Last night’s Sing Me A Song proves that you can do a slow(er) episode without making it boring. Did we get much action? No, but we got several characters we care about, and, seeing as it was the penultimate episode of the half season, we started to see a few pieces falling into place.

Here’s a few random thoughts about this week’s Negan-extravaganza:

  • First off, I guess I’ll have to eat my words about Carl from a couple of weeks ago. Was it a stupendously reckless decision to go after Negan? Sure, but a) he’s a teenager, so that’s to be expected, and b) even so, you have to admire the balls on that guy for going on a suicide mission. Negan sure does, so who am I to disagree with our favorite deranged sociopath? (Jesus does too, I guess. Or he’s just really amused by the boy’s hi-jinks).
  • Negan’s also correct about Carl’s stink-eye being just like Rick’s, only half as good (har har). Between the “damn, you’re adorable” line and his jabs at the whole eye situation, Negan once again proves that he’s exactly the kind of villain we love to hate. His charisma is undeniable, and I’m not sure whether to attribute it to the character or Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but whatever you’re doing, it’s working, TWD.
  • I get that watching Negan interact with the Saviors and his wives has a dual purpose in this episode – to establish him as a fearsome leader with a somewhat softer side, who occasionally enjoys being challenged because all the kneeling would become tedious after a while, AND to show Carl exactly how he runs the place, forcing him to make the inevitable comparison with Rick, who’s not at his strongest at the moment. I especially appreciated how he mirrored his earlier scene with Rick by having Carl hold Lucille as he was addressing his subjects. However, I thought the scene with Sherry/Amber/Dwight dragged on unnecessarily. If there was any takeaway from the Daryl episode, aside from how maddening Easy Street on a loop must be, it was that neither Sherry nor Dwight’s situation is working out too well for them, so I don’t think we really needed an encore of him teasing D and asserting his dominance over his wife.
  • Speaking of Daryl: it was sad to see him kneel, and even sadder to see him on mop-up duty. Two questions though – first the obvious one: who slipped him that note? The handwriting suggest it was a female, but it would be a great twist if it turned out to be Dwight. Two, will we EVER see Daryl freshly showered and wearing clean clothes on this show?
  • As far as the hot iron scene goes, again, same minor gripe: Negan is so theatrical in everything he does, that even those few moments of torture were stretched out into a long scene. We get it, he’s a stickler for the rules, and Mark got his punishment just like Dwight did before him. I’m surprised we haven’t seen any more half-melted faces among the Saviors – but then again, after being forced to attend the public face-ironing, who’d be stupid enough to break the rules?
  • Also: right before he makes a huge display of the sort of respect he commands among the Saviors, Negan makes a point of showing Carl he respects his balls, which was a nice juxtaposition. I actually enjoyed the scenes between the two more than I expected; for all the flack Carl’s been getting from fans over the years, he was pretty good at trying to keep his cool and show courage while simultaneously being scared shitless of what Negan might do to him. The entire scene at Negan’s impressive digs with Carl removing the bandage from his eye and then singing ‘You Are My Sunshine‘ was expertly acted. (however, did anyone else think that eye prosthetic wasn’t exactly the SFX department’s best work? I expected something much cooler). He’s vulnerable, but not broken; he’s still a one-eyed badass. No wonder Negan takes a liking to the kid.
  • If anyone stole the show from those two this week, it was Olivia and her amazing slap. You go, girl! THAT’S how you respond to a pity-fuck proposition right after you’ve been fat-shamed (even when your would-be partner is a psychopath who would probably bash your head in). If we learned anything this week, it’s that Negan appreciates a bit of spunk. “I am about 50% more into you now” was gold.
  • Still, out of all the Negan-isms in this episode, my line of the week award would go to father Gabriel: “What you’re saying doesn’t make you a sinner. But it does make you a tremendous shit. (Just for now. It doesn’t have to be terminal)“. That’s what you get for being a dick, Spencer. When father Gabriel would rather WALK home than be in your presence, you know you’re the biggest twat on this show. Still, points for knowing latin and for that excellent callback to Deanna’s scribbling on the Alexandria crops map. (Also: Gabe now defends Rick and goes on scavenging trips? Oh, how things have changed).
  • Speaking of Rick: probably the weakest scenes of the entire episode, but I’m pretty interested to see him pair up with Aaron, now that his buddy Daryl is sadly unavailable. Hopefully they’ll find something huge in that boat house if and when they eventually sail (swim?) across that zombie lake.
  • Rosita’s lashing out at Eugene was probably not as well-deserved as Gabe’s insult to Spencer, but it was still a semi-satisfying put-down. As much as I felt for poor Eugene, however, my main issue is this: we get it, Alexandria boasts some badass ladies, but what exactly is the game plan here? We were hard on Carl for going on a suicide mission, but how is Rosita’s idea less moronic? I hate to agree with Spencer douche on this, but she’ll only get herself (and possibly others) killed. Ditto Michonne: as much as it saddens me to say this, how is that makeshift walker-speedbump and carjacking back to the Saviors’ compound supposed to reach any kind of positive outcome?

I was disappointed not to see more of Jesus this week, but hopefully he’ll be more featured in the next episode. All in all, it wasn’t a bad episode. Not mind-blowing by any means, but definitely a step up from previous weeks, and a nice lead-in to next week’s supersized finale.