It’s reminiscent of a moment from issue #127 of the Walking Dead comic series. (Spoiler warning for anyone who wants to skip the remainder of this paragraph.) A time jump brings readers two years after the war with Negan, and Rick is similarly hobbling around with an injured leg. That’s not to say the Old Man Rick scene on the show is also a time jump because, frankly, that’d be so un-Walking Dead-like. The war with Negan hasn’t even begun and a flash-forward would spoil who survives it all, whereas the powers that be have lined their pockets by letting fans dangle — sometimes to the point of narrative frustration.
On this scene, executive producer Scott M. Gimple said we’ll know what it all means about halfway through the season.
When we snap back to the present, Carl rides up to a gas station to get more fuel, but he hears a voice: a man nervously rambling about how he was shot at and needs help. It’s a scene that was meant as a “shot-for-shot” remake of the very first scene on the show: Rick, also looking for gas, stumbles on a zombie child in bunny slippers. Carl finds, instead, a young Middle Eastern man hoping for at least some food. From a distance, Rick fires shots in the air to scare him off, thinking he could be one of Negan’s spies. Carl stands before him as the man Rick once was: sympathetic towards others, willing to forgive, willing to assist. His father, however, is more suspicious, more feral, and merciless. Maggie had mentioned in her speech to the Hilltop that as long as they hold on to “hope” in each other, the world is theirs. But with this attitude, Carl doesn’t see enough hope to go around.
(Carl’s one line here, by the way, marks a long-running pet peeve of mine. “There’s not gonna be enough, Dad.” “Enough what?” “Hope.” I hate it. Hate what? I hate it when characters assume others know what their incomplete sentences mean and are then forced to explain themselves — when it would’ve been faster for everyone to just say what they mean in the first place.)
The action picks up further as the group continues preparations for the ensuing battle. There’s a list of lookouts for the Sanctuary, and they take turns taking out the men guarding them. Morgan, for one, is no longer held back by his monk philosophy. He brutally plunges his staff straight through the chest of a Savior. (Imagine how much force must’ve been needed to do that.)
As Father Gabriel is reminding Rick at Alexandria how this whole fight isn’t just about him, Daryl rides to meet Carol, Tara, and Morgan on the highway, where they’re waiting for the herd to arrive and hope Tara’s calculations on their movements are accurate. They are — at least, they are “good enough.” Everything seems in place as Rick kisses Judith and Michonne goodbye. “This is the end of it,” he tells Carl, who’s left as the man in charge.
As Rick leads the convoy of cars out of Alexandria, we get a glimpse of Rosita, who’s also left behind — and she’s not too happy about it. She was shot in the season 7 finale, and we see a bandage on her chest. The real reason she’s probably not coming is because actress Christian Serratos gave birth on the first day of filming season 8. Gimple told EW she’ll be back in action “pretty soon,” but prefaced “there will be a notable sort of Rosita-lessness early on.”
The need for a surprise assault gives credence to more brutal forms of attack. Rick takes out another Sanctuary lookout by driving a blade into his gut. A walker is tied to a telephone pole close by, and when the Savior starts saying things like, “Your son is gonna die,” Rick cuts the chain lose and allows the walker to feast. Rick signals for the cars to approach, and they meet up with their Hilltop and Kingdom allies in an open field for the full Braveheart-style pep talk.
In a single shot, the camera weaves through the meet-and-greet until landing on Ezekiel, Jesus, Maggie, and Rick. While I live for those moments when the Shakespearian king proclaims, in a booming voice, “Yes, Jesus!” the more important moment comes when Rick whispers to Maggie how, after the war is waged, he’ll be following her. This moment brings to mind something Lincoln said, about how there’s “absolutely” a possibility for The Walking Dead to continue without Rick Grimes. Not saying this will happen. It certainly doesn’t this episode. But it’s something to consider.
(Recap continues on the next page.)