The Walking Dead: Mercy

"May my mercy prevail over my wrath."

I found this episode enjoyable, but unsatisfying. When I started to organize my thoughts and write about it, all I had were questions.

Like, what was the plan?

This is the one hundredth episode of the series, and I thought it would culminate in something big: killing or capturing Negan, our guys taking over the Sanctuary – something that would make us feel good. Instead, I kept wondering what the point of this attack was.

Not that it wasn't cool. It was tremendous fun with the Mission: Impossible-ish synchronized watches, the cars with the homemade armor, the systematic removal of Negan's lookouts, Daryl on his motorcycle blowing up stuff to draw the walkers, the countdown by Rick that stopped at only seven, the Sanctuary windows crumbling, the Dale Horvath memorial RV exploding. And I loved the wonderful pre-battle pep talk by our three leaders: Rick, Ezekiel, Maggie, which, coincidentally, was how season seven ended. There were so many cool moments of supporting characters working together, hugging each other, reminding us that while Negan's coalition is all about fear and punishment, our guys from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom are all about love, peace and the possibility of a real future together.

All I wanted after losing Glenn, Abraham and Sasha last season was something positive, even a suggestion that there could be a happy ending for these people we've been following for so long, and at first, I thought that was what we were getting. But then I wasn't so sure. Because....

What exactly was that flashforward thingy?

Rick was older and much grayer and walking with a cane. Little Judith was six (according to IMDb). Weird Al Yankovic was playing ("Another One Rides the Bus") and Michonne turned off the alarm so that Rick could sleep in before an important day. Very nice.

But then I realized that we were getting those flashforwards right after seeing a close-up of a devastated Rick with red eyes. While Rick was way too much older considering it was only three or four years, Michonne wasn't. (Not sure about Carl since we only got a glimpse of him.) What was this? A future Rick dreamed of, but isn't going to get? Rick overcome by grief?

I think they were telling us that one of the three people Rick loves the most won't survive the season. While I know a main feature (or more accurately, a "mean" feature) of this show is the revolving cast, that the characters we love die because this world is so dangerous, I don't think I could handle the deaths of either Michonne or Carl. And losing Judith, even though we don't really know her as a character, would be way too depressing since she's been a symbol of hope for so long.

Will it be Carl? One of the lookouts Rick killed said he'd seen Rick begging, and that Rick's son was going to die. Rick was so pissed he let the guy get eaten, but it seemed like foreshadowing to me.

The preparations for the "Festival" and the huge owl statue didn't make sense, either. It reminded me of poor Sam and his owl sculpture. Actually, there were other moments that made me think of earlier episodes, too: the walker approaching Rick that looked like the little girl he had to shoot in the pilot episode, the obvious shot of the dumpster as a reminder of what happened to Glenn. (If they were deliberately evoking bits of previous episodes, I probably missed a few of them.) The last bit with red-eyed Rick showed him looking up at a stained glass window and saying, "My mercy prevails over my wrath." I'm confused.

Why didn't Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel's guys shoot Negan and his lieutenants? 

Rick even pointed out all of Negan's lieutenants by name and told them to make up their minds, which had the added advantage of reminding the audience of who was who. Dwight is already Rick's double agent. Gavin was oddly sympathetic during his interactions with the Kingdom. Simon seems to identify strongly with Negan, to the point of imitating him. Regina is an unknown quantity. And Eugene is a traitor. Or is he? Yeah, sure, don't hit Dwight and possibly Eugene, but why not kill them all? They were standing right there!

Negan kept acting like he had the upper hand, like he had the advantage with vastly superior numbers. What sort of counter-attack does Negan have planned?

Did they promote Seth Gilliam to the main credits just to kill him off?

I thought Gregory was toast. Gregory deserves to be toast. Instead, a moment of compassion on Father Gabriel's part, and Gregory is off, quite probably to make what's left of the Hilltop into a Negan satellite campus, while Gabriel is stuck in a trailer with Negan while walkers are overrunning the Sanctuary.

Seth Gilliam (and Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron) are in the opening credits now. Why would they promote Seth Gilliam only to have Negan beat Father Gabriel to death? I guess that makes as much sense as the rest of the episode.

Bits:

-- Dwight and Daryl communicating by arrow was hilarious. Especially since Daryl deliberately used that arrow to flatten the tire of Dwight's motorcycle.

-- The homeless, hungry man at the gas station who was quoting the Quran and begging for food must have been at the end of his rope. His presence brought up the eternal Walking Dead question. Do they feed him, which is what Carl did? What if they take him in and he's evil?

-- The shot of the walkers and their shadows beneath Carol and Tara's perch on the overpass made them look like scuttling roaches.

-- "In memory of John Bernecker." The stuntman who died on set this summer. "In memory of George Romero." The late king of the zombie genre.

Quotes:

Rick: "There's only one person that has to die. And I will kill him myself."
And yet, a lot of Negan's lookouts died in this episode, didn't they?

Aaron: "Are you praying?"
Eric: "I always meant to start. Better late than never."

Jerry: (to Enid) "Dude? Sternum. Duuuuuuddde?"
Lol.

Maggie: "I need to be there, at least for the first part. They say you can wage war through the second trimester."

Rick: "Hilltop's lucky to have you."
Maggie: "You showed me how to be someone worth following."
Rick: "Good. After this, I'm following you."

Gregory: (to the attackers from the Hilltop) "Go home now or you won't have a home to go back to."
Jesus: "All I have at the Hilltop are a bunch of books and an old lobster bib."

