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The Walking Dead – Mercy

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By: Kelly Kearney

 

Season 8 is finally here and what an EXPLOSIVE 100th episode it was. The communities have banded together to fight Negan, but the question remains do they have the numbers to take down the Saviors and their Sanctuary?  When you add zombie hordes to the mix, anything is possible.

It’s OURS BY RIGHT!

The Hilltop, The Kingdom and ASZ are gearing up for war. Aluminum siding is being broken down and affixed to vehicles like armored tanks. Everyone is working together with one common goal, being free of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). As the communities’ prep for a fight, the story jumps from one of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) inspiring speeches to Dwight (Austin Amelio) receiving messages from Daryl (Norman Reedus) via crossbow. The message reads “tomorrow” and it’s apparent Dwight has had enough of the face burning, wife stealing Negan and is now working for Rick and the anti-Savior factions.

While Rick, King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) gear up the troops with an epic pep talk that would make any war general jealous, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) are on their own mission at a local bridge. Munching on the stalest pre-apocalyptic Twizzlers she could find, Tara hides with Carol as hordes of zombies’ march under the bridge. The two women stay quiet as Carol notices a graffiti flower on the wall next to her. It’s a nice Easter egg for Peletier fans who know flowers hold a special yet complicated place in her heart. The scenes cut back and forth between war prepping, glorious speeches and finally a bizarre peek into the future that could mean trouble for Rick.

Daydreaming about his future, a grey-bearded Rick sleeps peacefully in his bed until the song ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’ rouses him awake. Instantly, it cuts to a red-eyed and shaken Rick who looks distraught, much like he was after Glenn (Steven Yeun) met Lucille. Could the fight with Negan be a flashback and a traumatized Rick is recounting the event because of some major loss? Could these daydreams of a better future be a way for him to deal with what has happened? It certainly feels that way and would explain the three stages we see of Rick. One version of Grimes is pumped and ready for a fight, the other is broken and unhinged while the third, is older and at peace. If anything, this bounce around leaves an unsettling feeling that things might not be what they seem.

THEY’RE MAKIN’ A LIST, THEY’RE CHECKIN’ IN IT TWICE…

Carl (Chandler Riggs) drives into town searching for gas and hears a noise coming from one of the abandoned cars at the station. Assuming it’s a Savior, the young Grimes pull his gun, but soon a man’s voice is heard and he sounds desperate. The stranger is hiding from people who’ve been shooting at him and claims one even threw a microwave at his head. Since he’s afraid to get out of the car, he hasn’t eaten in days and might even be hallucinating. After all that Carl’s seen he’s not about to trust the man but the stranger tries appealing to Carl’s good nature. He talks about his mother, who read to him from The Quran and taught him about helping those less fortunate. He’s hoping to make a connection with Carl and it starts to work until Rick shows up and starts shooting at the man who then takes off. Carl isn’t pleased with how his father handled the situation, but Rick assures Carl he shot over the man’s head. If he isn’t a spy, then Rick says he hopes the man survives. Carl walks off angry saying, “Hope isn’t enough these days.”

Carl’s right, the communities need more than hope to defeat Negan. That’s why it’s no surprise when the group starts killing Saviors and crossing them off a list. The first to die is a lookout guard stationed up high on a platform. Daryl sends an arrow his way knocking him off his perch, turning him into zombie snacks. One by one they kill Negan’s lookouts and location scouts. Some die in sneak attacks and others in a hail of gunfire, but one thing is obvious – the communities are clearing a path to the Sanctuary one body at a time.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU

Back at the ASZ/Hilltop/ Kingdom camp, Rick gets word from Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) that it’s thirty minutes until wartime. Rick is ready to keep his promise and kill Negan, but Father Gabe reminds him that this isn’t about Rick. Since he took the leadership role, Rick chose to make it that way. Knowing this could be his last fight, Rick heads over to his house to say goodbye to his family. First, he kisses Judith and then turns to say goodbye to Michonne (Danai Gurira) who’s still recovering from her injuries and staying behind. The couple kiss like it might be their last and then Rick moves on to say goodbye to Carl who’s staying to protect the ASZ. Rick steps into one of the vehicles and turns to Carl saying, “This is the end,” as dozens of armored cars, buses and trucks line up behind him and start the journey to the Sanctuary.

