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TV Review: The Walking Dead 8.1 “Mercy” (Season 8 Premiere)
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The Walking Dead 8.1 Andrew Lincoln

The Walking Dead
Episode 8.1 “Mercy” (Season 8 Premiere)
Written by Scott M. Gimple
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Christian Serratos, Tom Payne, Khary Payton, Austin Amelio, Alanna Masterson, Katelyn Nacon, Steven Ogg, Pollyanna McIntosh
Air Date: Sunday, October 22, 2017

Warning – SPOILERS for AMC’s The Walking Dead…

Tonight marks the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, as well as being the AMC show’s milestone 100th episode, and as with previous seasons, this new one finds Rick and his people in a dangerous situation.

When we last saw Rick and crew in the Season 7 finale back in April, it was at their home base in Alexandria. They had been double-crossed by their supposed new allies The Scavengers, who turned on them because they got a better deal with Negan and his Saviors. And Sasha, who had been Negan’s captive, sacrificed herself to help the Alexandrians, who ended up in a shoot-out with the Saviors and Scavengers. Negan once again it seems had the upper hand and was just about to dish out some of his cruel justice when Ezekiel and the Kingdom, including Shiva the tiger!, arrived to save the day … for now. This new element forced Negan and company to retreat, including Dwight, who had been helping the Alexandrians and thankfully did not actually betray them.

Once back at the Sanctuary, Negan told his people “We are going to war,” while back at Alexandria, the Alexandrians, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom stood united, getting ready to face their enemies.

On the Season 8 premiere, Episode 8.1 “Mercy,” we see the Alexandrians, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom communities all together, forging weapons and preparing for the inevitable rematch with Negan and the Saviors. They are preparing for All Out War, the theme of this first part of the season. Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel all take turns addressing the people to assure them of their upcoming victory, proclaiming “the world is ours.” But, it’s going to be a hard fight. Rick says there’s one person who must die — alluding to Negan — and he will be the one to kill him.

At the Sanctuary, we see ally Dwight passing notes to Daryl via arrow. Elsewhere, Carol and Tara are readying for their task — they are luring a Walker herd. Carl, off on his own holding a gas can, comes upon a stranger, who speaks to him from a hiding place. The man talks about being hungry and how he’s been through a lot, but that his mother always said that helping the traveler, the person without a home, is everything and that “may my mercy prevail over my wrath,” which is from the Koran. The title of the Season 8 premiere is “Mercy,” and we’ll see this coming up again later. Then, Rick shows up and scares the young man off because it’s possible he is a spy for Negan. For this special 100th episode, this scene with Carl is a shot-for-shot remake of a scene like this that Rick did way back in the series premiere.

Back at Alexandria, Rick says good-bye to Carl, Judith, and Michonne, the latter of whom is still recovering from her injuries. He’s leaving with a massive group of people to go after Negan. “This is the end of it,” Rick tells them before leaving. Michonne then tells Carl that he’s in charge at Alexandria now.

Through the episode, we see a future-dream sequence of an older, gray-haired Rick, waking up in his bed to an alarm playing Weird Al’s “Another One Rides the Bus,” and then using a cane to walk into the dining room, where Michonne awaits him; then Carl comes in and so does Judith, who’s a little older now and wants to bring her dad outside to see an owl. When he goes outside with his little one, they see an idyllic community. In this version of the future, all is well.

In present-day, Rick has a list of all of Negan’s lookout locations and he’s crossing them off every time they kill one of the look-out scouts. Rick, Morgan, and Daryl have been going around killing off the lookouts — yes, Morgan, who previously espoused that “every life is precious,” but now, even he’s a part of the all-out war. One of the scouts tells Rick that his son is going to die before Rick unleashes a Walker on him to finish the job.

We then see Rick’s group rendezvousing with people from the Hilltop and Kingdom — they’ve all just met, but they are united. “I got your back,” you hear them telling each other. Ezekiel says that today they are going to reshape the world for Maggie’s child and all the other children to come. Though pregnant, Maggie is coming on this mission. She says she needs to be there, at least for the beginning of their plan. Rick says that the Hilltop is lucky to have Maggie – she says she learned to lead from him. “After this, I’m following you,” he tells her. You can see that he has no desire to lead, he just wants to accomplish his task of killing Negan, so that he can be a family with Michonne and his children, like we see in his dream.

