Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
I’m a fan of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance as Negan on The Walking Dead, but we’re quickly seeing that a little Negan goes a very long way. After listening to him flippantly speechify for a solid hour in the premiere, and then catching a bit more of him last week in “The Cell,” this week’s chapter began to collapse under the weight of nearly 90 minutes of Negan’s overbearing playfulness.
Firstly, there was really no reason for “Service” to be as long of an episode as it was if it was just going to re-hammer home all the things we’ve already heard Negan say. After the first fifteen minutes or so, it just became more of Negan degrading Rick, while a red-eyed Rick clenched up and took it. The episode started out strong, with the Saviors arriving early (with a battered Daryl in tow) and swarming into Alexandria like a bunch of buzzards. It was a bit disappointing that Dwight pretty much returned to being a straight-up dick after last week’s episode worked overtime to turn him into a more sympathetic character, but overall I liked the icky invasion angle this story started up with.
Quickly though, it became tedious and Negan’s usual spiel started to grate. This was definitely an episode that could have cut away to a B-story (something other than Rosita and Spencer retrieving Daryl’s bike) because we really didn’t need to re-visit the threat of Negan. And how reasonable is this “reasonable man” really if he’d even consider killing Olivia over a few missing guns that she didn’t know they were coming for?
I guess that mishap was really all on Rick, because — despite the fact that Negan showed up early — it really didn’t seem like Rick properly prepped his people for Negan being completely in charge. It was almost as if he was telling them for the first time here. Michonne too, for that matter, and she was there when Negan killed their friends.
On the plus side, it’s good to see that both Michonne and Rosita are entering the slow-boil revenge game. Rosita more so than Michonne right now — though after seeing those burning mattresses Michonne is ready to lose it too — which is the smart call, because this is basically Rosita doing her first truly proactive (and interesting) thing since joining the show back in Season 4. From a comic book standpoint, it feels like she might be taking over another character’s story perhaps and I’m totally cool with that. Her silent, stink-eye opposition this week actually did a lot to enhance the character.
Now if she and Michonne could somehow team up over this? Maybe even drag Carl and a few others in too? That’d be a fun journey. You know, discovering who’ll really rise up when Rick’s chips are down. Because I’m ready for Negan to get taken out. I know it won’t happen for a long while, but I’m ready. This show certainly doesn’t need another hour-plus episode of Negan “sliding his d*** down Rick’s throat.”
It’s at least becoming more clear now why Negan’s followers haven’t risen up against him. His top guys are repugnant bullies who enjoy the power that Negan affords them. They live, now, to push people around. We even got to see a bit of this trickle down to Rick when, after the Saviors left, he began to treat Spencer like crap. Granted, Spencer’s a spineless goof, but Rick was most certainly taking his frustrations out on him as a way of passing down the abuse.
Rick bringing up Shane, and the fact that Judith wasn’t his, was a nice way to explaining his new subservient stance on things while also tethering everything back to the first season – though it was funny to be reminded that Michonne never met Shane at all. His death at the end of Season 2 was basically the doorway to her entrance. You do have to wonder though, as Rick pretty much made the full transition into Shane over the years, how Shane would react to Negan and his demands. With Judith in the picture, would Shane be as accommodating or would he be secretly plotting payback like Rosita?
How Negan’s Visit to Alexandria Compares to the Comics:
It should be mentioned though that for all of Rick’s current doormat qualities, he is hiding Maggie from Negan. Presumably, she’s over at Hilltop (with Sasha) and getting the medical attention she needs. That’s a big deal because if Negan finds out, he’s gonna do the whistling/pee pee pants thing again. Rick, perhaps unknowingly, has drawn a line in the sand here and it’s going to become an issue for sure.
Lastly, Negan’s “you are creepy as s*** line” to Father Gabriel was pretty great. Agreed, man. Agreed.
“Thank You” may have repeated more than a few well-worn Walking Dead themes regarding tough choices and those unfit for the zompocalypse, but it still thrilled in all the right ways. Though at times it was tough to figure how a group with a half hour lead on a herd could allow them to catch up. I know there were wounded folks among them, but it still felt like an avoidable error.
Also, and this is just me, I hope Glenn’s “death” does turn out to be a fake pass since it didn’t feel like it exactly got top billing here. If not, so be it, but a show exit this big should end an episode. Maybe I’m just being snobby.