REVIEW: The Walking Dead, S8 Ep 1 – Mercy

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep 1 – Mercy

The Walking Dead opened its eighth season with its historic 100th episode, which saw Rick and his allies gain a victory against the Saviors. It was an action-packed premiere that plunged viewers into the war against Negan.

The premiere picks up pretty much where the show left off last season, with everyone pumped and primed for battle. All the major players were there, each one with an assigned role in Rick’s grand plan to take down their greatest adversaries so far. And the episode spent a great deal of screen time on these meticulous preparations. So much so that, for all the hype leading up to this decisive confrontation, the whole thing fell a little flat.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep 1 – MercyFor a season premiere, despite the scale of the story and the impact of the events, this still felt a bit lackluster. The scenes moved at a sluggish, meandering pace, typical of The Walking Dead filler episodes, but not something one would expect from the opening of the eighth season. Everyone was shown preparing their pieces, setting up explosives, timing a herd of walkers, cleaning their weapons, and warming up. Though these were characters we have come to know and love, it felt a bit boring to spend what feels like half an episode watching them prep.

The confrontation with Negan is, again, not as tense as previous outings, and is over fairly quickly. Rick threatens the handful of Saviors left behind. They shoot the place up. There are explosions and hordes of walkers unleashed. And the allies didn’t even fight that much.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep 1 – MercyThe main plot was peppered with some strange fantasy sequences shot in hazy light of a seemingly safe and happy future with Rick and his family. Judith has grown up, and Rick looks like he’s aged a couple of decades because of the grey beard he sports. Michonne and Carl are there, but no one else is shown. And in between, there are glimpses of a terrified, teary-eyed Rick staring up at some broken glass. Ominous scenes contrasted against happy ones. A nightmare and a dream. These were intriguing enough glimpses in what is probably going to be a painful season of The Walking Dead.

Sleazeball Gregory was there for a bit, betraying the Hilltop and proving that he is the cowardly weasel we all knew him to be. How he still managed to survive at the end is a frustrating hallmark of The Walking Dead, where terrible people still get away with being douchebags.

Poor Father Gabriel finds himself trapped in a trailer with Negan, of all people, as they are surrounded by a crowd of walkers. The stakes don’t feel that high since Father Gabriel still isn’t a character we care about too much. And given his current predicament, his survival would be a true miracle.

The Walking Dead, S8 Ep 1 – MercyBut for now, the good guys are victorious. For once, all their rousing speeches about hope and fighting for their future actually pay off. Rick, Maggie, and King Ezekiel form a great alliance and they get to celebrate their triumph at the end. Rick even talks about leaving Maggie in charge, and that’s probably one of his better ideas. It’s good to start the season on the high note. Their troubles are not yet over but it’s heartening to have a win every now and again, even in a show about zombies taking over the world.