The last season of The Walking Dead gave us one of the better opening episodes of any season of the show. Granted, the rest of the season was garbage, and we don't just mean the people. But if we were to have any expectations after a lackluster season and an anticlimactic finale, it was for this premiere of Season 8.
And hot diggity dog were we let down again. After more unnecessary attempts at artistic symbolism with the flashforwards, a package of rousing speeches that would give William Wallace himself a war-boner, and effectively nothing happening again, this show continues to schlep along at a zombie's pace. For an episode titled “Mercy,” the viewers ended up being the ones pleading for it to stop.
Alas, here are our power rankings for Episode 8.01: “Mercy”:
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week.
Joe Brosnan: Maggie
It looks like Maggie is the heir-apparent to Rick’s empire, and she couldn’t be a more perfect fit. Maggie’s lost multiple loved ones—in fact, it’s quite depressing how everyone close to her has died—and yet she persists. Once this domestic dispute with Negan is sorted out (I refuse to call it a war because the only casualties last night were the windows), Maggie should, in theory, take the reins from Rick and guide our battered group of survivors into the promised peaceful land.
Now, of course, things never work out quite so smoothly for our ragtag bunch. And since Negan has invested in some newly forged plot armor for Season 8, I fully expect this “war” to drag on for … oh, I don’t know, however many episodes it is until the mid-season finale, save for one flashback episode likely to be titled “Shiva: The Kitten Years.”
Adam Wagner: Carl
Just like every teenager, Carl can’t figure out who the hell he wants to be. He’s ruthless and badass. He’s compassionate and friendly. He’s got two eyes and then one.
One thing is for certain, however; Carl is trending up. When Michonne straight up laid her sword down to him and told him he was in charge of the show, I couldn’t help but wonder if she’s just putting in her time before she can trade in for a younger model. I mean, we all see how Rick ages even in his own mind.
Pritpaul Bains: Judith
For finally being given an actor who might be able to do something more than cry.
HM: Weird Al, for being one of the iconic few whose art survives the apocalypse. Not only does his music live on, it's a part of what Rick envisions as his perfect future. I like you more now, Rick.
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
Even in the apocalypse, Negan still has to go to meetings. The scoundrel with scoliosis is on a collision course with vengeance, and even Father Gabriel’s shitting pants can’t keep him from comeuppance. I think Lucille has a few more homerun swings in her, but Negan’s in a bad place. He’s got dissenters in his camp he doesn’t even know about, and he’s wronged enough people that saving doesn’t seem so certain for the head Savior.
JB: Whoever Writes Negan’s Dialogue
Joke's on you, Negan. I always wear my shitting pants when I watch The Walking Dead because something about it just never agrees with me.
PB: Father Gabriel
Goddammit, Gabriel. You finally got folks liking you last season, and then you end up blowing all that goodwill by trying to save fucking Gregory. And the hurt doesn't end there—Gabriel being captured by Negan will, no doubt, result in him being tortured into giving up details on Rick's plans. Hope Gregory was worth compromising literally everything you're trying to accomplish, pal.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
Maggie's exchange with Rick was one of my favorite moments of the episode:
“You showed me how to be someone worth following.”
“Good. After this, I'm following you.”
Maggie is the leader everyone needs in the post-apocalypse, but will she be the leader everyone gets? That just doesn't seem to fit TWD's MO. Regardless, she has grown in leaps and bounds since Hershel's farm way back in Season 2. She's experienced more loss than anyone on the show, yet she has managed to come back all the stronger for it. Unlike Rick, she hasn't allowed her trauma to significantly erode her humanity—a fact Rick is fully aware of in their exchange. Her father would be proud.
AW: Father Gabriel
It takes a real Hershel to risk your life to save a guy like Gregory. That man hasn’t done an honest thing since he’s been on this show, but Gabriel isn’t just going to let down someone in need. Unfortunately, the priest got burned, and Gregory’s now sitting shotgun as his cowardice drives him away from the violence. Sometimes, nice guys finish last. This time, a nice guy’s gonna shit his pants…
JB: Rick Grimes
We’ve seen Rick headshot a walker while sprinting at full speed with a bullet hole in his arm, and yet the man couldn’t kill a stationary Negan. Most will cry out in anguish at Rick’s misaim, or curse Negan’s invincibility, but I think Rick was just being compassionate. He easily could have killed Negan, but he chose not to, making Rick this week’s clear-cut Hershel. (If it's not that, then my last name is Denial.)
- Father Gabriel doesn’t wear shitting pants … he dons the Shroud of Turdin'. (AW)
- What’s the over/under on how many minutes we get into Episode 2 before Negan makes a priest joke? I’ll set the line at 10 minutes. (JB)
- So … who, exactly, did Judith get her blonde hair from? Lori's been keeping secrets… (PB)
- Ezekiel, Maggie, and Rick seemed to be trying to out-Braveheart each other. (AW)
- Speaking of which, does Ezekiel ever sound like he’s not reading for a Shakespeare audition? (AW)
- I watched this like two hours ago and I’m struggling to remember any concrete detail from the episode to discuss here. (JB)
- Oh yeah, Daryl was smoking a cigarette as he snuck up on one of the lookouts just so he could look cool in front of the camera. (JB)
- I like how Rick says, “Only one person has to die,” and then proceeds to murder everyone at their outposts. (AW)
- Rick's visions of the future involve him becoming Santa Claus and Michonne looking *exactly* the same. (PB)
- Thank giggity god we don’t have to watch Carol and Morgan whine about using violence in a goddamn zombie apocalypse. (JB)
- Shiva looks like she got an upgrade. (AW)
- Eric sighting! Aaron's boyfriend reminds us once more that he still exists. (PB)
- When I first saw Tara this week, I thought TWD had introduced a cool new character with attitude to fix its slumping ratings. (AW)
- “Dude, sternum. Duuuuuude.” I missed you, Jerry. (AW)
- What's the end game here? For the life of me, I can't figure out the goal of this first strike. I get the gist of loosing and shepherding the walker herd, but why all the gunfire into glass windows? Do the Saviors not wear shoes? Is Rick just a really big Die Hard fan? Why was Negan so woefully underprepared? Was Gregory really the Saviors' only trump card? Why was literally nothing clear or resolved by the end of the episode? (PB)
- Goddammit. (PB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
Zombies always try to ruin everything. Good thing Morgan turns this zombie into a unicorn before it can trip the wire: