Tonight is “Mercy,” the premiere episode for Season 8 of The Walking Dead. This will definitely be a huge episode, as it’s kicking off an “all out war” focus for the season. Negan and Rick are going to face off, and it won’t be pretty.
When we left off at the end of Season 7, Sasha had died — she sacrificed her life to give Rick’s group a chance against Negan. With the help of Maggie and The Hilltop crew, and Ezekiel and The Kingdom crew, they were able to drive Negan and The Saviors away — despite The Junkyard group’s betrayal. Now they’re ready to end it all, once and for all.
This post will have spoilers through the Season 8 premiere. We will be updating this post with a recap and review of the show live as it airs. So keep coming back for more details about what happens tonight.
The 100th episode begins with a montage of Rick. He’s standing in present day, but we also see a cane leaning against a wall, and flowers, with music playing in the background. The scene cuts back and forth.
Now we’re at The Hilltop community, as residents build and prepare for the next clash.
We see Dwight, and an arrow lands near him.
We see Tara and Carol, on watch.
We go back to Rick. “When I first met him, Jesus said that my world was going to get a whole lot bigger. Well we found that world. We found each other. That bigger world is ours by right. We’ve come together for it, all of us. … It’s ours by right.” He’s addressing a large group.
Dwight reads a note.
Carol and Tara are still on watch.
“Those who use and take and kill to carve out a world and make it theirs alone, we end them. We don’t celebrate it. We don’t have shame about it either. There’s only one person who has to die, and I will kill him myself. I will. I will.”
Dwight leaves a note in an arrow. It looks like he’s still spying for Rick’s team while being at The Sanctuary. He shoots the note to Daryl, who’s waiting.
Rick’s speech continues.
It’s 10:28, Tara notes, while she and Carol are waiting. Carol sees a drawing of a flower near where she’s seated, on watch.
Ezekiel: “He today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. Or she today, my sister.” Shiva roars as he waits in Ezekiel’s truck.
Maggie: “We’ve practiced… We all know the plan doesn’t end this morning. … We have to keep our faith in each other. If we can hold on to that with everything we have, the future is ours. The world is ours.”
Ezekiel, Rick, and Maggie are addressing the crowd.
The scene goes back to Carol and Tara, who are seated on an overpass as a huge horde of zombies move underneath.
We next see Rick, outside at a graveside, waiting, thinking.
And we’re back at the cane. The flowers. The watch (8:21). The flowers. And we see an older Rick with a long grey beard waking up in bed. The scene shifts to young Rick opening bloodshot eyes.
And we’re at the opening. The familiar intro music playing. This will be a great season.
After the commercial break, we see a van driving down the highway, slowing to a stop. Carl steps out. He’s carrying a gas can to a run down gas station. Someone is talking to him that we can’t see. “My mom said that helping the traveler, the person without a home, that’s everything… You don’t trust people, I get it. I don’t either. I’ve been through things too… My mom also said may my mercy prevail over my wrath… That’s from the Koran. I don’t even know you, but I haven’t eaten in a few days, and you might not even be real.”
Carl finds him and holds a gun on him.
“I just wanted some… even some food.”
Someone else shoots at the man. It’s Rick.
“We’re supposed to meet at the intersection,” Rick says, explaining that he shot over his head. “He could have been one of them.”
Carl: “There’s not going to be enough Dad… Enough hope.”
We see someone crossing off a list of lookouts, the first one a platform. It’s Daryl. Next he crosses off “Neighborhood.” Now Morgan takes someone out, and someone crosses out another location on the lookouts list.
Rick is looking over the list. He looks very nervous, shaken up.
Gabriel to Rick: “30 minutes. Everybody’s ready. Are you?”
Rick insists what they’re doing isn’t about him. Gabriel: “Yes, it isn’t you made it like that.”
Tara’s watch reads 7:49. She’s on lookout with Carol. Daryl arrives on his motorcycle.
