The Walking Dead Season 9 Premiere ushered in an era of “New Beginnings” on Sunday, with new leaders, new relationships, and new problems.

In a slow start, The Walking Dead sets the scene for life after Negan’s reign, as the factions of Hilltop, The Kingdom, Alexandria, Oceanside, and Sanctuary work together to create a new way of living during the end of the world. The first episode features a considerable time-jump, allowing viewers to see the ways in which each faction has grown, in architecture, agriculture, and sense of community.

The curtain raiser didn’t quite address the questions from the end of season 8, particularly as to how events were going to pan out following the downfall and rescue of Negan by Rick Grimes, the hushed talks of rebellion from Daryl, Maggie, and Jesus, or the looming threat of a massive walker herd.  It seems, for now, that things have settled down as time passed, and everyone is getting along, or at least tolerating one another.

There are new faces this season, in addition to the old ones, mingled throughout the factions and new relationships take the centerfold, as some old ones begin to fracture. One thing the season premiere tries to address though is that not everyone is embracing the “New World Order”. While walkers remain a constant threat, the threat of the living doesn’t go away in the premiere, and the living can be just as deadly as the walkers, albeit more so.

While it seems The Walking Dead is trying to freshen things up with a new direction, it’s also setting up for the leading character’s exit. In May, rumors began to circulate that Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, would be leaving the show. According to Entertainment Weekly, Lincoln revealed at San Diego Comic Con that he wanted to spend more time with his family, who live in London, and that season 9 would be his last with the show.

Andrew Lincoln as “Rick Grimes”

Many fans expressed concerns that the end of Rick Grimes would be the end of the Walking Dead. How could the show go on without its sheriff that’s led the group for over eight seasons? Well, he takes a step from the limelight in the premiere, allowing other characters to take charge, possibly to eventually fill the shoes of “famous Rick Grimes” once he departs.

Even with a slow start, bringing everyone up to speed with the time-jump, The Walking Dead wastes no time getting to the action, bringing lots of walkers, death, and turmoil to the season 9 premiere. It also stayed true to it’s promise of new beginnings, creating a unique atmosphere that makes a show that’s almost a decade old feel fresh again.

The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sunday nights at 9 p.m. EST.

Rating: 8/10