In the season premiere of The Walking Dead, war has begun.
All out war between Rick and Negan has finally begun and I am absolutely here for it. The show begins with quiet. There wasn’t much dialogue at first until Rick gave his “get ready to fuck some shit up” speech. He, King Ezekiel and Maggie each spoke words to their people, letting them know that the world they built is theirs. That they will not let anyone who kills and murders for sport live. “There’s only one person who has to die, and I’ll kill him myself. I will. I will.” Rick means what he says: Negan will not live.
As time passes, you see each member of the team preparing: Daryl and Dwight sharing messages by arrow; Tara and Carol on walker herd watch; Morgan taking out each sentry one by one, forgetting his mantra and killing each one of those bastards. Even Father Gabriel, once a pariah, has become a man of not just faith, but reliability. Father Gabriel wants to live and he’ll do what he needs to do.
While all of this is going on, there’s another Rick we see. He’s daydreaming, maybe even hallucinating. It’s a peaceful time, and Rick is in bed looking like a rugged Father Christmas. There are flowers on the bedside table and a cane in the corner. Why? Real Rick is sweating, eyes closed, somewhere, we’re not sure where. But when he opens his red-rimmed, glazed eyes, we know he’s seen something awful. Here we go.
While out on a gas run, Carl runs into a young man who is trying to convince him not to kill him. Ever cautious but more optimistic than his father, Carl looks for the man. When he sees him, Carl draws his gun, but gives him a chance to talk. Before he can decide what to do with him, Rick fires his gun, making dude scatter. Savage, Jr. wasn’t happy but in these uncertain times, no mercy can be given.
When the time finally comes to put the plan into motion, Rick has a moment of doubt. But leave it to Father Gabriel to help him put things into perspective. He asks Rick if he’s ready, and he answers with the knowledge that one man, meaning Negan, is the reason for all of what’s about to go down. “It always starts with one man. This did.” Rick tells him that it’s “not about me.” “No, it isn’t. You made it that way.” Father Gabriel and his always-on-time words of wisdom.
As he prepares to leave, Rick says goodbye to his little girl, Judith, to his love, Michonne and to Carl. I swear, the way Michonne and Rick look at each other almost makes me want to be in a relationship. Then I remember that those two lovebirds aren’t real and that relationships are trash and I wake the hell up. He leaves them all at Alexandria and the group rolls out, looking like a throwback to Mad Max.
On the road, Rick takes out another sentry, but this one has a mouth. He goads Rick, who’s doing his best to ignore him until he says, “Your boy’s gonna die.” And then Savage Rick makes an appearance. He crosses the sentry’s post off his list, walks over to the walker tied to a telephone poll and cuts its binding. It lands directly on the mouthy sentry and then all we hear is screaming, then gurgling, then nothing. Rick looks for his crew and he walks away to meet them. Time for war.
On the bridge, Tara, Carol, Morgan and Daryl wait for the walker herd to arrive. When it’s a little late, they almost panic. But then it arrives and they begin. The group drives off, leaving a truck rigged with explosives. It goes off and as expected, Dwight sends a team to check it out, leading them straight into a trap.
At the Sanctuary, we see Dwight smoking a cigarette while two sentries are on the roof. He takes another drag, drops his cig and walks away. As soon as he does, arrows end the sentries and the attack on Negan is in motion. The crew rolls in and they position themselves for battle. The soldiers take aim and then they shoot in unison (which was BADASS) and then they wait. Negan walks out with Lucille and the rest of his trusted cronies. “Well shit! I’m sorry, I was in a meeting.” Classic.
We go back to Red-Eyed Rick, who’s still daydreaming/hallucinating. Michonne is there and so is Carl. They’re happy. I don’t even want to know why, I’m just glad to see it. Even if it isn’t real.