We see Rick kissing a much older Judith, with short blonde hair. He kisses Michonne and hugs Carl. “This is the end of it,” he promises Carl. We don’t know what the plan is, but it’s about to go down in a big way He drives off with a group of armored vehicles behind him, leaving Carl and Rosita and Michonne behind in Alexandria. Michonne tells Carl: “I’ll help you defend this place… This is your show.”
Rick takes out a Savior. While he lays dying, he struggles to tell Rick it won’t work. “Your boy’s gonna die.”
“Overgrown Road House” is marked off the list of lookouts that are being cleared, by Rick, as he lets a zombie eat the Savior.
Rick gives the all clear sign to his convoy.
All these stealth kills are leading to something…something that Rick is hoping will bring an end to the war with Negan.
After the next commercial break, we see Rick’s convoy continuing on its way as the sun sets. They’re meeting with people from The Kingdom and The Hilltop.
Maggie tells Rick, “They say you can wage war through the second trimester… Just one more fight. I’m gonna be there, at least for the first part.”
Ezekiel tells Maggie they have a doctor, since the Hilltop lost theirs to the Saviors. Jesus lets him know they’ll get theirs back. Ezekiel agrees. “Let’s get started.”
Maggie tells Rick that he showed her how to be someone worth following. Rick said, “Good. After this, I’m following you.”
Now it’s 7:50, according to Tara’s watch. Carol, Daryl, and Morgan are with her at the highway. Tara counts down, but nothing happens. Tara says “Sh**.” (This is the one or two only profanities the show is allowed per season.)
That’s when a zombie horde arrives. Almost right on time. A van blows up, drawing the horde’s attention.
Meanwhile at the Sanctuary, a number of cars are leaving after hearing the explosion. They don’t think it’s Rick’s group, but they’re checking it out.
Daryl has a chain set up across a road. Now Daryl, Carol, Tara, and Morgan are on a bridge overlooking a road, waiting.
Meanwhile, it looks like part of Rick’s group is arriving at the Sanctuary, now that some people left to check out the explosion. Rick fires his gun. Maggie, Ezekiel, Jesus, Aaron, and others are with them, right outside the Sanctuary, waiting.
Negan steps outside with Lucille. “Well, sh**. Sorry. I was in a meeting.” (Note: It looks like the show may be using up their quota of sh**s for the season in Episode 1.)
We break to a commercial.
After the commercial, we see Rick again with bloodshot eyes. Then we’re in the hospital again, with an older Rick in bed. He has a crew cut and a grey beard. He gets up — OK, he’s not in a hospital bed. He’s in a room with Michonne, walking with a cane.
Now we’re back at present day. Negan’s addressing the group. “I’m not exactly feeling a reason for us to throw lead at each other…” He’s not going to let his people die over this, like Rick’s about to, he says. “So Rick, what the hell can I do for you?”
Rick: “You find the Saviors inside, all of you have a chance to survive here, to survive this. Y’all can live if you surrender. Can’t guarantee it any time but now, right now.”
Eugene is not happy about this.
We’re back at Carol’s scene. A lone walker wanders in. Morgan has to kill it before it sets something off.
Negan: “That sounds like a good deal. What about me Rick?”
Rick: “I told you twice. You know what’s gonna happen.”
Negan: “You have no idea the sh** that’s about to go down.”
Negan’s doubting Rick has the numbers to win the fight. The scene is tense. Negan is incredibly confident and not worried at all about Rick’s move.
That’s when he reveals Gregory is with him. We now know exactly where Gregory went in Episode 15 of Season 7. Gregory announces that the Hilltop stands with Negan, and any resident who supports Rick’s plan won’t be welcome and their families will be thrown out.
But can Gregory really claim this? Maggie’s the true leader of The Hilltop at this point, not Gregory. He seems to be relying too much on the idea that people are still loyal to him.
