The Walking Dead has been accused of losing steam and suffering from poor writing, recycled plots, and cheap cliffhangers for multiple seasons now. With this in mind, and with season 7 ending with a war being declared, it would make sense to open up the season 8 premier with a bang. The Walking Dead season 8 episode 1 opens with... a flash forward? Multiple flash forwards? You start thinking you're in Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice, with multiple future Ricks sent to confuse and tantalize you.
Why are you so sweaty? Is this happening NOW?
Why is this shot like a soap opera? Whose cane is that?
Back to the present, Alexandria and the Hilltop are prepping for war. We see some blacksmithing going on which begs the question: WHY AREN'T YOU MAKING BETTER WEAPONS AND/OR ARMOR? It doesn't have to be pretty, just anything better than wooden poles with knives taped to the ends and dirt bike pads. You're in this for the long haul, put in an effort.
Cut to Tara, the coolest person in the apocalypse. Don't know what she's up to at this point, aside from being dope as fuck.
OH BOY IT'S SPEECH TIME. You know, this is probably not the first time a dude in the back of a pickup truck with a machine gun was talking about what Jesus told him.
As far as TWD speeches go, it was fine. It actually had a point, unlike most monologues on this show. Basically, this world doesn't belong to the murderers, so we have to go murder them. And hey we get King Ezekiel talking like the best paid performer at Medieval Times.
Meanwhile, Dwight and Daryl exchange love notes via crossbow.
"Do you like me? Check YES or NO."
Tara and Carol are doing something with a horde. It's good that there are still zombies occasionally on this zombie show. Now that everyone has an AR 15 in their hands the zombies have gone from main threat and source of perpetual doom to just another annoyance of the environment - unless there are HUNDREDS OF THEM.
We have the first appearance of OLD MAN RICK. But is it just a daydream? An actual vision of the future? Hard to tell because it's cut with another shot of INTENSELY SWEATY AND MOROSE RICK. Which is the Real Rick?
Carl needs gas or something, whatever, who gives a fuck about Carl at this point.
Carl hears someone start talking and gets his Gat out. Now, if you were trying to announce your presence to a validly jumpy stranger with a loaded weapon you would probably NOT ramble about God from behind a car - but this is the world of The Walking Dead afterall.
The deranged stranger is chased away by Rick and Carl starts giving him shit about it. Honestly go fuck yourself, Carl. Get a haircut.
It looks like Dwight gave them a list of where to find the lookouts on Negan's payroll, so our Heroes go around murdering them. This is a pretty smart plan.
Still using a blunt, wooden bo staff? Not so smart. We're all super impressed with your yellow belt level of martial arts mastery but this is life and death, dude.
It's time to put the plan into action and hit the road so Rick and 20 Good Men take their Twisted Metal vehicles and head out of Alexandria.
Wait, how long has it been since the last episode? Michonne is completely healed.
Looks like the plan was to go to a field and set up a paintball course. They even have different team colors!
MAGGIE IS STILL NOT SHOWING. She IS still pregnant, right? What's IN there??
Carol, Tara, Daryl, and Morgan wait on the Horde. They almost have it timed out perfectly but when it is THREE SECONDS late they immediately lose hope. Like, you were close and obviously knew how to calculate their speed, but give it a SECOND. Jeez.
At this point, I'm actually surprised they've made this much progress in episode 1. They haven't started shooting yet, but they said they were going to war and by gum they are doing it.
The gang leads some scouts away from the Sanctuary and sets up cover. Negan is surprisingly the first through door to greet the armed mob at his front gate. Hey, Rick? FIRE. SHOOT HIM. He's right there, just kill him.
Uh oh. More flashforwards (question mark?). Is this a dream or the future? We don't know yet, nor will we find out this episode because, you know, OF COURSE. But what is interesting is that Michonne hasn't aged a day while Rick looks like Father Time and Judith is about to get her learner's permit.
Back to a lot of jibber jabber with the Saviors. SHOOT AT THEM. He's got his top lieutenants right there.
I GUESS that killing Negan right there wasn't the "plan," but if that's the case then it's a shitty plan. Dwight even said that most of the workers that are basically enslaved at the Sanctuary would join them when they take Negan out. Cut off the head of the snake, dude.
Cut to the B team. A trip wire rigged to some explosives almost gets prematurely triggered by a rogue walker so Morgan has to run and take it out. Morgan, if you want to stop the walker from walking, get its attention. If the walker trips the explosive early it could jeopardize everything all three groups have been working for, and you insist on creeping on this thing like a silent ninja. THERE'S NO TIME FOR YOUR SHENANIGANS, MORGAN.
It turns out Gregory, still under the impression anyone gives a crap about him or his authority, has gone to the Savior's to kiss their boots and surrender The Hilltop. Obviously no one cares what whiskey-scented bullshit leaves Gregory's mouth so he gets told to shove it and takes a tumble down some stairs.
The fireworks are finally ready to go off, and the Heroes really fuck up the Sanctuary's windows. I guess raining glass shards down on everyone inside was the idea?
Daryl is letting the horde follow him, but in practice he would outrun them instantly. Unless he is setting off explosions, circling back, and patiently waiting for them to catch up.
The two groups exchange gunfire and Negan is trapped taking cover behind a metal barricade. Rick is urged to leave so he takes a pic of a cowering Negan for his scrapbook.
Everyone hightails it out of the Sanctuary, but Gregory is left with his dick in his hand. Gabriel, being a godly man, decides to leave his car as the horde approaches to help out. Greg wastes no time being a huge shit head.
The horde filters into Sanctuary. It's a pretty good plan, actually. Simply going to the stronghold of your enemy and riddling it with holes has largely been everyone's go-to objective in this show so it's nice when a thoughtfully crafted plan starts to work and we don't have to lose any cast members for sheer shock value.
Speaking of which, Gabriel nearly gets caught in the horde but narrowly escapes into a trailer and, hilariously, runs into Negan. Tough break. Thanks, Greg.
As the episode appears to come to a close we are treated to another flashforward/flashback. They don't NEED to do this to create suspense. You have two groups of survivors going to war in the zombie apocalypse. Just.... Just DO THAT. It kind of takes all the wind out of the episode's sails, which was pretty good at this point, to slide forward and back in the timeline. I already KNOW what the stakes are. Going forward and back in time and trying to get the audience to question what they are seeing can be a useful tool in creating mystery when used deftly, but too often in this show it's just a cheap add on to pad time and distract from the slow progress of the plot.
All in all, a solid episode, but The Walking Dead usually has strong season openings so the real test is if they can keep this going. If episode 2 starts with anything other than what is IMMEDIATELY following the events of episode 1 I am going to be very mad.