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The Walking Dead – Mercy Review

"A brief check-in with the show I just can't seem to quit"

So, after last season’s barrage of disappointments (with the scattering of interesting character moments and the occasional strong episode), I wrote that I was going to stop reviewing The Walking Dead, perhaps checking in on the series from time to time when it offered up a major character moment or particularly strong episode. But over the summer I heard some interesting things about what was to come. That Maggie would have an increased role in the decision making of the characters. That Carol would be back to her badass ways, and, perhaps most importantly, that she and Daryl would actually get to have conversations this season (while I don’t ship any characters on the show, those two are at their emotional best when teamed up, not separated). And that was enough to bring me back for the premiere.

It only took me a few minutes into Rick’s ridiculous opening speech to remind me why I quit the show in the first place. Don’t worry, this won’t be a treatise on Rick’s failings as a leader (although I got a big laugh when Maggie asked him to teach her to be a leader and he told her he would just as soon follow her . . . thanks for that meta moment, Scott Gimple). But it does continue to be a problem when a show’s lead character is by far its least interesting (ok, fine, Gabriel might win that competition, followed by the disaster that is Negan, but Rick is top three). We all know Rick isn’t going anywhere (if that was a flash forward, then we know Michonne, Carl, and Judith aren’t either), but Gimple and the writers need to give us a reason to root for Rick beyond “it would suck for Judith to lose him.”

Lennie James as Morgan Jones – The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

I will say that the “Attack the Saviors” plan turned out to be the best plan Rick and company have had in several seasons. It was intricate, allowed us to see characters who haven’t really worked together get to spend some time plotting, and it actually accomplished what they set out to do. Now, we know they can’t just knock off all the Saviors in one go, but I suspect the next several episodes will highlight each groups’s individual attack (which is smart plotting, allowing time to stand still for several weeks and not blow through too much story in one fell swoop). I also suspect we’ll lose some people along the way (my money is on Ezekiel being one of the early casualties). But I can handle a story arc built like this one appears to be. I also hope this structure allows for as little time with Negan and his new hostage as possible, because if Negan was bad on his own, boy will he be insufferable teamed up with Gabriel (not to mention Eugene still running around Savior headquarters).

Having said all that, I think I’m going to step back from weekly The Walking Dead reviews once again. As I mentioned in my season seven finale review, I will pop in for major moments in the series (a particularly great episode, major deaths, the mid season and season finale, whenever Negan finally gets what’s coming to him, etc.), but I just don’t have enough good things to say about the episodes on a weekly basis to justify these reviews- and I don’t think anyone really wants to read 700 words every Monday talking about what was bad about an episode of a series they still might enjoy. Considering the abilities of the cast, I know we will get some great performances when the writing manages to reach their talents, so I’m looking forward to writing about that. And, hopefully, there will be some culling of the cast that helps reshape the series into a more streamlined and focused show. I’ll be back if and when that happens.

Rating
6.5
Pros
  • The Rick plot actually worked, for once
Cons
  • Why didn't someone just shoot Negan, rather than just letting Rick make a speech?

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Meet the Author

About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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