‘The Walking Dead’ lurches back to life in new season

AMC’s juggernaut zombie drama is back. “The Walking Dead” has always been a ratings hit and hit-or-miss for critics. However, last season’s impressive run proves it has potential to be both a commercial and critical hit.

Season six premiered on Sunday, Oct. 11 with an epic opening act bigger than any previously seen. The show’s premieres and finales always push the limits. This season’s opener, “First Time Again,” was no exception.

Where “The Walking Dead” could have been considered a guilty pleasure in past years, with memorable moments drowning in sub-par dialogue and laughable character development, this year has pushed the series into unfamiliar territory. This means the show is no longer just a guilty pleasure.

While it may not be able to compete just yet with exceptional dramas like AMC’s other hits like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” the show has taken great strides in improving on the many concerns voiced by fans and critics alike. Its characters are now dynamic, some more than others, and its storylines are thrilling. Not to say they haven’t been in the past, but when the creators sprinkle in some substance, backed by good character development, it makes things easier to swallow.

Season six picks up directly after the events of the season five finale, sort of. The episode shifts back and forth between the immediate aftermath of that finale and the near future. That means a lot of interesting foreshadowing.

What this episode does above all else in terms of originality, at least compared to other episodes, is combine black and white with color. The show has been known to feature reruns in black and white, but never has it utilized the concept for artistic purposes like this. The result is a creative and engaging approach that provides a breath of fresh air.

In terms of storytelling, the writers have upped their game. The black and white helps convey this, but the writing itself is an improvement. Characters show realistic reactions and the interactions between various characters is actually far less eye-rolling than in the past. “The Walking Dead” seems to be aiming to make a statement that it’s ready to be a meaningful contender in the television drama race to the top.

While some characters didn’t quite get the attention viewers may have hoped, Carol being one of them (her “you just wait” line is great, though), Rick’s development from dictator to “farmer” to ruthless killer to a respected leader again has been a worthwhile ride, despite some bumps in the road.

Obviously it’s not all perfect—I still don’t get Maggie and Tara’s budding mother-daughter relationship—but this premiere continues the tone the fifth season conveyed so well and sets a fantastic tone for the rest of the season.

Rating: 4 out of 5