The Walking Dead Review by John Keegan

The Walking Dead 8.01: Mercy

The Walking Dead 8.01: Mercy

Written By:
Scott M. Gimple
Directed By:
Greg Nicotero

It’s interesting the difference a year can make.  In terms of The Walking Dead, it’s a pretty huge difference.  As the seventh season was about to begin, the anticipation and dread was palpable, and the premiere itself hit like Lucille to the back of the head.  It was a phenomenon that had people who didn’t even watch the series regularly looking to see what the fuss was about.  And then there’s this episode.  The eighth season premiere, the 100th episode!  And it feels like the show fell back on the schedule with little more than a dull thud.

 


 

And dull might be the word to use for the first half of the episode.  It was fairly clear what Gimple and Nicotero were going for, but it was all too repetitive and familiar.  If there’s any indication that the series needs some new blood behind the curtain (not unlike the kind its spawn, Fear the Walking Dead is getting for its fourth season), this installment makes the argument time and again.  Nicotero is just about out of interesting things to say as a director, preferring at times to simply highlight the effects work that his team has produced.  And Gimple does little to overcome or revise some of the same narrative missteps that plagued the source material during the “All Out War” period.

 

The most blatant example is the utter lack of logical tactics in the confrontation with the Saviors.  Between the seasoned warriors from Hilltop, Team Grimes, and The Kingdom, not one of them considers that drawing Negan out into the open ought to include having several snipers ready to open a few dozen new orifices in his body before he can even open his mouth.  Had that happened, not only would the Saviors be in total disarray, but Rick’s demands for an end to the fighting might have fallen on interested ears.  Instead, they just waste a ton of ammo breaking a few hundred windows, very likely not hitting many (if any) of the actual enemy in the process.

 


 

Otherwise, it’s a sound enough plan.  Had Negan been taken out, sending a herd of Walkers right into a compromised Sanctuary is a pretty good follow-up to such an action.  And one would expect that a milestone episode that is also a season premiere to bring the goods.  But so much of the episode is setup and a ridiculous array of Rick’s musings about the future that just happen to be a tease for those familiar with the source material and the time jump that takes place after the conclusion of this story arc.

 

Negan also continues to have his overall effectiveness as a villain watered down to a ridiculous degree.  Negan’s biggest problem in the source material is that he comes out strong, declaring iron-clad rules, and then proceeds to allow them to be broken without major consequence time and time again.  By all accounts, Negan should have used his numbers and resources to wipe Team Grimes off the map after the seventh season finale.  So why is the new alliance given all this time to formulate an attack plan?

 


 

The sad truth is that The Walking Dead lost a lot of its momentum once it introduced Negan in the most provocative way possible and then slowly, steadily, walked back from it.  The energy of the fandom regarding the show is a franchise past its prime, and an opener like this isn’t going to generate the kind of buzz and excitement that is necessary to get the show back on its pedestal.  Contrast this to Game of Thrones, which despite some slower seasons and criticisms of current storytelling, continues to inject energy and faster pacing into the narrative to keep its audience engaged.  It’s hard to imagine that Gimple and Nicotero have the slightest idea how to accomplish that on their own, or they would have already.

 

Some might wonder, then, if these are the words of a “lapsed fan” or someone who isn’t one of the faithful.  To that I say: I’m still watching the show live, which is rare these days.  But the writers have to deliver to make me want to do so consistently, which in seasons past was not nearly as difficult a prospect.


Our Grade:
B-
The Good:
  • It’s nice to see Rick and his allies being methodically proactive in some ways
The Bad:
  • The entire way could have been over in minutes with a little tactical planning!
  • For a milestone episode, this installment was distinctly lacking in energy, especially early on

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

The Walking Dead by - 10/23/2017 11:51 AM95 views

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