We open the season in typical fashion of The Walking Dead: a scene with little, to no spoken dialogue from a character. However, this season’s premiere heavily contrasts the usual season openers. Unlike previous seasons, this opening features a light-footed Rick Grimes, six to seven months after we last saw him, looking the most relaxed we’ve ever seen him. Rick has, for the time being, removed the constant burden of guilt from his shoulders. He starts his morning with a nice stroll past some flowers, a splash of old water to the face, and some Loretta Lynn to the ears. Rick is mostly tranquil until he uncovers a gun buried in the garden, unplugs one ear-bud, and is reintroduced to the roaring of Walkers in the morning.
I take it we’re supposed to find the buried gun a mystery to be solved by former King County deputy, Rick Grimes. This gun is not Rick’s Colt Python .357 Magnum; this gun is a separate handgun. Rick almost seems angry at the gun before throwing it in his wheelbarrow, as he looks confused at a Walker that’d bleed from its eyes. The scene plays out nicely with setting up Rick’s character journey for this season, but at what cost? I fear the episode as a whole fails to explain Rick’s sudden and apparent fear (or hate?) of firearms. Oddly enough, Rick seems to be okay with knives.
Does Anyone Ever Really Feel Better, Rick?
We return from the opening sequence to see that Rick has now finished his morning as the prison farmer. Rick playfully banters with Carl over his new sleeping habits, thanks to the comic books he’s been collecting. Carl seems desperate to reintegrate as a teenage boy, but not as a child. I’m a little bit disappointed to have not been able to witness Carl’s decision to act like a teenage boy again, instead of a child trying to prove his adulthood. I think this time-jump has taken too heavy of a toll on the struggling father-son relationship between Rick and Carl.
Carl has formed himself an attachment with the personified pig, Violet. Rick is immediately unsettled by this, but he mostly tries to remain reserved as to not cause Carl any more developmental rifts. For Carl’s sake, Rick genuinely wants Violet to feel better. I’m curious to see if Rick will end this season personifying animals as well.
By the end of the episode, Rick discovers that instead of coming to feel better, Violet has died from currently unknown circumstances. Time to eat? Obviously, this is going to push Carl in a different direction.
He’s A Rock-Star
It looks like Daryl has been busy becoming the front-man of the council. At first glance, this scene reads as pandering — the admittance of how amazing the best character ever, Daryl Dixon, is — but upon examination, it can narratively be a good entry point for observing the relationships between the newcomers and original character in future episodes. I can see other members of the council potentially becoming jealous of Daryl’s idolization. Carol makes a good point of reminding Daryl that she liked him first. It’ll be fun to see how Daryl’s fame within the prison community changes his relationship with Carol. Speaking of, it’s delicious to see that they may actually be an official relationship at this point. At the very least, Carol is publicly open about her romantic feelings for Daryl (contrasting her private flirtations in 3.01). All-in-all, the scene breaks the fourth-wall a bit to acknowledge the greatness of Daryl. Whether or not future episodes actually build upon the moment will help me decide if an awkward moment in the script was worth it. Let’s see who the newcomers are loyal to during times of disagreements.
Crazy Clara From the Woods
Rick meets up with wanderer, Clara, almost as soon as he leaves the prison-yard and starts searching the snares. I think she’s either a talking Walker, or a member of a Norwegian metal band. Either way, Rick is proving his change of mind by trying to save her humanity. It’s a really sweet note to see Rick be rightfully wary of someone, but also indulge her in reminiscent conversations about airport monuments. I also think it’s a great deal of fun to note that when Rick offers Clara his sandwich, he holds it outward almost exactly like when he’s extending his gun for a headshot. I guess tinfoil can be just as dangerous as bullets, which explains why Clara never actually eats the sandwich.
It’s pretty obvious the entire time that Clara is up to something fishy and I think Rick is aware of that. However, I very much appreciate him throwing her bone after bone in testing both her humanity and sanity. I think it’s a rewarding experience to see Rick genuinely trying with strangers, and being so crushed when he isn’t able to salvage said person, and instead, Clara commits suicide.
I’m very curious to see if Rick’s interaction with Clara in this episode could potentially lead him back to Morgan at some point. Morgan was just as crazy that last time we saw him as Clara was in this episode. Is Rick going to have a complex that’ll cause him to want to save all crazy people and integrate them into the prison group?
I found special effects supervisor/director Greg Nicotero‘s decision in keep Eddie’s head covered by Clara’s bag to be a mark of genius in the episode. Current showrunner, Scott M. Gimple said it best during the after-show, Talking Dead, “There’s only one group of people that can maybe make better zombies, and that’s the audiences’ imagination…”
And rightfully so, as I’m imagining Eddie to be one really grotesque head.
Next: Big Spot’s Big Hole…