Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Walking Dead 08x1 Mercy

The Walking Dead Season Eight Premiere AMC
Gene Page / AMC
The Walking Dead has crossed a monumental finishing line in television, hitting 100 episodes for the series so far. Mercy kicks off the starting point, not only for the next era of the series after eight compelling years, but the war holding strong between territories. Last season, a beloved character's sacrifice for the greater good catapulted the battle from Alexandria, The Hilltop and The Kingdom, all the way to the Sanctuary.

Below includes spoilers of the show and comic book, as well as theories of future character deaths. You've been warned, but hope you enjoy!

The premiere brought a big question to the forefront of everyone's minds: is the future truly ours?

Semi picking up where we left off in The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives, the communities joined together for the world they aim to hold onto. Mercy focused on the group's revenge against Negan. In a series of plans, they picked off the guards at various Savior hotspots, timed a highway walker heard from the quarry with explosions and lead them to the Sanctuary, before shooting off bullets at Negan himself. From beginning to end that prompt was answered in a mishmash of action, time-jumping, and ultimately, more teases about what might be Rick's reality or fantasy.

Going all the way back to season four, and similarly the ruthless seventh season premiere, Mercy played with its timelines. Bookended with Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel leading their followers into war, one flashforward showed Santa Rick waking up to a new peaceful paradise (Sunday dinner throwback?), while another bloodshot Rick was deliberating his current decisions. The jump forward in time could easily be explained by the graphic novel, a situation that makes for big revelations about Negan's fate. But as most flashback-forward-sideway sequences on the show, gauging whether Old Man Rick or Emotional Rick was a fever dream or a peak at our favorites achieving some sort of civilized happiness, proved to be difficult....and a little boring.


How To Give a Graduation Speech

Whether or not this premiere was very memorable as the start of something big for the territories, their leaders definitely know how to give graduation speeches. A big portion of the episode put Maggie, Ezekiel and Rick centerstage to fire up the troops with one motivational speech after another.

"When I met Jesus he told me I was entering a bigger world. It's our by right. . . .Those who use and take and kill, try to carve out the world and make it theirs, we end them! We don't celebrate it and we don't have shame about it either. Only one person has to die - I will kill him myself. I will, I will."  Rick's always had these speeches in the back of his mind somewhere.

"Together, we are bound forever. To quote the , for he today shed his blood with me, be my brother. She, today, my sister." - Ezekiel showed the bond of his personhood to everyone quoting Henry V.

"We've been through it over and over again. We all know the plan doesn't end this morning. We may have to live in uncertainty for days, maybe more. We have to keep our faith with each other. If we can hold onto that with everything we have, the future is ours. The world is ours." - Believing in the best possible outcome and working towards it is in Maggie's DNA.

The whole thing could've been summed up to: Alexandrians, Hilltop Colonists and Kingdom dwellers finally have to adult and stop bowing down to Negan. The reward of which is to hopefully be liberated and live freely as much as possible.


I Got Faith In Ya

The Walking Dead is no stranger to featuring religious undertones, slipping easter eggs into props, locations, and as a moral device for characters. Mercy was almost no different, but it seems that given the circumstances of just killing off anyone who doesn't want to combine forces with the good guys - no questions - asked, faith will be become an even bigger factor this season.

The speeches were just the starting point of showing each person's version of it, and became stronger with Rick. He struggled to accept that maybe this battle isn't just about him, despite the other factions looking to him for answers. Even more than that, strewn throughout the episode, the creators dedicated a big moment to the very first episode Days Gone By. Carl made a paralleled journey to an abandoned gas station just as his father did opening the series. In doing so, he came across a straggler asking for help.

The poor dude, who many assume is Siddiq, desperately rambled, "Whatever you have of good, spend on the traveler. Helping a traveler, a person without a home, that's everything." But he also offered insight about the title, saying "May my mercy prevail over my wrath", a passage from the Koran.

A moral decision has always been whether or not to take people into their communities, seeing what skills they have, and making them stronger. But enemies, and those who are always willing to steal and kill, ruin those shimmering moments of inclusion and perseverance. Sidiq is definitely going to be used in some bigger capacity, possibly to reinstate those old-time notions of accepting allies versus kill-or-be-killed.

To those who've read the comic books, Sidiq may prepare us for an outcome where  Negan survives the All Out War, but the saying also speaks to Rick offering surrender to Negan's Saviors before taking the first shot. He's come along way from season five, and even before then, of wanting to go everywhere and anywhere guns blazing. Will he struggle with the bystanders who might've eventually sided with Rick if given the chance? Will some Saviors redeem themselves i.e.  Dwight?

