I have been eagerly awaiting the start of this season, especially after suffering through the long and drawn out storylines that plagued season seven. I understand the need for this but it doesn’t need to take up a whole season and drag the momentum they build up in any one episode down like it has an anchor attached to it. At the end of the season, after the death of numerous characters, the bringing together of communities and the battle cry for war, I was hoping for a more focused and energetic beginning. What I ended up watching was an episode that tried to be smart but in the end was pretty messy, falling back on bad habits and poor writing that plagued most of the last season.
The show tries to shake things up by introducing, from my count, three separate timelines, one of which may or may not be a hallucination. I applaud the attempt to leave the regular storytelling model behind and trying something new, but all this ends up doing is confusing the hell out of the viewers while trying to force some tension into the events going on in the present. This strange bouncing between three time periods might make more sense as we go along but it didn’t really do much in terms of helping this episode.
On a positive note, Rick promised action and man, he delivered on that as the three communities banded together and executed a bold plan against Negan and the Saviors. While Rick and company looked pretty organized, Negan came off looking a bit unprepared, maybe his ego didn’t allow for the idea that someone dares come after him but whatever the reason, he looked silly. The onslaught of gunfire was like a release of frustration and anger that has been bubbling for quite some time but wasn’t there a shortage of ammunition last season? Did they find some somewhere? Does it matter?
The second part of the group’s plan, which involves a huge amount of walking dead, is also executed nicely and both parts come together just as planned. However, that’s not to say along the way some characters still make some incredibly idiotic decisions and questions that arise are just left hanging there and never answered, never mind being addressed at all. This is part of the sloppy writing and execution that seems to have carried over from last year, having some big action sequences that hopefully distract the viewers from a few other things that just don’t make a lot of sense.
One of the bigger problems from last year will also need to be addressed, hopefully soon, and that is Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is great and he’s obviously having a great time chewing up the scenery whenever he’s on screen but he has become such an overwhelming presence that he sucks the life out of everything else that is going on around him. Andrew Lincoln is doing an admirable job keeping up but that’s pretty much it. I am hoping they are not going to put a verbal leash on him by making him spout some of the nonsense he did this week, though. I want Negan bad, nasty and evil, not a cartoon character.
‘Mercy’ was definitely a mixed bag, with plenty of action and interesting ideas on storytelling bogged down with lazy writing, idiotic decisions by characters and some serious lack of focus. I’m not really sure what the plan is for this season after watching the premiere but let’s hope the overall master plan is better executed than this was.
Three out of five stars
- Some great action to kick off season eight
- I like the idea of shaking things up in terms of how the show tells a story
- Poor and lazy writing, a leftover from last year I was hoping not to see again
- Please do not make Negan into a cartoon character. Please.