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The Walking Dead - First Time Again - Review: “Sunday Parade”

We’re back for another season of The Walking Dead, kicking off the next 5 years (kidding, but not really) with an old-fashioned walker parade! Not to break us back in slowly (where would the fun be in that?), the episode played with the passage of time in the storytelling to start at the second most suspenseful moment. The most suspenseful moment ended the episode, but more on that in a minute.

I enjoyed this one. It felt good to be back in the battle against monsters, with the human vs. human conflict dialed back for a brief respite. The episode was suspenseful, well-paced, and had plenty of good lines and the memorable interactions. As to how this one measures up against my expectations for a season premiere, I’m of two minds on that.

On my first watch, while I enjoyed it and loved seeing the gang again, part of me had expected more. My first impression was that this was a solid episode with a clever parade-theme twist, but it felt more like a midseason episode than one of the bookends. On a second watch, I came to believe that this was exactly what it needed to be.  By that I mean that there’s a lot of subtle set-up in this episode, and the first episode should be setting up the season.

While I was not surprised to see that Morgan and Rick did not see eye-to-eye on the issue of killing humans  this conflict was pretty well laid out in Morgan's scenes last season  I noted a subtle parallel between Morgan and Rick to where Rick and the Governor/Brian were in season 4. Rick in this episode refers to his way as surviving. The Governor used that language in explaining why they should raid the prison. Rick's back to a place of the not wanting to trust strangers, as he tells Daryl to the stop recruiting people.  It a lack of trust that broke down a possible peace between Rick and the Governor both in seasons 3 and 4.

There were other call backs to that point in story’s history: Maggie mentions the day her father was killed while speaking with Tara, and Morgan talks about his season 3 meeting with Rick and Michonne.  I've been wondering recently if we should start questioning whether Rick has become the villain of this story.  With the reintroduction of Morgan  and the potential for him to be a strong champion for finding peaceful solutions  I'm now suspecting that this will be the season where the parallels between Rick and the Governor will become more overt.

It hit me while watching this episode that Rick hasn’t been challenged in a long while  not really. We have the occasional bad guy or misguided weak people (aka, the ones that shouldn’t still be alive) standing up to him, but we all know how that’s always going to end. Daryl, Michonne, and sometimes Glenn, will tell Rick he’s wrong, but they won’t defy him.

When Hershel was around there was a dichotomy of two different, but equally valid, points of view led by two characters who were both leaders in their own right.  We've been missing that balance. Watching Rick trying to get Morgan’s attention as Morgan dug Pete’s grave, and seeing Morgan ignoring him, my thought was that Morgan will be tougher for Rick to control. Carol got a taste of that too, as her innocent act (what she referred to as telling stories to children last season) was wasted on Morgan.

There were a lot of great moments throughout the episode.

I particularly enjoyed Maggie’s conversation with Tara, when she told Tara that Glenn had left it up to her to decide whether she wanted to give Nicholas (who had gotten Noah killed and tried to kill Glenn) another chance. We don’t get to hear Maggie’s point of view anywhere near enough, and it was nice to get this intimate glimpse into her relationship with Glenn as she explained that Glenn had left the decision of what to do with Nicholas up to her. It was also touching to hear Maggie tell Tara that she had become one of the most important people to her. And speaking of Maggie and Glenn, are we all thinking Maggie might be pregnant?

Another fantastic moment was the image of the Daryl rising up over the horizon on his bike - the pied piper (or grand marshall of the parade, to keep the metaphor going), slowly leading a herd of walkers down the road.

The scene of the Maggie, Glenn, and Eugene greeting Tara after she woke up was touching, and her mention of Noah caused me to tear up.  I still wish they hadn't killed him off.

I’m still trying to figure out Morgan’s conversation with Michonne about the protein bar. It was cute, but it seemed a little out of character for him. Was he testing her, wanting to see how she would react?

I’m curious what you all thought about the use of black and white for the scenes that took place in the past. I have mixed feelings about it. While it served a purpose of drawing a distinction between the present and the past, I found it a little distracting. The lighter background was too saturated at times, making the scenes unreal. While I’ve seen this technique work effectively in other cases, especially when someone is telling a story and the flashbacks are supposed to have a somewhat dreamlike feel, that wasn’t what was going on here.  But on the other hand, the jumping timeline might have been too disorienting without such as strong signal.

We left off with the group rushing back home deal with someone setting off an alarm at the complex, which leaves us with lots to speculate about before next week. What do you think? Was it someone inside the complex unhappy with Rick? Ron, the angry teen, seems like an obvious suspect. Was it from an outside threat, maybe the Wolves? Was it accidental, something that just happened to have unfortunate timing? And will this be the end of Alexandria?

Other thoughts

My pick for quote of the week comes from Glenn:
Heath: This was supposed to be a dress rehearsal.
Glenn: I was supposed to be delivering pizzas, man.

We met some new Alexandrians. What did you think of Heath and the others?

It's a shame Carter, rather than Nicholas, got killed off.  I remembered the actor who played Carter from Sweet Home Alabama and would liked to have seen more of him.

I can't wait to see how Rick and Morgan do as roommates.

And one final thought: In all that time living there, why haven’t they built an underground bunker they can burrow into and hide should a horde of zombies happen to head their way? They would risk getting trapped there and starved out, but if most of the horde moves on, they might succeed in making their way out when the numbers have thinned.  Just a thought.

Let me know what you're thinking and whether you enjoyed the episode in the comments!

Finally, I have a plug for a Walking Dead related charity event.  Unfortunately, this is a little late and registration has already closed, but some fans are raising money for charity by participating in a Walking Dead themed half- or full-marathon.   More details are here.