The Walking Dead, Season 8 Episode 1 titled “Mercy” is the series’s 100th episode. The episode began with a bit of a banding of brothers, King Ezekiel giving his pre-war Henry V-esque speech to the three tribes of The Kingdom, Alexandria, and The Hilltop. But not exactly “began” with that scene. I’ll get to that in a minute.
The Crux of the Episode:
1. The three villages have built an army from their citizens
2. an elaborate plan was created that didn’t just involve running in
3. walkers were utilized … lots of walkers
4. Rick fucks up again by not immediately firing on Negan when he sees him, no matter who is standing near him
5. the episode jumps around with various timeline clips of Rick in various states
6. Fr. Gabriel just doesn’t recognize the devil he knows
7. Dwight seems legit on being Rick’s guy inside…
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8. Maggie is recognized as the Hilltop’s leader, with Jesus’s blessing, much to Gregory’s shit…
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9. Negan has a continuing junior high infatuation with dick and shit talk
10. a possible new character from the books was vaguely introduced in the episode. He was talking from a hiding place to Carl at the gas station. He was quoting the Koran. Rick comes looking for Carl and fires over the guy’s head instead of killing him, explaining to Carl he didn’t want to kill the guy just because he was desperate and starving. Carl would later in the episode’s closing scenes return and leave a note and food for the man to find.
There were homages, sort of ‘Easter egged’ throughout the episode, to TWD’s very first episode of season 1, and various others touching on other episode details throughout the length of the series.
There were flowers to be ‘looked at’ a la Carole (who also spotted one last night). There was Daryl making fiery explosions (a la Carole, again) in order to bait the massive herd of walkers toward Negan’s and the Saviors’ sanctuary. There was yet another Winnebago RV. There were more in there but it requires a re-watch or two in order to catch them more clearly.
One: Carl does a sort of reenactment of Rick at the gas station scene (S1E1), with a walker little girl included…
Two: The most noticeable for me was the swarm scene near the end of Fr. Gabriel and Negan trapped inside a trailer surrounded by walkers outside…
It was reminiscent of the final scenes of S1E1 where Rick was trapped in an army tank and Glenn’s voice broke through, eventually saving Rick’s “dumb ass” in S1E2. Who will possibly save Gabe and Negan? Anyhow, the ending swarm scene was used again when we thought Glenn had been killed a couple seasons back…
Anyhow, there is so much inside this often times confusing episode.
The leaders’ speeches to the righteous fighters ends and we see vehicles being up-armored and last minute checks reiterated. Aaron’s partner Eric has finally discovered prayers and says one ahead of the attack. Remember, no atheists in foxholes or on battlefields.
It is really hard to explain this episode because it appears to jump around like a muddled and disjointed 3-4 layered timeline.
The episode opens with a walking cane against a doorway and a vase of colorful flowers that we discover is on a table beside a bed with a bearded and grey, sleeping Rick. Immediately we ponder if the writers and producers are hinting this has all been some comatose dream Rick has had these last 7-8 seasons. Music is faintly playing in the background from another room. He gets out of the bed and wanders out with the aide of the cane. Michonne and Carl, who appear to not have aged along with him, greet him, and a moment later a Judith, who looks about 8-10 years old, enters the room to kiss her father.
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And then there is the real-time patented red-eyed and despondent Rick with a prismed rainbow bouncing about his face. It’s the face we see each time something horrific, a death or an impossible decision (‘chop off your son’s hand’ from season 7 comes to mind, or last season’s finale when Negan was about to kill Carl kneeling beside him) has hit him directly/ personally. And is that Rick face the one we see standing over a fresh grave or two in the Hilltop cemetery?
I will neither confirm or deny what [the timelines] are but you will know halfway through the season what they are, why they’re there, what they mean and what they mean for the future of the show. Answers will be had around episode eight or nine.
The difference between the first half and the second — I won’t say story-wise what is resolved and when — but the tone and the stakes are very different between the first and second half of the season. There’s a left-hand turn that really focuses things up in a very different and weird way.
