By: Charlie Lott, Columnist
The season eight premiere of “The Walking Dead” proved to viewers Sunday that it’s finally moved past the days of emotional drama and trying to cope with the apocalyptic world in which the characters find themselves living. In this season, it’s time for action.
At the end of season seven, protagonist (and one of only a handful of remaining members from the show’s inception) Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had joined forces with two other survivor colonies, The Kingdom and The Hilltop. The premier opens with a rising call to action from Rick to his troops, making it clear that today is the day that they finally attack The Saviors, led by his arch rival, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). War between factions is nothing new on “The Walking Dead,” but rarely do we get to see the characters show off their resourcefulness and ingenuity like they do when preparing for the attack.
Rick’s forces begin by taking out guard posts around The Saviors’ camp, with each calculated kill coming in stark contrast to the usual mindless slaughter. They set up car bombs and tripwires, rolling out in armored cars to fend off walkers. While fans of the usual zombie blood and gore might not like the slow buildup, it is a cool look at the characters for fans who have stuck with the show for this long. Why are Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and the other original characters able to weather the storm that is the zombie apocalypse? This season aims to answer that.
All too many scenes of Rick getting pissed and killing people or Daryl showing off his archery skills have proven that these characters are physically capable of surviving. But seeing them orchestrate a massive plan of attack delves deeper into their psyche than ever before. They are so smart and resourceful that, with limited people and resources, they can still pull off an unlikely victory.
Seeing the characters work together also gives the viewer hope for human society. It has become clear that “The Walking Dead” refers both to the zombies, who are literally dead people reanimated, and to the humans, who are, at this point, pretty much dead inside. People are sleeping with their best friends’ wives and killing innocents, and the image of a group of individuals working together as a whole was, for me at least, long-awaited.
That’s not to say that the premier does not show any problems with the upcoming season. I first started watching “The Walking Dead” for the title character: the zombies. They featured heavily at the beginning, when people didn’t know how to kill them and they seemed to be waiting around every corner. But at this point in the show, they are pretty much a non-factor. The other survivors are far more dangerous, supplies are relatively easy to come by, and the characters are comfortable enough with their situation that they walk nonchalantly ahead of zombie hordes like they’re not even there. Kind of like in a video game that’s too easy, “The Walking Dead” needs to buff up its monstrous namesakes.
A side-effect of the lack of zombie involvement has been that the show has started to turn into more of a melodramatic soap opera than an action series. There are so many relationship issues and slow, inward-thinking moments that the war scene at the end of the premier, along with the suggestion that this season will be full of hard-fought battles between clans, are a sight for sore eyes. I cannot wait until the next episode, because we will get to see more action, as opposed to the emotional cliff hangers of yore; “I’m pregnant… and I don’t know whose it is.”
In all honesty, I stopped watching “The Walking Dead” back when the zombies started to factor in less and less and the human relationships became the forefront of the plot. But the promise of this premier, and with it action and war like we have not seen since the third season, is enough to make me excited about next Sunday at 9:00.