TV Review: The Walking Dead - Season 8, Episode 1

Season 8, Episode 1: Mercy

PLOT: "All-Out War" begins as the other communities attack the Sanctuary of Negan and his Saviors.

REVIEW: Just one week after Fear the Walking Dead finished its best-yet season with back-to-back episodes, its companion series The Walking Dead has returned to AMC airwaves with an episode that is not only the season 8 premiere but also the 100th episode of the series overall. Unfortunately, this milestone episode wasn't quite the epic viewers might have been expecting. Nothing all that substantial seemed to happen in it, aside from some scenes that were reminiscent of the first episode of the series.

Sure, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan), and King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) led the people of the Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom communities on an assault on the Sanctuary, the base of the villainous Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his people, the Saviors... But really, what did this assault accomplish? Other than putting Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in a bad spot and busting out the Sanctuary's windows, I'm not sure it accomplished much of anything. This despite the fact that Negan gave his enemies a golden opportunity to do something very subtantial - they very easily could have killed him. He walked right out into the open to address them. All it would have taken is one bullet. But instead of taking Negan out, the group proceeds to fire upon the Sanctuary in a way that could kill anyone in there except Negan, given where they were aiming.

I almost suspect that Rick secretly likes having Negan around, he bungled this chance so terribly.

The Walking Dead's showrunner Scott M. Gimple has said that season 8 will be action packed, that we won't even reach a quieter episode until five episodes in. I would argue that Mercy could qualify as a quieter episode itself, it had its share of quiet moments. There were certainly action beats in there, though, mostly consisting of wild gunfire and things exploding. Usually not important things, but random objects that were blown up to rile the walking dead. These things can be considered action, but it's not an especially thrilling sort of action.

Some of the quieter moments involve something I could do without entirely: "flash forwards" to a few years down the line, when Rick is sporting a short haircut and a long grey beard, and is getting around in his happy home with a cane. Fans are calling this future Rick "Old Man Rick" and "Grandpa Rick", among other things, but I think he's just trying to emulate the style of Bryan Johnson, a star of a different AMC series, Comic Book Men. Regardless, I couldn't be less interested in these glimpses of a dreamy future.

More interesting are flash forwards to a different time, when it appears that the "all-out war" against Negan and the Saviors has taken a toll on Rick - it looks like he will, at some point in the future, revert to the teary-eyed, beaten-down Rick we saw last season. Hopefully he won't be in that state for very long, because we already got our share of that version of the character. This season is supposed to be about him rising above that fear and pain to get his guts back.

Mercy was a rather middle-of-the-road episode. It would have been fine for a random episode in the midst of a season, but as a season premiere and as the 100th episode it was a bit of a letdown. Here's hoping the action will be more exciting in future action-packed episodes, and that the show won't be wasting too much time with that future Rick stuff.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Rick cuts loose a tangled-up zombie so it can munch on a Savior.

GORY GLORY: Aside from some gross-looking zombies, there wasn't any particularly glorious gore.

FAVORITE SCENE: My favorite image of the episode was of Tara (Alanna Masterson) doing her zombie herding work with a piece of licorice hanging out of her mouth, but my favorite scene was a moment in which we see various members of the different communities interacting with each other, like Jerry (Cooper Andrews) giving some armor to Enid (Katelyn Nacon).


Extra Tidbit: What did you think of Mercy?



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