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September 27, 2018 at 04:00 PM EDT

This is a relatively spoiler-free review of the season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead. But if you haven’t watched season 8, be forewarned that details of the finale are discussed below.

“A New Beginning” is the perfect title for the season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead: There’s a new showrunner (Angela Kang), a new vibe (more humor, classic George Romero scares), new cast members (Brett Butler!), and a welcome time jump from season 8 (R.I.P., Carl).

The Walking Dead — while remaining one of the best shows on TV — had, frankly, become hard to watch in recent seasons. Yes, this is a show about a zombie apocalypse, but did every episode have to be such a downer?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan gave an awards-worthy performance as the charming-yet-deadly Negan over the past two seasons, but his arc drew our hero, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and his group too far down into the dumps. Throw in the death of Rick’s son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), in the wake of the loss of earliest ally Glenn (Steven Yeun), and the show was just downright depressing. Of course there was cause to celebrate when Rick and co. bested Negan in the season 8 finale, but even then it was unclear if anyone was going to move forward to anything even remotely resembling a happy ending.

But when the AMC drama returns Oct. 7, it begins with a downright idealistic opening scene (which I won’t discuss in detail until after the episode airs). In the first few minutes, viewers are treated to smiles (!), entertaining old-school zombie jump scares, and unfiltered scenes set in daylight, which seemed a rarity in the Deadverse recently, especially on Fear the Walking Dead.

That said, the world of The Walking Dead is still a scary and dangerous place. Characters will still die and characters will still show their horrific true colors, but characters will also laugh, and love and, gosh darnit, they’ll live this season.

It’s hard to elaborate much more without getting into any spoilers, but I will say this: With Rick at relative peace as his final episodes approach — though Lincoln may be directing some episodes! — it’s intriguing to watch another member of his group go dark. B+

AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
type
TV Show
seasons
9
run date
10/31/10
Network
Available For Streaming On
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