Look over any title of a premiere episode in any given season of The Walking Dead and, if you’ve kept up with the show year to year, you have a pretty good idea where a particular one is headed. “What Lies Ahead” (season 2’s premiere where we find out where the group ends up), “No Sanctuary” (season 5’s offering of anxiety and dispair), “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” (from season 7 with its revelation of those killed).
Not so with TWD‘s 8th launch, “Mercy.”
Oh, it may have seemed a slam dunk, but it was packed full to the point you had no idea where exactly it was going nor what conclusion could be drawn from it.
Question: With the end of last season leaving no doubt there was a coming clash with The Sanctuary, how did “Mercy” fit in to the puzzle? Answer: It didn’t.
It seemed as if there was no mercy at all. No mercy in Rick knifing one of Negan’s outpost guards right from the get go early on in the episode, not to mention turning that walker loose to snack on the guy. With all the preparation shown in the episode as a prelude to going to war, did you see any hint of mercy? Perhaps it was with Daryl or any of the others as things moved along? (Nope.) And there wasn’t a hint of it in the least when Rick reminded Negan he’d already warned him twice previously he was going to eventually kill him.
So where was the mercy, if anywhere at all? Oh, that’s right … it was when he fired the warning shot over that one scavenger’s head to chase him off when he and Carl were foraging for supplies. Right? Possibly.
Remember, however, there were multiple scenes of Rick filled with tears, bloodshot eyes, pensiveness. Maybe those were hints of it, now that we think about it …
… but then what were all those flash forwards about showing Rick with a full beard and bit of a balding pate? With Michonne chiding him in a completely comfortable setting? With Carl letting a just awakened Rick know they were all sloughing it for the day? Could there have been any discernible clue of mercy when Judith announced to her father a giant owl was in his future?
My point is it could have been any of these things. Or none of them at all. For all we know it might not have been dispelled by Rick or any of the others at all. Perhaps it rested with Negan and his warning there was an unknown factor of wrath about to come down on everyone who had gathered at The Sanctuary to do battle.
Looking for mercy in the episode was downright difficult. I guess it was all up to interpretation with no one answer as a conclusive be all end all.
But as elusive as finding mercy was, there were a couple things of certainty revealed.
We knew from the season 7 ender all out war was coming. And this episode didn’t hide that fact around any corners or down any alleyways. The beginning of the war was plain as day. And if we’re reading the signs correctly, it appears it’s going to be a long one filled with lots of twists and turns.
The other “certainty” isn’t so certain, however. In fact, it might be downright confusing. It’s all those flash forwards mentioned above.
Are they really flash forwards? Ones to be trusted? Could they be delusions Rick is having as a consequence of the hints Negan was throwing out there about something coming down Rick has no idea about? Maybe Rick has been injured in the assault against The Sanctuary and they’re dream sequences, possibly death dreaming as a fallen Rick slips out of this mortal coil. Perhaps something else.
There is this, though: If season 8 progresses along the lines of the comic series, those flash forwards are genuine, not visions, not wishes, not something to pull the wool over our eyes. But I believe it’s going to be well into the season before we truly know the intentions of the tale to come.
It wasn’t a season finale of The Walking Dead that left us with lots of questions this time around; it was a season premiere that did that for a change.
What did you think of the season premiere? What’s coming down the road for Rick and company? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. We want to hear from you!