There may still be some life in this old dog yet.
Many fans remained apprehensive going into The Walking Dead Season 9 -- and rightfully so -- as the series has shown signs of creative fatigue over the past couple of seasons. Some even suggested that the series has been running on fumes.
Following the painstakingly long and drawn out war with Negan and the Saviors, The Walking Dead was in desperate need of a new direction. Fortunately, The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 1 was precisely what was needed to help revitalize itself and move forward.
Appropriately titled "A New Beginning," the premiere was a terrific way to usher in a brand new era, not only for the survivors but the series as well.
It feels like The Walking Dead that we all know and love, but there is a noticeable new feel to it.
Even the brand new title sequence is a welcome change. While the new animated intro may initially feel strange -- or even silly -- to some, the more I watch it, the more appreciation I have for it.
The time-lapse of the communities rebuilding, in particular, was a nice little touch. Check it out again when you watch The Walking Dead online.
Rick: We're not together because things have changed.
Daryl: Thing is you changed them, Rick.
The opening moments along with the new title card added a fresh and exciting feel, which is something that this show has been in need of for a while now.
Most of that can be attributed to Angela Kang taking over as showrunner from Scott M. Gimple, who had been at the helm since The Walking Dead Season 4. It's obvious that Kang has a very specific vision for Season 9 -- and beyond -- and that vision is beginning to be realized in incredible fashion.
Season 9 picks up roughly a year and a half following Rick's victory over Negan and the Saviors, with Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom in the process of rebuilding their respective communities.
It's exciting the book that Georgie left Maggie on The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 12 has been put to good use, and there's no doubt that she will be pleased when she returns.
A lot has changed for the group since we've last seen them -- physically, personally, and emotionally. People who were once adversaries have found common ground and are working together. It's the life that Carl had envisioned for everyone and one for which Rick has been working tirelessly at making a reality.
Speaking of people who were once enemies turned friends, Anne -- AKA Jadis -- eventually joined up with Rick. Ever since she dropped the whole garbage dump act last season, Anne immediately became more intriguing and has been someone I've been eager to learn more about.
Now that Anne has allied herself with Rick's group, it opens up the potential to explore the character further, and I'm very excited about the possibilities of where that can lead.
Rick: How'd I get so lucky finding you?
Michonne: We've both lost enough.
Most of the Saviors have seemingly turned over a new leaf and approve of Rick's new way of handling things. However, there is evidence of a possible internal conflict brewing within the Sanctuary, as some Saviors might still prefer Negan's leadership over Rick's.
How long will this peace with the Saviors last? The writing is literally on the wall, so it's not a matter of if there will be a revolt, but when.
Daryl has every right to be concerned, and it's something that Rick should consider taking more seriously.
Can you blame Daryl for not wanting to remain in charge of the Sanctuary? There are way too many bad memories there, and being in that place is a constant reminder of all that the group lost. Fortunately, Carol is an amazing friend and offered to take over for Daryl for a while to give him a change of scenery.
Did anyone else love Daryl's mention of their once smaller Atlanta group? Those were much simpler times, weren't they?
Daryl has a point though: with a smaller group, it's much easier to run a tight ship. Now there are several communities at play where anything can go awry in the blink of an eye.
That small group we had back in the beginning, could do anything.Daryl
I'm so happy that Carol has finally found love in her life. A relationship between Ezekial and Carol was bound to happen, and I called it during The Walking Dead Season 7. If anyone deserves to be happy, it's Carol.
My only fear is that Ezekial keeping the ring and holding it for when Carol is "ready" feels a bit foreboding.
To facilitate the group's rebuilding of civilization, they have been exploring uncharted areas to obtain materials for the world they're attempting to create.
Seeing Rick riding horseback through the streets gave me instant deja vu to when he similarly rode through the streets of Atlanta on The Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 1. It was a fun little nod that didn't go unnoticed.
It's also good that the group has been relying more on horses for means of transportation since all gasoline resources should be basically depleted at this point.
Visiting the museum was an interesting new locale, and it proved invaluable as they located seeds for vegetation, farming tools, and a horse carriage.
