Serving as a milestone episode for The Walking Dead, the Season 8 premiere and 100th overall installment of the AMC series was one of the biggest undertakings for executive producer Greg Nicotero.
Though the episode is Nicotero's twenty-first in the director's chair for The Walking Dead, he had more work to do than ever before for Sunday night's premiere. In fact, the slightly extended episode featured more scenes than most, if not all of the 99, episodes before it. In an exclusive interview with ComicBook.com, Nicotero opened up about his work on Episode 100.
"It was dense," Nicotero said. "This was such an intense episode. There was so much going on. The premieres are always tricky because you gotta set the stage for everything that's gonna happen, and you gotta get everybody on the right path."
With the entire cast showing up for this episode, Nicotero had a lot of extra work to do. "We have all these individual shots, scenes that take place in one or two shots, but we had 85 scenes to shoot in this episode based on all the montage pieces and setting up where everybody is."
"Then if you really think about it, it's a relatively quiet episode up until you get to Negan," Nicotero notes. "There's a lot of conversations, but they're a little quiet and there's a lot of vocative shots of saviors being killed. Then you have Daryl on the motorcycle and all this kind of stuff. I say this every year, but it was by far the hardest episode that I have ever done. It was so complex and really trying to track where everybody was emotionally and where they're going. When Maggie's standing on the back of the truck, and she's like, 'We've practiced this over and over again.' It's really about getting the idea that these people are solid."
Episode 8x01 is titled, "Mercy." The official synopsis for Mercy reads, "Rick and his group, along with the Kingdom and Hilltop, have banded together to bring the fight to Negan and the Saviors."
"There's some great stuff coming up. Not a ton in the first episode because we're setting the stage for our war where we left at the end of last year," Nicotero said. 'The first episode has a lot of interesting nods to previous seasons. If you watch it and you know the show pretty well, you'll recognize them -- as much as me shooting shot for shot a sequence that was in an earlier episode."