Burning rubber from the starting line, the new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead is keeping the pedal to the metal.
Season Six opened Oct. 11 with Rick and his group at a quarry cleverly altered to trap walkers. And trap them, it did. That explained why the residents of Alexandria had not seen walkers in large numbers thus far, but the situation was about to change.
The quarry had amassed thousands of walkers to the point that the tractor-trailer rigs blocking egress from the quarry were giving way, and the exit would pave the way to Alexandria. Rick and company were at the quarry for a dry run of a plan to lead the walkers, pied piper-style, away from the complex. When one of the blocking rigs tumbles into the pit, the dress rehearsal quickly goes live.
The episode alternates between the present and the events that have occurred since the end of season five, with the latter presented in black and white. Confusing, at first (I had to check another channel to make sure I wasn’t having a problem), the presentation method worked.
Daryl, demonstrating supreme confidence in his motorcycle maintenance skills, is leading the horde at a pace which barely keeps his bike upright. One of the endearing qualities of the zombies in this show has always been their lack of speed.
The plan is working. The zombies are turned away from Alexandria by a makeshift wall built at a critical intersection, and they are heading out into the open countryside, presumable to unlive happily ever after.
Success! Nothing could go wrong. Right? Why, oh why, would anyone think that?
Oops! Suddenly, a diesel horn begins a non-stop blare from the direction of Alexandria. The zombies may have lost a lot of their faculties and body parts during their long stay in the quarry, but there is nothing wrong with the ears of those who still have them. The infinite column of walkers loses its coherence and begins filtering through the forest, heading directly for Alexandria.
The second episode of the new season backtracks only slightly in time, and presents the Alexandria side of events. The Wolves, a nebulous threat since Rick and his group were first brought to this gated (literally) community of false normality, have finally attacked. The horn is coming from a semi that somehow failed to breach the Alexandria walls in its kamikaze run.
Fans who scoff at the “sensitive viewer” warning at the start of each episode and have grown accustomed to seeing zombie heads hacked each week may have been slightly taken aback by the savagery they were about to witness. I know I was.
Apparently the Wolves have failed to take advantage the many firearms that have become available throughout the land through the zombification of their legally registered owners. They are armed with things that cut — knife, ax, sickle — and they are very industrious about using them.
The first attack victim shown is a poor Alexandrian guiltily having a smoke on her front lawn. A Wolf suddenly swoops in and fells the woman with a machete chop to the head. Not content with merely killing her, he continues chopping.
This pattern is repeated throughout the attack. The apparent Wolf Creed is: “Dead is not enough. Dismemberment must follow.” They probably should have thought that procedure out a bit more. Turning their backs on residents packing guns is a bad idea.
Another Wolf membership requirement appears to be smearing a “W” on the forehead with the victim’s blood. That part might also be reconsidered. Disguised with only a hoodie, a scarf and a bloody W, Carol was able wreak havoc among the Wolves without challenge.
This episode served as a graphic reminder that, in a zombie apocalypse world, the greater horror comes from the survivors. They say that domestic swine which escape into the wild become full-blown feral razorbacks in a single generation. Humans revert more quickly.
The Wolves echoed the mindless savagery exhibited by the Reavers of Firefly fame. Is the beast in all of us really that close to the surface?
Inside the Alexandria walls, homemaker, cosmetician and Rick’s love interest, Jessie, answered “yes” to that question when she shriekingly inflicted a few thousand stab wounds to a Wolf woman who had the audacity to attack in her own, well-appointed kitchen. The killing was witnessed by her son, Ron, who earlier in the episode had refused to sit down and have a heart-to-heart. The expression on his face indicated that the next time Mom wanted to talk, he would listen.