'The Walking Dead' - "Mercy" Season Premiere Recap & Review

The Walking Dead has finally aired its season eight premiere, which also happens to be the show’s 100th episode overall. After what has been dubbed a “transition season” (codeword for “underwhelming”), season eight has been promised by all involved to be an All Out War. So did the episode, entitled “Mercy”, deliver on those promises?

Well, yes and no. While we did technically witness the beginnings of this “All Out War”, the episode suffered from many of the same problems that mired season seven. A drawn out, oddly edited opening sets a poor tone for the rest of the premiere. There’s glimpses of Rick giving his 63rd generic survivor speech, Tara and Carol on a bridge, Rick standing in front of two fresh graves, Daryl on his motorcycle, Old man Rick in bed. Bouncing from past, to present, to future, to separate locations just makes things needlessly complicated. Sometimes simple can be much better.

The stuff with Old Man Rick feels out of place and unnecessary. It’s a nitpick to say that Rick has aged way too substantially in comparison to everyone else we catch glimpses of in these flashforward/dream(?) sequences. It’s an actual criticism to say that these scenes are wholly unneeded and feel like a cheap episode padding/watercooler-stoking gimmick.

After an entire season of gathering the troops and planning their attack, get ready for another 50 minutes of waiting to see the actual beginnings of the war. What we get isn’t exactly noteworthy either. Close-ups of people firing guns and the screen going black anytime something exciting (re:expensive) happens.

By episode’s end, Team Rick have handily won the first battle. The Sanctuary appears to be completely overrun by a massive horde of walkers. The only small victory for Team Negan is that they are now in possession of an abandoned Father Gabriel.

If it seems like I’m being overly harsh, it truly comes from a place of love for this series and the comics it’s based on. This premiere, while flawed, was big improvement over most of the episodes from season seven. It also had an admittedly hard task of reorienting audiences after a long hiatus, delivering on some of the all out war promised to fans, and not expending too much of the season’s story in the first episode. That’s no enviable task. So, while I was disappointed by the premiere, I have hope that Scott Gimple and co. can right this ship and make season eight a true return to form.

Something worth noting:

Carol takes a glimpse of a graffiti flower on the bridge, reminiscent of the “look at the flowers” ordeal of her past. Hopefully, a reminder of the past is all this scene intended and not foreshadowing the future.

What did everyone else think of the premiere? Was it more successful for you? Let us know in the comments below!