The start of The Walking Dead Season 7 marked a brutal low point for our favorite group of zombie apocalypse survivors, but Season 8 promises an “all-out war” that will give Rick his swagger back and show everyone being a total badass. Plus: when The Walking Dead hits its 100th episode with the Season 8 premiere, so expect some crazy stuff to go down. And, weirdly enough, nobody’s talking about any zombies?
Early responses to the upcoming episode seem positive as critics bristling with excitement for the mega-popular show’s return to form. If there’s one thing that critics are all agreeing on, it’s that the new season feels like the old Walking Dead that everyone loved, and less like the slow-moving, emotionally-taxing episodes of recent memory.
Season 7 saw a sharp decline in ratings for The Walking Dead, but this new season hopes to deliver more action at a larger scale that might just keep fans happy. We’ve long known that Season 8 would loosely follow the “All Out War” storyline from the comics, and we’re finally getting to see what that looks like in a zombie apocalypse.
So what can we expect from this Sunday’s Season 8 premiere?
Bernard Boo at We Got This Covered notes of the episode, “One of the most initially striking things about the premiere is the show’s shift to a more optimistic tone; it’s exhilarating to watch the good guys find their fire again, making preparations for a massive, all-out attack on Negan’s main compound.”
Best of all, the progression serves as a natural remedy to the Season 7 malaise: “For those repulsed and deflated by the horrific deaths and methodical storytelling of last season, “Mercy” is the perfect remedy — its brisk pacing, big action, and focus on the camaraderie between the Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom survivors makes for super entertaining television which makes you feel good without trivializing the drama.
Rather than face brutal oppression and murder after murder, the group finds a way to rebound: “Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of the survivors are finally regrouped and reinvigorated, ass-kicker mode reengaged, ready to wage “all out war” (the three words plastered in big, bold letters on every season 8 promo) on Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors.”
Erik Kain from Forbes argues that with the Season 8 premiere, The Walking Dead “failed to learn from past mistakes.” In his mostly spoiler-free review, he calls the premiere “jarring, confusing mess of an episode, in turns pretentious and mind-bogglingly nonsensical.” The spoilers he does give away are wrapped up with his greatest criticism of the episode:
“It eschews basic chronological storytelling on multiple levels, dancing between at least three separate time periods (though it’s not clear whether one of these is real or hallucinatory) and muddles up the “present” timeline for no apparent reason other than to confuse audiences and create artificial tension.”
The Walking Dead is often at its least interesting when it focuses too much for too long on individual characters and stories rather than its more action-packed team-ups.
Writing for Insider, Kirsten Acuna noted that some of the most satisfying scenes in the premiere come from character reunions: “The season eight premiere feels very much like an earlier episode of the series. The group is united, reunions are had, your onscreen favorites are seen teaming up and interacting, and a few characters from different communities get to meet for the first time.”
Season 7 began with Rick Grimes begging for mercy, and he spent the rest of the season groveling under Negan’s boot. Brandon Davis, writing for ComicBook.com, assures us that in the Season 8 premiere, “The Walking Dead belongs to Rick Grimes again.” The episode opens with Rick “leading dozens of members of the thoroughly established Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom communities into battle with a Braveheart-style pep talk.”
Whereas some critics took issue with the new storytelling format, Davis says otherwise: “With the premiere episode playing out through an intriguing new storytelling format, scattering both characters and timelines throughout the new hour, some moments can be a bit confusing, but some of them are supposed to be.”
Remember that the Season 8 premiere also serves as the series’ 100th episode overall, which means that above everything, it should be a tribute to fans and what they want to see. As such, it looks like fans of The Walking Dead will get some all-out warfare in which their favorite characters get to be badasses again.
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Sunday, October 22 at 9 p.m. Eastern on AMC.