Walking Dead waltzes its way to a triumphant return

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Malcolm Robinson, Staff Reporter

Since the show’s conception, AMC’s The Walking Dead has been met with acclaim and a welcoming audience. Credited with causing the reemergence of the zombie trend, the series can be appropriately labeled a cultural phenomenon.

Regardless of its merits as a significant work, the show has been unable to shake the irrefutable proof of its past two season’s disappointing qualities – or at least not until the mid-season five premiere that would mark the return to the ominous, Southern-gothic surroundings and grizzled characters attempting to retain some semblance of humanity in seasons past. Where the pre and post Garbage Season episodes differ is in how well each of its individual elements came together. In defiance of a steadily declining fan base, The Walking Dead continued its aspiration to critical and popular heights with the premiere of its sixth season Sunday night. The show writers crafted an emotionally investing story undermined by few flaws that fans will notice bogged down previous plot-lines.

From the beginning of the episode, it was established that flashback sections would be in black and white. However, the filter was not the only distinguishable element of those segments: there was a stark contrast between the urgency and danger of the present and nostalgic, tranquil tone of the past. The flashbacks were among the episode’s highlights, offering the writers and actors alike the chance to flex their dramatic muscles with comic relief and the raw emotion of friends reconciling. After all, what better way to introduce a character than having the socially inept Eugene, played fittingly awkward by Josh McDermitt, navigate the topic of post-apocalyptic haircuts with them?

Andrew Lincoln’s southern drawl and autocratic personality never falter as he plays series protagonist Rick Grimes, who becomes doubly interesting when his presence comes into direct opposition with long-time friend and staff wielding Jedi Morgan Jones, played by Lennie James who returns after an absence in seasons three through five. In addition to the well-acted cast, Sgt. Abraham Ford, fully realized by a handlebar mustache-donning Michael Cudlitz, is given the opportunity to draw even more fans as he delivers memorable dialogue while refusing to be no less of the badass he already manages to.

The immediate fallout of the season five finale is addressed through the first couple of flashback sequences, and provides a satisfying subplot –until classic Walking Dead fatigue sets in. The series is no stranger to poor writing, with the fourth season being riddled with arbitrary plot details and the first half of the fifth having entire episodes dedicated to equally pointless subplots. The flaws of the show writers shine once the initially captivating segments become a chore for the audience to watch. Rather than have the sequences conclude along with season five’s aftermath, the writers believe the flashbacks to be incomplete until an entire prelude to the episode’s present day plot is outlined, taking up an irritating amount of time that coincidentally occurs when the plot begins to reach a climax.

Rather than go above and beyond expectations by completing an entire plot line, the modern day story ends with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. If there is one thing the writers excel in, it is matching the tension of a melodramatic soap opera.

An ABC show or the latest promo for The Walking Dead? At this point, I'm not sure it matters anymore.
A long-running drama or the latest promo for The Walking Dead? At this point, I’m not sure there’s a difference anymore.

Luckily, the show differs greatly from daytime television in production value. Although the zombies, titled “walkers” within the show, are present only in bulk mass, at least one specific situation results in a character coming near to a walker. The circumstance, complete with gore and dismemberment, is as pleasing for series fans to watch as it sounds.

The Walking Dead occupies a unique place in the heart of its dying audience. This episode is the epitome of what makes the series superior to most of its peers, as well as inferior to the universally acclaimed shows it faces in award season. In spite of a few shortcomings, the season six premiere is nothing short of a quality installment that will bring even the most skeptic viewers crawling back.

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