This Valentine’s Day, The Walking Dead returned with one of the greatest feats I have ever seen. The range of emotion I went through should have killed a man! Despite one glaring flaw, this mid-season premiere pulled together a masterwork piece of comic-to-screen adaption and a multi-Emmy caliber episode. Please be aware spoilers follow for both the AMC produced show and black and white on-going publication from Image Comics.  Turn back now if this concerns you.

Approximately 42 minutes of excellent acting, cinematography, drama and action keeps your focus so well the world around you disappears like the white edges of comic panel. The opening sequence, a scene many of us have seen before, though extended, is brought to an explosive conclusion that proves Daryl truly is deserving of the ‘wildcard’ name we hear given to him so often. I am disappointed Christopher Berry won’t get another chance to convince me he has a heart. His portrayal of a nameless Negan scout was worthy of staying around for more than one season.

As Glenn and Enid began to search the church and she stares off we were given wide, odd angle shots that made it feel as if they were pulled straight from the pages of The Walking Dead comic book. While the dialogue during this scene was lacking and the monologue delivered by Katelyn Nacon was sophomoric at best, though given what happens later in the episode we shouldn’t have to deal with that much longer, it allowed me to realize Glenn was getting the typical character development type speech that seems to precede a major character death in the series. This has to be intentional given established events from the comic and how unmistakably the show has reached back to its roots.

Everyone else back at Alexandria is dealing with a horde and a person listed as Alpha Wolf. I didn’t realize he also had no name until I was researching for this review. I enjoyed the creepy jerk with the W scar on his head all this time. He practically licks his lips at the chance to get out of there with Denise, his demeanor and lust hungry eyes were enough to make more than just Denise quiver. I get the impression while his thoughts and desires are certainly not pure, he was messing with her more than anything. Just as things turn south for Alpha and Denise, who either is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or trying to live by the Do No Harm code attempts to save Alpha’s life, Carol appears and pumps him full of lead. Morgan may have found the student he has been looking for in Alpha, in Carol. Scary Carol is going to resist and things between them one way or the other will be a great dynamic for the rest of the season at least.

Rick, Carl, Michonne, Jessie, Ron and Sam covered in decaying walker bits, hold hands in an attempt to move through the horde unnoticed. Sam, being a lost, confused child starts to hear Carol’s words from the former half of the season echo in the moans of the monsters that surround him. He wasn’t meant for this world and has not developed a way to cope with it and freezes on the spot as he spots a walker near his own age. His mother frantically tries to get him to move but the hungry dead zero in on the cries that act as a dinner bell. This is the moment I realized that the gut wrenching shot from the comics was about to be fired. You have a parent holding tight to a child being eaten alive, while also unintentionally holding tight to Carl, begins to be eaten alive themselves as they wail at the loss of their child. An arm is severed to free Carl and a gun goes flying directly into the hands of a vengeful Ron, instead of a wild man firing into the horde, who seeks justice for the major losses he have suffered. He points the gun at Rick. Michonne, who may end up taking the place of Andrea as Rick’s new love interest since his just died, continues to be the badass she is and swiftly impales him in an effort to save Rick. While she succeeds in doing so, the shock of being stabbed causes Ron’s hand to fly wide and squeeze the trigger. She follows the trajectory before Rick has a chance to and sees what I never expected to happen. The stray bullet has hit Carl in his right eye.

Carrying his son to get medical treatment for a gunshot wound for the second time since the dead starting walking causes Rick to snap. Upon seeing his son in the hands of those that could possibly help him he grabs his machete and starts to clean up his home one zombie at a time. All the major characters converge once more and begin to push back the mass of undead. Glenn saves Maggie, Abraham saves Glenn which leads to Daryl once again saving the day with that rocket launcher, catching a pond mixed with gasoline on fire to act as an oversized walker style bug zapper. Giving the group a huge morale boost, they take advantage and clean house. Presented to us as a sequence of the characters swinging their weapons at walkers and the camera with the blackness of the night surrounding them, the show once again mimics its comic book roots. The survivors all wait outside the infirmary as Rick explains to his unconscious son he wants to show him this new world. I hope he can see it clearly with only one eye.

This is, to me, the perfect Walking Dead episode. Kirkman and AMC have proven the show is back on track to be one of the greatest pieces of television after a few questionable choices in previous seasons. The one event I never imagined they would bring to the small screen was recreated in a way that left the impact of the shot just as powerful as it was in the comics. This show continues to impress me with its ability to prevent me from predicting what will happen and entertain me with scenes I have already read and gasped at in the middle of the night, waking up the household. This mid-season premiere ends so happily that you know you better strap in and prepare for the soul crushing ride of the rest of this season as Jeffrey Dean Morgan has yet show his face as Negan, the man that makes The Governor look like a pansy. Let us not forget, Lucille should be by his side.

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