‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8 Debut Recap ‘Mercy’: All Out War

In ‘The Walking Dead’ recap for the season 8 debut, Rick leads the communities against Negan and the Saviors as the war begins…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

A season living under the thumb of Negan and the Saviors has given way to an iconic storyline from ‘The Walking Dead’ comics known as ‘All Out War’.

And that’s where season eight of ‘The Walking Dead’ will begin and end.

After watching two of his friends — Glenn and Abraham — get their brains bashed in during the season 7 premiere, Rick Grimes became a servant to his new overlord Negan, following his every command out of fear that he would kill someone else. It took a lot of punishment over the course of the season but Rick finally figured out that no amount of canned goods, guns or supplies was going to satisfy Negan and it might be better to fight and die than to live and serve.

So with the help of the Hilltop and the Kingdom coming together with the Alexandria Safe Zone, Rick launched his offensive against Negan and the Saviors and that’s where this season will take place.

Of course, the debut episode — which just so happened to be No. 100 overall — also paid homage to the original pilot as well as some iconic scenes throughout the history of the show. The biggest of course was Carl looking for gas in a mirror image of the scene from the pilot after Rick Grimes wakes up from his coma and walks out into a new world where the dead outnumber the living. Another shot sees Carol sitting on the highway next to a spray-painted image of a flower — a memorable moment from her history when she told a demented little girl to look at the flowers just before shooting her dead.

There were also several time jumps in the episode with hints about what’s to come this season. Nothing was made exactly clear by the end of the episode, but we’ll do our best to make sense of it all — or at least as much as we know!

With that said, let’s recap the season 8 premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’ titled ‘Mercy’…

The March to War

Bill Pullman would be proud of the speech put together by Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel as they fire up their troops as the march to war begins against Negan and the Saviors. After living to serve the barbed-wire baseball bat wielding leader for quite some time, the citizens in Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom are ready to fight and take back this world that always belonged to them in the first place. There are several shots of people connecting with others in the various communities while Rick has a solemn moment while standing near the graves marked for Glenn and Abraham.

As the rousing speech comes to an end, Rick says that he be leading now but as they march off to war, he tells Maggie that when this is all over, he’ll be following her.

As Rick and the others get the troops ready for the battle ahead, we see several scenes unfolding that will help launch this initial offensive against Negan and his stronghold at the Sanctuary.

Daryl exchanges messages with Dwight through a series of arrows being shot back and forth between the two of them. It’s clear now that the message at the end of last season that said “didn’t know” was from Dwight as he had no idea that a deal had been struck between the Saviors and the Scavengers led by Jadis when the confrontation happened at Alexandria. Dwight finally decided to turn against Negan and act as the man inside for Rick and the other groups but trust is at a minimum.

From the look of things, Daryl is now on the same page with Dwight as he gave up all of the lookout locations for the Saviors between Alexandria and the Sanctuary.

Systematically, Rick and the survivors take out each one of them — some more gruesome than others — as they clear a path for a caravan of vehicles that will eventually land at the Sanctuary’s front doorstep ready for an attack.

Meanwhile, Carol and Tara are carefully monitoring a herd of walkers slowly tumbling in the right direction where they will eventually lead them towards the Sanctuary. The plans Rick and the others have concocted today will need to play out with surgical precision, but if it all works, this will strike a major blow at Negan and his compound, which have remained untouched throughout his tyrannical rule.

After bolting metal plates to their vehicles to serve as bulletproof protection, Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel lead their troops to Negan’s front door, arming up and preparing to open fire. When Negan finally emerges, he doesn’t seem too worried about the army sitting outside his front door despite his best efforts to keep the location of his home a secret ever since he first arrived.

Negan is flanked by his “generals” — Simon, Dwight, Gavin, Regina and Eugene, the traitor who still seems to be betting big on his new leader — as he confronts Rick sitting just outside his front door. Rick offers up a chance for almost everyone to walk away from this unscathed — he will give amnesty to all of Negan’s soldiers so long as they surrender right now. This is a one time offer and won’t be given again.

The only person who has no chance to survive this is Negan himself.

Rick has already promised that he will die by his own hand and that’s the only person who has to die during this war. Rick proclaims his desire to end Negan several times during the episode, which plays back into a larger narrative of a line he speaks towards the end, which we’ll get to later.

Negan believes he’s got his ace in the hole, however, when Gregory emerges from inside the Sanctuary before shouting out orders to the members of the Hilltop, who have assembled as part of this rebellious army. Gregory tells them to lay down their weapons and go home or they will be cast out of the Hilltop as will their famlies.

What Gregory probably fails to realize is that the Hilltop no longer follows him. They follow Maggie — a fact that Jesus points out when Gregory won’t stop blabbering while doing his best to impress Negan. Gregory’s failure ends with Simon pushing him off the platform as he realizes that he put far too much time into this losing effort.

From there the gunshots begin as Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel begin an all out assault on the Sanctuary compound while Negan and the rest of his troops run for cover.

Walk This Way

While Rick, Maggie and the rest of the troops are firing away at the Sanctuary, Daryl, Carol, Tara and Morgan have carefully laid out traps and begun leading a herd towards Negan’s compound.

Two cars sent out as scouts from the Sanctuary are blown up thanks to a tripwire attached to explosives by Morgan and Carol. Meanwhile, Daryl carefully leads the herd back to the compound by letting off a series of explosions along the road so the dead will follow the noise and continue to rumble their way towards the compound.

Morgan still looks somewhat conflicted as he kills several people along the road, but he knows this is a necessary evil if he wants to eliminate Negan and the threat he represents.

