Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Sunday night's The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere, "Service."
Contributing Editor Tara Bennett breaks down Negan's arrival at Alexandria, directed by David Boyd and written by Corey Reed.
Overview: Negan arrives early at Alexandria to collect half of what he wants from the compound. Executed as an exercise in emasculating everyone inside the gates, Negan and his Savior goons prowl every nook and cranny taking mattresses, medicine and the entire armory. Meanwhile, Dwayne sends Rosita and Spencer outside the gates to fetch Daryl's bike. Michonne also works out her personal issues outside the gates with a sniper rifle.
For a 90-minute episode (with an actual 60 minutes of run time), it was rather underwhelming in terms of pacing and point. Best moments came in brief scenes that gave some supporting characters a chance to chime in on the events going down in Alexandria.
Carl has turned into quite the feisty young man. He was beyond brave during Negan's theater of violence in the premiere, and despite that outcome, Rick's son was standing his ground with a gun against the Saviors as they wiped out their medical supplies. Negan obviously sees the spitfire kid as future leverage against Rick, otherwise he would be dead. He must also appreciate the kid's mettle and perhaps even see him as a future ally. Carl's look of disgust towards his father twice during the looting definitely positions the kid as a player in fighting Negan when the time comes, or maybe being vulnerable to Negan's point of view?
Negan calling out Father Gabriel's creeper smile and unexpected arrival was perfect. It's always been unnerving, so that was a 100 moment of levity. Later on, Gabriel's weirdly Zen pep talk about how he believes they will all be OK was strangely impactful considering the national discourse this week. But Gabriel didn't witness Negan's actual violence, and I'm positive he would have folded like a stack of cards if he was actually present for the double murders, so his words are likely hollow at this point. But, I do have to give him points, like Rick did, for being smart enough to fake out Negan with Maggie's "grave," which likely saved her a forced spot in the despot's harem.
Rosita got some business this week and that's great to see as she's been underserved as a character on the whole. She was valiant in the face of the slimy Savior threats, and was brave in the woods trying to acquire a gun when she correctly assumed they were all going to get taken away. The end scene of her asking a clearly rattled Eugene to make her a bullet for her hidden gun sets up an interesting storyline that will connect that duo more (like in the comics), and be a threat to everyone's lives if Negan ever finds out.
Last, but not least, was Rick's admission to Michonne that he is certain that Judith, or toddler ass-kicker now, is not his child but Shane's. Yet even believing that, he's accepted her as his own and wants to survive to assure that she has a chance to grow up. It was a great callback to a question many fans have pondered since the start of the show. Rick isn't dumb but he made a choice that many of us would expect the Rick from the start of the series would make in regards to an innocent life. It helps solidify why Rick would be so subservient to Negan's demands when he 1) had the chance to Lucille Negan at one point, and 2) he knows they have better numbers to fight when you add Alexandria's numbers with Hilltop's.
The reason the episode wasn't as effective as it could have been really comes down to Negan's increasingly tedious speechifying. No, I don't want to see him bash people's brains in every week to make a point. He proved his capabilities in the premiere, but narratively, we're in deferring to Negan mode, which means a whole lot of him talking to hear himself talk. His men don't cross him. Rick and his people are terrified, so there's no debate going on. It's just a lot of Negan saying gross things to everyone, and everyone having to swallow it in silence. That might work on the page, but in a show, all of that adds up to a lot of soliloquies. They may be menacing at times, but overall they are actually making me disengage more often than not. A windbag is a windbag and eventually, we're all going to beg for him to put us out of our listening misery. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is doing the best he can with the ample pages of dialogue he's having to say, so I don't blame him. I think the problem is in the writers not editing Negan to this new medium. The Governor had an entire episode where he debated world views with Rick in Season 3 so you could consider both sides. It served an important purpose of allowing that villain his moment to speak in the proper forum so it didn't dilute his power. Right now with Negan, the characters and the audience are just being forced to shut up and listen.
"Oh S--t!" Moment
Carl almost getting squashed by Negan for sass-mouthing him was an intense sequence.
It was also pretty awful to make Rick carry around Lucille.
Spencer isn't exactly wrong about Rick making a lot of mistakes that have put them under Negan's subjugation. But he's also always been a weak slime bag, as evidenced by his hoarding of guns and select booze and food. So he earned Rick threatening to break his jaw after the low-blow reference of Glenn and Abraham's murders. Will Spencer turn allegiance to the Savior's camp? He seems more suited to that compound's selfish endeavors.
Bloated and more one-note than expected, "Service" could have spent less time on the real-time looting of Alexandria and dealt more with the repercussions of the community both mourning Glenn and Abraham, and figuring out how to deal with their new normal. The church scene didn't hit the tone and stakes I was expecting at this stage of the game, so it all felt like an overindulgence of Negan on the screen.
What did you think of “Service"?