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The Walking Dead's Women Are the Real Stars of Season 8

Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan and Alanna Masterson, The Walking Dead | Photo Credits: Alan Clarke/AMC

Before the Season 8 premiere, there was much ballyhoo about how The Walking Dead would be Rick Grimes' (Andrew Lincoln) show again. Executive producer Greg Nicotero said that Rick, not Negan, would drive the action this season. But now that we've seen the episode, we can say that while maybe it's true that Rick is the literal the star of the show, he's being overshadowed in all the ways that count. For the first time in The Walking Dead's hundred-episode history, the show's women are stepping up as humanity's most prominent leaders.

The Walking Dead has always had strong and interesting female characters (miss you, Beth [Emily Kinney]), but there are more now then ever before. There's Michonne (Danai Gurira), the first lady of Alexandria, who has always preferred to let her swords do the talking but is taking on a more vocal, political role. There's Carol (Melissa McBride), who's got her groove back after losing her mojo for a season and a half. Her ongoing conversation with Morgan (Lennie James), the yang to her yin, about when killing is justified is the show's thematic crux. There's Tara (Alanna Masterson), whose orange plastic sunglasses and chewed-up Twizzler are giving her iconic totems she's always lacked. There's Enid (Katelyn Nacon), who's now a full-fledged member of the tribe after spending so much time keeping everyone at arm's length (a change reflected in Nacon's promotion to the main cast this season). She even put on Kingdom body armor and joined the convoy to the Sanctuary. There's Rosita (Christian Serratos), who truly does not take any nonsense from anyone. She's a sneakily complex character who's been undergoing a transformation from someone always defined by her relationships to men into someone who can raise hell all by herself. There are the women of Oceanside, who will probably emerge later this season as real allies in the fight under the leadership of brave young warrior Cyndie (Sydney Park). And there's Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh), the leader of the Heapsters, who's a formidable, imposing foe even though she speaks in some sort of babytalk.

But no one embodies the ascent of The Walking Dead's women better than Maggie Rhee, née Greene (Lauren Cohan).

Maggie started back in Season 2 as a naive, somewhat sheltered young woman, but has grown into an expectant mother who loves as hard as she fights. She's the only member of her family left and saw her father get beheaded and her husband get his head smashed in with a baseball bat, but she remains optimistic. She has more faith in the future than anyone. "We have to keep our faith in each other," she says while rallying the troops in the premiere. "If we can hold onto that with everything we have, the future is ours. The world is ours." While Rick's inspirational speech in the premiere was rousing, it was fueled by revenge and a desire to dominate, while Maggie is driven by emotions -- hope and faith -- of someone who actually wants to rebuild society instead of simply survive it.

But she's not a blind idealist, either. Maggie's been fighting since the farm, and she knows how to exact violence to establish and protect that society. She's the perfect combination of idealism and realism. "She may be the greatest leader of all," says Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, who knows a thing or two about leadership.

And Rick obviously feel the same way; he deputized her to be his representative at the Hilltop back in Season 6, and now the Hilltop stands with her as their leader, as Jesus (Tom Payne) said. She's grown into a better leader than Rick, and Rick knows it. "After this [war], I'm following you," he told her.

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Maggie is also, as Hurd points out, the first woman to grow into a leadership role in the core group.

"Nothing can keep a strong woman down," says Hurd. "And it's amazing what some women can do even when they're pregnant."

They say some women can wage war through the second trimester.

As the season progresses, we'll surely see Maggie take on even more, and she'll handle it with grace and dignity. Nothing but respect for MY president.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.

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The Walking Dead: Here's What's Probably Going on With Rick's Flash-Forwards

Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead | Photo Credits: Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Walking Dead comics and may contain spoilers for the series.]

The Walking Dead's Season 8 premiere contained three short scenes of a sweaty, pink-eyed Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) kneeling beneath a piece of stained glass and sort of zoning out. They were paired with soft-focused flash-forwards into the future where Rick's hair is thinner and shorter but his beard is big and bushy and he walks with a cane. Alexandria is at peace; so peaceful, in fact, that they're having a party for which they've built a big owl (maybe the residents of Alexandria are all Illuminati) and are listening to "Weird Al" Yankovic. At the end of the last flash-forward, Rick said "my mercy prevailed over my wrath."

The show did not explain at all what these scenes were supposed to signify, but we have a theory: the scenes with Rick and the stained glass take place at the end of the war immediately after he has decided not to kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and the Old Rick scenes are him indulging in fantasy about what life will be now that the fight is over.

