Previously on The Walking Dead, Negan attempted to break Daryl’s spirit by subjugating him to a series of sleepless nights and Top 40 hits in a dark cell. This week, the baseball bat-wielding madman comes a calling to Alexandria in a super-sized episode. Our episode begins with Rick and Michonne waking up next to one another, continuing their relationship, albeit distracted by the looming threat of the Saviors. The couple always did make for a logical pairing, with their survival instincts being so similar, that it was only a matter of time before they gravitated toward one another. The tension in this episode is so thick that you can cut it with a knife, though once Michonne leaves and we see things from her perspective for a little bit, we do experience some of that decompression I had mentioned previously. They could have easily cut the extra 30 minutes added to this episode without losing anything.
As with the previous episodes in this season, Negan continues to be the star here with Jeffrey Dean Morgan chewing up the scenery with great aplomb. The leader of the Saviors is clearly the best antagonist the series has seen to date, so it’s great to see him still getting so much screen time — especially like in moments when he antagonizes a shell-shocked Rick. The change in tone does add something new and different to the series. While previous seasons had the gang facing some hard choices and difficult situations, never have they been presented with a set of circumstances so dire as this. Rick’s continual presence in front of the man who killed one of his best friends (and threatened to cut off the arm of his son) not only turns Rick into an emotional basketcase, but also into a vulnerable leader who needs to make some horrific decisions in order to save those living in his community. There are a few different examples of this throughout the episode that make you wince seeing how low Grimes must now go in order to protect his family and friends.
When Negan does arrive, he demands that the Saviors take half of Alexandria’s supplies, taking medicine, armaments, and whatever else may catch their eye. To be honest, I do wish that Negan’s followers weren’t so comically over-the-top evil, but I suppose they’re in good company with their current leader. Negan moves throughout the community like a snake, licking his lips and threatening whoever gets in his way with the biggest of smiles. It can’t be stated enough how much of a delight it is to watch him tighten his grip on the community. In one scene, Carl attempts to stop one of the Saviors from taking all of their medicine, only to get a stern lecture from his father as he attempts to save his son’s life. Again, this episode works wonders in setting up an overall air of doom and gloom, making this for a season that focuses less on the undead and more on the threat of humanity, which Walking Dead has always managed to balance well throughout its history.
Rosita and Spencer’s storyline stalls throughout “Service,” though, never really managing to create a compelling argument for why it should be included. Throughout their sprinting on an errand to bring Daryl’s bike to Dwight, they bicker and moan about Rick’s leadership that has all been covered many, many times before. Yes, we know that Rick has made some bad decisions as leader but there really was never an alternative, and while Spencer has lost a lot since Grimes’ entered their community, his lack of logic here was a tad annoying. Ultimately, Rosita having stolen the guns at least gave us a scene of Rick showing some teeth, threatening to break Spencer’s jaw should something like that ever happen again. Glimmers of Rick reclaiming a backbone, or perhaps a bit too much of Negan’s personality rubbing off on him? Come to your own conclusions on that one.
Finally, perhaps the best scene of the night was Michonne taking Rick to task for not standing up to Negan, with Grimes retorting how utterly hopeless their situation currently is, especially if they want to raise Judith in peace. In The Walking Dead comics, Judith had quite a different outcome than the one we see here, so it makes for an interesting new perspective as to why Rick is currently deferring to Saviors. The idea of trying to create a semblance of a normal life was hard enough when Alexandria was under constant threat from the walkers, but now with Negan it seems downright impossible. Rick was always a survivor, though, and his choice to fall in line — given the circumstances — rings true to his character, and to adapting to the current situation they currently find themselves in.
Ultimately, “Service” manages to create a good deal of tension that propels it above last week’s episode, while still stumbling under the weight of its decompression issue that The Walking Dead has found itself under for so many years.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Blood and Guts
– The idea that Rick knows that Shane is definitely Judith’s father, yet protects her all the same, goes a long way at showing his character. This again was something not really delved into in the comics so it’s a nice departure to explore here.
– Mentioning Shane at all was another nice touch. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the current problems of our heroes that you forget about the scores of dead protagonists that came to pass.
– That finale Negan line to Rick was so malevolent, yet amazingly delivered, it probably goes down as one of the best villain lines ever.
– This really was Negan’s show as you’ll see every quote below is from him.
– Negan: “Little Pig, Little Pig! Let me in.”
– Negan: “Oh I know I had to make a pretty strong first impression.”
– Negan: “WHOA! A lot of suspense there.”
– Negan: “You are creepy as shit!”
– Negan: “It was you guys that killed little Timmy and the Dick Brigade?”