Episode Title: “Mercy”
Air Date: October 22, 2017
In perhaps the dumbest, most frustrating hour of television I’ve seen in quite some time, Rick’s Scooby gang of buddies alongside the members of Hilltop, Alexandria and the Kingdom united to bring “all-out war” to Negan’s doorstep. Their plan consisted almost entirely of shooting the sides of buildings and cars, and making speeches. I watched the whole thing aghast at the stupidity, wondering to myself how this show became such a shambling, rotten husk; a lifeless facsimile of a once-good drama that now, were it remotely funny, might constitute a parody or a satire. How this thing is so popular is honestly beyond me.
Okay, but what actually happened?
I’ll try and break it down, but for some reason the show employed a fancy-pants nonlinear structure that flashed forwards, backwards and side-to-side for no justifiable reason, so it’s tough to figure out exactly what happened and when. Rick, Ezekiel and Maggie definitely gave a rousing speech, stood on the back of a car, addressing their assembled fighters with promises of fulfilled destinies and the beginnings of a brave new world. When I say “rousing”, I mean ridiculous. This guy’s speechifying is getting beyond a joke. You’d think he was on the campaign trail the way he carries on. Ezekiel’s manky dreads distract from all his biblical babbling, and Lauren Cohan can’t keep Maggie’s accent consistent when she shouts. All in all, this was nonsense. Which makes it all the more aggravating that we returned to it again later in the episode.
At some point in this speech, Rick makes it clear that only one Saviour has to die: Negan. And then the first stage of his plan involves his group killing all the lookouts at the Saviours’ various satellite outposts. For all his noble rabble-rousing, Rick doesn’t mean anything that he says. Hasn’t anybody noticed this? It’s probably just as well that nobody is listening to him, because his plan makes precisely no sense. It involves luring a herd of walkers to Negan’s compound and blowing open the doors with explosives. But it also involves just walking up to the front door, having a macho conversation, and then firing indiscriminately on the building.
Aren’t bullets supposed to be scarce in this world?
Apparently not. During the atrocious gunfight, all the “heroes” pump a ridiculous amount of rounds into a building, with seemingly no greater purpose than breaking all the windows. This is high-school trolling. What are they going to do next? Cover Negan in flour and chuck eggs at him? In another, similar scene, when the good guys go to take down an outpost, a Saviour runs and hides behind a car, and everyone just shoots into the side of the car. Why would they do that? Why didn’t someone just flank round and shoot the guy?
None of this should matter. I had no issue with people time-travelling and teleporting in the latest season of Game of Thrones. But The Walking Dead is explicitly a show about a group of people surviving in a harsh, unforgiving, ravaged world. The logistics are important, because the logistics are supposed to be everything. How many great scenes has this show built around the scarcity of resources and the desperate, fraught fight for space, for food, for transport, medicine, shelter? Too many to count. But none in this episode, where everyone used cheat codes to fire assault weapons relentlessly at stationary targets that couldn’t fire back. This isn’t just wasteful, but it’s meaningless. No goals were furthered. Nothing was gained. It just made everyone look like absolute morons.
But did the plan work?
I don’t even know what the plan was, so who knows? It should have worked, because here’s what should have happened: When Negan swanned out into the open, flanked by the cowardly Eugene and the traitorous Dwight, everyone should have shot him. He was stood right there. He gave a speech in which he compared the size of his dick to the size of Rick’s. And everyone just let him talk. Then they started shooting, all with the accuracy of Original Trilogy Stormtroopers. There’s no good explanation for this. He was right there. And Negan’s incredibly smug about his own plot, which is to… force Gregory to tell the members of Hilltop to stand down. Honestly, that’s it. He thought that would work.
All this accomplished was undermining the heroes and the villains. Everyone involved in this looked stupid. How can you build any dramatic stakes on this? Why would you care about the outcome, or who lives and dies? I found myself just hoping that someone would fly over and nuke it all, and that was before Father Gabriel tried to help a snivelling Gregory by, and I kid you not, getting out of his car, chasing him, shouting at him, and then helplessly watching Gregory run over to the car he arrived in and drive off in it.
I mean… anything else?
Yes! So, at various points, the episode flashes presumably forwards to a couple of contrasting scenes. The first is Rick, in extreme close-up, all sad and stubbly and crying. The second is Rick as a kindly old man, with a long Old Testament beard. He wakes up, kisses Michonne, hugs Carl, and pats a toddler Judith on the head. It all has that fuzzy filter that typically gets applied to dreams, which one suspects it is, as The Walking Dead does not trade in happy, idyllic futures. It’s pointless, then. Completely. It sits there as a way to build mystery, as though it’s any kind of realistic possibility. “Wow, will Rick and Michonne be able to settle down and raise children and become farming village chieftains?” Of course they ******* won’t. I’m insulted that the showrunners thought we’d buy into such flagrant drivel.
The point of this, I suspect, is to hint at Judith’s upcoming death. The old Noah’s Ark Rick is the version he’s imagining, wistfully, while the red-eyed, sobbing Rick is the real one, all torn up about the loss of his daughter and wishing she’d survived so they could grow crops together. All bullshit. There’s every chance I’m wrong and nothing will come of this, but if such a fate comes to pass for the Grimes family I want it to be known that I called it.
Was there anything you liked?
There’s a scene in which Carl looks for gas that is quite effectively tense, and it calls back to a similar scene in the show’s pilot episode that had me wishing we could go back to those innocent times when The Walking Dead was a show about the walking dead.
Should we keep watching?
Nothing about this premiere suggested to me that The Walking Dead has plans to be anything other than absolute horseshit this season, so I’d suggest not. Then again people still seem to be really into this rubbish, so it’s clear that a large portion of its demographic is as phenomenally stupid as its characters. Luckily, they won’t have read this far.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.