AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 8, Episode 1: “Mercy”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple
* For a recap & review of the Season 7 finale, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Damned” – click here
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) daydreams, he imagines a place filled with light, the image of a cane resting in a doorway and what sounds like “Another One Rides the Bus” by Weird Al Yankovic. He’s old, as well. But he’s very much rooted in reality, preparing for whatever comes next in the escalating war against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Rick speaks to his people, cobbled together with his longtime friends like Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and those from the Kingdom, the friends of Ezekiel (Khary Payton). He rallies them under the banner of doing what is necessary: no need to “celebrate” and no “shame” in it, either. They must “end them” – Negan, the Saviors, all those who want to take the world only for themselves, leaving nothing for anyone else. Maggie and Ezekeil say their piece, too.
What’s clear is they’re all coming together, as one united front, in order to take what is theirs, and to destroy Negan’s effect on the post-zombie apocalypse world.
“And then we keep making the world bigger, together.”
But everything’s not perfect. It never is on The Walking Dead.
Big Carl (Chandler Riggs), still wearing that stinky old sheriff’s hat, is out looking for fuel with his gas can. He hears someone call out from near a gas station. The guy doesn’t shut up, yapping and yapping about what he’s been through. Carl gets the jump on him, then shots come out of nowhere – it’s dad, of course, running the dude off. Can’t be too careful, the Saviors will do anything to lure prey into their web.
My man Daryl (Norman Reedus) is systematically taking down Saviors, as is Morgan (Lennie James), getting the road clear of various posts along the way where Negan has his men waiting, watching. Back home, Rick is gearing up for the next phase of their plan. Out on the highway, Daryl links up with Morgan – who looks like he’s having trouble getting back to killing people again, even if it’s a necessity – Carol (Melissa McBride), and Tara (Alanna Masterson). Michonne (Danai Gurira) has to stay behind, putting her faith in Carl that he’s running the show while his dad is gone.
Father Gabriel: “It always starts with one person”
While Dwight (Austin Amelio) does his part on the Saviors’ side, Daryl, Rick, and the others roll up with their armoured vehicles. They fire off shots to draw attention. Soon enough, Negan appears through the doors to greet them.
Rick dreams of waking up to Weird Al, a slightly older man, Michonne and Carl happily listening to the Queen cover, going about their morning; Rick slept in, they playfully shut off his alarm, everyone is “playing hooky.”
Quickly, back to reality. Negan speaks with Rick, the latter telling the former and his people they can live. Except it’s a one-time offer, expires momentarily. Naturally the leader of the Saviors talks a good game, now and then speaking actual sense. Yet the kicker is Gregory (Xander Berkeley), even if Jesus (Tom Payne) isn’t surprised. The cowardly leader bows to Negan in the name of Hilltop. Everyone must follow suit, else they’re tossed out into the wasteland. Jesus then declares, in defiance: “The Hilltop stands with Maggie.” Daaaamn, Jesus. Boy is representing.
Eventually, Saviors head back towards their compound. On the road, they meet with the traps set by Daryl and friends. An explosion in the road, visible all the way up to where Rick and Negan face off, only sheet metal dividing them. For the first time in a long while it feels as if, even for a moment, Rick and Co. have the upper hand. So he gives Negan and his crew to the count of ten to decide what they’ll do. He only counts from 10 to 7 before firing at them, a vicious look on his face. They pelt the whole compound with bullets, relentlessly.
On the road, Carol, Daryl, and the others prepare for their next tasks, going their own ways. Our lad on the bike has the pleasure of diverting the horde drawn by the explosion.
Rick sets off an explosion using their RV, crippling the gates and the front of the compound. He gets a bit lost in the gunfire, in his quest for revenge, until Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) calls him back to reality; something Rick requires now and then. Before leaving, Gabriel sees Gregory, injured and lost on his own, so he feels compelled to help. But the cowardly asshole fucks the priest over, taking the car from him and driving off. I hate Gregory.
The others regroup, Rick and Daryl head in further. Carol and Ezekiel go another route with their group only to meet with nearly getting blown up with a grenade. And at the main Saviors compound the place swarms with the dead, Father Gabriel forced to find shelter in a nearby trailer.
Who else is in there? Oh, you know it’s Negan. He hopes the priest has his “shittin‘ pants on.” Because he’s “about to shit” them. Oh, god. Is Gabriel going to die? Will he make it out of there alive?
Great opener. Interesting to see Negan stuck, even if it puts Gabriel in a precarious situation. Usually it’s Rick or Daryl or someone we love. Now, we see Negan between the rock and the hard place. “The Damned” comes next week, excited to see where things head from here.