You know what, TWD? Here’s a thought: don’t do those super-sized episodes any more. Not only does the anticipation of a full 60′ raise expectations, but the episode itself usually lets us down.
I’m not saying Service was bad; it was a solid episode in terms of character development, but did it warrant the longer run-time? All we saw was Negan and his Saviors loot Alexandria, with Rick & co looking on, barring a couple of feisty exceptions, and peppered with a few funny one-liners, courtesy of Negan.
Speaking of which, doesn’t it feel like the writers are itching to throw all they’ve got in Negan’s direction? I mean I get that Abraham’s loss leaves a significant gap when it comes to the show’s few moments of levity, but the dialogue seems a little forced. On one hand, we’re supposed to be shaking in our boots whenever we see the big meanie. On the other, it looks like they’re doing everything they can to hammer point home and make him… not likable, but at least entertaining.
But I digress. Negan thankfully doesn’t take too long to show up at the gates – and I have to admit, that iconic shot of his silhouette was pretty cool; less than 5′ into the episode, his group of Saviors are outside Alexandria. A pretty subdued Eugene is manning the gate, and Spencer and Rosita are on their way out when Negan arrives, and when Negan expects to be let inside post-haste, Spencer gives us his only hilarious line thus far in the show: “Who are you?“. Priceless.
In a completely uncharacteristic move, Negan gives Lucille to Rick; we haven’t seen him sans bat since he was first introduced, so that was momentarily jarring, until, of course, you realize it’s all just one more test. It’s not enough that he broke him in the premiere, that Rick and his entire group are now in servitude; he needs to prove it over and over again, be it through humiliation, emotional torture, or just flat-out challenging him and waiting to see if he’ll take the bait.
Luckily for everyone, Rick doesn’t. He stands there fuming as he watches the Saviors plunder through the town, as Negan continues to rile him up and see if he can get a reaction out of Rick. Although I find most of the Neganisms a bit too over the top, his comment when his henchman shows him the video Deanna took the day they first arrived in Alexandria was hilarious: “Is that you, Rick, underneath all that man-bush?”. You know, just in case we forgot what a badass, savage-looking survivor Rick was before last season’s finale.
Negan’s assertion that “We’re reasonable people once you get to know us. Honest.” obviously raised a few eyebrows, but in the end, considering the situation they’re in, he’s not entirely wrong. No one got killed, Negan didn’t take any of their food, and even taking the mattresses seemed like a logical thing to do at the time, given the size of Negan’s army.
And then, of course, Negan had to prove just how much of a dick he really is, asking after Maggie. Father Gabriel almost wins the episode by not only having the balls to talk back to Negan but also with his quick thinking when he digs a grave to convince Negan Maggie is dead. Which begs the question: where is our favorite grieving pregnant widow? Did Rick and the others already smuggle her into the Hilltop somehow? Were they keeping her in some secret hiding place in one of the houses? I hope it’s the latter, because otherwise why rob us of the opportunity to see Jesus again?
Rick may have fallen in line like the ‘special’ man he is, but Carl isn’t having any of it. When the Saviors try to seize their entire stash of weapons, a single shot is fired, and the look on Rick’s face says it all. Luckily Carl and his “giant, man-sized balls” quickly sees it’s futile to fight back at this point but still, way to be a reckless idiot and almost cause someone else to die.
But the biggest dick of the episode this week is definitely Spencer. He gives Rosita a hard time for taking on a number of Savior walkers to retrieve that one gun when they go looking for Daryl’s bike, and all the while he’s been stashing not only two guns, but also food, under one of the loose boards at his house. What little goodwill he gains earlier in the episode for actually telling it like it is, quickly evaporates when he almost gets Olivia killed. And hoarding food, again? Not cool, Spence.
Speaking of Olivia: as rude as Negan’s comment was about poor Olivia, I couldn’t help but chuckle at his “You’re got a fat lady keeping charge of rations” line. So much better than his “assload of guns” earlier on – you could tell by his slight hesitation that JDM was just dying to drop an f-bomb in there somehow. And topping it off with yet another hilarious quip when he sees the rocket launcher? “Little Timmy and the Dick Brigade” must have been the most apt description of those jerks Daryl shot to smithereens last season, and it was pure Negan gold.
But since we’re discussing badass lines, let’s talk about Rosite for a second: girl is absolutely awesome this week. Not only does she kill the Savior walkers who killed Denise (and spit on them), but she also gives Dwight the best look – and line – of the night:
-Find anything else out there?
-Just your dead friends.
Spoken with a heavy dose of venom and a look of total contempt. Rock on, Rosita! The only thing that would have made this better is if she clocked Spencer in the jaw when Rick confronted him about the guns.
If Spencer was indignant about handing over all their guns, his anger doesn’t hold a candle to Michonne’s, who spent her day trying to shoot at walkers and ended up killing a deer. Seriously, as amazing as she is with a katana, girl is a terrible shot! Stick with the sword, babe.
Rick’s way of convincing her – or at least appeasing her – is to tell her about Shane. It’s the first time we hear him admit that Judith isn’t his, and perhaps this is significant to his state of mind: he’s forced by Negan to face a harsh reality, and that extends to not only their present dire circumstances, but his entire journey so far.
If Michonne’s willing to go along with it at first, the closing scenes suggest that her compliance won’t last too long: that heap of burnt mattresses outside of Alexandria are, perhaps, the biggest punch in the gut in this entire episode. Negan doesn’t take their stuff because he wants it; he takes it because he can, and this enrages her more than anything.
Meanwhile, Rosita isn’t taking this lying down, either. Picking up a thread we left off last season, when Eugene came up with a way to manufacture bullets, she asks him to do just that for her. This is not only indicative of her will to fight, but could also be an important plot point, since Negan wants Rick and give him something ‘interesting‘ next time he visits, and ammunition is the one thing he hasn’t been receiving from either Hilltop or the Kingdom.
- Enid begging to keep her green balloons was sweet – and heartbreaking. It accomplished more in terms of making us miss Glenn than any of Negan’s nasty little comments put together.
- “In case you haven’t caught on, I just slid my dick down your throat and you thanked me for it“. Yeah, we got it, Negan. This line added nothing to the scene; just watching Rick struggle to get out the words ‘thank you’ was enough, and had much more impact without the insult on top of it.
- Father Gabriel has done a complete 180 from his scaredy-cat, cowardly former self, and could even prove to be a good confidant/advisor to Rick as he (hopefully) gets out from his funk and starts to fight back.
- Spencer doesn’t know when to shut up. You don’t challenge a guy who just had to kiss Negan’s ass! He’s lucky he got away with just being called ‘small and weak’ and only the thread of having his jaw broken and his teeth knocked out.
- So where is Maggie? Where was Sasha? Are Tara and Heath still out there doing god knows what?
- But the question that still bugs me after all this time is, how did Negan not get to Alexandria before now? This was a totally defenseless community which, if nothing else, could provide excellent living arrangements for the Saviors. Why did he have to wait for Rick to attack his compound before making a deal with them? Will we ever get a plausible explanation for this or am I just nitpicking for no reason?