The Walking Dead's explosive season 8 premiere

The show is back with a fantastic — if contemplative — opening episode

Midway through "Mercy," the premiere episode of The Walking Dead's eighth season, the camera holds on an abandoned car, the kind of sedan that would've once ferried a family of four off for a fun day at the beach, that has been left to rust on a long stretch of highway. This shot, framed at a distance, lingers silently; every passing second thickens the dread — this once-everyday object, a remnant of life before the undead, becomes increasingly estranged from its environment. We wait for something, anything, to break up the palpable eeriness. Then, finally, the car explodes.

This moment best encapsulates the episode's willingness to slow down and immerse the viewer in the terror of waiting, anticipating a sudden something, anything, that, whatever it is, won't be good. The Walking Dead isn't exactly known for this kind of assiduous slowness, but "Mercy" is a detonation cord of a premiere, focusing mostly on the build-up to what our heroes suppose will be their final battle against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and The Saviors. We hopscotch through time, catching glimpses of the battleplan before it's put into motion and catching up with our characters (Daryl, still lookin' good on that Harley? Check), and, tantalizingly, pitching forward to a vision (or a fantasy) of a peaceful tomorrow, where the citizens of Alexandria are decorating for a festival, not building car bombs.

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Laura Bogart

Laura Bogart is a featured writer for Salon and a regular contributor to DAME magazine. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, CityLab, The Guardian, SPIN, Complex, IndieWire, GOOD, and Refinery29, among other publications. Her first novel, Don't You Know That I Love You?, is forthcoming from Dzanc.