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The Walking Dead 8.01 Review – ‘Mercy’

October 23, 2017 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
The Walking Dead - Mercy
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The Walking Dead 8.01 Review – ‘Mercy’  

Welcome to Season 8 The Walking Dead! It’s time, friends, time for All Out War! Are you excited? I know I am, so let’s into the first episode of this season and get a glimpse at what war will bring us.

The plot: Rick and company have made a solid plan to initiate their war, complete with several stages, many rigged explosions, armored cars, and a whole herd of hungry walkers. But before they launch stage one, Rick and Carl have an interesting interaction at a gas station with another random survivor, whom Carl wants to help but whom Rick does not trust. The three communities meet up with their armored cars and get their pep talks from Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie before heading over to the Sanctuary, taking out the various forward guards of the Saviors thanks to intel from Dwight. When they arrive, Rick gives Negan’s lieutenants a chance to surrender and be spared along with anyone in the building (and generally everyone except for Negan), but no one takes him up on it. They blow out the windows of the factory, explode the gate, and generally leave the place wide open to the herd, although Gabriel has to pull Rick back from shooting at a pinned down Negan. Gabriel then cuts short his own escape to help Gregory, who has sided with Negan but is stranded, and is in turn stranded by the coward. In the end, Gabriel is locked in a trailer with Negan, surrounded by the herd. And we also see some images from unknown points in the future: Rick sweaty, stunned, near a stained glass sign; Rick over two or three newly dug graves; and a dream sequence of an even more distant and peaceful future where old man Rick and his family are happy and safe.

The title of this episode, “Mercy,” coupled with a line from future sweaty and shocked Rick–“My mercy prevails over my wrath.”–puts everything that happens in it into an interesting light. Rick is, for the majority of this episode, merciless. This is highlighted the most when he persists in trying to shoot and kill Negan despite him being under cover and the herd incoming, and Gabriel must pull him back, and when he refuses to help the random survivor he and Carl come across, the man who quite literally asks for mercy. At the moment, it’s really only Rick’s lack of cruelty that separates him and Negan, in fact. We’ve seen before that Rick can get carried away when he’s struck by this kind of mood–the infamous Ricktatorship speech from the end of Season 2, anyone?

However, Rick is making a concerted effort to not make this all about him this time. He’s said it out loud, repeatedly, he’s involved other leaders and the people of these communities in his decisions, he’s turned this into a movement, a true group effort to make all their worlds better. And I believe him when he says this, that this is his ultimate goal. Though it’s unclear at what stage he’s dreaming or imagining it, the Old Rick dream sequence underscores his desire to make this world a safe place for all of them. But the repeated assertion that it’s not about him only makes me think that it really is about Rick and everyone but Rick knows that. It’s clear that Rick’s the leader of this group, he is their general, and it’s his drive that gives them drive. They couldn’t come together, truly, until he was ready to be on board. So the question going into this season is, will his mercy or his wrath prevail? And what will that mean for everyone else and for their world? Right now, wrath is taking an early lead–just ask that lookout whom Rick did not mercy kill, but freed the walker to end him after the man taunted that Carl would die.

Rick has the strongest arc in the episode, but Carl had some key moments. When the war crew heads out, Michonne tells Carl that she’ll help him defend Alexandria: “This is your show now,” she tells him. He questions this, but Michonne remains confident. His act of mercy in delivering fans of food and a note reading “Sorry” to the man on his own also speaks volumes. It’s a small thing, but it’s important; it’s the kind of thing Rick would’ve done once, and it’s the kind of thing that is still needed to reach that safe world they all want. The need for mercy doesn’t go away when war is upon you; if anything, it becomes all the more important and necessary. With this context, as well the rest of Rick’s arc, Carl’s warning to his father that hope won’t be enough feels all the more insightful.

There are a lot of nice small moments here and there–new friends and allies meeting up at the field where they all come together, Carol and Daryl parting ways on the road (may it not be for nearly so long this time!), Morgan looking at his bloody spear with conflicted feelings about what he’s done. Maggie and Rick joking about how she’s not supposed to go to war in her second trimester. And Rick telling Maggie he would follow her when this is over, that was very notable! As well, Maggie and Jesus having their easy rapport even when in the midst of stage one of the war plan, and Jesus’s quick rebuttal of Gregory’s betrayal, declaring that Hilltop stands with Maggie. The community and camaraderie between all these people is what matter, is what makes them strong and a force to be reckoned with even if they perhaps don’t have the numbers to match the Saviors.

But I find Father Gabriel’s actions in this episode stood out to me above and beyond those, especially with the predicament he’s now in with Negan. From coward to backstabber to stalwart Rick Grimes defender, Gabriel has had an interesting journey, but tonight he showed in a few moments how far he’s come. He was there to bolster Rick’s confidence, he was in the rigged to explode RV up until the last moment, he pulled Rick away from wasting his bullets and his time on Negan when he couldn’t get a clean shot, and then he even got out of his safe ride out of there to go back for the traitorous Gregory, who then stole his car and left him to die! May your death be painful, Gregory. But considering how Gabriel’s great failing was locking himself inside the safety of his church when his parishoners begged to come inside, his act to help Gregory is an immense example of how he has changed. I look forward to seeing him and Negan stuck in this situation together! That is a very interesting pairing, and they’ll need to work together to get out alive.

What did you think of the episode? How do you think the war will go? Will mercy or wrath prevail, and what’s going on with future Rick and those graves? Let’s hear it in the comments!

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Overall, I found this to be a good episode and a good start for the season. The glimpses of the future were just enough to let us know that things will not go as planned, but not let on just how they fall apart. The small moments in this one reminded us of the strengths of our heroes, while the big moments reminded us of Rick's weaknesses which could be his undoing. A satisfactory start, and as always I look forward to seeing what happens next--they've left us with a number of new plots to follow as the season progresses.