Let’s start over, for the sixth time and the first time again. We ended with Deanna giving Rick the go-ahead to kill Pete, which was a necessary evil, but necessary nonetheless. But then Morgan showed up. Where do we go from here? Well, for starters, someone in production must have been messing with the colors since half this episode is in black and white. This is “First Time Again.”
The season begins in an insane world. Or rather, Rick explaining to a group that what they’re doing sounds insane, but they live in an insane world. Either go for walkers, or the walkers come for them. Anyway, we’re in a massive pit housing a gigantic herd of walkers that are being held back some semis. Rick gives doles out instructions to the team on how to combat the oncoming herd, but some of the members aren’t ready. After all, this was supposed to be a dry run. But there’s no time to deliberate now.
We then get the first of many black and white flashbacks as we pick up not long after the events of “Conquer.” Deanna, still at the spot where Reg died, tells Gabriel that he was wrong about Rick and the others.
Oh, and as Glenn and Nicholas return to the infirmary, Tara, who I’d honestly forgotten about, awakens. She’s a bit freaked out by Eugene’s elated expression and wants Noah to protect her. Yeah, that won’t be happening.
Morgan has a brief moment with Rick and also says that he was right- this isn’t over. Rick prefers to talk this over tomorrow, but he tells Morgan that he doesn’t take chances anymore. But Morgan has no problem with that, telling Rick that he shouldn’t.
In the present, we get snippets of the teams executing their plan.
Then the episode flashes back to Daryl fixing up his motorcycle. He’s joined by Rick, who has just assigned Morgan his temporary and boxed-in living space. It’s a small spot, but it was Morgan’s idea and Rick is sure that Morgan gets it. There’s still the lingering matter of the men and walkers with Ws carved into their foreheads, though.
Rick’s solution is to add more watch points. In addition, he plans to tell Deanna that there’s no longer any need for Daryl and Aaron to look for new people. But Daryl has a problem with that. Rick, though, says that the people outside those walls have to take care of themselves.
Back in the present, we’re on the road with Sasha and Abraham. Sasha is still hanging in there. She thinks that Abraham is worried about her, but what she’s doing right now, being out here, is living. I guess that’s an upgrade from resting in an open grave. The two arrive at a spot marked by red balloons and stop.
In a flashback, Rick finds Morgan training and inquires when he learned- turns out it was after the outbreak. Rick apologizes for having to hole Morgan up like this, but Morgan believes that it’s safer when there’s no way out. Now the two have to get to know each other again.
Still in the past, Eugene, who was drafted into watching Holly’s spot at the gate, receives a surprise when visitors arrive. Turns out these are residents who have been out for a few weeks on runs. And this is where we’re introduced to Scott, Annie, Carter, played by Ethan Embry, and Heath, played by Dr. Dre himself, Corey Hawkins. Now because these two didn’t meet prior to Rick’s group arriving, Eugene is hesitant to open the gate, but he soon relents.
Meanwhile, Rick shows Morgan around and surveys the walls around Alexandria. Morgan will have to talk to Deanna, but Rick still has his concerns about the people. They’ve just lived instead of survived. But it still may be too late for some of them to come around.
Rick then spots Gabriel helping Tobin bury Pete’s body. Rick doesn’t want a killer’s body inside the walls. Deanna soon stops by and agrees with Rick. She advises them to take it down Branton Road a few miles, just past the bridge. No one goes out that way.
Following this, Rick explains to Morgan why he killed Pete. Morgan mentions that Rick has a cell, and that’s true, but not one for killers, never mind the fact that both Rick and Morgan are killers. As all this happens, Ron watches from a distance…
In the present, Rick, Morgan, and Michonne arrive at the spot marked by orange balloons. As Rick radios in to Glenn, Morgan has a very serious question for Michonne…did she eat one of his peanut butter protein bars? Michonne denies this accusation.
