Wrapping up a 12-year show cannot be easy, but after watching the first two of the final eight episodes, it's obvious The Walking Dead is going out in a blaze of glory.
We pick up in the immediate aftermath of The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 16, with all of our key players in different scenarios as the pressure cooker environment they live in becomes too much to handle.
Despite that, the stakes are relatively low because we know Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Daryl (Normal Reedus), and Carol (Melissa McBride) survive because when these episodes were written, all four were preparing to make the jump to a spin-off.
The main series may be finishing up, but AMC is big on expanding the franchise with some of its most popular characters.
That being said, there is a sense of finality as we pick back up these final episodes. Pushing the characters to their limit is necessary to hone in on the fact that, at its core, the series has always been about survival.
The best aspect of these first two episodes is that the pace is off the charts. The series has had much criticism at some point or another about things moving too slowly, but these are the fastest-paced episodes to date, highlighting the urgency to bring the story to a close for select characters.
Things might be moving a little too quickly for some fans who like the storylines to breathe for a beat, but speeding things up is necessary to give all of the characters their time to shine as the series reaches that big finish.
You'll be happy to know that most of the characters are accounted for in the first two episodes back, driving home the fact that the Commonwealth is a threat to everyone who survived the apocalypse to date.
Laila Robins dials up her performance several notches to showcase a Pamela that is, for the first time, losing control of the narrative.
Connie's (Lauren Ridloff) article was the catalyst for things going sideways inside this compound that would like to believe it is a reflection of civilization.
Pamela has been relatively subdued throughout The Walking Dead Season 11, but now that she's being dragged through the mud, we are introduced to a much more cunning side of her that undoubtedly sets these final storylines in motion.
Expect truly riveting scenes as the series utilizes one of its final villains to her full potential.
Undoubtedly, Lance (Josh Hamilton) also remains a villain, and thanks to the events of the midseason finale, he's more bloodthirsty than ever.
That being said, he's not nearly as scary in these first two episodes back, possibly because the lens is shifting towards Pamela, with the other characters realizing they need to be cutthroat to outsmart them.
My big concern going into these episodes was that there would be a lack of finality, but the series forges ahead in an unpredictable way. By the end of the first two episodes, you'll be able to understand that the show is concluding this chapter.
Fans will be happy with the episodes because they expand the series' scope to show very different battles than you would expect.
Politics take center stage in these episodes, but the battle for survival continues as everyone starts to wonder whether any community can really thrive when people are constantly being deceived.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 2, at 9 p.m. on AMC. Episodes will be available a week earlier for AMC+ subscribers.
Return to TV Fanatic for interviews leading up to the premiere.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.