Back at the Sanctuary, Negan is doing his strut. And why shouldn’t he? He may have suffered a setback, but he’s still King for now. So he plays the game and tells Rick he ain’t getting his people killed to show whose dick is bigger. Negan gives Rick the floor and he begins to name everyone who’s standing on that platform with Negan. Eugene, that punk, tries to say something, but Rick stops him. “No! I know who you are.” Rick tells them all that they can live if they surrender and that he won’t guarantee their survival at any other time except now. “What about me, Rick?” Negan asks. “I told you. Twice. You know what’s gonna happen.” Negan’s a dead man. So said dead man pulls out his ace: he has Simon haul Gregory’s slimy ass out to try and scare the Hilltop residents into giving up. But like the late Tom Petty (RIP, you rockstar), they won’t back down. They’ve come too far. Unhappy with his lack of authority, Simon pushes Gregory down the steps.
Carol and her crew wait for the team of Negan’s sentries to head their way, but a wayward walker almost ruins the plan, forcing Morgan to run out and end it before it sets off the trap, which he does just in time. The team drives right into it the trap and everything goes boom. That boom is Rick and Company’s cue to get shit started. Rick tells Negan to make a decision now or never. When Negan hesitates, Rick starts a countdown but only makes it to seven before the savage takes over and he starts shooting.
Negan and his cronies make a run for it and Rick and the rest start shooting everything. Carol and crew split up, leaving Daryl to hop on his bike to leave a trail for the herd. At several intervals, he shoots and something goes boom, leading the herd straight for the Sanctuary. Father Gabriel jumps into the RV that’s been with the gang since Season 1 and sets it in motion. As it moves towards the gates, Father Gabriel jumps out, signals to Rick and he blows it to high heaven, leaving a gaping hole in the gate. Negan, who’s been injured, tries to hide. But Rick sees him and shoots to kill. He can’t get to him, but he’s too far gone to stop, the savage has taken over. He sees nothing but Negan and wants him dead. Faintly, we can hear Father Gabriel trying to get Rick’s attention, which he finally does. “It’s not about you, right?” That question brings Rick back to reality, and they drive off. Buttttttt not before Father Gabriel sees Gregory’s punk ass and decides to do the Christian thing: he tries to save him. Sorry but Gregory would have died and I would have had to deal with the guilt (if I ever felt any). And what does Father Gabriel get for his trouble? GREGORY LEAVES HIM!!! IN THE ARMORED CAR HE JUSG STEPPED OUT OF TO SAVE HIS SORRY ASS!! Mercy is bullshit when it’s given to the wrong people.
Rick tries to wait for his friend, but knows they have to keep moving. You can see that it’s messing with him, but he knows they have to stick to the plan. “It’s not about me,” he says to Daryl and they head out for the next phase.
The crew takes out another sentry and they break into a facility. As they make their way inside, another sentry takes cover. Carol and crew shoots but don’t hit him. Ezekiel signals for everyone to stop and when they do, the sentry throws a grenade. Carol shouts, “Down!” and it explodes. All we see is dust. Is everyone okay???
Back at the Sanctuary, Father Gabriel tries to find shelter away from the herd, which has been pouring into the stronghold. He finally finds an unlocked door and ends up in a darkened trailer. He finds refuge, or so he thinks, until he hears a voice. “I hope you got your shittin’ pants on.” “What?” “You’re shittin’ pants. I hope you’re wearin’ em right now. Cuz you, are about to shit your pants.” Well shit.
Back in the daydream, an older Judith comes into the house. She looks like she’s about 6 or 7. How much time has passed? She tells Rick about the giant owl that’s been erected for the festival. He takes his daughter’s hand and they walk towards the front door. When he opens it, we see a beautiful landscape that has been carefully tended. The giant owl is in the background looking about as scary as the owl in the Tootsie Pop commercials (remember those?). Then we see Red-Eyed Rick, who smiles a little at the daydream. A tear rolls down his eye and he says, “My mercy prevails over my wrath.”
Something terrible has happened. But what?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. Photos courtesy of AMC.