In the past, Rick and Morgan head out to the spot Deanna indicated. Rick wants to just leave Pete’s body there, but Morgan says that isn’t who Rick is. He starts digging, but Rick stops him when he hears a noise.
The two follow it and find a pit habited by an enormous number of walkers. As the two survey the area, they’re interrupted when Ron runs in with walkers chasing him. Rick and Morgan force the walkers over the edge of the cliff. Rick demands to know why Ron followed them. Turns out he just wanted to know where his dad was buried.
Going back to the herd, Rick believes that this is how Alexandria remained safe for so long: most of the walkers end up there. Ron begins to head back, but Rick stops him, telling him that he can’t protect himself in the middle of nowhere like this. If he comes out like this, he’ll die. And it won’t be quick, either. Well, at least Rick is more to the point than Carol was.
Even still, Rick gets to work digging a grave for Pete’s body.
In the present, Glenn, Nicholas, and Heath arrive at a building with walkers trapped behind the glass. The plan is for Nicholas to let them out a few at a time so Heath and Glenn can take them out. Heath is hesitant, but Nicholas assures him that Glenn knows what he’s doing. But when Nicholas opens the door…there’s another barrier blocking the walkers. Whoops.
In the past, the town holds a meeting. Heath fills everyone in on the pit that Rick and Morgan discovered: he and the others found it on one of their earlier scouts. There was even a camp at the bottom. Heath figures that the people must have barricaded the exits with one of the trucks when things got crazy, but the people didn’t make it in the end and were turned into roamers.
All nearby walkers are being drawn to this one spot due to the sound. As is, the Alexandria Safe Zone is just sitting there. Rick sees how this could all end: some of the walkers are already slipping through the exits and one of the trucks keeping them in could go over the edge at any time. When that happens, the pathway will send the walkers east towards the Safe Zone. It’s about when the barricades give, not if.
Carter, not liking where this plan is going, suggests just strengthening the walls around the Safe Zone, but Deanna sticks with Rick’s plan. Tasks are assigned: Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham will lead away the walkers. Rosita, Spencer, and Holly will be on watch. Glenn volunteers and, to his disappointment, so does Nicholas. When Gabriel tries to help, Rick shuts him down. Carter still objects, especially after Rick just shot a man in the face, but he gets no backing here.
Still in flashback mode, Rick, Deanna, and a few others go over the plan. They’ll draw the walkers to the intersection of Marshall and Redding. They can block it off using RVs and large trucks so the walkers are forced to go west, away from the community. Even if walkers slip through, Eugene reminds everyone that they have big-ass metal plates from the construction site that can fortify the whip wall. That will help disperse the force of impact and direct the walkers clean, just like a pool table: eight ball, corner pocket.
Again, Carter is hesitant, but since he helped build the walls, it shouldn’t be too much to help make them hold.
In the present, Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham arrive at the orange balloon spot and draw to the plates.
We then cut to the past with the townspeople digging to prepare for building the walls. Daryl responds to Rick’s previous words by saying that finding people is taking care of themselves, but it’s ultimately Rick’s call. Rick wants Carol to stick around to keep feeling out the people.
Meanwhile, Tara glares at Nicholas from a distance. She knows that he’s responsible for getting Noah killed, but Maggie tells her how he also almost got Glenn killed. Now Glenn gave Maggie the go-ahead to inform everyone about this, which could get Nicholas exiled from the community. But Glenn is a better person than that and saves people like Nicholas. Besides, Maggie thought about how Tara was in a similar situation, but now she’s one of the most important people in the world to her. Huh. How about that?
Carol then offers Morgan a drink. He asks her how long she’s been with Rick and whether she was a cop, noting her keep observation and how she always appears ready to handle things.
In the present, Glenn and Heath draw out and kill the walkers that make their way out of the building, with Nicholas getting in the last kill.
Elsewhere, Abraham gets out of the car for a bit to draw away some walkers and then gets back in the car, covered in blood. That, he says to Sasha, is living, just like her.
