After a fractured and somewhat frustrating Season 7, The Walking Dead had an absolute return to form in Sunday night's Season 8 premiere, "Mercy." Moving away from spotlighting just one or two people per episode, the premiere focused on basically every significant character, holding our attention for the duration — despite being longer than usual.
"Mercy" saw the communities of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom all come together for a rather sophisticated attack on the Sanctuary. We finally learned that Gregory had run to Negan (as expected), and were happy to see that Dwight seemed to be firmly Team Rick, operating undercover from inside the Sanctuary. Meanwhile, Carl helped a mystery survivor, Maggie basically became the official Hilltop leader — and let's not forget those totally whack flash forward scenes!
With all of that going on, we can't blame you for missing some of the smaller details of the episode. So with that in mind, take a look below to check out the five things you might have missed in #TheWalkingDead, Episode 1, "Mercy."
Warning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere below.
1. Rick Echoed Negan's Words (And Actions) From Season 7 — And Negan Was Pissed
In a subtle yet telling moment, we saw that the tables had turned in Rick's favor this episode, reflected in Rick using Negan's own phrases against him in the Season 7 premiere.
Fans will remember in that dramatic Season 7 premiere that Negan almost forced Rick to chop off Carl's hand in order to force him to acknowledge that he now answered to Negan. When Rick tried to take his son's place, Negan replied "no. This is the only way." Then, seeing Rick's reluctance to hurt his son he asked him. "Are you gonna make me count? Okay, Rick. You win. I am counting."
While ultimately Negan allowed Carl to keep his arm once he saw that he had broken Rick completely, the words obviously stayed with Rick, who used them on Negan and his men towards the end of the premiere:
Rick: "You 'lieutenants', you're gonna have to make up your minds."
Gavin: "Maybe we can take a time out here?"
Rick: "No. This has to happen now. This is the only way. You're gonna make me count? Okay. Okay. I'm counting."
I mean, the look on Negan's face when Rick uses his own lines back on him says it all really!
Oh and the final kick in the pants for Negan? When Rick snapped a picture of the destroyed Sanctuary barriers, similar to how the Saviors would take pictures of Negan's Lucille victims. Nicely done, Rick.
2. There Were A Lot Of Fun Call Backs — Including An Iconic Zombie Return
The episode was not only the Season 8 premiere, but also doubled as the series' 100th episode. And in order to celebrate, director Greg Nicotero made sure there were a ton of fun little references to the show's stand out moments woven throughout.
Fans immediately picked up on the fact that Negan repeated Shane Walsh's oft-used phrase when he said "let me ask you something, Rick" as the group arrived at the Sanctuary. The saying has been embraced by The Walking Dead online community over the years (along with "stuff and things" and "Coral!"), and Nicotero even confirmed to Comicbook.com that it was a deliberate tribute to Shane.
Meanwhile, throughout the Season 8 premiere we also saw:
- The famous orange backpack — a supporting character in the series since Season 3, Episode 12 — make a reappearance.
- A nod to Carol's famous "look at the flowers" line.
- Jesus finally acknowledge that lobster bib on the wall in his room.
- A large Virgin Mary statue which is surely a reference to Daryl and Carol's van adventure in Season 5.
- The recreation of the aerial shot from the Season 1 premiere.
Oh, and the original bunny slipper/teddy bear walker (a.k.a Summer) made a reappearance — and yes, that's the original actress Addy Miller.
3. Gregory's Downfall Is Straight From The Comics
We always knew Gregory was bad news, and after his disappearance at the end of Season 7 we strongly suspected he'd run to Negan — which is exactly what he did. After revealing that he had tattled to Negan, Gregory then told all Hilltop survivors at the Sanctuary that the Hilltop stands with Negan — and that any Hilltop resident supporting Rick will be thrown out and left to fend for themselves. However, Gregory's speech didn't exactly inspire anyone to defect, leading Simon to push Gregory down the stairs.
Gregory's literal downfall was extremely similar to how this scene played out in the comic books. In Issue 116, only a small number of Hilltop fighters left Rick's army to side with Gregory, angering Negan and leading him to kick Gregory off the roof, calling him "pathetic."
Following this scene in the comic series, Gregory returns to Hilltop and lies to Maggie about what happened at the Sanctuary; the two end up fighting and Maggie punches Gregory. Although Gregory clearly loathes Maggie and continues to undermine her leadership, he remains at the Hilltop for some time.
It will be extremely interesting to see if Gregory's story arc continues as it does in the comics, especially given what he did to Gabriel at the end of the episode. My guess is that it'll probably deviate somewhat, though how exactly remains to be seen — let me know what you think will happen to Gregory in the comments below.
4. There Were Three Or Four Timelines
Thanks to the Season 8 trailer and multiple interviews with the cast, we were well aware that we'd get a glimpse at Old Man Rick throughout the Season 8 premiere. However what we weren't prepared for was the second flash forward, giving us three timelines in Episode 1 — the present, Old Man Rick, and crying Rick. (Heck, if you count Rick's speech at the very end of the episode — which took place before the attack on the Sanctuary — I guess you could even include a fourth timeline.)
A few times throughout the episode we quickly flashed to a scene of a distraught Rick, crying somewhere near trees. Later we saw that he was crouched under a pretty piece of stained glass art, and right at the end of the episode he recites the words "my mercy prevails over my wrath" — the same Islamic phrase the mystery survivor said to Carl earlier in the episode.
The scene raises a ton of question, but chief among them is when exactly this scene is taking place. The answer that seems most likely is that the scene is from the end of the war, with Rick grieving those who were lost in the battle at a memorial that was possibly created by the mysterious survivor (who is theorized to be a character from the comics named Siddiq). While this timeline certainly wasn't focused on as much as the Old Man Rick timeline, I'm certain we can look forward to seeing more of it throughout Season 8.
5. 'Old Man Rick' Is Taking Place About Four Years In The Future
After being shown Old Man Rick in the Season 8 trailers there was a lot of speculation over what the scene was — a dream, a time jump, or something else entirely?
Well, although we apparently won't have a final answer until the around the mid-season finale, it's likely that the scene is indeed a time jump forward. In the comic series, there's a two year time jump following the war against Negan, and if the evidence from the comics wasn't enough to convince you, maybe these IMDB credit are:
According to the credits, Judith is 6 years old in the flash-forward, meaning that the scene takes place about four years in the future — if you follow this timeline. Although IMDB isn't always the most reliable source, in this instance it appears to match up pretty well. Not to mention it also explains Rick's grey hair a little better than a two year time jump would!
While some fans are suspicious that Rick and Judith are the only characters that appear to have aged — with Michonne and the back of Carl's head still looking exactly the same as they do in the present time — as far as we can tell from the events of Episode 1, all four of these characters survive the upcoming war, which is definitely encouraging.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with Episode 2 on October 29.
What did you think of The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere? Tell me in the comments below.