IT'S all in the build. The first half of The Walking Dead's season eight opener is focused on just that: the build go the war.
The union of Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom finally came together at the end of season seven, and we get an insight into their collaborative rally early in the premiere.
Rick, Maggie, and King Ezekiel's forces are preparing for battle with Negan's Saviors. Rick's list of Negan's lookouts is reduced as the grand plan is set in motion, though it's with Carl we learn more about the people they've become.
Carl was set to help another young man at a gas station. He pleaded for food, but before Carl could help Rick fired warning shots into the air. Rick has long trusted nobody, but Carl appears to be softening.
It's an interesting dichotomy that could lead to more pronounced conflict between the two.
The attack on Negan's compound went as expected. Rick and co. had the edge over Negan for what felt like the first time since Jeffrey Dean Morgan's introduction to the AMC series.
Rick's tactic was to appeal to the human side of his opponents: their names are Simon and Regina, not "Negan" as all Saviors say.
But the man known for his barbed wire baseball bat ended the episode in a position of power.
After ducking gunfire and a mass horde of walkers to save his skin, Negan has earned himself a hostage.
Father Gabriel started as a somewhat shifty character, but has evolved into a man powered by good. Even if, as so often happens, that lands the group in trouble.
This time he tried to save Gregory, the "leader" of the Hilltop (in title only - we all know Maggie's the real boss), as walkers entered the compound.
Gabriel, who had just convinced Rick to keep out of danger, went back for the slimy Hilltop figurehead. It didn't pan out - Gregory fled, stole Gabriel's car and hightailed out of there.
Gabriel had nowhere to go, but his salvation - what looks to be a trailer - is anything but: Negan was already there, and he is not happy.
There's an interesting touch to have Weird Al Yankovic's Another One Rides the Bus in the background during the "old Rick" scenes. "Old Rick" is revealed in the first trailers, and many stories since the trailer release have indicated they're real and part of the main story.
Whether or not there is a time hop remains to be seen, but Rick, Michonne, Carl and Judith shown as a happy, united family was similar to that of a dream sequence. It serves as Rick's motivation.
Could it be someone close to Rick - one of those three - could meet an untimely demise later this season?
A few more things:
- How could nobody notice Dwight and Daryl's note-passing via crossbow and arrow?
- Morgan is killing again. Where will his arc go after his long non-lethal approach?
- There were a lot of explosions to witness, so where were Jadis and the trash people?