Critical Condition: The Walking Dead

The Hollywood Reporter says season six of The Walking Dead (TV2, 9.40 Monday) is "poised to be its biggest yet and will feature a series-high 18 series regulars" while the premiere boasts a

The Hollywood Reporter says season six of The Walking Dead (TV2, 9.40 Monday) is “poised to be its biggest yet and will feature a series-high 18 series regulars” while the premiere boasts an unprecedented 654 zombies on screen.

“Picking up where season 5 left off, while embarking on new plots, The Walking Dead looks very much at the top of its game, with strong character material mixed with a massive set piece in the extended premiere made possible, no doubt, by its enormous popularity. Blessed and cursed with a vagabond mentality, the first episode finds the gang still trying to fit into a gated community, where the promise of security is balanced against the cultural clash separating the battle-hardened travelers from those sheltered within. Add one familiar face to the mix, and it’s a pretty irresistible feast.”

“Its 90-minute sixth-season premiere … is essentially an episode-long combat operation, and it reaches for a new level of cinematic wallop. A double narrative that shows the preparations for, and execution of, an elaborate zombie-clearing action, it variously recalls Hollywood biblical epics, European art-house pastorals and the teeming photographs of Sebastião Salgado. It’s likely, though, that a lot of the show’s 20 million viewers (13 million of them in the under-50 demographic) would watch it if even if it were shot on an iPhone on a backlot in Burbank rather than on 16-millimetre film on location in Georgia.”

“Without giving too much away here, and thereby risking the wrath of Deadheads everywhere, this easy observation should suffice: Sunday’s episode is exceptional, marred only in a few spots by padding that’s inevitable with these supersized episodes. (Sunday’s runs an hour and four minutes … But TWD season openers always have a little something extra in the goody bag — supersized or otherwise — as a way of subverting expectations and stoking excitement. The episode, which is titled First Time Again, has several.”

“We’ve seen some big zombie mobs — herds, our intrepid survivors call them — on AMC’s The Walking Dead. There was that highway herd that frightened off poor Sophia at the beginning of season two. There was that herd that cornered and chewed up Noah last season. But we’ve never seen a herd the size of [this] overpopulated opener. We’re talking hundreds — thousands, maybe — of hungry undead. Call it escalation, maybe in response to the tepid spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, but Walking Dead in its sixth season premiere wants you to remember the nightmare started here, and this show owns it.”

“The season premiere tries to make itself look more complicated than it actually is, shuffling the scenes of the preparation for the battle to sequester some walkers with the execution of the sequestration. It’s ultimately just a chopped-up, hyped up version of an ordinary Walking Dead episode with one significant change. The show seems to be moving toward showing Rick Grimes overreaching — coming ever-closer to being overtaken by hubris, an unwarranted pride in his leadership … Rick Grimes, fallen hero? Even as just a tantalising possibility, that’s something I’d stay tuned in to watch.”

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