The Walking Dead’s season premiere offered a long-awaited glimmer of hope

Any television show that’s still airing after eight years is going to have some peaks and valleys. But it’s difficult to deny that over the past few seasons, AMC’s The Walking Dead has fallen off of a creative cliff. Under the stewardship of previous showrunner Scott Gimple, the series dragged out every skirmish into a multiseason arc, relied on emotional stunts to keep audiences engaged, and went out of its way to focus on Negan, a villain who never really became interesting enough to warrant more than 30 hours of programming dedicated to his introduction, reign, and eventual fall.

But with the show’s ninth season, the series is poised for a rebirth. Gimple has stepped away to focus on the big-picture expansion of the franchise,…

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