On top of which, some timestamps the characters referred to during their plan might be pointing to verses in the Bible. Tara's watch showed 10:28, which in the book of Matthew, is: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Rick has promised to kill Negan twice, but perhaps third time is not going to be a charm in getting the deed done. Will he suffer a loss great enough (Carl?) to make him go back on his word?

And then the clock on Rick's nightstand read 8:24 when he woke up: "For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?" The groups are vying for a future that they cannot see yet, but how can they hope for something they barely have now.


What's Wrong With Coral?

Hope is on Carl's mind since he seems agitated once again with his father's decisions (which he wasn't during the season seven finale). Though Carl was only cautious about meeting Siddiq in the parking lot, Rick shot above the Microwave Man's head, successfully scaring him off. Rick wanted his son to be proactive that some strangers might be secret members of the Sanctuary or something else, to which Carl replied that there isn't going to be enough hope but didn't explain further - to defeat Negan? to eventually ask this kid into their group? to create the future they want?

Before Rick left Alexandria to start their war against Negan, he made a point to say, This is the end of it". Michonne added to Carl that she would help him defend their turf because this is his show. Subtly, we're to assume the reigns will be eventually handed to lil Grimes (if we're to forget all the times Rick told Maggie and Michonne they should succeed as leaders after him...).

Faith, in its beautiful irony, also backfires on Father Gabriel. In a completely predictable "twist" during the initial stand-off, Gregory popped up to claim that The Hilltop stood with Negan, only to be shut down by Jesus. Echoing back to his confession of leaving his flock out to be zombie dinner, Gabriel went to save the drunken leader who was getting ambushed by walkers. Gregory ended up stealing Gabriel's car, leaving him stranded. On top of which, Dale's RV, with a re-enforced metal hood, provided protection to Negan from bullets flying everywhere, and subsequently, Gabriel ended up in a shed with him - (the moment mirroring Rick getting trapped in a tank from the very first episode too).


Will we truly win?

Was it worthy of being the series's landmark 100th episode?  Mercy bookended our heroes delivering gravitas proclamations of victory and claiming the inevitable fact they're going to lose people. It was the start of kicking up the dust and revving up for the most  action-packed season yet. Yet as writer and showrunner Scott Gimple, with director Greg Nicotero, extrapolated elements from past episodes, the episode didn't seem to settle into an uniquely engaging pace.

Since season eight has begun with the idea that most of our favorite characters might not see the future they're trying to build, I started wondering how many of them will live long enough to see that paradise come to fruition, and if it will be worth seeing long after that.

Up until this point, the series has been an ensemble of sorts with heavy attention directed towards the faves - Rick, Maggie, Glenn, Carol, Daryl, Carl. As we face the possibility of long-term castmates making their exits, the show has paralleled messages that the survivors' future isn't about one person or one group, but everyone. As the show has focused less on hero vs villain angles, PTSD, and grief of losing the ones we love, it's now blossoming into humanity for humanity's sake.

With that, we have to wonder where we go from here. If Grimes's eventually killed off, who will take over? Are the protagonists mellowing out their own morality and mortality too much to be interesting? Who of the current cast, new or veteran, are interesting enough to face off against their own poor judgement or other compelling antagonists? Is a major character death going to turn this storyline on its head? Who truly knows what the future hold. The fight is still in there somewhere to find out.


Additional Thoughts
+ An accidental explosion knocked by Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry. Is this going to turn into Daryl feeling like he accidentally killed or injured her since he's been setting these things up/off? It'd be quite the contrast from Daryl's threat to the Savior last season....
+ Carol, Morgan, Tara and Daryl were squad goals
+ Rest in peace to Dale's RV
+ Dwight and Daryl used each other's bows to send messages. #irony
+ I don't know how they found Weird Al Yackovick's Another One Rides the Bus as Rick wakes up but....
+ I need a 'The Hilltop Colony Stands with Maggie' on a t-shirt ASAP
+ The kid at the gas station became more compelling in three minutes, and it was just his voice, than Negan in a whole season
+ Aaron: Are you praying? Erik: I always meant to start
+ "All I have at the Hilltop is a bunch of books and an old lobster bib." Not anymore Jesus, you've got a family now with Maggie and Enid
+ How does all of these groups have endless amunition and rounds of clips? Eugene did not make new bullets for them so....
+ Carl left behind canned food but not a can opener.....It was a nice parallel to season three when he killed a Woodsbury teen. The bag he was carrying looked like the stranger's bag from the highway in Clear
+ Older Judith mentions that people made an owl for the party - a nice nod to Jessie
+ Even though I don't really pay attention to spoilers, some awkward moments on this week's Talking Dead and reports of some actors have not been seen filming lately... I'm suspecting there's a big character death coming our way - Carol, Maggie, Carl, Morgan come to mind. GET YOUR FEELS READY.

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