'The Walking Dead' season 6 debut recap: Carter vs. Rick. Guess who wins?

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne and Lennie James as Morgan Jones - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne and Lennie James as Morgan Jones - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Sunday, October 11, 2015

The "Walking Dead" producers face the challenge each season to outdo themselves from previous years. The chances of repetition and boredom grow.

Fortunately, the opening 90-minute episode was a rabble rouser, packed with walkers and human tensions and a skeptic who got what was coming to him.

Okay, the Carter character looked like mincemeat from the moment he came on screen questioning everything Rick did. The writers were none-too-subtle about it.

Carter spent a good portion of the early flashbacks being skeptical about anything Rick uttered. He saw Rick go a little nutty. He saw him kill drunken Pete. He has justifiable reasons to be suspicious. But then he takes it a wee bit too far.

At one point, Eugene - while picking up supplies -  overhears Carter talking to some Alexandrians that they need to literally kill Rick before he kills them.

Eugene is so shocked, he drops a glass and Carter points a gun at him. Fortunately, conveniently, Rick shows up and quickly grabs the gun from Carter.

"You think you'll take this community from us?" Rick fumes. "From Glenn? From Michonne? From Daryl? From Me? Do you have any idea who you're talking to?"

Yes, Rick - ego meglomaniac - pops up.

Carter expects to die but Rick surprisingly holds up, absorbing the words of Morgan, who still believes in Rick's humanity. (Yes, the whole "how much of humanity do you lose in the apocalypse?" question inevitably comes up every season. As a result, Rick will show restraint every so often to prove that he is still a good guy, more or less.)

"You can try to work with us," Rick says, "You can try to survive. Will you do that?"

Carter falls in line because really, does he have a choice now?

Let's rewind, since that's what this episode does frequently in what I consider an effective story-telling device. Present day is color; the recent past is black and white. Scenes are often juxtaposed purposefully.

Deanna, Alexandria's leader, is devastated by her husband Reg's death. She is now firmly in Rick's camp and snipes at idiot Gabriel. Abraham is about to bury drunken Pete unceremoniously inside the fence.  (You'd think Pete's family and friends would want some sort of acknowledgment or memorial since Pete was a doctor and probably saved lives when he wasn't inebriated and wielding a katana.)

But Rick wants this loser to be buried outside - far outside. And Deanna is fine with it. "Let the trees have him," she said coldly. He and Morgan transport Pete's body a couple of miles away. Inexplicably, Ron - Pete's son - follows them. He is almost caught by walkers but Rick and Morgan save him. They discover a huge valley, a rock quarry of sorts, where thousands of walkers appear to be residing. Why so many? Walkers follow noise and like lemmings, they drop in. But the trucks blocking the entrance are about to give way.

Rick realizes the road would lead the walkers right to Alexandria. He also figures out why so few walkers were even reaching Alexandria. (Why more marauding Mad Max-type humans have not tried to take over Alexandria at this point is another question. This is more like the Middle Ages now.)

He ultimately convinces the Alexandrians that this is a good plan - despite Carter's kvetching. "We have to finish this!" Rick thunders. "We have to keep moving."

So the Alexandrians help out building fencing and placing cars in strategic spots to lead the walkers west and not east. When a few walkers pop up, Rick first lets the Alexandrians (including Carter) deal with them. But they don't do much of anything. Morgan - then Rick - come in to knife them in the skull.

So Rick comes back and speechifies to everyone in that Rick way. The stakes are high. Yada yada. He of course gets enough volunteers to take part in the diversionary plan. And Deanna supports him. Keep the danger away from Alexandria, Rick reasons, despite the obvious risks.

At first, everything goes as planned. The walkers more or less stay on the path they want them to go.

But careless Carter gets caught by one and gets bit in the lower jaw/neck area. Painful! He begins screaming. He starts drawing walkers so Rick has to kill him right then and there. It's necessary. And Rick probably won't lose any sleep over it.

As he had told Morgan earlier:

"I wanted to kill him. But all that hit me, I realized I didn't have to do it. He doesn't get it. Somebody like that, he's going to die no matter what."

Alas, Carter did. But not long after, a siren goes off near or at Alexandria, veering the hundreds if not thousands of walkers off the road and toward Rick and his crew.

Who set off the siren and sabotage the plan? How badly will this endanger the Alexandrians? Will there be more anti-Rick rebels in the midst with Carter dying and the plan failing? That's for next week...


Lethal weapon: Carol is using her innocent persona to get a feel for the townsfolk. Morgan, who knows nothing about her, senses something different about Carol. He immediately sees Carol as more than just a home-maker. He asks her point blank if she's a cop because she's "always watching, always ready." Carol demurs, just grins and thanks him.


Who's the captain now? Carol offers to join the effort to guide the walkers away from Alexandria. But Rick says: "Get a feel for how people are now. We still have a long way to go with them."

"We'll get there," she assures him. "She's in charge. You're in charge now."


Fresh blood: Rick is against more recruiting efforts, he tells Daryl. They need to focus on readying the current Alexandrians for battle. But Daryl believes they always need more good people. Replenishment, he feels, is a necessity. And he's probably right.


Grudges not held here: Tara is angry Noah was killed due to Nicholas, who almost iced Glenn, too. She thinks Nicholas should be exiled. But Maggie says people need to be forgiven in this world, noting that Tara herself was working with the Governor, who killed Maggie's dad. Tara softens and says she'll support whatever Maggie says.


Can Nicholas be saved? The Alexandrian has been an idiot so far. But he's been chastened since he came back from the outside with Glenn. He even volunteers to help with Operation Walker Walk. Glenn reluctantly works with Nicholas as they extricate some walkers from a building creating too much of a ruckus. Nicholas actually helps! Who knew? Will he and Glenn ever be best buddies? Probably not but Glenn is willing to move forward with him for now. Pragmatism trumps resentments.


What's up with Sasha and Abraham? Abraham questions Sasha's sanity and whether she volunteered to be part of the clean-up crew simply to die. She says she does not want to die. Abraham, in the meantime, seems to be coping with all the stress via whatever booze he can scrounge up. (Bob Stookey wasn't the only one who likes his liquor.)


Plenty of Eugene, almost no Carl: Carl gets no dialogue and just a brief scene with his potential girlfriend. Eugene? He's everywhere! He reunites with Tara and a mullet joke is thrown in. He meets up with Heath and Co. at the gate as a way to introduce new characters and again, throw in another mullet reference. Later, he catches Carter planning to murder Rick and is almost shot. No mullet jokes this time.


"We got to know each other again - for the first time, again." - Morgan, to Rick.


"Walking Dead" executive producer Greg Nicotero said they used 1,000 walkers, with up to 300 in one day. He used spray tanning to speed "walkify" the zombies. He used a ton of makeup artists, too.

And what about the honking? No clear answer, of course. "It seems bad," said Scott Gimple with a straight face. The viewer poll thinks it's "The Wolves."