Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
S8 E1
October 22, 2017 at 10:07 PM EDT

Meanwhile, Team Daryl is helping to lead the herd to the Sanctuary. As the dead approach on the highway, they retreat further down the road, while the camera lingers on a nearby car. Soon it explodes, directing the walkers in their direction. It also signals Negan’s Saviors, who drive out to investigate, unaware of the new trap the group is laying for them.

The cars, adorned with sheets of metal to block bullets, ride into the Sanctuary. Rick and the troops rush out and fire into the air to get the boss man’s attention. Negan strolls out with his generals — Dwight, Eugene, Simon, Gavin, and Regina — and swings his bat and ego around with some trash talk. But Rick serves it right back. The generals can walk away and be guaranteed safety, but not Negan. No, Negan is going to die by Rick’s hand if he has anything to say about it.

Negan, however, warns Rick may not have the numbers for this fight. That’s when Gregory emerges because of course he went to the Sanctuary. He threatens to oust any member of the Hilltop and their families from the colony if they don’t stand down, but they go unheeded because, as Jesus says, “The Hilltop stands with Maggie” now. Simon, annoyed over his faulty investment, shoves Gregory off the ledge, but their attention is soon drawn to smoke rising from the trees in the distance.

Barring the slight snag of a stray walker — which was quickly dealt with — the trap laid by Team Daryl triggered an explosion and left the Saviors out on patrol out of commission. Rick starts giving the generals a countdown to comply with his offer, but he opens fire when he gets to six and the assault begins. His forces miss Negan (he leaps for cover) and the generals (they rush inside), though they shoot out all the front-facing windows of the Sanctuary. Now it’s time for the next phase.

Carol hugs Daryl before going off with Morgan and Tara, leaving the crossbow-slinging renegade to lead the walker herd on his motorcycle by setting off a series of explosions. The forces at the Sanctuary start retreating before the dead make their way to them and to make room for their final blow. An armored RV rolls towards the gate, and when it reaches, Rick presses a detonator that causes the vehicle to explode, taking out the line of walkers guarding the fort.

Gabriel sees Rick firing at Negan, who has taken cover behind some debris, so he rushes back to remind him, again, that this fight isn’t about his personal vendetta. Rick rides out before the herd arrives and Gabriel is supposed to follow when he sees Gregory pleading for help. He rushes out to help, but Gregory is a coward. As soon as he sees the bullets are getting a little too close to his head, he sprints off and takes the car for himself, leaving Gabriel in the thick of the chaos.

Carl, blissfully separate from the hellfire, walks back to the gas station to leave a “sorry” note and some canned food for the man he saw earlier, who’s watching him from the bushes. Ezekiel’s forces rendezvous with Carol at a meeting spot, while Daryl goes to wait with Rick for Gabriel. Too much time has passed, however, and they have to leave him behind.

We don’t have to wait till next episode to learn their next move, though. Morgan and Tara are planning to assault another Savior outpost, as Daryl and Rick invade another. Ezekiel’s squad reaches an abandoned medical facility where a Savior takes cover behind a car. The man throws a grenade at a door, which has been muffling the sound of snarling walkers trapped inside. We have to put a pin in that as the action cuts back to the Sanctuary, where Gabriel finds refuge inside a construction trailer. Though the walkers are banging on the door to get inside, he finds he’s not alone. Negan emerges from the shadows and warns the good father is about to s— his pants.

The episode ends with a similar collection of scenes cut from various parts, as it was in the beginning. One of them shows the same Rick in front of the stained glass, uttering, “My mercy prevails over my wrath.” It’s a phrase from the Quran, which was mentioned earlier by the man Carl encounters at the gas station. He was nervous that Carl might think him hostile for making the Islamic reference, but now it’s providing a moment of reflection for Rick in this scene.

The last is of Rick hopping down from the back of a truck during the same rallying-the-troops speech. “I don’t want to wait for it anymore. You don’t either,” he says as if directly to the fans. Unlike last season, we don’t have to wonder when the war with Negan will finally come. It’s here, and at least that much brings us hope as we head into the uncertain future.

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AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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