Gregory: "Hilltop stands with..."
Jesus: "The Hilltop stands with Maggie!"

Rick: "He stopped to get me."
Daryl: "How's that?"
Rick: "Negan. He was on the ground, I was trying to kill him and Gabriel stopped to get me. We gotta start out."
Daryl: "You all right?"
Rick: "This isn't about me."
What did this mean? And why did Rick stop to take a Polaroid, of all things?

This was a beautifully filmed episode full of enjoyable action sequences and personal moments, but I wish it hadn't been so ambiguous with such obvious foreshadowing. Maybe the hundredth episode should have been the season seven finale, which was awesome and included tiger attacks.

Three out of four message arrows,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.

6 comments:

Guillermo Alvarez said...

Well, we're back now! And I do think I've got the general idea as to a few questions.
As for the plan and why Negan didn't get shot/the shooting at the windows, it's all about dissent. If they kill Negan right there, someone such as Simon could take over and turn Negan into a martyr figure for the Saviors. And keeping his lieutenants alive but trapped in a building with broken windows and a giant herd around it is just a recipe for chaos within the Sanctuary.
They follow Negan because of the sense of security and power he provides, and that's not even getting into the people who work for points who don't exactly have the happiest of lives. The objective isn't kill all the saviors, but rather cut off their supply lines and make the majority inside the Sanctuary turn on Negan. That's probably the reason for Rick taking the photo as well.

Gabriel dying? I doubt it. I have the feeling Negan will keep him around for leverage against Rick at some point. Besides, considering they're both trapped together and surrounded by walkers, I do think they'll be forced to work together to get out of there even if Gabriel ends up a prisoner after that, they don't really have many options.

As for Future Rick, I think that can be considered a flash... forward and sideways? I suspect we'll see that scene again in the season finale but with Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" instead of Weird Al's parody to show us what it really is, as well as red eyed Rick with proper context. I've this feeling that it won't be any of the 3 most important people, but I do think it'll have something to do with the man at the gas station who brought up that quote from the Quran that Rick likely heard before scaring him off. He'll be playing a huge role, that's for sure. And also important: The credits listed Judith at the end as "6 year old Judith", so that gives us a timeframe. Regardless, I do think it's some interesting stuff and it'll take shape throughout the season.

Whew, this was long. But hey, there was a fair amount to talk about. See you next week for the next one!

Billie Doux said...

Guillermo Alvarez, excellent comment. I hope you're right that Rick won't be losing one of those three people that mean the most to him. I think I'm reaching the point in my Walking Dead fan journey where I'm getting very tired of characters dying. Couldn't we have a season where only the bad guys die? :)

Henrik Bennetter said...

Nope.

Just...nope.

I thought I'd give this a chance as well, but nope.

Suddenly all I can see is bad scripts, bad directing, terrible overacting and uneccesarily convoluted ways to put "our" people in danger.

I mean. Really? The Rick has a long speech about them being the good guys and then plain MURDERS lookouts but DOESN'T shoot Negan (who instead gets to be really "cool" and Negan-y to Gabriel, yes I'm being ironic. JDM's Negan is now a parody of Negan. Why yes, I DO have my sh****ng pants on, thankyou very much!) :D

Speaking of murdering the lookouts, it just doesn't fit into the narrative. The last time they were SUPER-organized they got completely obliterated because of Negans sheer number of Negans and the fact that they were just pushing them into a trap. Why not now suddenly?
It makes no sense.

And don't even get me started on the flashforward or who's going to die. I really do. not. care. anymore.

(Wow, I've really turned into a grumpy old man here. Sorry. Billie, I really hope this show continues to tickle your fancy, really really. And I promise I won't continue to moan and groan about it.)

Patryk said...

I wonder, did we really need foreboding foreshadowing all episode long that won't materialize probably until the end of the season? We already expect the worst to happen in every scene because the show conditioned us for it.

If I were father Gabriel I would shoot Negan in the face at the end there, probably just because I would be startled by him suddenly speaking, lol. Screw Gregory btw...

TheShadowKnows said...

I'm not buying there was any good reason not to just shoot Negan as soon as he idiotically wandered into their gun sights. Negan doesn't tolerate underlings with any kind of spine, so there wouldn't be any natural leader to take his place. Most likely, his death would mean a Savior civil war over the spoils, which could only have helped Rick and his allies. Even if the Saviors held together, it would be under a weaker leader (since, again, all of the Saviors are spineless bootlickers). The scene was just poorly thought out; Negan should have addressed Rick's crew from inside the building, not giving them a clear shot. The fact that Rick's people had a clear shot, and didn't take it, makes them look incredibly stupid.

And if Simon was really a potential threat as a successor, they could have shot him too; he was standing right there. In fact, why not shoot all of them, with the possible exceptions of Dwight and Eugene? They didn't hesitate to kill random sentries, but they worried about leaving Negan's brutal lieutenants alive? It's stupid.

(I was reminded of the scene from Serenity where The Operative said, "I came here unarmed-" and Mal said, "Good" and shot him. Except Mal was smart and Rick was - once again - incredibly stupid.)

Billie Doux said...

TheShadowKnows, yes. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me. The conversation Rick had at the end with Daryl suggested that the plan was for Rick to stay behind and surreptitiously kill Negan but that Father Gabriel nixed it by making sure Rick got out. If that was the case, maybe they should have emphasized it more. Maybe the Alexandria/Kingdom/Hilltop coalition wants to turn Negan's lieutenants and foment rebellion, as Guillermo said in his comment.

Henrik, I do understand where you're coming from, even if I'm not there yet.