The Walking Dead season 8 begins exactly where it ended in season 7 as Rick Grimes and the other surviving gangs gear up for their final showdown with Negan, the sadist leader of the Saviors. Titled Mercy, the first episode of the eighth season also marked the 100th of the show.
While there wasn't much plot improvement as such, the highlight of the episode was an empowering speech by Rick, who is still struggling with his personal vengeance with Negan and the group's welfare. "When I first met him, Jesus said my world was going to get a whole lot bigger. Well, we found that world. We found each other. That 'bigger world' is ours by right," he told his people.
Speaking about his character's powerful speech, Andrew Lincoln has told Entertainment Weekly that the first episode is only just the "calm before the storm," and that Rick and his team is "already liberated" from the fearful shadow of the Saviors when they fought with them in the finale of the seventh season.
The highlight of Rick's speech was the three stages shown in between — in one he was waging war against Negan, in another he was an old man walking with the help of a cane along with an all grown up Judith and finally a red-eyed Rick who says "My mercy prevails over my wrath."
Lincoln thinks the different emotional stages of Rick has been portrayed beautifully by showrunner Scott Gimple and that he[Scott] has kept the meaning of these scenes a secret even from him. "There were several conversations where I was saying, "I kind of need to know who I'm talking to," or "Is this reality?" And he was cagey. And rightly so, because it's quite exciting," he told the website hoping that the answers will be out in the near future of the current season.
The British actor also teased that the upcoming episodes of the current season will be a "roller coaster ride" as the second part of the season goes "darker." "The second half I think is even darker and deeper and more connected than we've ever done. I've never been involved in the season that is so all-out. The crew are the glue that have kept this show together and this season they have worked harder than I've ever seen any human beings work, and I want this show to be the best ever for them, for what they've done. And, of course, the fans."