Remember when the biggest threat to the people left alive after the zombie apocalypse were, well, the zombies?
We’ve come a long way, friends.
In seven nerve-wracking, nail-biting – and, let’s face it, neck-biting – seasons, the humans (and, yep, they’re still humans, no matter how many undead brains they’ve stabbed) are still kicking butt and taking names – only this time, the enemy isn’t just the thing with glassy eyes and a lurch in its step.
So it has come to this: The eighth season of “The Walking Dead,” which begins Sunday, sees the core survivors – Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Morgan (Lennie James) – and those loyal souls to whom they’ve attached along the way, including Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and others, band together with the other groups of survivors at the Hilltop and the Kingdom to fight the ruthless and unforgiving Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his band of Saviors.
It’s an unusual turn for these survivors. Previously, their primary motivation has been just that: survival, against the dead, who are indiscriminate in their killing; against those who would take away their comfort and safety; against those who threaten the possibility of a future, whatever form that might entail.
But when the survivors encounter Negan and the Saviors, who have turned survival into an opportunity to set up their own fiefdom, a system of “agreements” with the various settlements – the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and, when they find out about its existence, Alexandria, the community where Rick and his fellow survivors have been living in relative peace. These agreements, though, benefit only the saviors in that the settlement dwellers do all the work – grow the vegetables, scavenge for supplies, trap the wildlife – only to turn it over to the Saviors, along with any creature comforts they’ve amassed at their homesteads.
In return, they get to live. It’s a situation that proves untenable to Rick, especially after Negan carries out retaliation for Rick’s attempt to eliminate the Saviors by killing Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). The submission to an exterior force – one who doesn’t care to negotiate, one who rules with an iron-clad baseball bat – grows uncomfortable for Rick, who has, up until then, been able to chart a path for his family and those who have grown to become his family.
The first attack on the Saviors’ outpost – what Rick and his crew thought was their only settlement – was the first time they had intentionally hunted the living. They’d killed humans before, but only in service of survival, only to save and protect their own. But their elaborately planned attack, and the one that led to that gut-wrenching, life-changing loss of Glenn and Abraham, was the initial act of a war that will play out this season in battles that may rival those of “Game of Thrones.”
The alliance of Rick and the Alexandrians, Maggie and Jesus (Tom Payne) and the rest of the Hilltop, and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), his tiger, Shiva, and his Kingdom, will wage war on the Saviors’ Sanctuary. The role that Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her Scavengers, who memorably betrayed Rick in a showdown with Negan at the end of last season, is yet unknown; consider them the wild card – after all, they made it clear, they’re only looking out for their own interests. The eighth season, and its 100th episode, premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on AMC.
100 episodes, and then some: Sunday’s annual Halloween episode of “The Simpsons” will be the show’s 622nd episode. It’s a remarkable feat for any show, but perhaps easier when the characters don’t have to age. Past Halloween installments have parodied “The Shining,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Frankenstein,” “Dracula,” “The Fly,” episodes from “The Twilight Zone,” and several more. This season’s “Treehouse of Horror XXVIII” takes on “The Exorcist” and “Coraline.” The episode airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on Ch. 47.
Portrait of an artist: The late George Michael narrates a film about his life, focusing on the formative years of his career and the recording of 1990’s “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1” and the years following. “George Michael: Freedom,” created before the singer’s unexpected death last December at age 53, includes interviews with several celebrity and music-industry friends, including supermodels Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford; musicians Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Tony Bennett and Mary J. Blige; and comedians James Cordon and Ricky Gervais, designer Jean Paul Gaultier; and more. “George Michael: Freedom,” directed in part by David Fincher (“The Social Network”) and Michael himself, premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday on Showtime.