When the midseason premiere of "The Walking Dead" comes to a close with a smile on Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) face, it's hard to not feel empowered: This is the moment we've been waiting all season for, this is where the tide turns.
Back before the show went on its winter hiatus, the group reunited, resolving to destroy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. Unfortunately, they didn't exactly have a plan or the means to make it happen. Now, that's all changed -- though the details seem to be a bit in flux. Thanks to some careful scavenging, Rick and the crew have enough explosives to do some serious damage to the Saviors, but they're still short on guns and soldiers.
Once Ezekiel (Khary Payton) declares that the Kingdom won't rise up against Negan, though not all of his followers seem to agree, it looks like hope is lost... Until the group stumbled upon yet another new community -- shocking, we know -- that's armed to the teeth.
While the identity of this new group isn't clear yet, the smile on Rick's face says it all: This is his army. This is who will march alongside him to take Negan out once and for all. They've got the numbers and the firepower to actually pose a serious threat to the Saviors, and it's exactly what the show needed.
Now the stage is set for war, and we couldn't be more excited. For the first time in what feels like seasons, things are actually looking up on "The Walking Dead." The survivors have the means to actually better their situation. And sure, we know it's fleeting and if they get rid of Negan something worse will appear in his place -- but for now, it's something to hold onto.
It's been a tough season for everyone, characters and viewers alike. After becoming so hard to watch, "The Walking Dead" finally making a turn toward the positive is refreshing. It's exactly what the fans of this show need, after all that death, gore, violence and Negan talking about people peeing themselves.
When Rick smiles, signalling that everything might end up okay in the end, we can't help but smile right along with him. This is what we've been waiting for, even if we know it's only ever going to be temporary. After all, the world is dead. While things can get incrementally better, everyone still has the same problem: Zombies are everywhere and you're going to become one when you die. But you might as well enjoy the time you have left -- and for now, that requires taking out Negan.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.