'The Walking Dead' marks 100 episodes with Easter eggs in Season 8 premiere
The hit zombie series has come a long way since Rick Grimes woke up from a coma and entered a post-apocalyptic world overrun with the undead.
AMC's undead darling hits 100 episodes with the premiere of its eighth season on Sunday. And longtime fans will take comfort to know that The Walking Dead is taking its characters and storylines back to what made the show so popular in the first place.
The Season 8 premiere is really a tribute to fans, especially those who've followed along since the series' Halloween premiere in 2010. Just about every character still alive makes an appearance, and there are plenty of series Easter eggs sprinkled throughout.
There's even a nice throwback to the iconic Season 1 scene where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) encounters his first walker.
But it'll take more than just fun Easter eggs and character inclusion for some fans to give The Walking Dead another chance.
Last season's premiere was arguably the most graphic episode to air on cable television. It was the moment the entire season had been building up to -- Rick and his people finally meeting Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the leader of a sadistic group of Saviors.
But after all the literal head smashing with Negan's barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat named Lucille and the brutal loss of two beloved characters (Steven Yeun's Glenn and Michael Cudlitz' Abraham), many fans were turned off for good.
The Hollywood Reporter called the episode "nonstop traumatization and nonstop sadism." Many called it straight up torture porn with no artistic value or purpose.
In a show that has repeatedly killed off dozens of characters in unspeakable ways, this premiere felt just plain cruel. And it all happened within weeks of an election that had been spinning out of control and into the absurd.
But while much of Season 7 was a slog of slow storytelling and puzzling decisions showing the emotional breakdown of Rick and his people, the beginning of Season 8 looks a little brighter.
After the heartbreaking death of Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) during last season's finale, the group moves on from the disorganized revolt it tried to enact against Negan and his Saviors. Every attempt at overcoming their ferocity and cunning was met with more bloodshed and more of Negan blustering on about how infinitely evil he is.
"Mercy" sees Rick and his group, along with members from the Kingdom and the Hilltop, finally get their act together to formulate and execute a solid battle plan against the Saviors.
If comic fans have their way, the season will closely follow the comic book series' run "All Out War." As a reader of The Walking Dead comics, I know those fans will enjoy the Season 8 premiere. Many scenes are lifted straight from Robert Kirkman's black and white pages.
There are even little teases to the future of "Old Man Rick" and the end of the war between him and Negan, which, according to Entertainment Weekly's interview with showrunner Scott Gimple, will definitely end this season.
For this longtime fan, it's refreshing to see Rick and his ragtag family actually do something. Rick seems to regain his power and sense of importance in the world just in time to actually push back against Negan and his poison.
There's a sense of hope in the characters that you didn't see at all last season, whose episodes week after week left me feeling like I'd been emotionally beaten down.
But, at least for now, it feels like the old Walking Dead is back.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.
The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere
9 p.m. Sunday on AMC.
MORE WALKING DEAD