Season 8 of AMC’s The Walking Dead commences the infamous All Out War arc, plunging the television series into the long-awaited rebellion against Negan and the depraved Saviors that have terrorized our heroes since the conclusion of Season 6. With the season premiere also doubling as the 100th episode, The Walking Dead has now been crowned AMC’s longest running show.
After the victory at Alexandria from Season 7’s finale, I’m sure we were all expecting a grand return, hoping to have Negan in our grasp. Unfortunately, just as we spent an entire season victim to the throes of our foul-mouthed villain, ‘Mercy’ proved that it may take an entire season to reprimand him as well.
‘Mercy,’ Season 8’s premiere episode, was underwhelming, especially following last season’s opener, the unignorable ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,’ which resulted in brutal, gruesome character deaths we still haven’t recovered from. While the aforementioned episode was the result of an unforgivable cliffhanger, that premiere brought in exceptional ratings, while this one did not.
The episode begins with inspirational speeches from our once-again valiant front-runner, Rick, as well as the other two fearless leaders; Ezekiel from the Kingdom and Maggie representing the Hilltop. It’s not clear how much time has passed between the end of last season to now, but it can be inferred that after their unexpected victory in Alexandria, they wasted no time gearing up for round two.
Although Rick states that “there is only one person that has to die,” we definitely witness the group taking out several other Saviors, starting with the outpost patrollers, one by one. The subtlety of their deaths were artfully directed, a great contrast to the raucousness that comes later in the episode.
Most of the episode covers a slow preparation for their attack. Though, the build-up didn’t quite match the execution. Once they arrive at the Sanctuary, Negan shows his face to the rebels, yet no one takes a shot during his villainous monologue, although temptingly vulnerable and unprotected. Once they open fire, it seems every single Alexandrian, Hilltopper, and Kingdommer has the shameful aim of a Star Wars Stormtrooper, but can land a perfect headshot on a flailing, half-decomposed walker. Also, I thought, not too long ago, we were stingy about our ammo supply… especially with bullet-creator Eugene batting for the opposing team.
The Walking Dead‘s 100th episode rewarded loyal fans with iconic callbacks to the Pilot. The scene following Carl at an abandoned gas station mirrors the very first scenes of Episode 1.
The hazy flash-forwards to “Old Man Rick” start off similarly to when Rick first awakens from his coma, reaching for the flowers at his bedside. Instead of crumbling at his fingertips, like in the Pilot, the bouquet is instead vibrant and thriving. The flash-forward’s intentions are to illustrate Rick’s vision of the quintessential future, but ultimately felt out of place. Also, what was with the Weird Al Yankovic song in the background?
It’s unclear how far into the future we’re seeing. Where Rick’s hair has fully-greyed, along with a lengthy beard to match, Michonne and Carl look strikingly similar to their present selves. The scenes, pre-released prior to the Season 8 premiere, prompted an uneasiness for audiences, since it touched the possibility of the entire series occurring during Rick’s initial coma, pulling a Sixth Sense-esque twist on the show. Thankfully, this disproves this theory, but somehow raises more questions. Where are they living? Is this a post-Negan society? And seriously, why is Weird Al playing?
The last scene of the episode, we find Father Gabriel trapped in a walker-surrounded trailer with none other than the perpetrator himself, Negan. Of course, Negan can’t help but to spew his Junior High-level vernacular, desensitizing the ending scene’s dire suspense. As an avid follower of the graphic novels, I understand his vocabulary is part of the true Negan persona. He, in fact, does tell someone to get his “shitting pants” on in Issue 116, except the receiver here is Dwight, rather than our favorite Father.
Greg Nicotero delivered an artillery-heavy premiere, in his true fashion, but the episode fell short in its pacing, with an disappointing outcome. I’m sure as the season progresses, I’ll be able to forgive the anticlimactic introduction to this glorified All Out War, but as of right now I have no sense of urgency or terror. But you know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Season 8 of The Walking Dead continues with Ep.2, ‘The Damned,’ this Sunday, October 25 9/8C on AMC.