, the TV narrative is going to straighten out considerably, leaving behind the desperate wandering of the early stories in order to move toward… well, something else. (For the non-readers, it’d be wrong to spoil what might be coming.) Not every Walking Dead fan likes the direction the comics have gone in. But even those who prefer the older stuff can admit that the books' more recent arcs have dropped what had become a too-predictable ebb-and-flow — where the survivors find a new location, stay there for a handful of issues, and then something or someone ruins everything and people die. If Kirkman keeps adapting his own source material, the show ought to start doing some actual world-building. Characters could stick around for a while, and locations get built up instead of destroyed. Currently, the comic books are up to issue #146, which means that there’s about four seasons' worth of material that the television TWD could still use. A lot of it is bold, exciting stuff, too, and very different from what’s come before. It should be pretty clear by the next mid-season break whether the TV show is slowly shambling to the same place — and if we’re going to be making our weekly Sunday home in Alexandria for the next few years.
Season 6 of The Walking Dead premieres Sunday at 9pm ET.