Nearly a year to the day after The Walking Dead's most controversial episode aired, the Season Eight premiere is set to prove the AMC series is on a near-complete opposite path going forward.
Season Eight kicks off by reminding fans how massive The Walking Dead has become, having expanded its world larger than anyone could have imagined 99 episodes prior, with former Georgia sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) leading dozens of members of the thoroughly established Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom communities into battle with a Braveheart-style pep talk. Where Season Seven started with Rick Grimes begging for mercy, Season Eight begins with the same character hoping he can find some in his own heart.
However, this time around, the show is injected with every bit of hope the Season Seven premiere stripped from both the characters and fans. They're done accepting Negan's tyranny. The Walking Dead belongs to Rick Grimes again.
With the premiere episode playing out through an intriguing new storytelling format, scattering both characters and timelines throughout the new hour, some moments can be a bit confusing, but some of them are supposed to be. Not only does "Old Man Rick" make his debut, but Rick's rally is both planned and executed simultaneously throughout the episode, with one more mystery introduced for fans to debate for who knows how long.
After all, this episode is an absolute tribute to fans. Serving as the 100th overall episode, references to iconic beats from the AMC series are not-so-subtly sprinkled into the new hour but come with other Easter eggs which only the diehard fans will catch. It's an episode worthy of several re-watches and will accrue repeat view counts from a large percentage of the fan base.
Daryl (Norman Reedus) breezing down abandoned streets on a motorcycle using a dead man's pistol to blow up gas cans is exactly what fans of the series want and will get. Toss in a few moments between Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira), some witty dialogue from Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and a certain shout-out from Jesus (Tom Payne) which will have fans cheering, and Episode 100 proves The Walking Dead has not lost its way in the least bit.
The best part of the Season Eight premiere? Everyone is in it. From Negan and the Saviors to Rick and the most obscure Alexandrian characters, everyone plays a part. With so many established faces featured in the series, it is refreshing to put them all on the screen in a single episode after Season Seven built up each of their roles in the apocalypse. One particular exchange between Rick and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is proof of how far the characters have come, which is one of many indications of the character development fans have been witness to over seven seasons.
The action in the episode is reminiscent of feuds with the Governor (David Morrissey) in Seasons Three and Four which is, in fact, when the show was on its way to peaking in terms of ratings.
While fans have been thirsty for Savior blood since Negan bashed Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), it's not the gunfire which will leave the crowd satisfied. Instead, it's the returned-to-form Rick Grimes who has an impressive and fun-to-watch swagger through the episode's presumably current timeline, opposite a Negan who is as charismatic and brash as ever -- with a surprising touch of reasonable mixed in.
Overall, the Season Eight premiere is a good and safe episode. It has all the makings of an extravagant and stellar middle-of-the-road episode, but is careful not to go too far in kicking off the new season. Longtime fans of The Walking Dead will certainly appreciate it, quickly feeling eager for more, which is ultimately the goal of any season premiere.
Episode 100 is a well-executed launch of the "All Out War" story line from director Greg Nicotero who went as big on the zombie work with this episode as he did on the bullets flying from guns and cinematic shot selections.
On October 22nd, The Walking Dead is back in form, pairing the explosive battle fans have been yearning for with storytelling devices unlike any used on the series to date.