Back in the past, Rick finally apologizes to Deanna about Reg’s death. But he’s glad that she made the right call. Deanna figures that Rick had more to say to her than that, though. And he does: people within the community need to be armed and trained.
A noise gets everyone’s attention: Carter and his group have returned, but they’ve attracted a few walkers. They want help, but Rick advises them to handle this themselves. It’s not a big number of walkers, so I think they could handle them, but they don’t. So Morgan and a few others step in.
Still in the past, Eugene picks up supplies at the armory when he overhears Carter having a conversation with a few others about Rick and how to stop him before more people die. Carter doesn’t want to run this by Deanna- he just wants to kill Rick. Eugene, not knowing the meaning of subtlety, drops a can and falls backwards into a case.
But before Carter can kill him, Rick, Daryl, and Morgan, for whatever reason, decide to enter at this point. Rick is disappointed. He would have at least set up some lookouts. He overpowers Carter, takes his gun, and puts it to his head, ready to kill him. Did Carter really think he’d take this place? Rick ultimately doesn’t kill Carter, but he does tell him to try working and surviving.
In the present, Glenn, Nicholas, and Heath join Rick and the others as they watch the walkers get diverted. Carter admits that Rick was indeed right, but the groups need to keep moving.
However, when Carter goes off on his own as the group splits, he gets bitten by a walker.
Back in the past, Rick tells Morgan he’ll be staying with him and the others. After all, Rick knows Morgan, even if this is for the second time. When Morgan brings up the previous incident with Carter in the armory, he says that was the real Rick Grimes who came back and said it wasn’t over. Rick did want to kill him just so it would be easier and he wouldn’t have to worry about how he’d screw up, since that’s who he is: someone who shouldn’t be alive now.
But Rick realized that people like Carter don’t get it and will die no matter what.
In the present, Rick finds Carter and puts him out of his misery. Tobin radios into Rick, telling him that the gunfire is bringing the walkers back on the road.
Flashback again, Rick speaks with Jessie. He wants to let things be, but Ron told her about what Rick said. While Jessie agrees that Ron shouldn’t have been out, her issue is that Rick shouldn’t talk to or put his hands on Ron the way he did. Rick doesn’t buckle. Ron needed to hear that. Everyone needs to know how to fight. Rick offers to teach Jessie how to defend herself, but she’s already asked Rosita to teach her.
Still in the past, Rick explains to his group that the finish line will for their task will be at the green spot. The ditches and ridges will keep the walkers on the road. On the way home, Sasha, Daryl, and Abraham will instead take the walkers the rest of the way, 20 more miles. Abraham asks Sasha if she’s doing this because she wants to die. She responds that she isn’t.
And Glenn confronts Nicholas on what happened with Noah, saying he’ll have to live with that for a while. In addition, Glenn doesn’t want him out there because he isn’t ready. He will be, though, and then he’ll start to make it right.
In the present, as the walkers continue on their path, a blaring sound gets their attention and causes Rick and the others to fall back to trace the sound, which could be coming from home. They retreat, but the massive herd is en route to Alexandria…
“First Time Again” feels a bit like a recap and way to inform us of how things have changed not just since Morgan’s arrival, but also Rick killing Pete. The rules have still changed for the people of Alexandria and they still need to learn to fight in order to survive or they’ll be killed.
This by itself isn’t new territory and it’s one of the issues I have with Carter’s gripes over Rick. We’ve already seen people in Alexandria object to Rick’s more authoritative methods, but his actions do yield positive results. Rick is a reckless strategist, for sure, though some have softened to his methods. Nicholas even tells Heath that despite Rick’s group only being there for a bit of time, they know how to survive.
So having Carter be an outlier is giving us what we’ve already seen before. Sure, everyone still isn’t on board with Rick’s leadership, but they’re willing to give him a chance since he’s a more proactive leader than Deanna.
