‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6 Review: AMC’s Ratings Powerhouse Returns to Zombie-Horror Roots

Walkers are front and center as drama series kicks off new season

There have been more than a few people complaining that over the last few seasons of “The Walking Dead” that the threat of the walkers — you know, the unyielding, flesh-eating zombie killing machines that grow in number every day — had faded to a form of background noise as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his growing and shrinking ranks of survivors contended with more living, breathing threats — the Governor, the Terminus cannibals, random gangs of psychopaths looking to do terrible things to his teenage son. It’s understandable that over the course of five seasons the writers would want to change up exactly what’s threatening our heroes. But come on, man. Zombies. That whole “man is actually the scariest monster of them all” jag is fun for theoretical chin-stroking, but you can’t really argue with actual zombies.

Luckily, the new season of “The Walking Dead,” premiering Sunday night, seems to realize that, as walkers are front and center from the very first shot of the 90-minute episode.

In fact, things kick off with what’s allegedly the largest number of walkers on screen at one time, with Rick and Co. surveying a quarry filled with the buggers, their terrible moaning growing in volume, serving to attract even more of them into the inadvertent trap. As Rick explains, this quarry is what’s allowed his new neighbors in Alexandria to survive relatively undisturbed for so long, as the baddies have been pooling up there, effectively neutralized. Except for one thing: The quarry won’t hold forever — or for much longer, Rick points out — so the Alexandrians better figure out something to do about them.

That plan — and the improvised execution of it — makes up half of the premiere. The other half, shot in black and white to help keep things clear, catches viewers up on the much quieter aftermath of last season’s finale, when Rick killed off suddenly mad Pete just before his old pal Morgan showed up to pass a little judgment.

The dual narrative is a neat trick and employed well here, since ending on such a cliffhanger moment calls for a certain amount of cleanup that isn’t terribly exciting for a season premiere. The mix of color and black and white is less effective, but not terrible.

What this spells out for the rest of the season — which of our heroes will survive, whether they’ll stay in Alexandria for the long haul — isn’t necessarily clear, but it’s a great kick-off to Season 6.