On the show, Rick has his mind made up that he's going to kill Negan. He's said it over and over again, and reminds Negan that he's told him twice. It's basically his animating principle at this point. But in the comics, Rick didn't kill Negan at the end of the "All Out War" storyline. In the comics, Rick convinced Negan that they should all pool their resources and work together, and that Negan's totalitarian way of doing things caused a lot of suffering. Negan admitted he was wrong, and then Rick non-lethally slashed his throat and took him prisoner.

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The scenes with pink-eyed Rick could be a flash-forward to right after this moment or whatever the show's similar version of this moment will be. The "my mercy prevailed over my wrath" line indicates that he spared Negan, just like in the comics. The line is a paraphrase of an Islamic hadith, or report about the prophet Muhammad. Rick probably picked this quote up from the new character played by Avi Nash -- the man who was begging Carl (Chandler Riggs) for food -- who quoted the Quran in his first appearance this episode.

And the Old Rick scenes in the future are pure fantasy, like the ones Rick had of the happy dinner table while he was being tortured by Negan in the Season 7 premiere. In the comics, after the war there's a time jump of a couple of years. This could be a reference to that, and also a hint that the post-war era will not play out exactly as it did in the comics.

Or it could be Rick in the midst of war praying that mercy is shown to him after suffering heavy losses. We'll see.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.

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Star Trek: Discovery's James Frain Breaks Down Sarek's "Horrific" Choice

James Frain, Star Trek: Discovery | Photo Credits: Jan Thijs, CBS

[Warning: This post contains spoilers from Episode 6 of Star Trek: Discovery, "Lethe." Read at your own risk.]

Sunday night's Star Trek: Discovery ventured deep into the mind of Ambassador Sarek (James Frain), divulging a violent internal conflict brewing underneath that steely demeanor.

In the emotionally-charged episode, an assassination attempt leaves Sarek gravely wounded and Burham (Sonequa Martin-Green) -- sharing a part of his Katra -- senses his impending doom and convinces Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) to send the Discovery to his rescue. While en route, the delirious Vulcan accidentally pulls her into his conscience, revealing a bold choice that has left him with great shame.

As he lay dying, his mind goes to the memory of the day that Burnham was rejected from the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. Faced with the reality that only one of his children would be allowed admission, he was forced to choose between Burnham and Spock, and he chose the latter. It's a decision that still weighs heavily on him, especially since he lied to Burham and made her believe she had failed him.

"I think that he understands at a certain point that she needs to be with humans and that in some way, he's put her in an impossible position," Frain tells TV Guide of Sarek's choice. "His son is half-Vulcan and she's all human so it's like who's got the most Vulcan in them? It's a horrific choice but the logical choice is to say that he has to choose Spock. He can't set his son up for failure. "

With the truth out in the open and Burnham mind-melding with him to save his life just as he did with her, the two share a special connection. Despite that intense emotional journey together, Sarek doesn't automatically open up. Instead, he pretends not to remember what happened during the mind-meld, again putting up an invisible wall between them. While it might seem like a callous move, Frain insists it's more of a means of protection for Sarek.

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"She manages to get out of him something so painful and vulnerable and something he's not necessarily equipped to handle. At that moment, he's not ready," he explained. "It's not cruel, necessarily."

Sarek's act of self-preservation certainly doesn't move their relationship forward, but Burnham is convinced that one day he will finally open up to her. Frain, too, admits that that might be possible. "The seeds have been sewn. It's undeniable what's occurred," he said.

To get to that place where he can fully connect to her, however, he'll need to push past his Vulcan nature which rejects such a human display of emotion."He's brought up in this very very strict, almost kind of samurai code. He can't step out of that. And so his idea of what is right is always being challenged but he's certainly always trying to do the right thing," added Frain.

The episode also saw newcomer Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) officially join the USS Discovery as its new chief security officer. We first met him in last week's episode,"Choose your Pain," as Lorca's cellmate aboard a Klingon prison vessel. The two eventually bust their way out, with Tyler gaining much of Lorca's trust in the process. "They've definitely bonded. They've spent time together and they've gone through this harrowing escape experience. There's a bond there and there's a trust there," Shazad Latif tells TV Guide.

Though he escaped from the Klingons after spending seven months as their captive, it's obvious that there are deep emotional scars -- as seen in his violent takedown of L'Rell in that hallway during their escape -- that he'll need to contend with at some point. "He beats her to a pulp and then he leaves. That's gonna be stained on his mind. She's definitely left a mark on him."

Yep, there's some unfinished business indeed.

New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery stream Sundays at 8:30/7:30c exclusively on CBS All Access.

(Full Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS. )

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