Rick Grimes’ war against Negan got off to an explosive start Sunday during the first episode of the new season of The Walking Dead.
His men and women teamed up with the Kingdom and the Hilltop in a bid to take out their common enemy – The Saviors.
But while the season started with a rousing speech from the former sheriff, flash forward scenes left fans wondering what is really in store for Rick’s group.
Season premiere: Rick Grimes launched his war against Negan during Sunday’s season premiere of The Walking Dead
The peek into the future showed an older Rick with a grey beard looking out onto what appeared to be an idyllic setting.
However, with seemingly tearful red eyes, he whispered: ‘My mercy prevails over my wrath’ – a contrasting mantra to the war with the Saviors.
Rick, Maggie and King Ezekiel joined forces on the season eight premiere of The Walking Dead, and gave morale-boosting speeches to their troops before starting their attack on Negan.
Rick said: ‘When I first met him, Jesus said that my world was going to get a whole lot bigger. We found that world. We found each other. That bigger world is ours by right. We’ve come together for it, all of us.
‘Those who use and take and kill to carve out the world and make it theirs alone, we end them. We don’t celebrate it. We don’t have shame about it either. There’s only one person who has to die and I will kill him myself.’
King Ezekiel declared that the groups were ‘Together. Bound forever.’
He continued: ‘For he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother.’
Turning to Maggie he added: ‘For she today, my sister.’
Maggie, having taken over leadership of The Hilltop, said: ‘We’ve practiced. We’ve been through it over and over again.
‘We all know the plan doesn’t end this morning and we may have to live in uncertainty for days, maybe more.
‘We have to keep our faith in each other. If we can hold onto that with everything we have, the future is ours. The world is ours.’
After the speeches, time appeared to flash forward to show an older Rick with a grey beard and a walking stick lying in bed.
Another scene, seemingly at a different point in time but not so far in the future, also showed him looking at two graves.
Daryl and Dwight, who last season vowed to be a mole in the Saviors’ camp, communicated through notes attached to arrows.
Daryl wrote ‘tomorrow’, alerting Dwight to when they planned to start the war, while Dwight appeared to send back a list of where to find the Saviors’ lookout points.
While Daryl, Morgan, Carol and Tara teamed up to take out the men at the lookout points, the rest of the group prepared to go into battle.
In a moment of reflection, Rick told Gabriel: ‘It’s one person who brought it to this. One person.’
Gabriel told him: ‘It always starts with one person. This did, what we’re doing here now.’
Rick passionately kissed Michonne and hugged Carl, telling his son: ‘This is the end of it.’
As the troops drove steel-protected cars to their meeting point, Rick told Maggie: ‘The Hilltop’s lucky to have you.’
She replied: ‘You showed me how to be someone worth following.’
‘After this I’m following you,’ Rick said.
The group quickly descended on the Savior’s land and fired synchronized shots in the air to lure out Negan and his men.
After another flash forward scene to a grey Rick getting out of bed and telling Michonne she had turned off the alarm, the episode cut back to Negan.
‘S***. I’m sorry. I was in a meeting,’ he said.
‘I’m not really feeling a reason for us to try throwing lead at each other. I care about my people. I don’t want to march them into the line of fire because I want to play my d*** is bigger than yours. It is. We both know it.’
Rick told Negan’s men they had one chance to survive if they surrendered there and then.
There was a moment of tension as Negan wheeled out former Hilltop leader Gregory, forcing him to tell his group to back off.
Gregory recited: ‘The Hilltop stands with Negan and the Saviors. Any resident of the Hilltop who takes up arms or who supports this ultimatum against the Sanctuary or any of the Saviors for that matter, they will no longer be welcome in the colony.’
Encouraged by Negan to continue, he added: ‘Their families will be thrown out and will be left to fend for themselves. Go home now or you won’t have a home to go back to.’
The Hilltop residents, however, refused to retreat and Jesus declared: ‘The Hilltop stands with Maggie.’
Rick started a 10 second countdown, but got to seven and opened fire.
As the Saviors scattered, Rick’s group shot out the windows of their camp before sending a car horn signal to Daryl.
Riding along on his bike, Daryl led a herd of walkers towards the Saviors, setting off explosions to attract them along the right path.
Gabriel then gave a signal to Rick who fired a shot into a campervan in the Saviors’ grounds, causing it to explode.
As the group prepared to leave the Saviors to defend themselves against the walkers, Rick spotted Negan running for cover and tried to stay behind to take him out.
Gabriel, however, reminded him that revenge was not the aim, telling him: ‘We have to go. It’s not about you.’
While Rick drove off, Gabriel spotted Gregory – who had been thrown out by the Saviors, running for shelter and refused to leave him to die.
But the former priest’s plan backfired when Gregory double-crossed him and made a run for it, speeding off in his car and leaving Gabriel behind.
The rest of the group gathered at their meeting point and, concerned about Gabriel’s wellbeing, Daryl told Rick: ‘We could wait some more.’
‘We can’t,’ Rick said. ‘He stopped to get me. Negan was on the ground, I was trying to kill him and Gabriel stopped to get me. We’ve got to start out.’
‘Are you alright?’ Daryl asked.
Echoing Gabriel’s words to him, Rick said: ‘This isn’t about me. Let’s go.’
While Rick’s group attacked another Savior outpost, Gabriel locked himself inside a trailer to escape the descending herd of walkers.
But a familiar voice emerged from the dark and told him: ‘I hope you’ve got your s***ting pants on.’
Negan, who was inside the trailer Gabriel took cover inside, emerged from the shadows and warned: ‘I hope you’re wearing them right now because you are about to s*** your pants.’
While walkers crowded around the trailer, the show flashed forward again and showed Rick’s daughter Judith excitedly declaring: ‘They made a big owl for the party.’
Michonne told a grey-haired Rick: ‘They’re taking this festival very seriously.’
The older Rick went outside to see the festivities and the shot cut to Rick’s red eyes as he whispered: ‘My mercy prevails over my wrath.’
The timeline then cut back again to the end of Rick’s opening rousing speech to his troops.
He told the group: ‘I don’t want to wait for it any more. You don’t either. I know. We don’t have to wait for it. If we start tomorrow right now, with everything we’ve beat, everything we’ve endured, everything we’ve risen above, everything we’ve become. If we start tomorrow right now, no matter what comes next we’ve won. We’ve already won.’
The season premiere – which was also the 100th episode – was dedicated to late Walking Dead stuntman John Bernecker and late Night of The Living Dead director George Romero.