Review:The Walking Dead: Ep. 801: Mercy

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead: Ep. 801: Mercy

The Walking Dead returned for an 8th season with a milestone 100th episode tonight. Mercy, pushes the show to the century mark and sheds some light on a few of the scenes first seen during San Diego Comic Con this past summer. After the brutality of last season that saw the group splintered physically and emotionally, Season 8 promises a pushback that will ultimately result in all out war. While the tone of Season 7’s premiere was dark, Season 8 opens with a feeling of hope, a theme that will surely dominate the narrative especially if the ‘Old Man Rick’ scenes aren’t part of some dream sequence.

Mercy gets rolling with Rick rallying the troops with a rousing sermon on a truck. If his speech seems a little biblical, it’s by no means an accident. The writers are using inner faith as the driving force behind the characters’ renewed optimism to defeat Negan’s tyranny. The Hilltop and Kingdom communities have come together with Rick and the Alexandrians to take down Negan and the Saviors. Ezekiel, Maggie and Rick are a three-headed strike force mobilizing their followers in a quest for freedom. There’s even a Trojan horse element to their plan.

Dwight and Daryl pass notes like Green Arrow and Hawkeye as they solidify their plans plans. Dwight is the inside man providing information and clearing the way for an assault on the Saviors. After some more speeches about standing together and fighting for their freedom it soon becomes guerrilla warfare 101 as a small group heads over to Negan’s compound to make some noise.

Surprise, surprise Gregory is in cahoots with Negan and offers members of the Hiltop one last chance to stand with him or die. His demands fall on deaf ears though as Maggie’s their leader now and Gregory’s humbled once again. Father Gabriel acts as the voice of reason and even gets some of the spotlight this week but Gregory being Gregory brings that moment to a quick end. They say that no good deed goes unpunished and Father Gabriel finds that out the hard way.

Even though the mantra of the episode is that things are not about Rick, the three prongs of the narrative suggest otherwise. Mercy has with three timelines: Rick’s assault on Negan’s compound, a defeated and battered Rick and Old Man Rick living comfortably with Michone, Carl and a grown up Judith. Some of the scenes indicate that the weight of war lies heavily on Rick. Leadership and the guilt of those who have fallen in Negan’s wake drives him but it’s also a burden. There’s a lot of time to cover between the war and Rick as an old man. If those scenes of an elderly Rick are real then the journey to that point promises to be a painful one.

Mercy is a solid episode that sets the stage for a season long war. The next few episodes are expected to be quite explosive and the war is sure to have its fair share of casualties. With both sides ready for a fight it will be interesting to see how it all plays out, particularly with the wildcard Scavengers lurking on the sidelines.