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story.lead_photo.caption In a tense scene from last season’s fi nale, Rick (Andrew Lincoln, right) faces off against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as Rick’s son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), looks on. The Walking Dead returns today to AMC.

Pull the shades and turn off your cellphones, fellow fans, The Walking Dead returns at 8 p.m. today on AMC. It's a doozy and runs a bit past 9 p.m.

I've already seen the Season 8 opener (the series' 100th episode) and I can promise that fans will not be disappointed. All that sniveling self-doubt and sycophantic suffering we went through with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) last season is really over. The new episode, "Mercy," is one of the most action-packed in memory.

And you'll get to see Shiva the tiger again. Any episode with Shiva promises to be a good one.

The Season 7 finale, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life," set the stage for tonight's thrills when Rick's coalition and Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) evil Saviors had their brief melee.

It all began when fan-favorite Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) sacrificed herself in order to pop out of the coffin as a walker and attack Negan.

(Note: Sasha may be dead, but Martin-Green has gone on to star in CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery.)

Sasha's surprise was followed by Shiva lunging from the shadows, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) arrived with the troops from the Kingdom, while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) joined with the Hilltop warriors.

They showed up in the nick of time to help the Alexandrians battle the Saviors and their turncoat allies, the Scavengers.

Season 8's teaser posters and trailers have featured the tagline "All Out War," and the show doesn't waste any time getting right to it. Perhaps the producers learned their lesson from having too many mopey, pokey episodes last season. There were too many episodes featuring a downtrodden Rick cowing to the sadistic taunting of Negan.

Fortunately, by the end of the season, Rick rallied himself and his allies.

Even banded together, the good guys are not nearly as strong as Negan's group. The sociopathic Saviors, a band of violent thugs, bullies and extortionists, are far more numerous, better armed and certainly more ruthless.

The Saviors also have Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who seems to have taken his brains and mullet completely over to the dark side. Ah, but Rick's side has Dwight (Austin Amelio), a Savior insider and Negan minion who appears to be disgruntled enough to help.

Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, told Entertainment Weekly, "This season feels like our old show again. The gang's back together. Rick has got revenge on his mind. No matter what the group says, he's very focused on revenge."

Lincoln added, "It's bigger and more ambitious than any other season we've attempted. I think people are going to be very happy with this season, because we're happy."

In case you were wondering whether the series plans to drag out the Rick/Negan battle, showrunner Scott Gimple said, "The war will absolutely be resolved by the end of Season 8. Absolutely."

There will be 16 episodes in Season 8. Hopefully, a resolution won't take that long.

Crossover? Rumors have been swirling that the two worlds will collide and The Walking Dead and its sister show and prequel, Fear the Walking Dead, will soon cross paths in some fashion.

At first it seemed unlikely because the shows have different time lines and are set on opposite coasts. Then creator Robert Kirman dropped the big tease at the recent New York Comic Con.

"I'll say this: There are two Walking Dead shows. One character is going to go from one show, that I will not name, and appear on another show, that I will not name."

There you have it. Who is the best Walking Dead candidate to pop up on Fear the Walking Dead? My money is on the late lamented Abraham (Michael Cuditz), who was in Texas around the time the apocalypse began. That was before he met Eugene and took on the mission to get him to Washington. Abraham could cross paths with the FTWD folks once they depart Mexico and head north. That'd be nifty.

Talking Dead, 9:07 p.m. today on AMC. It will be a special two-hour (almost) kick-off to Season 8 of the live weekly after-show where fans and guests chat about The Walking Dead episode they've just seen.

Nerd icon/host Chris Hardwick does an outstanding job of keeping the show fast paced and fascinating with inside info and behind-the-scenes interviews.

Some fans avoid these types of programs because to have the actors talk about their characters ruins the illusion of the program for them. Not for me. I enjoy the chat. And trust me, there will be plenty to chat about after tonight's episode.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 10/22/2017

Print Headline: Walking Dead war resumes today, Rick mans up

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