For the first time in The Walking Dead's entire run, a premiere has failed to pull in more viewers than the previous season premiere? But is this a reflection of the episode's quality? Here are the good parts and the bad parts of last Sunday's episode.
Huge spoilers from here on in- caution is advised!
The acting was perfect, though this should be no surprise to TWD fans. Particular highlights were the performances of Andrew Lincoln, Lennie James, Melissa McBride, Josh McDermitt, and Ethan Embry as Rick, Morgan, Carol, Eugene and Carter respectively.
The extended premiere allowed for a high amount of quieter, more character based scenes as well as the action, and this episode proves that even after five seasons, they can still deliver quality character development. Morgan shone in every scene, and he really helped to accentuate Rick's morality, something that will hopefully continue into the rest of the season. His brief interactions with Carol and Michonne were also well done, and it's especially interesting to see where Carol might be going this season in terms of development. It's nice to see Ron has finally become a character rather than a name, despite the fact that it feels almost inevitable that he is being set up for a death later on in the season. Deanna seems to be giving even more control to Rick, Abraham is becoming increasingly reckless, Sasha has regained her sanity, Gabriel is trying to help out the group more, and (predictably) Nicholas is going on a redemptive arc (likely ending in his death). Eugene also stole every scene he was in! "I fully respect the hair game" is a quote for the ages. Too bad Aaron didn't seem to make a single appearance, hopefully this will be rectified.
While not as suspenseful or exciting as previous season premieres, this episode served up ample amounts of thrilling zombie action on a scale never seen before.
Showrunner Scott M Gimple gives one of the most unique episodes in years, while distributing action and character development in spades. The flashback idea was simple yet highly effective.
Parts of the episode seemed slightly surreal. The Walking Dead is known to exploit subtext in thrilling ways but something seemed a bit too over the top in certain sections. Maybe it was the zombie herd being overdone slightly in terms of size and CGI or the unusually bold and booming score, but at times this didn't quite feel like The Walking Dead.
Additional note: killing off Carter in his debut episode took guts. While it's argued he had a lot of potential, you have to admire them for taking such a risk and really sticking to the 'nobody is safe' philosophy and really delivering a shocking death. Although I have to agree with Chris Hardwick in that there was no way he could be allowed to survive after threatening our favourite mullet!
Overall, the premiere wasn't the most explosive premiere, but as a regular episode, the premiere certainly delivered. It isn't up there with the series gems, but it was far from bad or even average, and showed the writers still have a trick or two up their sleeves. Come back soon for a review on episode 2! Who's honking that horn...?