Rick and his gang are back for an explosive season eight premiere, literally. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, “Robot Chicken”) once again manages to assemble a detailed, methodical plan to overthrow the newest, baddest villain introduced in season six: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, “The Good Wife”).

Disclaimer: I watched “The Walking Dead” from the beginning until about season five. I was hoping this season premiere would recapture my interest in the show. It turned out to be semi-successful.

Many members of Rick’s original entourage are still around, making the show feel familiar and steady. However, some of them have undergone some character changes, like Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam, “Teen Wolf”). The previously goody-two-shoes pastor has shown his darker side — one suited up in armor, a machine gun and a willingness to kill he didn’t have before. He devolves, which reveals a terrifying truth: Even a pastor is capable of turning to murder. This example of character development is strangely refreshing, and it elevates the quality of the show, somehow making it relatable in a completely unrelatable world.

Another fascinating feature of the show is how it tends to cut to many different scenes, yet always seems to keep the storyline coherent. It will bounce from Rick, to his son Carl (Chandler Riggs, “Robot Chicken”), to Daryl’s (Norman Reedus, “Robot Chicken”) attacks on many of the Survivors. Instead of confusing the viewer, it keeps them on their toes and draws in their interest.

Although the main plotline is about Rick and his group’s vendetta against Negan’s group called the Survivors, there are many subplots that reveal heart, grit, sacrifice, vulnerability and loyalty. In a world gone to hell, the writers still give these characters complex, intricate values that can’t be discerned into simply good or evil. Gabriel saves the head of the Hilltop Colony, even though the man essentially threatened to kill him. Carl delivers canned food to a stranger that could be a potential danger. Negan has the chance to surrender but doesn’t out of pride.

To all the viewers out there, can we just talk about this tiger? King Ezekiel (Khary Payton, “Teen Titans Go”) has a pet tiger, Shiva. I’m so confused as to how. What does she eat? How does she behave? Where did he even get her? How has she not eaten the entire cast yet? For a multidimensional show, there are some stretches that are just too extraneous.

Throughout the episode, many scenes are a close up of Rick’s face. His eyes are bright blue, contrasted against his red, puffy eyelids. His face is drenched in sweat, and he appears to be looking off into something far in the distance. The director randomly cuts to this scene many times. Although the scene itself appears random, Rick’s face shows raw emotion and pain, which grants Lincoln an “A” in my book. This scene is used as a break between all of the high intensity drama and offers the viewer an insight to Rick’s true feelings — ones of fear and agony.

In almost every scene, there is almost always a hint of music playing in the background. Whether it’s strong or mild, it tends to keep the dialogue even more dramatic or serious without overdoing it. The light piano riffs always succeed in creating a sense of nervousness whenever there is a walker around: is this person going to die right now?

The biggest problem with this episode was the ending — there was absolutely no cliffhanger. For a show famous for its unnerving, jaw dropping, goosebump-worthy endings, it simply didn’t deliver. Instead, it ended in with an unrealistic, utopian dream of Rick’s that gave viewers a warm and fuzzy feeling, too foreign for this show.

I may have taken a break from “The Walking Dead” but overall, the season premiere proved why this show is back for its eighth season. The drama, horror and character developments work together to generate a cohesive theme.

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