It feels like it’s been even longer than this, but The Walking Dead finally returned after a six and a half months. The prolonged teasing of a huge conflict between Rick and Negan (the “All Out War” arch of the comic series) was promised, and the Season Eight premiere jumped right into things.
The extra long episode entitled “Mercy” focuses mostly on Rick gathering and rallying the troops of Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom. He offers some inspirational speeches about “tomorrow can start today” as long as they get rid of Negan. The episode also quickly offered an explanation of “Old Man Rick” that we saw in the trailers — as many people guessed, it was simply a vision (or perhaps a dream) of better days ahead. Judith looked about six or seven and Rick was older and more grey, plus needing a cane to walk (comic readers will understand why).
Rick and company definitely win the early battles. They take out the Saviors lookouts, construct a small fleet of armored cars from scrap metal, and stage an elaborate trail of explosives to lead a massive walker herd directly to the Saviors compound. And it all works perfectly. As the kids no longer say, everything was coming up Milhouse.
Buuuuuuuuut since there are still 15 episodes left, they couldn’t just wrap things up neat and tidy with Rick’s plan kicking ass and winning the war on the first day. There are a few wrinkles. First of all, Gregory once again showcased his cowardice and left Father Gabriel to be swarmed by the herd. He managed to find his way into a trailer, which was conveniently the same place that Negan took cover after somehow avoiding point blank fire from Rick’s SMG.
So no one died. Which means the battle that Rick “won” was more like a draw. Negan and his lackeys likely all lived on to fight another day, and will certainly plan a major response to Rick’s aggressive opening move. And the whole thing will probably drag out for too many episodes before reaching a conclusion.
At least, we hope there’s a conclusion.
And therein lies my problem with The Walking Dead as it’s currently presented. I watch every week hoping for the story to actually get somewhere, but it mostly feels like they are going in circles. Rick wins a small victory this week, Negan will kill off some useless side character next week for revenge. Then we’ll get a random flashback or side mission episode, breaking up the flow of the All Out War arch altogether.
Too many characters have invincible plot armor. Rick, Carl, Negan, Jesus, Daryl, Negan, and Maggie all seem untouchable right now. To make matters worse, they haven’t done a great job of making us care enough about the secondary characters. Morgan, Gabriel, Gregory, King Ezekiel, Dwight, Eugene, etc, etc are all completely expendable. I wouldn’t even really miss them, to be honest. And that’s a problem.
To answer the question I posted in the headline, The Walking Dead hardly seems worth watching anymore. During Sunday’s premiere I remarked to the person I was watching with that the show now seems more like a soap opera, with zombies in the background, than a dramatic horror series. The seasons are too long, stretching into two 8-episode halves (separated by a two-month break) that forced the show to add in nonsense. Remember the all-female colony from last season? What about the garbage people? I mean, who even cares at this point.
Despite that, I’m going to keep watching. I am a huge fan of the comic. I’ve already invested countless hours into watching and writing about The Walking Dead, so I might as well stick around to the bitter end. I’m hoping that All Out War can kickstart the series again, and get things back to when it was must-see-TV. I do thoroughly enjoy watching Jeffrey Dean Morgan play the wonderfully evil Negan, even with his over-the-top delivery. So at least there’s that.
If nothing else, I’m waiting to see whether Negan’s story on the show follows his story in the comics, which actually becomes much more interesting when All Out War is over.