And this is what’s led to a bit of strain in his friendship with Morgan. Rick knows this man. He was one of the first people he met after waking up from his coma. They’ve both seen each other at low moments, but managed to reunite, but things can never go back to the way they were before. As Rick mentioned, he’s not willing to take chances anymore because there’s no telling who you can trust.
While Rick may be a hard-ass, having Morgan around seems to have humanized him a bit. Rick decides to bury Pete’s body instead of leaving it out and he even lets Morgan hold Judith, which he wouldn’t do for many people. Morgan is here to remind Rick of who he is. He’s a killer, but beneath all that rage is a good man just trying to protect the people close to him.
At the same time, it’s clear that Morgan isn’t fully on board with Rick’s methods. Or, at least, Rick’s kill and ask no questions later approach. Whether that puts the two at odds remains to be seen.
Right now, though, Morgan isn’t 100 percent behind Rick’s leadership. Same goes for Daryl, who, after traveling with Aaron, sees no issue with finding others to strengthen the community.
And the community still needs building after the looming threat of incoming walkers. We’ve seen herds a few times before, but this was downright out of a zombie movie. It’s a bit easy for this to be the reason why walkers haven’t approached Alexandria in droves, but given the amount in the pit, it makes sense that they’d be drawn to the sound when Alexandria remains quiet.
I did like the use of black and white for flashbacks. It felt like an homage to zombie movies of old, but at the same time, a nod to The Walking Dead comic, which is presented in black and white. In addition, I’m a fan of non-linear storytelling if done well. Here, scenes both in the present and past were presented out of order and then the episode filled in the blanks as it progressed. I do think they got a bit too frequent towards episode’s end, though.
There are a lot of smaller moments in this episode that I liked just to lighten the tension, like Morgan asking Michonne if she ate the last of his bars or Glenn telling Heath that he’s supposed to be delivering pizzas. These moments don’t feel like forced humorous situations, but more organic. In the face of incoming danger, light humor can help alleviate the stress that comes with the reality of the situation.
By the way, I’m glad to see more comic characters come to life with the introduction of Heath and his group, but Eugene did have a point about having never met him. It seems weird that someone like Deanna, Aaron, or anyone in Alexandria wouldn’t mention that there are other scouters out there.
I’m mixed on how Glenn and Tara handle Noah’s death. First, what Glenn said to Nicholas about him not being ready feels like something that would have come sooner than this. Glenn clearly doesn’t trust him yet, but I feel that’s a bit out of pity because he knows that people like Nicholas can get killed. We’ve already watched the overconfident Aiden be killed, so Nicholas is trying to learn from those mistakes and be a better person.
I can get over Tara talking about Noah’s death now since she’s just getting back on the scene, but it took Maggie to remind her to not be so hasty on how to deal with Nicholas. After all, Tara worked with the Governor, but now she’s with the group, so people can change. I don’t buy that Tara is one of the most important people to Maggie, though, not just because of what she did, but because I don’t think these two have spent enough time together to justify this bond. It’s like Maggie forgot that she had a sister and Tara is just filling that slot.
This being a season premiere, I do applaud the show for not trying to give every character something to do. We get snippets of conversation with Carol and see Carl hanging out with Enid, and Abraham has a few moments with Sasha, who is trying to find a reason to live after spending much of last season unhinged. These are all moments that, I feel, will have a payoff as the season progresses, but for now, I’m glad the premiere didn’t have characters fight for screen time. This episode was about moving forward in the face of oncoming danger and continuing where things left off in “Conquer.”
I don’t think it’s as strong a premiere as “No Sanctuary”, but we’re dealing with two different scenarios. There, it was about escaping Terminus. Here, it’s about keeping people alive while delaying the inevitable walker herd. Morgan’s introduction puts Rick at ease at times, but it also shows a slow growing division with Morgan questioning Rick’s techniques for survival and overall leadership skills. It retreads familiar territory with Carter’s objections, but it doesn’t bog down the episode. I liked the non-linear storytelling and cliffhanger with the walkers heading towards the Alexandria Safe Zone. How will our characters combat this? We’ll find out.