Meanwhile, Carol, Tara, Morgan, and Daryl are leading a Walker herd to Negan’s Sanctuary by setting off explosions. When Rick’s group arrives to the Sanctuary, Negan and his lieutenants come out to see them. Negan is a cocky asshole, as usual, and he’s practically dismissive of this heavily armed group that’s on his doorstep. Rick says that any Saviors who surrender will be spared. That’s when they trot out Hilltop leader Gregory, who says that the Hilltop stands with Negan. Too bad none of the Hilltop people there had any intention of standing with Gregory, so when Simon realizes this, he pushes Gregory down the stairs.

At this point, Rick is out of patience. He wants the Saviors to surrender. He begins a countdown from 10, but at 7, him and his group start shooting, but it turns out they are shooting out all of the windows in the building. Soon after, the herd begins to arrive, so Rick and his group need to retreat. But then Rick sees Negan limping in the distance and starts shooting at him; Father Gabriel comes to get him, though, stressing to Rick that “it’s not about you.” There’s a mission here that needs to be completed and a lot of people have put themselves at risk to get it done, so Rick can’t deviate from it to get his vengeance on Negan, as much as he’d like to — and as much as we’d like him to already! Before he leaves, Rick snaps a Polaroid, something we know Negan liked to do after he bashed someone’s brains in with his barbed-wire-covered baseball bat.

Rick’s group retreats, but as Gabriel is about to drive way, he sees a limping Gregory and goes to save him. Bad move, Father Gabriel! Gregory is not worth risking your life for, and he finds that out when the cowardly Hilltopper runs off and takes Gabriel’s car and drives off with it, leaving the holy man stranded with the Walker herd.

We then see Carl alone go back to where he saw the stranger and leave two cans of food there with a note that reads “Sorry.” The stranger sees Carl leaving the food for him. (A popular theory is that this stranger is Siddiq from the comic book series.)

Back at the rendezvous point, Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel and their people gather. The first part of the mission is seemingly a success, but there’s still much more to come. Rick tells Daryl about how Gabriel reminded him that it’s not about him, and got him to leave when he was supposed to instead of staying to finish off Negan.

But Gabriel is still stranded back at the Sanctuary. He runs into one of the temp buildings, which becomes surrounded by Walkers. Inside, Negan is there, and he tells Gabriel, “I hope you got your shitting pants on… because you’re about to shit your pants.” Honestly, Negan? I’m just SO sick of this guy. There’s no way this guy would keep up his cocky persona at a time like this. Just fuck off already!

Near episode’s end, we see a close-up of Rick’s bloodshot eyes, which was a “Rick” we kept seeing throughout the premiere, and hear him quote the Islamic saying, “My mercy prevailed over my wrath.” We don’t know which Rick this is – which point in time this is, or if this is actually reality or is a “would be” scenario.

Then we see Rick in present-day addressing the group — a continuation of his speech from the beginning of the episode — saying that he doesn’t want to “wait” anymore, and that no matter what comes next, they’ve won. “We’ve already won,” he tells them.

What the hell is going on!?!? It seemed at the beginning that the ultimate mission was to take out Negan, since Rick believes that he is the cause of all their problems and that by eliminating Negan, you eliminate the thread. But apparently there’s a bigger goal they are trying to met. Then there’s bloodshot eyes Rick – who is he and is this even real? And if his mercy won out over his wrath, then does that mean he lets Negan live? And finally, there’s old man Rick — in what seems like a dream future where they are safe and living a peaceful existence. This could also be setting the series up for a major time-jump, as they did with the comic book series.


The Walking Dead: ‘Season 8 Premiere’ Sneak Peek

Carol and Daryl prepare for war.

The Walking Dead Season 8: Season Premiere NYCC Sneak Peek

Carl encounters a stranger, but is he a friend or foe?

The Walking Dead: ‘100 Episodes’ Fans Recap Season 7

Season 7 ripped our hearts out then brought us all back together.

[Photo credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC. Courtesy of AMC. Used with permission.]

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