After taking out the scouts sent by Negan and leading the herd to follow Daryl, Morgan, Carol and Tara head towards another Savior outpost that they plan to eliminate as part of this massive strike on the first day of the war.

Back at the Sanctuary, Negan and his generals have fled the front lines as the firing continues until the herd descends upon all of them. That’s when Father Gabriel and Rick take a page out of the Governor’s playbook with a battering ram RV that crashes through the front gates of the Sanctuary that allows the herd to pour in like rats through a hole in the wall.

Rick happens to spot Negan dive behind a wall and he can’t help but open fire with his machine gun as he tries to take him out before this war gets any worse. The dead are really starting to pile up and it’s Father Gabriel who has to pull Rick away while reminding him of a very important tenet that he told the groups when they first decided to go on this journey with him. The war wasn’t about following Rick or Rick’s mission for revenge. This was for their very freedom, to take back what has been taken from them.

Rick wakes up thanks to the wise words from Gabriel and he gives up his assault in an attempt to get Negan as the troops begin to pull away and leave the Sanctuary to deal with his horde of the undead.

Old Man Rick

The episode flashes between several cut aways outside of the main fighting taking place, most notably a scene that takes place in the future after the war has been won.

Rick Grimes is waking up in his bed, a little grayer with a much bigger beard and also walking with a cane. He overslept because somebody turned his alarm off but thankfully he’s got a young daughter who loves playing the Weird Al Yankovic song “Another One Rides the Bus” on repeat and no one is sleeping through that.

Rick hobbles downstairs where he kisses Michonne before he’s greeted by his daughter Judith, who is much older now as well. She’s excited about the Harvest Festival taking place outside and as Rick looks out his front door, he sees a community thriving with the sun shining and everybody happy. It’s a much different look from what Rick has seen since the first day he met Negan.

Now for those of you who don’t read the comics, you may not want to hear this next part as this could be spoilers — although the show doesn’t necessarily subscribe to follow the source material exactly.

Following the end of ‘All Out War’ in the comics, the story flashes forward two years with Rick now using a cane after a wound he took during the fighting and he’s leading the Alexandria community, which is a much different place than the one that did battle with Negan and the Saviors.

It certainly seems like this is the plan for the series as well with a flash forward in time after the ‘All Out War’ story is finished and this also plays into a hint from the final few moments in this episode that seems to allude to Rick and Negan’s future as well.

Poo Poo Pants City

As Rick and his troops fall back, Gabriel is just about to drive off when he sees a desperate Gregory trying to flee from the zombies. As we all know, Gregory is a massive coward, who can’t even kill a zombie much less get away from them without somebody saving his life. As much as Gabriel would like to leave him to become a snack for the undead, he can’t in good conscience abandon someone in need. So Gabriel helps to save Gregory while telling him to wait for the right moment to flee to the car so they can escape.

Sadly, Gabriel’s good deed is turned on its head when Gregory runs away immediately, leaving him behind as he jumps in the car and drives away. Gabriel is left to fend for himself as he rushes around the compound, trying to find any open door that will give him sanctuary away from the hordes of walkers pouring in.

Finally, Gabriel finds a handle that opens as he jumps inside a trailer but he’s soon greeted by an ominous voice asking if he wore his “shitting pants” because he’s going to be shitting his pants real soon. The other person in that trailer is none other than Negan and it looks like he’s finally got a hostage that Rick might be willing to bargain for.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel, Carol and Morgan launch an offensive on one of Negan’s outposts when the last man standing there ignites a grenade as they open fire. While the scene cuts away as smoke fills the screen, it sure seemed like Negan’s soldier set off some sort of smoke bomb and then unleashed the zombies he had stashed inside the medical facility that was serving as a Savior outpost. Earlier in the episode we saw the door to that same facility moving with something behind it. Rick may have gotten the best of Negan at the Sanctuary but it’s foolish to believe that he wouldn’t have some sort of counter attack planned. Ezekiel, Carol and several more might get caught up in wave of a walker attack thanks to Negan’s strategy.

Throughout the end of this episode, we also see a close up of Rick’s eyes as he gives another part of the speech that rallies the troops before leaving Alexandria. Now I think this is purposefully confusing as they may be two different time periods.

The speech is a flashback to the group just before they launch the offensive against the Sanctuary but perhaps the view of Rick with tears in his eyes is something from later in the season. The reason for this educated guess goes back to Carl’s interaction with that stranger at the gas station that mirrored the pilot episode in the series.

After Rick ran off the desperate man looking for food, Carl wondered if perhaps they shouldn’t have offered to help him. So Carl goes back to that same spot, leaves two cans of food and a note that said ‘sorry’ as the man stares back at him while hidden in the bushes away from the gas station. The man appears to be a character from the comic books named Siddiq, who may play a pivotal role in the future.

It was Siddiq who was quoting the Quran while pleading for help and Rick also utters a line from the book towards the end of the episode.

“My mercy prevails over my wrath.”

Throughout the debut, Rick declares in no uncertain terms that Negan will die by his hands and that’s the same promise he made more than a season ago when he first ran into the Saviors at full force when Glenn and Abraham were killed. Rick has made it clear that he’s willing to offer mercy to those who throw down their arms and give up the war, but the only one who will receive no such amnesty is Negan.

Perhaps this plays to a larger morality that Rick may need to discover during this fight for survival. Is it better to be merciful to show that some sense of humanity still survives or is wrath the only way we know how to live these days?

That’s a question only Rick will be able to answer as All Out War unfolds this season.

‘The Walking Dead’ returns with a brand new episode next Sunday night at 9pm ET on AMC.

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