-- SPOILERS for The Walking Dead premiere lie ahead --
The Walking Dead season 8 premiere has finally landed, and we're here to cover all the spoiler-tastic twists and turns that you need to know. It's no secret that season 7 wasn't the show's finest year; its list of shortcomings are as well-documented as they are lengthy. Although the finale was similarly flawed, the series definitely went out with a bang, one that promised the hotly anticipated All Out War arc from the comics in the coming year. In the months since, pretty much everyone involved with the production has made it a point to stress that season 8 would bring action back to the forefront of this apocalyptic world.
Tonight's premiere episode didn't disappoint, delivering a jam-packed outing that saw our heroes put together a plan to topple Negan and his Saviors and put that plan into action. But how successful were they, and who bit the dust as a result? Here are the major story beats of the episode, complete with all the water cooler ammo you'll need for the coming week.
We've got to formulate a plot
Following the exciting season 7 finale that saw Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom team up to take on Negan and the Saviors, All Out War is officially on. This evening's episode doesn't waste any time, kicking off with a rousing speech from the dream team's fearless leader as they prepare for battle. The group draws up a multi-step plan that involves directing a herd of walkers to the Saviors' compound. While Carl and Michonne stay behind to protect Alexandria, Dwight, the man on the inside, lends a helping hand, though he's clearly not a trusted ally just yet. No major surprises, but it's the layered plot to burn the Sanctuary to the ground that stands out.
Storming the castle
The group's incredibly well-detailed plan of attack -- which involves stopwatches, checkpoints, and military-style hand signals -- hits a speed bump or two, highlighted by Gregory's betrayal. The former leader of the Hilltop attempts to persuade his people to abandon Rick's group when they're knocking on the Sanctuary's front door, but he's long since ceded command to Maggie, so his commands fall on deaf ears. The real action kicks off shortly afterwards, as a hail of bullets and a zombie horde (led to the Saviors' compound by Morgan, Carol, Daryl, and Enid) strike the Sanctuary.
Promises that season 8 would feel like an '80s action movie were not overstated, and things start blowing up left and right. Negan's home is soon overrun with the undead, and it looks like Rick and co. have scored a unanimous victory.
The ones we leave behind
As our heroes look to get the hell out of the compound and regroup, Rick's obsession with killing Negan seems to get the better of him. Father Gabriel, who's come a really long way since we first met him a few years back, rushes in to save Rick from his suicide mission, successfully convincing him to turn tail and put his revenge on the back-burner. In doing so, Gabriel spots the treacherous Gregory and tries to help him escape the undead horde as well. This is Gregory we're talking about here -- a backstabber of the highest order who has yet to kill a single person or walker in the apocalypse -- so of course, he steals Gabriel's ride and leaves him for dead.
The suddenly fan-favorite man of God gets over his shock and thinks fast, seeking refuge in an abandoned trailer. Gabriel is surrounded by walkers, sure, but he's seemingly survived the worst of it. Only, that trailer isn't quite as abandoned as he'd hoped, and Negan emerges from the shadows to inform the priest that he'll be needing a change of pants in the very near future.
The aftermath: who lives, who dies, and what to expect in season 8
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this evening's premiere is the body count, or lack thereof. Running in stark contrast to last season's horrifyingly brutal opening salvo that saw both Abraham (*sob*) and Glenn (*unending sob*) meet their demise, no major characters were killed in the season 8 opener. Obviously, Father Gabriel looks to have found himself on the chopping block, having been trapped in a trailer surrounded by walkers with the one guy on Earth you don't want to be trapped in a trailer surrounded by walkers with. Gabriel's no longer the helpless liability he once was, but he's definitely in serious trouble here.
Gregory is going to have some serious explaining to do, of course, and while it's easy to root for the irredeemable goon's death in next week's outing, we're not so sure the series will be quick to off this antagonist so early on in the proceedings.
All in all, Negan's been dealt a serious blow (and he's currently trapped in that trailer as well), Rick's group is already making sacrifices for the greater good, and season 8 is off to a hot start. We should expect the coming weeks to be far bloodier, though; they don't call it All Out War for nothing.
The Walking Dead returns next Sunday at 9PM ET on AMC.