War… War never changes, or so we’ve been told countless times. Season 8 of The Walking Dead is finally here, and with it, the opening salvo in a long overdue skirmish.
We open with a beautiful establishing shot of our survivors forging their weapons, and more importantly their resolve, as Rick gives his version of a motivational speech, ripe with positive reinforcement and the promise of victory in what seems to be an ever looming and bloody endeavor. Flash forward (quite literally) to the now infamous shot of him clearly aged a few months — beard in full swing, walking cane firmly affixed next to his bed. This is clearly a Rick that has seen some shit!
Meanwhile, in the present, Carl is foraging for gas in an abandoned area where he hears a man, debating, parts of the Quaran to himself. He clearly has also seen some shit! Carl approaches him, and he begs for food. Gunshots are heard, and we realize Rick shot over his head in a means to scare him off with comical success. Carl and Rick have an exchange about hope, and Carl reminds him that’s there’s not enough of that going around. Can’t blame the kid.
Carl clearly has a lot of growing to do, and this season is shaping up to be that rite of passage he so desperately needs as a character. That last scene was broken up by a fantastic Metal Gear Solid-esque stealth mission being carried out by Darryl and Morgan, both looking like there’s a plan in action — and we are right smack in the middle. Yes, no waiting this time!
We then see Rick saying good-bye to Judith (who is now a full fledged toddler, y’all!) and giving Michonne a heart-felt kiss good-bye. They then drive off in a Mad Max style armored car caravan, which looks admittedly imposing as all hell!
There are a lot of moving parts to this aforementioned opening salvo. Tensions are high and, after some mild setup and zombie wrangling, we are standing at the precipice of Negan’s compound. “Well shit, I’m sorry, I was in a meeting!” Negan so playfully belts out, reminding us of how much we truly love despising him. After some dick measuring between Negan and Rick in the form of Negan-styled negotiation, Rick offers Negan’s people survival if they just give up. Suffice it to say, that doesn’t work.
The Piss Patrol (gotta love the Neganisms!) is surprised to see that Neegs has a trick up his sleeve in the form of Gregory (the supposed leader/resident Hilltop obstetrician) who has clearly betrayed our intrepid survivors. He instructs them to go home or they will have no home to go to. Jesus so humbly belts out “THE HILLTOP STANDS WITH MAGGIE.” Simon (Also known as GTA V’s Trevor, glad to see him back!!!) shoves him down a flight of stairs. Rick is forced to count, which he clearly does not like doing, and all hell breaks loose.
Bullets whizz by. All points of this very well calculated attack are coming into place. Darryl motors around shooting proverbial red barrels, and the wrangled walkers do what wrangled walkers do. Gabriel reminds Rick once again that, “This isn’t about you,” which seems like it is going to be one of the major themes this season. But shit is continuing do go down, and we see our resident Judas, Gregory, trying to escape a horde of walkers. Gabriel very reluctantly tries to do the right thing by saving him, only to have Gregory run off with his ride — plain old fucked up in that classic cowardly prick way.
Gabriel manages to get away, only to find himself locked in a room with Negan, who asks him a very serious question, “Are you wearing your shittin’ pants?” Cliff hanger established!
The episode ends with yet another flash forward of Rick flashing back (I anticipate a lot of flash forwards and backs and sideways this season) to the speech in the beginning in which Rick motivates the crap out of everyone. End scene!
The Walking Dead has not shied away from playing with time before. We’ve had seasons take place in mere weeks. While not wildly popular, this flash forward mechanic mildly casts aside the dread and impatience that we so often get from the show at times. We know what the outcome will be, but it’s in those precious moments in between that this season takes place. It is a welcome change so far, if they keep it in check.
All in all, it was a strong start to what promises to be an truly eventful season! The “In memory of George Romero” card during the credits was a reminder of how far the undead have come as a genre, and how we so vehemently stick around for the ride — as we do with Rick, Darryl and all the other characters that make this world so entrancing, and at times believable!