The Movie Waffler A Look Back At THE WALKING DEAD Season 6 | The Movie Waffler

A Look Back At THE WALKING DEAD Season 6

A look back at the sixth season of AMC's hit zombie drama.

Words by Nick Sauer (@njsauer)

This review contains spoilers for not only season six of the AMC series The Walking Dead, but will mention what may be spoilers from the upcoming seventh season based upon the direction of the graphic novel series. As always, continue reading at your own risk.

If you have read my review of season five of AMC's The Walking Dead, you know that I was looking forward to season six based upon my presumption that the series would begin to examine the reconstruction of society. Unfortunately, this was not the direction the series took, as it instead went back to more of the themes we have already seen before.

This season is effectively broken into two halves. The first involves Rick (Andrew Lincoln) discovering a large quarry, I would guess, that has become a trap for walkers due to some cleverly placed tractor trailer trucks. This pit has trapped a lot of walkers, as the noise from the horde keeps attracting more. Rick figures that this is why Alexandria has been able to survive as easily as it has, given the locally reduced walker population. After his return to Alexandria, a plan is created to draw the tremendous horde away from the area using cars and sound to lead them down a series of roads away from the walled town. It is an ambitious plan that involves constructing a barricade at a major turning point and clearing some walker infested buildings along the route that might otherwise distract the column. A dress rehearsal for the plan turns into the real thing when one of the cliffs holding a truck collapses and releases the herd. Regardless of the now immediate execution of the operation, it mostly works, until the group called the Wolves that we encountered last season decide to attack Alexandria with the intent of trying to draw the horde there. The attack is halted when Carol (Melissa McBride), who stayed behind in Alexandria, takes charge of the counter attack by disguising herself as one of the Wolves. This proves to be a little too late as the noise of a horn from a truck used by the Wolves to break through the walls results in a large number of walkers now surrounding Alexandria. While the walls are able to hold back the mass of walkers, eventually a collapsing church tower drops enough of the wall to allow the walkers inside the enclave.

The mid-season cliffhanger has Rick trying to lead a small group through the walkers in order to get to the armory using the trick of masking themselves with dead walker material that we saw in the first season. This ends up not working out so well when Sam (Major Dodson) - the son of Jessie (Alexandra Breckinridge), an Alexandria resident whom Rick hooked up with - panics and draws the walkers on himself and his mother as she tries to rescue him. His brother Ron (Austin Abrams) also attempts to take the opportunity to attempt to shoot Carl (Chandler Riggs), who was in love with the same girl as him. Michonne (Danai Gurira) intervenes, forcing the shot to go wild and ultimately end up hitting Carl in the eye. After getting Carl to Denise (Merritt Weaver), Alexandria's new makeshift doctor, Rick goes on a killing spree against the walker population inside the walls and is soon joined by the rest of the town. The final success comes with the return of Daryl (Norman Reedus), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and the others who were leading the main body of the horde away. They empty the contents of a gas truck they scavenged on the way back into the town's central pond and set it ablaze, drawing the remainder of the walkers into the inferno just as Rick's group was about to be trapped against one of the walls.

The second half of the season, in addition to focusing on the rebuilding of Alexandria, finally introduces us to another organised groups of survivors. We actually get our first couple of glimpses of them from Daryl and company on their way back to Alexandria after leading the remainder of the horde away. Daryl, separated from the rest of the team, encounters three people who are trying to escape from this group of survivors. Later, as the team is returning with the fuel truck, a group on motorcycles stops them and introduces themselves as members of the Saviors. They are arrogant, demanding half of what the team has on them right there and threatening to kill one of them as an example before Daryl dispatches them all with a rocket launcher.

On another scavenging run, Rick and Daryl run into an individual named Jesus (Tom Payne). He is a slippery but friendly guy who belongs to another community called Hilltop. This is another walled, but considerably smaller community, who have run into the Saviors as well. In fact, the Saviors regularly come to collect payment from them in exchange for them not taking what they want by force. Ultimately, an agreement is reached whereby the Hilltop people will pay Rick's group for destroying the Saviors. They do manage to successfully wipe out one stronghold in some sort of communications structure but, at the same time, learn that the Saviors are a massive community that seriously outnumbers both Alexandria and Hilltop. They also seem to be some sort of cult, following a leader named Negan. The destruction of the stronghold brings the full wrath of the Saviors down on Rick and his people, resulting in a group of them being captured and introduced to the enigmatic Negan.

Even though Negan got precious little screen time in the season's finale, he was masterfully played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He came across as an arrogant and ruthless dictator but, at the same time, managed to convey a sense of being concerned with his people and trying to do what is best for them. In the final scene, Negan succeeds in doing what the earlier group tried by beating one of Rick's people to death with a baseball bat. As most readers of this review are probably already well aware, the identity of this individual was not revealed, as the scene was shot from that victim's perspective.

It is during these same events that we see Carol starting to fall apart from the incessant killing. She ultimately leaves Alexandria with Morgan (Lennie James) following her in an attempt to bring her back. While I really enjoyed what was done with her character last season, I have to say that I was left somewhat puzzled by her actions at this point. I suspect this has more to do with the writing than Melissa McBride's considerable acting skills.

One of the highlights of this season was an early episode that caught us up on Morgan's story and how he reunited with the group. Apart from this though, this season was definitely a step down from the previous, due in large part to the return to themes we have already seen repeatedly before. Initially, I was one of those viewers who felt a few gallons of gasoline and a flare dumped into the pit of walkers was the best solution to that problem. However, I went along for the ride involving Rick's convoluted plan due to the genre's trope of there always being more zombies than bullets. Unfortunately, the resolution involved pretty much the same idea, which left me with the feeling that the whole plot was just a way to get us more survivor versus walker action each week. While I knew Negan was coming (being married to a reader of the comic books) I still was left with the feeling that we are simply getting back to a bigger and badder version of the Governor.

Part of the problem with the latter half of the season was that so much of it was merely exposition to get us to Negan and the Saviors, and that sort of storytelling is always more difficult to make engaging. Then, of course, there was the ending. I'm not sure what the goal was here, but it came across to me as ploy to keep fans talking about the series between this season and the next. It struck me as a tactic that broadcast television would use and was well beneath the writing level of this series. Fans' time would be better spent watching the engaging spin off series Fear: the Walking Dead than speculating on who was killed off.

One other thing I do want to note here was some people's interesting reaction to that final scene with Negan. A couple of watchers of the show that I know found the whole scene uncomfortable because they specifically did not like seeing Rick being totally out of control of the situation. I wasn't personally bothered by this at all, but it was interesting that other people were, as it may lend credibility to the argument some make that Rick is too much like a superhero. I have never bought into that perspective of Rick myself, but these reactions on the part of some viewers is making me reconsider that position.

Having said all of this, although I found the writing somewhat disappointing, I still enjoyed the season overall and am definitely looking forward to season seven. If you do not want to know what may be coming based upon the comic book series right now might be the time to stop reading.

The reason I am looking forward to season seven is that it looks to be finally getting into what I wanted from this season as far as addressing the whole re-building of society theme. The knights that Morgan (and presumably Carol) ran into are part of another much larger community called the Kingdom. If the next season parallels the comics, there will be an alliance formed between Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom to challenge the Saviors. As far as whom Negan killed, I will not speculate, as I am left wondering based upon a bunch of my own observations whether the producers even knew who it was at the time that the episode was shot.

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