Spoiler alert! The following contains spoilers for the The Walking DeadSeason 7 Episode 4, “Service.”
The heroes of The Walking Dead are faced with a new reality. They weren’t as strong as they thought they were. They’re stuck following the orders of a man they hate and fear. They’ve lost loved ones and fear they’ll lose more.
What was that thing about art imitating life?
As we enter the fourth episode of the season, the Negan problem isn’t going away. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s villain is still just as boring, just as non-threatening as he was before. An extra-long episode that was basically just the IKEA trip from Hell doesn’t really do anything to further his character. The only thing we really learned during “Service” is that the Saviors are more trolls than anything else. They do things for the lulz, not for any real gain. That’s why they just burned the mattresses instead of bringing them back to their compound (where Negan is sleeping on a twin, you’d really think he’d enjoy a nice pillow-top).
Does that make them scary? No. It makes them annoying. It makes them grating. And by consequence, it makes the show boring and exhausting. And it’s a shame, because this show has at points been one of the most exciting on television. The answer is not more Negan. The answer is far, far less Negan.
This is how we live now
Negan and Dwight spent last week’s episode breaking Daryl into his new reality. And this week the writers of The Walking Dead decided to do the same to the audience.
It’s remarkable how much the show believes that Negan is really scary. He’s just not. He’s gross and horrible but he’s not the kind of villain who makes the audience quake in their boots. He’s lazy, and the show has been downright lazy in their characterization of him. Down to the almost laughably cheesy shot of him and his stupid baseball bat silhouetted outside the Alexandria gate. They want him to be a monster. He’s just a gnat.
The rest of the episode proceeded, as mentioned above, like a particularly hellish IKEA trip. Negan and his Saviors went house to house in Alexandria and took what they wanted. Beds, chairs, medicine, everything their hearts desired. When Carl decided he and his gun were going to save the entire town all on their own, Negan decided the guns would go, too (perhaps the only time anyone agreed with Negan was in his assessment of Carl). When two guns on the town’s register weren’t in the armory, Negan threatened to kill Olivia (in charge of the town stores, you’ve seen her before) unless they turned up.
Rick implores the town to give up the guns, but everyone is waiting for him to come up with a grand plan to get them out of this. But Rick doesn’t have a plan. He’s given up, given over leadership and power to Negan and only serves as a butler to carry his bat around for him. Everyone, from Aaron to Michonne to Rosita to Carl, is against him in this. But there’s seemingly nothing they can do either.
The guns turn up in Spencer’s house (Deanna’s brat of a son) and Rick turns them over, along with an extra rifle Michonne was hiding. Negan, meanwhile, compares the entire excursion to sexually assaulting Rick, before driving off with their plunder.
Fake it till you make it
Spencer may be a jerk, but he’s not wrong when he yells at Rick for getting them into this situation. What, exactly, do the people of Alexandria have to be thankful for? What is so good about living in this world? What kind of life is Rick making for Carl and Judith?
When explaining his decision to Michonne, Rick brings up Shane, who we haven’t heard about in a good long while. Shane, as Rick sees it, is definitely Judith’s father, but Rick loves and protects her anyway. He wants to live a long life so she can live a long life. This makes sense, we guess, to him.
But not everyone views the situation as hopelessly as Rick does. Rosita spends the better part of the episode tracking down a gun she can hide from the Saviors, enlisting Eugene’s help in making bullets for it. Father Gabriel is surprisingly upbeat, and helps fake Maggie’sdeath to keep her away from Negan. Daryl looked pretty beat up, but he still hasn’t kneeled.
All hope is not lost, for the characters, or for the show. We’re due to revisit Carol, Morgan and King Ezekiel, soon. A break from Negan and Alexandria seems like exactly what the show needs.