After living under Negan and The Savior’s collective boot for a season, Rick has finally rallied the other communities together to stand against their oppressors. It’s time for All Out War.
Let’s Do the Time Warp Again…and Again
Right off the bat, the episode starts playing with the timeline in a manner that is liable to make your head spin.
In the present, we see Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel giving speeches to rally their combined troops to battle. This scene was fine, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Maggie doesn’t have a baby bump yet. Hasn’t she been pregnant for like, three years or something?
Meanwhile, we get numerous flashes to the much discussed time jump from the comics–and that was also hinted at in the Season 8 trailer. It’s not clear whether these are a fantasy or what will really happen, but it does show a version of Rick Grimes who is injured, has completely forgotten how to shave, and is living in pure domesticated bliss with Michonne, Carl, and Judith.
The other flash forward (yeah, I know) is a close up of Rick’s eyes that must have been filmed during peak allergy season in Georgia. We can also hear him muttering some stuff about mercy or whatever, which if you’ve read the comics, then you can probably guess what he’s talking about.
Rick Rights the Ship
But let’s focus on the present for now, shall we?
At one point during his rousing speech, Rick tells the gathered army only person needs to die during this skirmish. Hang onto that for a little bit.
Later, when he and Carl are on a recon mission, the show decides to do a shot-for-shot remake of Rick’s exploration scene from the show’s first episode. In this one, however, Carl finds a scared guy talking to himself instead of a zombified kid…which is still pretty weird. At this point in the zombie apocalypse, a person really should be past the point of being so afraid of walkers (or even people) that they make a lot of noise that could attract certain death.
Much like Rick from Season 1, Carl’s first instinct is to help someone seemingly in need. Season 8 Rick, however, fires a warning shot in the air forces the guy to run away.
Later, Rick’s scout team goes full on badass, killing Savior lookouts with brutal efficiency…except for the one who trash talked to him about Carl. That dude got it when Rick let a walker tear into him.
So much for only person having to die, right?
Meanwhile, Daryl and Dwight have been passing notes to each other like a couple of smitten middle schoolers via crossbow arrow. Once Dwight gives the word, Daryl, Carol, Morgan, and Tara enact a remarkably cool plan which involves drawing most of The Saviors away from the Sanctuary via staged explosions, then drawing a giant horde of walkers to The Sanctuary so they can wreak havoc.
That’s right, people. Rick Grimes actually came up with a plan that doesn’t completely suck.
The execution of the aforementioned plan is pretty cool, too–especially the part where Daryl rides his motorcycle while setting off charges with a pistol. We also get to see Carol and Morgan taking people out like a couple of mentally unstable ninjas while Tara chews on what might be the last Twizzler in the world. In other words, this is the coolest team ever.
While Daryl’s crew brings the zombies in for the swarm/attack, Rick and most of the others lay siege to the Sanctuary. They first draw out Negan and his lieutenants, which results in some really cool back and forth between the two groups–and Eugene getting completely shut down, which was all types of good. Then Negan trots out Gregory, who demands that the Hilltoppers in the group stand down. Since Gregory is a total douche nozzle who everyone hated anyway–and Maggie is arguably the best leader in the bunch–this doesn’t do anything.
Rick then gives the lieutenants to the count of ten to surrender. After reaching seven, he opens fire anyway. Minutes later, Gabriel crashes through the gate with an armored RV, he sets off a detonator and jumps out, causing it to explode. I gotta admit, much as I still hate that character, it was a pretty cool moment.
Carol and other rest of B-Squad successfully lead the zombies into The Sanctuary. Chaos ensues. Negan crawls out and hides behind some wreckage. Rick develops stormtrooper aims and can’t quite hit him, but does manage to snap a Polaroid of Negan hiding (?) before things get too hot for a successful retreat.
Later, Gabriel tries to rescue Gregory. He is rewarded for his efforts when Gregory predictably double crosses him, forcing the priest to seek shelter inside a trailer…where Negan is now hiding, as well.
Oh yeah, and we also flash back briefly to Rick’s opening speech, just in case the timeline unfolding wasn’t confusing enough already.
This episode had plenty of problems, namely the erratic time jumping. It also felt as though the episode spun it’s wheels a bit with the battle prep, particularly when the plan became obvious.
That being said, the battle and action sequences in this episode was wonderfully shot. Despite how much was going on, everything was edited and directed in a way that it was easy to keep up with the action.
It should also be noted that ‘Mercy’ had a decidedly refreshing tone and pace compared to most of Season 7. We finally got to see the good guys get a win, but the optimism is well-countered by the fear we have for poor Gabriel, who had just begun to redeem himself into a halfway likable character.
It will be interesting to see how a ruthlessly practice man like Negan reacts to such a dire survival situation with one of the people who just helped hand him his first big loss. Also, it’d be really nice to know why Rick took that Polaroid. It’s not like he can post it on social media and shame Negan, but you know it had to be for more than just Rick’s secret scrapbook. Either way, this is the most I’ve looked forward to an episode that wasn’t a season finale in a long time. Let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come for Season 8.