The Walking Dead S8 E1 ‘Mercy’ Review

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No Pressure

Season eight of The Walking Dead is undoubtedly going to be one of the show’s most important installations. After starting on a promising note with the introduction of the pivotal villain – Negan – season seven ultimately ended up being a dud. The season progressed into a largely uninteresting game of cat and mouse between Rick’s clan and Negan’s saviours, culminating in the series’ lowest rated finale since season two. As a result, a lot of fans were left sceptical and wholly unimpressed.

However, the promo’s for season eight promise fans the all-out-war between Rick and Negan’s fractions that we’ve been waiting for. So, the question is this. Did the first episode of the latest season – which also happens to be the shows 100th episode – meet expectations? Read on to find out!

Anticipation or Pure Confusion?

Initially, the episode starts out slow, but promising as we watch members from Alexandria, The Hilltop and the Kingdom undoubtedly prepare for war. Apart from the prophetic and dramatic speeches given by Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel, the beginning of the episode features very little dialogue. This contrast between Rick’s powerful words concerning the ‘new world’ and the almost complete silence in the following cross-cuts works well in cultivating a sense of anticipation.

This anticipation only continues to grow. While we understand these people are preparing for war, as an audience, we are left guessing at what Rick’s actual plan consists of. Consequently, fans are left watching Daryl, Morgan and Rick pick off lone Saviours, one by one. Each time, a list emerges and an area is crossed out. Each time, we’re left wondering what’s going on.

Even more confusing is the brief glimpses we are given of Tara and Carol. Apart from Tara reciting the time to Carol while chewing on a Red Vine, the two don’t converse. They just sit and stand on a bridge, evidently waiting for something. I don’t know if the producers leave the viewer out of the loop purposely to increase anticipation, or if the storytelling was just a bit off. Either way, it does peak your interest.

The ice on the cake however, is definitely the scenes of an elderly Rick lying in a comfy bed with a nice bouquet of flowers at hand. Are these constant references to an alternative life a glimpse at the dream which motivates Rick? Or are they genuine flash forwards? Who knows! As long as we’re confused, we’re relatively interested.

Tension Rises

As the episode progresses, eventually the fog of confusion clears. Slowly, the viewer begins to understand Rick’s plan of luring a colossal zombie herd to Negan’s door… quite literally. This is the same technique Rick uses in the comics, for those unfamiliar with the graphic novel’s storyline.

Admittedly, things pick up a bit after this. The scene in which Daryl leads the swarm of zombies to Negan’s Sanctuary, shooting explosives while riding on his famous chopper is one of the best in the episode. It really feels like the old, action packed version of show that a lot of fans miss. I hope this was only a brief glimpse at the action in store for this season.

As Rick’s plan reaches its final stages, the episode’s tension reaches its climax. Watching Rick saying a poignant goodbye to Michonne and Carl does create a foreboding sense that something big is about to happen. Similarly, when Rick tells Maggie he doesn’t want to wait for his version of tomorrow anymore, we’re given the definite impression that there’s no turning back now.

One Too Many Bullets

Unfortunately, while the episode does a great job at creating an atmosphere of tension and anticipation, it really doesn’t amount too much. When Rick rolls up to The Sanctuary, reinforced cars and fully equipped troops at hand, the plot takes a turn for the worst. Negan saunters out to greet his guest, and isn’t at all put out by Rick and his men.

It’s all just a bit too casual and unrealistic. Rick offers Negan’s best troops – Simon, Regina, Eugene and Dwight – the chance to surrender and go unharmed. However, he doesn’t extend this offer to Negan. In Rick’s eyes, Negan has to die no matter what. Yet here he is with a perfect shot, and he doesn’t even consider taking it. It’s just not believable, and frustrated me as a viewer.

Things don’t really improve after this. Negan pulls out The Hilltop’s leader, Gregory, in attempt to get Rick’s followers from Hilltop to stand down. It beats me why Negan ever thought this would work. No one in Hilltop ever liked Gregory, and he was a self-proclaimed leader with no ability to lead. Negan of all people should have known Gregory would have no influence over these fighters.

When Negan’s plan fails, Rick starts to count down from 10. However, he only gets to 7 before him and his troops fire more bullets at Negan and the Sanctuary than have been seen in the last 7 seasons combined. As a result of this excessive gun use, the final few scenes of the episode become slightly comical.

However, the episode doesn’t end on a bad note. Images of the zombie hoard swarming into the grounds of The Sanctuary are truly terrifying and make viewers question how even Negan could recover from such a blow. Similarly, the fact that the episode ends with Gabriel trapped in a room with Negan also adds a promising note to the end of the episode.

Final Verdict?

The first episode of the new season of The Walking Dead has left me cautiously optimistic. Naturally, it didn’t compare to gut wrenching opening to season seven, but I never expected it to. Despite the slow pace of the episode, it’s clear from the events it portrayed that the war is just beginning. Hopefully, what we saw in this episode is just a taster for the extreme post-apocalyptic warfare to come.

What did you guys think of the new episode? Are you excited for the new season, or do you think it’ll be a let down? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Kayleigh McCoy

21 year old journalism student. Lover of zombies, video games and pizza. I'm just here until the apocalypse happens.

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