It is OK to be confused. If people came away from that confused, I’d hope they’d hold on because all will be revealed in due time.
As a matter of fact, while the armies from the three villages head off to confront Negan’s compound, Rick is leaving behind in Alexandria Carl, Michonne, and toddler Judith (Rosita as well). He is giving kisses all around, but also letting Michonne and Carl know they are strong leaders in their own right to hold down Alexandria. After Rick leaves Michonne echoes her confidence in Carl’s strength and ability.
However, before the long goodbye in the street outside their house, Rick grabs a hatchet from the kitchen table to add to his weapons belt … To which Carl asks him if he were again instructed to chop off his arm if he would. A Hell of a lot of foreshadowing fodder in the two scenes. And also in the firm embrace between Daryl and Carol before they part to head out to their missions in this battle.
Somehow I cannot help but feel that between the two scenes and those character involved, by the end of the season of war, somebody is not going to make it back for a joyful reunion. Hence the grave(s) Rick is standing over in one of the quantum-leap-ish timeline folds.
As I said, the episode is difficult to watch, outside the actual attack on Negan’s compound. The flashbacks or flash-forwards just are very clumsy. Maybe on purpose to keep us off guard. I dunno. I’m doing my best to round it up for this post and probably sounding as clumsy and disjointed.
Anyhow, I’ll wrap this up with another bit of a throwback to last season. Rick takes a Polaroid of a crawling and wounded Negan hunkered down beside the building. Yes, INSTEAD OF SHOOTING HIM for realz!!!!!! GD it, already!
We are reminded how Negan’s men took photos after he slaughtered Glenn and Abraham in season 7 to add to his wall gallery of victims’ photos. This should come back to bite Rick in the ass.
As usual, I’ll come back and add things after they’ve digested. Right now I feel borderline salmonella from last night’s season premier episode.
The old man Rick is not an actual future timeline. It is his thought(s) of what he hoped his and his family’s lives would be like after defeating Negan and the Saviors. It tells me one or more of his family members will not survive this war. The fact that he is standing in Hilltop’s cemetery also makes me think Negan’s people attack Alexandria and burn it to the ground. Which would be a reason for burying his dead at Hilltop. Who might it be? Michonne, as Rick is seemingly not permitted to have personal happiness for very long. Judith, whom I believe was supposed to have been killed as an infant, along with Lori her mother, at the hands of The Governor seasons ago. Carl? I don’t know about that. In the comics for TWD has Rick taking Negan prisoner. Carl dares talk to the sick bastard while he is behind bars. Eventually someone not keen on Rick is responsible for Negan escaping (this involves The Whisperers group we have either not yet seen or are the Garbage Dump group.) Anyhow, whose grave(s) are being mourned over by Rick?
The writers and producers of TWD and its somewhat predecessor (post TWD success) Fear The Walking Dead, have promised a crossover between the two shows. FTWD takes place out west and in Mexico right after the dawn of the apocalypse, during the time Rick has been in a coma in an Atlanta area hospital. It is also at this time Abraham, Rosita and Eugene form a tiny group bound for Washington DC on the lie that Eugene has the cure for this mess. They started out in Texas. FTWD hinted around in their season final episode that Texas (“north”) was a destination for some of the characters of Madison’s now fragmented group. I would wager it will be this TWD group that the crossover involves. FTWD also has its own Negan, of sorts, in The Proctor of the trading town. He expressed a plan to take over Dallas and spread out from there. Which has me pondering the fates of Rosita and Eugene in the war with Negan. Their deaths would free them up to join the FTWD cast (and bring back Abraham) for an undetermined amount of time on that series. When it will be premiered is not officially being stated. The one writer responsible says he’s not even sure which show will have the first crossover episode. However the show’s producer promised on The Talking Dead last night “Sooner rather than later…” he said a few times. For me it sort of confirmed my idea of which of TWD character it would involve, and the ‘sooner’ would jibe with it being a time period ahead of where TWD is now, and not a fast forward for anyone on FTWD. AND that leads me to, perhaps, some life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment(s) of an elongated pre-death or dying scene with either Eugene or Rosita … or both???