The Walking Dead “Service” Review (Season 7 Episode 4)

In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, we finally returned to Alexandria where the group was visited by Negan and his Saviors.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – a little Negan goes a long way. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the role, but I have had my fill of Negan’s long monologues. So . . . much . . . talking. In the writers’ defense, I understand why we needed to go through yet another round of Negan speeches – it was so that we as the viewers could experience him with those in Alexandria who were not part of the deadly “Eenie Meanie” circle. The most entertaining interactions were Negan/Father Gabriel and Negan/Carl. With all of the interested parties now fully acquainted with Negan, I hope that this plot moves on next week.

Bloodied But Not Broken
Negan went to great lengths this week to wield his authority over Rick – starting with assigning Rick to the task of holding Lucille while Negan went around Alexandria giving speech after speech to everyone he met. Negan continued his preferred approach of dominating while making empty gestures of mercy. He crippled the group by taking every, single gun in Alexandria. He took the group’s mattresses and burned them just send the pettiest of messages. He “mercifully” allowed Alexandria to hold on to its depleted food supply and made sure to tell Rick about his supposed act of mercy because, as we know, Negan loves to talk.

Despite Rick’s public submission to Negan’s rule was belied by the resolve in his eyes. Indeed, Alexandria has taken some serious losses, but Rick did not strike me as a man willing to accept a lifetime under Negan’s rule. Negan might notice that if he weren’t so busy talking, but that appears to be a character flaw that the writers are teeing up.

Like we saw at the Kingdom, the Alexandria group found more covert ways to resist. They faked Maggie’s death, which ended up being a really good call as it looked like Negan was prepared to taunt Maggie about Glenn and possibly claim her as his own? I’m a little concerned about this, as we can’t be sure that someone at Alexandria can get a heads up to the Hilltop group before the Saviors arrive – looks like that is going to happen next week.

Say My Name, Say My Name
After giving up a gun that Michonne was using for target practice that, more importantly was not even in the inventory, Rick asks Negan to let Daryl come home. My assumption is the gesture was intended to perhaps make Negan more inclined to grant the request. I guess. Rick had to ask, I get it. Although I hate Daryl not being back with the group, I was happy that he refused to call himself Negan. We will have to wait and see what his motivation was – Daryl’s guilt, his refusal to compromise, his knowledge that calling himself Negan would have unlikely led to his release – or perhaps all of the above.

As previously mentioned, the Alexandria group is finding ways to resist. In addition to the Maggie fake out, Father Gabriel expressed his unwavering faith in Rick and the group’s ability to overcome their current dilemma. I’m all for a leap of faith and I love the shift in Father Gabriel’s character. Although he sounds a bit delusional in his devotion to Rick, I’m looking forward to seeing in what other ways Father Gabriel drives the group to resistance against Negan.

Although we have not gotten into his head space yet, it came as no surprise that Carl put up a fight when the Saviors attempted to take all of Alexandria’s medical supplies. Carl looked like he was pretty much over Negan and his speech by the end of the premiere.

And then there’s Michonne, who was also questioning why the group would submit to Negan’s demand without having a conversation about what they need to do to shut down their long-winded, crap talking, bat wielding, leather clad nemesis. When Michonne questions Rick’s submission, he gives her an example of having to accept unpleasant realities with the story of Lori, Shane and Judith – who Rick admitted he knew was Shane’s daughter. I guess this would have been a more shocking revelation had Robert Kirkman not previously said that Judith was Shane’s child. Hearing Rick admit it was a bit surprising. I never questioned that Rick knew the truth about Judith, but it clearly did not matter because he loved her as his own. Once the writers made it clear that Rick was going to make that choice, I didn’t really need him to ever acknowledge it. That aside, I thought it was a great anecdote for Rick to use in that moment with Michonne. It was a nice display of the intimacy and trust between the two.

Closing Thoughts
I would have preferred to see Rick and the group returning to Alexandria and explaining to everyone what happened with Glenn and Abe. That would have been much more entertaining than watching Spencer scowl and question Rick’s leadership. It would have also spared us a few of the Negan speeches. I like Rosita as a character and I was encouraged to see her close the episode by approaching Eugene for bullets. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of her being saddled with Spencer. Someone needs to think about replenishing the gun supply and identifying creative means of hiding valuable items from the Saviors.

As much as I like The Walking Dead, I did not think this week’s episode needed the super-sized 90 minute treatment – especially if it means I can be spared a few Negan speeches.

I also wonder if this story, comic book canon aside, would be more compelling if Negan and his group were more likeable or at least tolerable? I find them all annoying – individually and as a whole. The stuff with Dwight was just grating and his behavior towards Rosita – while Spencer looked on – was just unnecessarily creepy and gross. This story arc had the potential to be more nuanced and arouse complicated emotions in fans. After all, it was our group that initiated the conflict with The Saviors. The Alexandria group has only lost 2 members, which still pales in comparison to all of the Saviors the group killed last season. By making the Saviors a group of annoying assholes through and through, I find that I really don’t care for their losses and I have to actively remind myself that they were the victims here. Had the group been marginally tolerable, I would feel conflicted watching this play out. Instead, I’m just hoping that they all meet a hasty, horrible ending. The Saviors could have been the perfect mirror to Alexandria as a group of decent people who will kill to protect their love ones.

Finally, why hadn’t Alexandria done anything to prepare for Negan’s arrival? You know these people are coming for half of your stuff – why not immediately begin destroying inventory lists and finding ways to hide things you need, like guns? It would have been so easy to throw a few guns in those graves Father Gabriel dug for Glenn, Maggie and Abraham.

Until Next Week!
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