The group trying to pull the carriage across the glass floor was very suspenseful, and the entire sequence was beautifully shot. It kept me on the edge of my seat as I guessed who would end up plummeting to their death lurking below.
While no one died, Ezekial came extremely close to earning himself a spot on the "In Memoriam" sequence on Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick. I'm relieved that Ezekial escaped with his life, even if getting out of that situation without so much as a scratch was a bit ridiculous.
Could you imagine if Ezekial bit the bullet in the first episode of the season? What a daring move that would have been.
Another issue that I had was when the group ran into trouble with the walkers on their way back with the carriage. By now, this group is seasoned enough to be able to handle a decent group of walkers. So I don't quite understand why they decided to leave the carriage and flee.
What made that scene even more frustrating was killing the walkers after Kenny was bitten and later died while attempting to free the horses.
Why couldn't they have just done that from the beginning? Why drop everything and run away if killing the walkers was so easy in the first place? It felt like an unnecessary situation just to kill someone.
While the whole ordeal was easily avoidable, Kenny's death did play an important role back at Hilltop.
Maggie has become the official leader of Hilltop after defeating Gregory in an election. Maggie likely won that decision by a landslide.
However, Gregory -- the slithering snake that he is -- has been biding his time and waiting for the right opportunity to strike to eliminate Maggie from the equation.
So naturally, Gregory saw an opportunity to Kenny's death to his advantage to influence Earl into attempting to kill Maggie out of revenge.
Gregory officially sank to a new low, but it wasn't surprising. He has been eager to regain his control over Hilltop ever since Maggie first stepped foot in there.
It seemed like the perfect, evil plan: Maggie dies, Earl takes the fall, and Gregory reclaims his seat as leader of Hilltop. And had it not been for Enid coming to Maggie's rescue, Gregory's master plan would have worked.
Gregory's public execution was fitting -- even if deserved far worse -- and Maggie needed to set the tone by making an example out of him and letting people know that actions like Gregory's will not be tolerated. Maggie has become ruthless, but I suppose after numerous attempts on your life, that happens.
The snake is finally dead, and was it long overdue.
Maggie is beginning to feel the pressures that come with being a leader, and I have a feeling she will eventually push herself out of that leadership role at Hilltop.
Where she would go is beyond me, but since Lauren Cohen is leaving the series, it would be an acceptable way to leave the door open for Maggie's return down the road.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that Lauren Cohen isn't the only major character we'll be saying goodbye to this season, as Andrew Lincoln will officially hang up his sheriff's hat.
It's still difficult to imagine The Walking Dead without the character we've followed from the very beginning, and it does feel a bit surreal.
There are plenty of fans that have already written off this series, and the news of Lincoln's departure won't win over anyone. However, if there is a silver lining, it's that this series genuinely has an incredible cast that will now get the opportunity to shine in his absence.
While it will be a very tall order to try and fill Rick's shoes, I strongly believe there are a few who are up for the challenge.
Regardless, when Rick's farewell episode does, in fact, come at some point this season, you can rest assured that Lincoln will turn in one hell of a performance.
This episode wasn't the typical action-packed season premiere we're accustomed to, as it took a relatively calm route to explore a brand new world and distinguish itself from previous seasons. And for the most part, it worked.
"A New Beginning" did what it set out to do which was to turn the page and begin an exciting new chapter.
Other tidbits from the episode:
I dig Rick's new look. It appears to be a combination of his shorter haircut from The Walking Dead Season 1 and his bushier beard from later seasons.
Hearing Carol call Daryl "Pookie" again was adorable.
Using live walkers as scarecrows to protect the crops is a brilliant idea.
I'm calling it now: a Jesus and Aaron relationship might be coming. Just saying!
- I don't think Daryl has had a shower in at least five seasons. Somebody get that man a bar of soap!
It's time to hear from you, TV Fanatics!
What did you think of "A New Beginning"? Did the season premiere give you a glimmer of hope that this series might have something left in its tank after all?
Hit the comments below and let me know!
The Walking Dead returns with a new episode on Sunday, October 14 at 9/8C on AMC.
Steven Ford is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.