Mercy was an odd yet interesting way to kick off the eighth season of The Walking Dead. In some ways it was clear the show runners took to heart the complaints about too much sitting around with nothing happening. But an overly artsy presentation prevented Mercy from being as white-knuckle inducing as previous season premieres.
The 100th episode kicked off with a series of random images. By the time they started to repeat, I felt like I was failing at deciphering their meaning. At least Long John Rick sporting a magnificent beard cued me in that Mercy was hopping through time. Not just this season, but the somewhat distant future.
In the most significant for Mercy, Rick led The Hilltop and The Kingdom to an assault on The Saviors’ front door. Through eight seasons we’ve seen some pretty bizarre and outright stupid plans from Rick. This was a multi-tiered attack contingent on some precise timing, an excessive amount of ammo and Negan’s overconfidence. And the best game of telephone featuring messages on crossbows between Daryl and Dwight. A lot had to go right in this one, but it was a pretty decent plan.
Rick had all the bases covered. First, the gang took out all the lookouts thanks to Dwight’s Savior cheat sheet. Then they add some paneling to the sides of each vehicle. This wasn’t the same old head down/shoot first attack strategy we’ve seen from Rick before. This was a well conceived plan that had no reason to fail. Especially with an exploding minivan crashing through the gates and obliterating the first line of defense for Negan.
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One tiny problem I had with this confrontation. Beyond the potential for greater drama and scene-stealing moments from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, why wouldn’t Rick and company immediately start shooting once Negan strutted out the compound front door? He’s the key to victory, right? What sense does it make to let him preen and posture if even a sucker shot takes him out and effectively ends the war? Perfectly logical reasons of course, but man, if Morgan didn’t make me miss Negan after a summer absence!
In an earlier/later subplot, Carl encounters a Middle Eastern man asking for food before Rick scares him off. The Walking Dead has been one of the most diverse shows on TV since its inception. I can’t recall a lot of Middle Eastern characters though so this was a welcome addition to the cast. Assuming he does stick around. Carl left him some food so we’re likely to see him again.
Another subplot has Rick staring at a grave site. He’s in his cop outfit so it’s unlikely he’s visiting Glenn and Abraham. These must be fresh graves. Whoever is in them has left Rick crying and in tears muttering about mercy. We know at least three people who survived though.
Michonne, Carl and Judith are enjoying their future together. Everyone who said Richonne wouldn’t last one more season it’s time to pay up. But there’s no trace of future Daryl with a gray ponytail or Maggie with her young child.
The odds are pretty good Gabriel is not part of the future crew. I always hate when a character makes an excessively stupid decision for the sake of a story line. With Gregory fully on Team Saviors, there was one million percent no reason for Gabriel to risk getting caught in the walker onslaught to save him. Sure, Gabriel is much braver now, but saving a traitor? He pretty much deserved to get ditched and stuck in a trailer with Negan.
Action wise, this was a strong episode. Yet Mercy lacked the intensity to suggest THE WALKING DEAD IS BACK BABY! Those long random segments directed by Greg Nicotero felt tremendously out of place this episode. If ever TWD needed an episode to just play out straight without any narrative confusion or uncertainty it was this one.
Mercy was about the first salvo in All Out War and Nicotero got too caught up with close-ups on watches, flowers and Rick’s watering eyes. There was no need to set up clues and mysteries when Mercy needed a straightforward action-heavy story. At least the conflict with The Saviors and Rick’s alliance will be fun when this season focuses on the action.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC