The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review: "Years," the series premiere

Andrew Lincoln shines in his return to The Walking Dead with an action-packed, emotional, and thrilling episode of his new spinoff.
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Lesley-Ann Brandt as Thorne - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Lesley-Ann Brandt as Thorne - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

We've waited nearly six years for the return of Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, and ladies and gentlemen; the wait is finally over! The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live brings us right back to Rick's complicated world, but this time, things are a bit different.

There is something worn out about Rick, something that gives off the sense that he is defeated, tired, and exhausted. And why wouldn't he be? His family and friends believe him to be dead, he was captured by a military organization (CRM) and forced to live life under their regime.

Life is pretty grim for Mr. Grimes when The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live gets started. But worry not: the dark cloud looming above Rick's head gets cleared by his new adventure. Check out our review The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Episode 1 below. And be wary; there are SPOILERS ahead!

Where has Rick Grimes been all this time and why isn't he with his family?

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live kicks off with Rick in the thick of things, seemingly planning his escape from the CRM. One thing is clear off the bat: Rick wants to be back with his family, and he's willing to go to any lengths to make that happen. And if it doesn't, well, he's willing to end his life over it.

Throughout the premiere, we watch Rick try to fight his way out from under the CRM's oppressive thumb. It's not easy, nearly impossible, but it brings us a massive moment from The Walking Dead comics. In his first attempt to escape, Rick tries to break free of the shackles holding him by slicing off his hand. Comic book readers will recall that Rick had his right hand cut off by the Governor back in Issue #28. It's an interesting full circle moment as Rick grapples with the reality of being stuck and cornered against an enemy that refuses to let him go.

Rick slices his hand off and then proceeds to burn the flesh in a fire zombie's guts, but he doesn't make it very far before the CRM captures him and brings him back. And such is the story of the premiere: Rick constantly trying to pescape with only one goal in mind: get back to Michonne (Danai Gurira) and his family, or die trying.

A chance to escape?

Rick narrates his current life through letters to Michonne. He thinks about Michonne (including in dream sequences with both of them that make you clutch your heartstrings), and plots how he will find his way back to her.

One of the standout moments from the premiere is watching Rick give in momentarily to what the CRM is asking of him, although it's all part of his bigger plan to leave. He trains, he gets buff, and he kicks major butt. It's pretty awesome to Rick in this light. I'm impressed with how Lincoln pulls it all off.

Sadly, Rick's plan crashes and burns and he is unable to make a getaway. It's a devastating moment to see Rick fall apart. And to make matters worse, his partner Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt) bears witness to it all.

For a moment it feels all has failed, and even Rick has decided that he needs to pen his final letter to Michonne and bid the idea of their reunion farewell. But it is in those moments of defeat that we often find a ray of light.

The ending of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premiere explained

As the premiere comes to a close, Rick finds himself aboard a helicopter that is failing and unable to stay aloft. It crashes and burns.

Rick makes his way out of the helicopter, unaware of who shot it down. And in that moment of confusion, he crosses paths with a very unexpected person: Michonne!

The episode ends there. We're left wondering if this is real or another mirage. It's such a thrilling moment. After years of waiting, it's exactly the type of thing we were looking for!

All in all, this premiere managed to keep me engaged from start to finish. Lincoln found a roughness to Rick we hadn't seen before. He is a man scorned, torn apart, and broken down by an organization that forces him to do their bidding. He's a wounded animal full of anger and regret, and not the type of person you want to mess with. This makes thenew series worth the watch. There is something unique about Lincoln's new take on Grimes that pulls you in from the get-go.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is just getting started, but it has already managed to pull me in as a day-one viewer of the original series. I look forward to what Rick's reunion with Michonne means, and what will transpire as they *hopefully* make an escape from the CRM and return to the place they both call home.

Tune in every Sunday to watch new episodes of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC and AMC+.

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