After what feels like the longest wait of all time, The Walking Dead is back. I'm so excited to fill the Sunday night void. If you haven't seen this episode yet, push the back button right away. Spoilers ahead.
Though it may have been several long months since we last saw them, season six starts out in the hours and days following the finale of season five. If you remember, Rick and the wife-beating doctor got into a scuffle and in a meeting to decide Rick and the group's fate, Dr. Pete comes in and kills Reg (engineer and husband to Deanna the mayor of Alexandria) with Michone's sword. Deanna orders Rick to shoot him, which he gladly does.
Tonight's episode switches back and forth between past (defined by the use of black and white film - because yes, we're too stupid to figure it out without that) and present, giving us a glimpse into what happened to the town the days following Reg and Pete's deaths as well as why we see our group leading a giant hoard of quarry walkers through the highways - a plan to keep them from the town, which you know won't work because Rick's group came up with it and they aren't known for their good decision making skills. Though we're used to flashbacks in this series, I didn't feel it was pulled off well this time. Over at Insatiable Book Sluts they cover why this doesn't work and why it's a lazy way to write. I won't go into detail here, but I will say that I hope this stylistic choice doesn't last the whole season. There are recaps all over the Internet, so I won't bore you with the play-by-play.
The theme of season six seems to be a tale of redemption in which Glen and Maggie take the lead. Glen and Maggie show great strength through forgiveness of those who have wronged them in the name of survival and as they do, their strength of leadership grows. They've long since proven their ability to survive in a world where monsters roam and now they're proving they're strong enough to rebuild society. Not all have that strength as we're seeing in Carol and in Rick.
We know that since he had to shoot his best friend, Rick has been spiraling out of control and his humanity is almost a memory. Since then, Rick has always needed a moral compass. This season, it's Morgan - the man who rescued Rick after he woke up at the hospital. As Rick's moral decline parallels with Shane's (refusing to bury the dead, being willing to kill over "his neighbor's wife," putting others in danger to prove and secure his standing as leader...), Morgan's goal is to remind Rick of the man he is underneath the monster. Time and again he tells Rick, "This isn't who you are."
Morgan has lived in this world too. Like Rick he's killed the living in order to survive, but unlike Rick, he's been able to keep his humanity in tact. This greatly increases Morgan's already high mortality rate. In this world, the people with the strongest sense of morality - the strongest connection with their humanity, die. Hopefully it won't be until Rick remembers who he is and that what separates the living from the dead isn't the ability to survive - it's the humanity inside, it's the soul.
"It still might be too late" Rick says, "For them to come around. You'll see." With the biggest hoard yet seen, his grim prediction may come true for our towns people, or it may already be true of Rick's humanity.