Warning: General spoilers ahead
Full disclosure here. Negan is, and has always been, my favorite character in The Walking Dead comics, and so, I’m not one of the critics who dumped on the show and its writing last season. Sure, the pace in season 7 could have definitely been better, and perhaps they didn’t need an entire season to transition to All Out War, but selecting Jeffrey Dean-Morgan as the comics’ biggest baddie was perfect casting, and it was a joy watching the character develop. This all being said, when I screened tomorrow’s season 8 premiere — and the show’s pivotal 100th episode — selecting a rating became easy. The episode has a perfect balance of action and character moments, and for those who have complained that a series about zombies now has very little zombies, well, there’s **plenty** of walkers. Oh, and yes, there’s some good Negan moments, and so, my rating is easily a strong “A”.
The episode begins a few weeks — or at most a few months — from the events of the season 7 finale, and we know this given that Rosita (Christian Serratos) is still wearing a bandage from being shot in the season-ender. The three communities — Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom — are planning an attack on Negan and the Saviors and a real attack, unlike the shitshow on the single outpost in season 6 which ultimately led to Glenn and Abraham’s deaths. It’s very well-coordinated, and the best part is virtually everyone has a part to play, which provided the rare opportunity of incorporating nearly every character in a single episode. Even some characters that we haven’t seen in a while like Francine (Dahlia Legault) and Tobin (Jason Douglas) play a role on the team, and heck, Shiva even makes an appearance, if only for a moment. The atmosphere is of hope and of a future without dictators like Negan, and it’s really great seeing everyone working together, instead of being broken and fractured.
Being that it’s the 100th episode and as you may have already heard, there’s also some great tiebacks to past episodes, most notably the Pilot. In a scene very similar to the one in the Pilot of Rick at the gas station, Carl (Chandler Riggs) also visits a gas station but instead of running into a walker, he encounters another survivor. I can’t spoil who the character is, but it is one that was rumored several months ago and who can be found for a split second in the Comic-Con trailer. He begins to rattle off what appears to be nonsense, at least until Rick (Andrew Lincoln) shows up and runs him off. As he explains to Carl, you can’t be too careful, and that guy could be a spy for the Saviors.
Besides having callbacks to the past, some big hints are also dropped of what the future may bring. There’s a conversation between Carl and another character that indicate Carl may be the future leader of Alexandria. And, even bigger than this is a discussion between Rick and Maggie where Rick says, “And after this is all over, I’m going to follow you.” For those who are fans of the comics, both of these moments should be very familiar. Then, of course, as we’ve seen in the Comic-Con trailer and the promos since then, we have the old-man Rick visions which are interjected throughout the episode. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest points of the premiere, but I do suspect they may come off as somewhat confusing for some fans. And, I’ll be honest, even with my being a fan of the comics, I had to watch the episode twice before the visions made complete sense to me. So, if you end up being confused, try watching the episode a 2nd time, or check back here after tomorrow’s East Coast airing for my full recap and review.
Finally, what about the title of the episode “Mercy”? That actually originates from a quote from a particular character early on in the episode.
May my mercy prevail over my wrath
I can’t reveal who says this, but when the character makes the statement, you are led to believe that Rick isn’t listening. But then, we hear him repeat the very same quote towards the end of the episode. Obviously, it stuck with him, and given that Rick is on a personal mission to kill a single man, I suspect it’s going to be a source of great conflict throughout the course of the season. Even more importantly, if you’re a comic-book reader, you probably have a pretty good idea what this may mean.
The season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead is titled “Mercy” and airs Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.
First 3 minutes of premiere:
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com