The Walking Dead opens up its eighth season with the show’s 100th episode. It’s a grand achievement for the show that deserves some sort of celebration, but the landmark episode is sort of a let down that I didn’t take anything away from it at the end.
“Mercy” is action-packed in its nature, with plenty of actions, gun blazing and cars exploding. However, the underwhelming plot results in a very dry episode. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really cool to see Rick and others attacking the Sanctuary with a giant horde of walkers, but there’s a lack of urgency here that makes the battle not exciting at all. It’s quite a shame, as we’ve been waiting for Rick to fight back Negan for a year now.
The flow of the episode is also slowed down with old-man Rick sequences. It’s a puzzling decision, and I don’t understand why The Walking Dead can’t do a season premiere with simple linear storytelling. Not only Rick looks super old for no reason at all during these sequences, the true nature of the sequences is not clear either. Are they Rick’s daydream, or actual flash-forward? Also, the sequences are sandwiched with Rick with red-eyed too! Just what exactly is going on here? Let’s say they are flash-forward, what’s the point here? Why can’t we just watch the show and find out Rick is going to win the war on our own? The non-linear storytelling is a style by choice, but it doesn’t always work, and it’s definitely not working out here.
And for so called “All Out War,” it doesn’t feel like anyone is in real danger, not even from Negan’s side. Anyone close to any kind of danger is Gabriel, but I still don’t care about him at all. It is, however, pretty funny to see him stumbles into the trailer that Negan is hiding as well. It’s also a pretty good way to end the episode, and I can’t wait to find out how they’re going to get out of it.
The episode also open with a Carl encounters a vagrant. The sequence mirrors the very first episode where Rick walks among abandoned cars trying to find gas, and it shows an out-of-character moment where Carl tries to show kindness to the character. It’s strange that at this point of the story any of our main characters will still believe in showing kindness to complete strangers. I also don’t understand why the show bothers showing us Carl being nice to a stranger in important, unless his action to show “mercy” to stranger is important to build the new world with. Upon further research, I found out this hobo is actually comic character Siddiq, who’s actually a good friend with Carl. Maybe Carl’s kindness to him will somehow aid Rick’s group to victory?
Overall, “Mercy” is an okay season premiere that features plenty of actions, but the lack of character moment distances itself from the audiences. Also, the strange decision to show us Rick’s daydream/flash-forward is a bizarre one that really slows down the episode. Hopefully the season will get better before it becomes season seven all over again.