No one in the group is taking Gregory up on his offer. Jesus announces that the Hilltop will stand with Maggie.
Well, that’s not good for Gregory. But it’s not going to affect Negan’s confidence at all.
This is a masterful episode so far. The transitions between present day and Rick’s future self are done just right. It’s a tense episode, and we’re not sure what’s going to happen.
Rick and Negan continue talking. Rick is not backing down and he’s not waiting.
“You’re gonna make me count?” Rick starts a countdown for Negan.
Negan’s still confident.
And Rick starts shooting at seven. That was perfect.
As we break for another commercial, this really feels like a perfect season opener. Two strong personalities, facing off, neither backing down. Who will walk away the victor?
The only thing that could make this episode better would be if it were longer than an hour.
During the commercial break, we saw a webisode preview about #RedMachete. Guess that’s the machete Rick used to kill Gareth, but were we really waiting on an origin story for it?
Next we’re back. Negan will survive this initial onslaught of bullets, of course. The windows, however, have been killed.
Everyone in Carol’s group is heading off to their locations. Carol gives Daryl a hug and asks him to be careful, setting off Caryl shippers everywhere.
We’re back at The Sanctuary and then we cut back to Daryl. Then we cut to Rick’s group, who’s falling back. Daryl’s leading a crowd of zombies on his motorcycle like he’s done before. He sets off an explosion to make sure they follow him. He’s setting off explosions every few feet.
The horde is following him.
Daryl’s an expert Walker Herder these days.
A giant explosion. The screen goes black.
Next we see Negan running from the sanctuary, limping. Rick’s shooting at him and Negan is shooting back.
Gabriel stops Rick: “We have to leave now.”
Rick takes a photo of the Sanctuary. Maybe because the Saviors used to take photos of all their kills?
The horde is arriving.
Gabriel is taking off and sees Gregory. He gets out of his truck while the horde is close behind… Wait, why? This was not a smart idea. “You just have to wait for our move,” he tells Gregory, unwisely. Gabriel has a soft spot for weak people, since he was once weak too, but it will be his undoing.
Gregory takes off without Gabriel and gets into the truck that Gabriel was driving.
Gabriel doesn’t have a way to escape now.
And Gregory’s one of the most-hated characters in The Walking Dead universe at the moment.
After the commercial break, we see Carl walking alone, unpacking his bag. He takes out cans of food with a note, “Sorry,” that he’s leaving for the guy that Rick scared off at the beginning of the episode. The man sees him leave the food.
Now we’re back after the battle. Ezekiel sees Carol and nods respectfully at her, smiling big.
Daryl’s with Rick. “We could wait some more.” Rick, “We can’t. He stopped to get me…” They’re talking about Gabriel.
Daryl asks if Rick’s all right, and Rick says it isn’t about him.
Now Carol and company are infiltrating Paze Industrial Research, likely one of the Saviors’ satellite locations. Someone sets off an unexpected explosion. There’s smoke everywhere. We can’t see what’s happening.
Meanwhile, the walkers are infiltrating the Sanctuary and taking it over. A giant horde is streaming inside. And Gabriel is caught. He’s trying to escape and manages to get into a building to hide.
Negan’s in there too.
“I hope you’ve got your sh***ing pants on,” Negan tells him, menacingly, as if he has some kind of plan for Gabriel. Or maybe he just knows the situation is really, really bad.
The camera pans out, showing us that the Sanctuary is overrun by thousands of zombies.
Now we’re back in Rick’s future vision. Judith is older. Michonne is there. They go outside to see a big owl.
Outside, we see a beautiful landscape. People everywhere.
Now we’re back to the presence. Rick has bloodshot eyes and he’s looking around. “Have mercy,” he says. It’s unclear… Is he hallucinating this vision of the future?
Then we’re back at Rick’s speech, where he’s encouraging everyone to fight the Saviors. “We’ve already won,” he shouts, raising a fist to the sky. Everyone shouts in agreement.