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'The Walking Dead' Season 8: A New Era Begins
October 22, 2017  | By David Hinckley

The Walking Dead launches its eighth season Sunday with the two sides inviting each other to a game of All-Out War.

Given the story arc of Season 7 and the saturation promotion Season 8 has been receiving from AMC, that’s about as surprising as hearing that zombies are deficient in personal hygiene.

Slightly less expected, perhaps, the creators drop in enough time-shifting and dream sequences that sometimes it takes work to figure out how it all fits together.

The first season 8 episode, which airs at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on AMC, has an emboldened Rick (Andrew Lincoln) rallying his people from Alexandria alongside the Hilltop group headed by Maggie (Lauren Cohan, right) and the Kingdom group headed by Ezekiel (Khary Payton) to take back the known world from the awful Saviors, a pack of bullies and sadists led by the sneering Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

In a real sense, the plotline on The Walking Dead isn’t much more complicated than that as the new season – and maybe the new era – begins.

Naturally, that kind of simple, linear path is going to quickly branch off into shadowy nuances and byways.

The first curveball comes from Rick, who seemed lost and defeated at a number of points in Season 7 before finally remembering he’s the Everyman who one day found himself tasked with saving the world.

One of the constant themes of TWD has been that Rick never did this alone. The shifting band of survivors who have followed his leadership don’t exactly constitute a people’s democracy, but without fellow travelers like Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) and Michonne (Danai Gurira, right), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

As Season 8 begins, there are indications Rick may be taking things with Negan more personally than he maybe should. That would be understandable, since Negan on multiple occasions singled Rick out for public humiliation, but as a strategy it could have its drawbacks.

Truth is, though, we aren’t sure exactly what’s going through Rick’s mind at several points, thanks to several scenes that feel divorced from the rapid countdown to All-Out War. 

In any case, there’s plenty of action. If there were any questions about our guys having enough ammo or things that go boom, this episode offers considerable reassurance.

Fans will be delighted to see that several past alliances are reconfirmed as the battle nears. So are several neuroses.

Less delightful, unfortunately, is the way Negan (Morgan, right) continues to be drawn. Through no fault of the skilled Morgan, he’s written in two dimensions, and his act feels curiously flat and repetitious for a psychopathic megalomaniac.

The Walking Dead’s audience, while still massive by current TV standards, slipped last season, and AMC’s loud promise that this year will deliver that All-Out War seems clearly designed, at least in part, to give some of the defectors a reason to return.

The first episode, necessarily and logically, spends a good deal of time establishing the lineups and some of the playbook. Our heroes, flawed though they all may be, are looking shiny. The bad guys are showing few signs of redemption. The weasels that tried to play the middle are in trouble.

So there’s room for lots of psycho-byplay, in which The Walking Dead has always reveled.

But at the end of the day, it needs to deliver a good solid all-American all out war.


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