Rick’s group ascends on an open field where everyone seems in good spirits considering their walking into the lion’s den. The communities are intermingling, sharing food and good fortune, proving there are only two sides to this fight – Negan versus everyone else. Rick, Maggie and King Ezekiel take a moment to strategize and that’s when Maggie mentions fighting through her second trimester. Knowing that the Hilltop is down a doctor, Ezekiel offers Maggie the Kingdom’s when it’s time to deliver. Maggie graciously thanks the King and then turns to Rick and thanks him for teaching her all she knows about leading. He tells her Hilltop is lucky to have her and then leans in and whispers, “Next time I’m following you.” These three leaders not only have the full backing of their communities, but they also support each other, which is crucial in any fight.

RIDE IN A BLAZE OF GLORY

Over on the bridge, Tara’s timing the zombie horde as Carol, Daryl and Morgan (Lennie James) watch hoping their plan works. The horde approaches and the group take off, but not until they blow up a van to get the walkers’ attention. Next, the four set out trip wires while at the Sanctuary. Dwight hears his cue and steps back, allowing Rick’s people to kill the guards at the front gate. With nobody manning the Sanctuary’s entrance, the armored cars line up like Spartans ready to fight. A few shots are fired to grab Negan’s attention and he saunters out angry about the interruption. He throws a few barbs about Rick’s manhood and short of whipping out a tape measure and dropping ‘trou’ Negan thinks Rick doesn’t have the numbers nor the cajones to win this fight. Simon (Steven Ogg), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and three others surround Negan and Rick tells them to get back or they will die. That’s when Negan goes inside the Sanctuary and comes out with Gregory (Xander Berkeley) who says Hilltop stands with Negan! When he orders Hilltop to abandon Rick or be banished from the community, nobody leaves and they all stand behind Maggie. Now that it’s obvious Gregory has no pull with his people, Simon is outraged and kicks him down the Sanctuary steps. In the distance, an explosion is heard and Negan knows Rick is behind it considering he’s grinning like the Cheshire Cat. He tells Negan he will count to ten, plenty of time to send his henchmen to safety. Only he lies and starts pulling the trigger at seven! Chaos ensues and bullets and glass rain down on Negan and the Saviors.

At the bridge site where the explosion was set, Tara takes a bow and says it was nice doing business with Daryl, Carol and Morgan. Tara and Morgan leave as Carol and Daryl hug goodbye and admit that the plan might be dangerous, but it’s better than doing nothing. After the hug, the zombies approach a parked van and it explodes sending flames and smoke into the air for every zombie in the area to see. Daryl jumps on his bike and draws the horde’s attention by shooting barrels of gas along the road. Explosion after explosion, six in all, working like zombie sirens leads the walkers towards a specific destination. If the zombies are sheep, then Daryl Dixon is the herding dog corralling them into the pen.

Over at the Sanctuary, Rick pulls out a garage opener and detonates Glenn’s RV that Rosita (Christian Serratos) packed full of explosives last season. Negan is on the run and right when Rick gets a clear shot to take his enemy down, Father Gabriel stops him and says, “Remember, it’s not about you.” Negan gets away and Rick and his tribe leave now that the Sanctuary is on fire, overrun by walkers. Gabe stays behind when he sees Gregory in trouble and instead of taking the reverend’s help Gregory steals his car and leaves the Father behind. Having no choice but to barrel his way through zombies, Gabriel makes it inside the Sanctuary where Negan is waiting for him.

WE’VE ALREADY WON

As Rick and Daryl regroup from the fight, Carl heads to the gas station where he leaves food for the starving man his father scared off. Through the bushes the man watches as Carl leaves rations and a note, presumably offering help.

As for the war, it’s still going on thanks to Carol, Ezekiel and the Kingdomites who are pushing past the back gates now that Morgan had the guards killed. The scene is hectic and just when it seems like Carol and the crew are about to take down the Sanctuary, an explosion goes off scattering the group to the ground. The BOOM didn’t just knock Carol and the Kingdomites down, but the walls to the Sanctuary take a massive hit and thousands of walkers pour into Negan’s community.

The episode ends with series of confusing Rick Grimes time jumps. First, we see a shaken and traumatized Rick standing under a stain glass sign. Then, a flash forward to an older Judith (Kinsley Isla Dillon) having a happy life and productive and successful ASZ. The scene flips back and forth between what’s real and what’s fantasy until it finally lands on Rick giving his pre-war speech. Standing in front of the communities and readying them to fight he says, “No matter what comes next, we’ve won. We’ve already won!” Considering the state Rick’s in and the horror on his face in these time jumps, he might have won the battle, but the war is far from over.

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