Spoilers for The Walking Dead 8x01.
The Walking Dead’s season 8 premiere was loaded with easter eggs and callbacks to past episodes, with “Mercy” — also the series’ landmark 100th episode — coming full circle with an ending similar to the final shots of the pilot, which aired way back in October 2010.
In the last moments of the season 8 opener, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) was accidentally left behind at the Sanctuary — home base to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors — following a surprise attack coordinated by the Alexandria, Hilltop and Kingdom communities. The commotion brought a sea of Walkers flooding into the compound, causing the combatants to flee.
Gabriel saved the treacherous Gregory (Xander Berkeley) from a pack of Walkers, only for the coward to leap into the nearest vehicle and take off, leaving Gabriel stranded. Taking refuge in a trailer, Gabriel finds he’s not alone when Negan steps out of the darkness, asking the clergyman if he’s got his “sh—tting pants” on. Father Gabriel is trapped in a seemingly hopeless situation, made worse by the massive horde of the undead clawing at the tasty meat treats inside.
The camera soars up from a bird’s-eye view, looking down at the trailer, revealing the immense size of the zombie swarm surrounding the trailer. It’s a clear nod from director Greg Nicotero towards Frank Darabont’s pilot episode, which ended with the camera pulling away from a crowd of Walkers encircling an abandoned tank that Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) had crawled into to escape a throng of flesh eaters.
Though he didn’t appear in the flesh, Glenn (Steven Yeun) was first introduced to audiences in the pilot over a walkie talkie, saying to a trapped Rick: “Hey, you. Dumbass. Yeah, you in the tank. You cozy in there?”
It remains to be seen how Father Gabriel and Negan will escape their predicament, as the episode ends in a cliffhanger similar to that of the pilot. Thanks to Negan, there’s no Glenn around to bail them out.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.