Season eight doesn't waste any time getting into "All Out War." The first half of the episode is preparing. You see our group being methodical, planning each and every step carefully: welding sheet metal to the sides of cars; taking out Saviors at various outposts; luring a huge herd of walkers through the streets; and of course, inspirational speeches. Dwight is still their man on the inside, and with Gregory nowhere to be seen, Maggie has taken control of the Hilltop.
Carl and Rick stop by a gas station to siphon off some gas and split up. Carl hears a man calling for help and approaches cautiously. Before he can speak to the man, Rick shoots at him, scaring him off. Carl points out that he was just hungry, and Rick's defense is that he shot over the man's head. Carl doesn't like Rick's response; Rick is concerned/paranoid that the man was a Savior, trying to trick them. He still has a bit of that old paranoia in him.
Let's get to the most interesting part of the episode: war. Our group is well organized and has planned things out very well. Michonne and Carl stay behind to protect Alexandria. Carol, Tara, Morgan, and Daryl are charged with luring the massive herd of thousands of walkers. Rick, Maggie, Ezekiel, Jesus, Gabriel, and Enid are among those who roll out to the Saviors compound.
Daryl's group sets off a huge explosion, which lures most of the Saviors out to check on the disturbance. A trip wire is set up, and when the Saviors caravan drives into it, it sets off a series of explosions that kill many of the Saviors. Those who aren't killed outright are eaten by the horde of zombies. Carol, Tara, and Morgan take off, leaving Daryl to continue to lure the horde forward.
At the compound, Rick's group lines up the cars so that the sheet metal forms a barrier. They start shooting, more to get the Saviors to come outside - one in particular. Negan strolls out like cock on the walk. His lieutenants - including Dwight, Garth, Simon, Regina, and Eugene - line up outside. Rick offers the lieutenants a chance to surrender. "I can't guarantee you will survive any time but right now," he tells them. Simon drags out Gregory, thinking he will be some kind of magic incentive. With coaching from Negan, Gregory announces that the Hilltop stands with Negan and the Saviors, and anyone who doesn't stand with them are no longer welcome at the Hilltop. He will expel their family too. Maggie would understand if anyone wants to leave, but they don't. Jesus shouts out, "The Hilltop stands with Maggie!" Which means Gregory is officially useless to everyone.
Rick gives the lieutenants until the count of 10 to surrender. But at seven, he and his crew start shooting up the place, causing Negan and his lieutenants to run and hide. This is also the signal for Daryl to start leading the herd towards them. Someone drives an armored RV through the gate, and there is a huge explosion. When the dust settles, the compound is in bad shape. Negan is limping and takes cover behind some metal, but Rick won't give up and keeps shooting, uselessly, in his direction. Gabriel tells Rick it is time to get out of there. He is hesitant, but eventually leaves, though not before snapping a photo with a Polaroid camera. Gabriel sees a scared and injured Gregory and can't help but go to help him. He promises Gregory they will get out of there, they just have to wait for their moment. Unsurprisingly, the Saviors fire, Gregory gets nervous, and he makes a run for it. He takes Gabriel's truck and leaves him. As the horde of zombies moves in, Gabriel is desperate for cover and finally finds a door he can get through. Unfortunately, he finds himself with Negan, who hopes Gabriel "has his shitting pants on." The building is surrounded by zombies, so Gabriel has no other option than to remain in the room with Negan.
This is where things get a little fuzzy for me. As they frequently do with The Walking Dead, this episode has a lot of jumps in time. So I am not 100% sure who is involved, or where this is taking place, but at some point, after the group leaves the main Saviors compound, Rick and Daryl run through a tremendous gate, and Carol and Ezekiel are somewhere where a grenade goes off. I think at that point Carol screams for Daryl - she screams something.
Also, at some point, Carl goes back to the gas station and leaves two cans of food and a note that says "Sorry." A nice counterpoint to his father, showing that Carl hasn't lost his humanity (yet).
There are also quick cuts of two different scenes from the future. The first one is a collection of images of Rick, looking sweaty, with red-rimmed eyes that look as if they have been crying. He murmurs something about mercy prevailing over his wrath. These images are in extreme close-up; there is no sense of where he is or what the circumstances are.
And then there is Old Rick. Remember the scene from the trailer, that has what appears to be an older Rick, in bed and presumably in poor health? Well, we finally get an answer to that, and it isn't nearly as interesting as people have been theorizing. It is in the future - but no more than five years down the road. Rick walks with a cane now, presumably injured in his war with the Saviors, but otherwise he is happy. He is living in wedded bliss with Michonne. Carl is still alive, and Judith is older, maybe five or six years old. Everything is peaceful, and outside, we can see a flourishing community, working together to harvest a rich bounty of food.
Now, you could make the argument that this and the scenes with red-eyed Rick are two potential outcomes to the war, showing both the "happily ever after" version, where Rick and his family survive and thrive, and "not happily ever after" version, where presumably Rick loses his family. But, if you've read the comics, you will know that the happy version is correct, because Judith excitedly tells her father that the community is getting ready for the festival. The only other explanation I can think of is that, in the immediate aftermath of war (which, obviously, is only getting started), Rick faces a defeat of some kind that leaves him teary and full of wrath.
I mostly liked this episode. It got off to a slow start, but then the war part began and I was sold. I felt like the flash-forward was a kind of "screw you" to the audience, and I wish that some of the jumps in time were contained a little bit so I knew where we were when Rick and Daryl ran through those big gates and when the grenade went off.
What did you guys think? A good way to start off the eighth season?