THE Walk­ing DEAD

Di­vide and con­quer

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Our over­view of the lat­est in­stal­ments of zom­bie ac­tion.

UK Broad­cast Fox, mid­sea­son break

US Broad­cast AMC, mid­sea­son break

Episodes Re­viewed 6.01-6.08

Thanks to box sets, ubiq­ui­tous catch-up ser­vices and so­cial me­dia, where spoiler-eti­quette de­mands the im­me­di­ate dis­em­bow­elling of any­one who hints at plot points less than 600 years af­ter broad­cast, watercooler TV is be­com­ing an en­dan­gered species. It’s a tes­ta­ment to The Walk­ing Dead’s abil­ity to get peo­ple talk­ing that even in its sixth sea­son it re­mains a show you have to watch live, or risk fall­ing well be­hind on the con­ver­sa­tion.

This was es­pe­cially true of sea­son six’s first half, which ex­per­i­mented with a com­pressed time frame and split-per­spec­tive for­mat that frus­trated as much as it thrilled. It’s not the first in­stance of The Walk­ing Dead di­vid­ing its cast, but it’s a big prob­lem when ma­jor play­ers such as Daryl and Mi­chonne barely fea­ture, while the hold­ing pat­tern the show fell into half way through the run felt par­tic­u­larly irk­some when all any­one wanted to know was “WHAT THE HECK HAP­PENED TO GLENN?”

But, man alive, were those first three episodes spec­tac­u­lar. In fact, we’d rank the trio of over­lap­ping tales about Rick’s ill-fated plan to re­di­rect a colos­sal zom­bie horde away from Alexan­dria and an un­for­tu­nately timed at­tack by the Wolves among the best run of episodes the show has ever had. It’s a rare ex­am­ple where weekly breaks be­tween episodes were not only wel­come, but es­sen­tial – at­tempt to watch “First Time Again”, “JSS” and “Thank You” back to back and you’ll barely breathe for three hours, cul­mi­nat­ing in Glenn’s gutwrench­ing dump­ster dive.

That con­tro­ver­sial Glenn cliffhanger could prove a make or

How long can the show keep up the set­tle­ment cy­cle?

break mo­ment for the show. The Walk­ing Dead has al­ways prided it­self on the fact that any­one could die at any­time, but does Glenn’s mirac­u­lous sur­vival mean that the big five (Rick, Daryl, Mi­chonne, Carol and Glenn) are safe, es­pe­cially out­side of sea­son fi­nales? It’s not the first time The Walk­ing Dead has pulled a fake-out death – Carol seemed to cop it in sea­son three – but re­fus­ing to re­veal Glenn’s fate for quite so long led most to as­sume that of course he sur­vived.

What was great: a rare flash­back episode where we fi­nally learnt why Mor­gan has sworn off blood­shed, fea­tur­ing ex­em­plary guest stars John Car­roll Lynch and Tabitha the goat. Its place­ment was per­fect – a bliss­ful change of pace af­ter the car­nage of the pre­ced­ing episodes. It’s just a shame the re­main­ing episodes failed to cap­i­talise – four ex­am­ples of ser­vice­able but far from thrilling sto­ry­telling that fo­cused on char­ac­ter, but of­fered scant insight.

Showrun­ner Scott Gim­ple has re­vealed that the sec­ond half of sea­son six will be “very, very dif­fer­ent from the first half in tone and the line-up of char­ac­ters”, with a plot-driven struc­ture cen­tred on ex­ter­nal threats. With Alexan­dria lost (for now) it seems likely the gang will hit the road again, but how long can the show keep up with the set­tle­ment cy­cle be­fore it starts to bore?

That’s part of the rea­son why this first half of sea­son six felt so wel­come – ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is an im­por­tant rea­son why The Walk­ing Dead is an un­qual­i­fied phe­nom­e­non. It might not al­ways hit the mark, as th­ese eight episodes prove, but for a show about sham­bling corpses it’s got a sur­pris­ing amount of life left in it yet. Jor­dan Far­ley

Let’s see 118 118 get them out of this one.

Once they were like you and me.

Leave it Kev, he’s not worf it!

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