‘The Walking Dead’: Season 8 premiere ‘Mercy’ begins the war between Rick and Negan

The Walking Dead” roared back to life for its Season 8 premiere Sunday, October 22 with a tense hour that kicked off the biggest conflict of the series yet. In its landmark 100th episode, AMC’s zombie drama upped its game by playing with multiple timelines and presenting survivors ready to wage the biggest war the apocalypse has ever seen. Let’s dive in to the best moments of this landmark episode.

The World is Ours – Rick (Andrew Lincoln) stands with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) to address their allied warriors. In a rousing pre-battle speech, he tells the group that a world without The Saviors “is ours by right.” When the issue of lost life arises he adds, “There’s only one person who has to die, and I will kill him myself.” After so much loss and degradation, this season gives our heroes a new perspective. Alexandria, The Kingdom, and Hilltop have clearly had enough and are ready to fight back.

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Pit Stop – When Carl (Chandler Riggs) visits a gas station to siphon some fuel, he encounters a starving man who begs the boy for food. Carl has him at gunpoint and seems ready to help the poor soul when Rick rushes in, shooting in the air to scare off the stranger. Fearful that the man was a Savior spy, Rick mutters, “If he isn’t one of them, I hope he makes it.” When his father is safely out of view, Carl places two cans of food by the woods as an apology to the stranger. The scene might simply be symbolic, but I have a hunch we will see this stranger again and Carl’s charity will be remembered.

10:28 – Tara (Alanna Masterson) has been sitting along the highway while closely examining her watch. At 10:28 she looks up and a huge zombie herd she has been tracking rounds the corner of the road as planned. She departs with Daryl, Morgan (Lennie James), and Carol (Melissa McBride) as an explosive detonates on the highway, ensuring the walkers will follow its sound. A Savior team sets out to investigate the noise, but a trap has already been laid for them. The Saviors’ cars hit a tripwire en route and are turned into burning wrecks. With human adversaries out of the way, Daryl rides ahead of the herd, coaxing them along the road and towards the now-undefended Sanctuary.

Passing Notes – Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Dwight (Austin Amelio) have been coordinating the attack on The Sanctuary via notes they sent to each other on crossbow bolts. It’s slightly more dangerous than tapping your cute schoolmate on the shoulder in History class. Rick’s team uses Dwight’s intel to silently eliminate all of the Saviors’ lookouts. After Rick leaves one scout to bleed out, the dying man tries to intimidate Rick by claiming, “Your boy will die.” This newly cold and murderous Sheriff Grimes doesn’t take kindly to these threats and cuts loose a nearby walker to devour the Savior. With the lookouts killed, Rick’s crew rolls into The Sanctuary in armored vehicles. They fire their guns into the air to draw out Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

War Declared – Negan emerges confidently despite the army in front of him. Rick demands the surrender of Negan and his lieutenants, but Negan has one last surprise. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) steps out from the shadows to declare, “The Hilltop stands with Negan,” and community members who take up arms against the Saviors will be exiled. Jesus puts Gregory’s leadership skills to bed by exclaiming, “The Hilltop stands with Maggie!” as all Hilltop members stand their ground. The tripwire explosion is heard in the distance and Rick demands that Negan answer his request for surrender. Rick begins to countdown from 10, like a father about to punish their child. But when he reaches seven, he aims and begins spraying bullets at Negan.

Foolish Gabriel – In the ensuing firefight, Rick wounds Negan, who cowers behind cover to save himself. Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) pulls Rick away as Daryl’s zombie horde begins to swarm the location. Rick flees, but as Gabriel gets in the last of the cars he spots a wounded Gregory. Viewers cheer at Gregory’s impending demise. But Gabriel’s conscience takes over and, for reasons unknown, he gets out of the car to help. Viewers boo and scream at Gabriel. He takes Gregory to cover, but the ex-Hilltop leader panics and sprints to the car. He drives off leaving Gabriel surrounded by zombies. The priest manages to break into a nearby trailer before the surrounding walkers overtake him, but he isn’t alone. Negan has also made the trailer his refuge. So not only does this madman have another Alexandrian in his clutches, but Gregory is somehow still alive and kicking.

Old Man Rick – Several scenes are peppered throughout the episode depicting Rick with a large grey beard. Seemingly years in the future, he lives happily in Alexandria with Carl, Judith, and Michonne (Danai Gurira). The segments are treated with a hazy, ethereal look similar to the vision of heaven we got last year. The same picnic table from that afterlife sequence is even present. So is Rick dreaming? Is this season working toward a time jump? Another scene that appeared “out of time” saw Rick standing over two fresh graves. Will the happiness witnessed in his visions only come to fruition at the loss of two close friends?

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