Season 8 of The Walking Dead is off to a sluggish start, a stark difference from past season openers.


It’s clear that Rick and his team are ready for war, but the result of that ambition is anticlimactic. We see Rick giving a speech to his people, while others prepare their plan. Tara and Carol are on a bridge as hundreds of walkers go under them. Daryl is sneaking around and killing Negan’s watch dogs, crossing names off his list as he does so.

Throughout the episode, the show switches between various time frames. Rick’s speech is happening in real time, but it also shows him reflecting over the graves of Glenn and Abraham, and then later shows him, an older man, living in a house with Michonne, Carl, and Judith. Snippets of Future Rick appear every so often, and I’ll assume more of this scenario will be fleshed out over the course of the season.

Back in the present, Carl walks through an abandoned gas station and hears a man talking to himself about how he was shot at and how he needs help. The scene hearkens back to the first season’s opening scene when Rick comes across a zombie child. Carl, though, finds this man, who stands with his hands above his head and asks for food. Rick appears and shoots above the man’s head to make him run. Carl looks as though he wanted to help, but more on this later.

Later, at Alexandria, Father Gabriel reminds Rick that this war is not just about him, something Rick seems to have forgotten. All around them are cars with scrap metal attached to form shields on each vehicle. Daryl rides his motorcycle to meet Carol, Tara, and Morgan on the overpass. A herd of walkers approach and the team blows up a car to keep the walkers coming in that direction.

Back with Rick, the cars take off and reach Negan’s stronghold. They park so that the scrap metal forms a barrier wall, and then team jumps out with guns – we see Ezekiel, Jesus, Maggie, and Rick up in arms. Instead of just shooting Negan for some reason, he and Rick talk it out. Rick tells Negan’s henchmen Dwight, Eugene, Simon, Gavin, and Regina that they have a place to go if they leave Negan right then, but of course they don’t.

Then Negan pulls out his secret weapon – Gregory, the leader of the Hilltop. He threatens to turn away all of Rick’s people’s families from their homes if they continue their attack. During all of this, Daryl is riding his motorcycle blowing things up to keep the walkers following him. He leads them right to the Sanctuary. From there, Negan sees smoke and knows something is about to go down. Rick says the generals have 10 seconds to join his side, but he opens fire on six.

Negan and his men jump inside for cover, none hit, but Rick’s team keeps shooting and shoots out all the windows on the side of the building. Next they roll an armored RV rigged with explosives toward the building, and Rick hits the detonator. Rick sees Negan on the ground and fires at will before he has to be stopped by Gabriel – the walkers are coming and they have to get out of there.

Rick leaves, but as Gabriel gets in his car he sees Gregory afraid and on the ground as the walkers approach. Against his better judgement, he runs out to save him. Gregory, unsurprisingly, is a coward, and runs to the open car door and leaves Gabriel behind.

Elsewhere, Carl goes back to the gas station and leaves two cans of food with a note that simply says, “Sorry.” The man who was there previously sees this from the bushes. Ezekiel meets up with Carol, while Daryl finds Rick. Gabriel is supposed to join, but too much time has passed and they have to leave Gabriel behind.

We see next week’s plan come to action, as Morgan and Tara plan an attack on another Savior outpost and Daryl and Rick invade another. The episode ends back at the Sanctuary, as Gabriel, stranded, makes his way into the armored RV. Walkers as ascend on the vehicle with their hands all over the windows, as Gabriel learns that Negan is also trapped inside.

The episode ends with some quick scenes of Rick. One a close up with very red eyes, another with Old Rick. He mutters “My mercy prevails over my wrath,” a quote from the Quran that the man at the gas station said earlier. The final scene shows Rick shows rick giving the same rallying the troops speech from the beginning. “I don’t want to wait for it anymore. You don’t either,” he says, referring to the war with Negan. And finally, we know it has come.

The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC.

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