The Walking Dead season 8 premiere celebrates 100 episodes with a violent showdown sure to satisfy fans.
Rick Grimes reclaims his hard-core status, bringing all-out war to Negan’s front door. After a season of watching Rick struggle, TWD fans took to Twitter and cheered his renewed ferocity. But, as Father Gabriel and Grimes himself echoed, it isn’t about Rick.
The episode delivers tension and reassurance with its staggered timeline. In the present, Rick reigns bullets and walkers on Negan’s safe haven, telling his troops they’ve already won no matter the outcome. The power dynamic, at long last, shifts. The battle, though, is just beginning.
In the flashforward, viewers glean a serene utopia, featuring hobbled Old-man Grimes. The Alexandrians plan a festival and Judith happily guides Rick to a giant owl while Michonne sips coffee and teases her beau. Peace will prevail, but at what price? What, besides his mobility, will Rick have to sacrifice for a bigger, more stable world order?
While the flashforward takes the guesswork out of the war’s conclusion and tempers the episode’s tension, the last scene is enough to leave most viewers on edge.
Gregory has been The Walking Dead’s resident worm from the moment he hit the scene. Tonight, his despicability reaches new heights. Gregory aligns with Negan and threatens Hilltop citizens with banishment should they stand with Rick.
Jesus undoes Gregory’s threat, announcing the community’s allegiance to Maggie. Simon, in a fit of irritation, throws Gregory down the stairs, leaving him a man without a nation. As Gregory flounders in the face of a horde, Father Gabriel puts his life on the line to rescue him.
Gabriel, who in the past let walkers rip his parishioners apart, redeems himself when he surrenders his safety for the wellbeing of a grotesque figure. Predictably, Gregory highjacks Gabriel’s getaway car, leaving Gabriel to face a herd of walkers on his own. But Gabriel isn’t alone.
Gabriel finds shelter, but he won’t be safe for long. Just as Gabriel exhales, Negan emerges from the shadows. Will Gabriel (and his pants) survive the encounter?
Gabriel’s act of mercy likely foreshadows the quieting of Rick’s vengeance. Right now, Rick is hellbent on killing Negan but defeating Negan with his humanity intact is integral to true victory.
Thankfully, the core cast survived the premiere, but there are many characters absent from the flashforward. Time will tell which characters make the ultimate sacrifice for a better world.