So you’ve lost two of your friends to a madman with a bat, you’re given a week to prepare him an offering, and even though everything may not be in preparation for his arrival, he decides to give you a surprise by strolling right up to your doorstep early because he loves you so much.
If the weak residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone have already had rude awakenings about life outside the walls before, they’re in for a real nightmare when Negan arrives. Welcome to “Service.”
The episode begins in Alexandria as Michonne awakens before Rick does. As she’s ready for the day, with her sword on her back, she retrieves a sniper rifle from the fireplace. No one ever thinks to check the fireplace. She stuffs the gun inside a bag and exits without saying a word to Rick, who watches her leave.
Michonne then stakes a post at an abandoned truck in the middle of an empty field and waits.
While Rick cares to Judith, Rosita and Spencer return to Alexandria and ask Eugene to open the gate so they can find things for their offering. Eugene, though, is busy working on a radio and isn’t into joining them. He’s repairing the radio for the Saviors- that’s his part. However, no one will be leaving anytime soon.
The sound of many approaching vehicles gets their attention. From the other side, Negan marches up and bangs on the gates of the Alexandria Safe Zone, demanding entrance. Spencer isn’t familiar with Negan, but then Rick arrives. He’s hesitant to open the gate at first since Negan has arrived earlier than expected, but Negan just missed Rick. Negan then makes quick work of an approaching walker for the sport of it.
As the Saviors unload, with Daryl in tow, Negan says that what he did was service. Despite Spencer not knowing him, Negan killed a walker that could have killed him. As Negan enters, he hands Lucille over to Rick and walks right into the Alexandria Safe Zone. He calls it an embarrassment of riches and tells Rick that there will be plenty to offer. Also, Negan doesn’t allow Rick to speak with Daryl. Same for the others as well.
In addition, Rick doesn’t decide what the Saviors take- that’s up to Negan. One of the female Saviors, Arat, played by Elizabeth Ludlow, calls the others into action and they make their way into the area to search the houses and keep the process moving. The residents seem stunned, but are unable to act. Rick then begins showing Negan around the zone.
Dwight relieves Rosita and Spencer of their firearms, both on them and in the vehicle they planned to use for travel. With that settled, he has a job for Rosita- find Daryl’s bike. It’s not there, but if that’s the case, Rosita must know where it is. Dwight then, for some reason, also relieves Rosita of her hat. Now she’s good to go. To pour salt in the wound, Dwight even empties out Rosita’s water. Best not to take long.
Back in the field that time forgot, Michonne spots an approaching walker, but misses with every shot that she takes. So she takes out her sword and does this the old fashioned way. Could’ve saved yourself a lot of bullets, Michonne. She later heads into the woods and finds a dead deer on the ground.
As the Saviors get to work taking what they want, Negan tells Rick that he and his people are indeed reasonable people. One Savior gives Negan the video camera containing Deanna’s video interviews. Negan finds it hard to believe that Rick had such a beard and never would have messed with that man. As he turns the camera on Rick, Negan says that the Rick on that interview isn’t the Rick that stands before him.
Negan then asks about Maggie. That gets under Rick’s skin, but he has to be careful how he looks at Negan. Widows like Maggie are special. Right after the husbands go, they are empty inside, but not for long.
Then Gabriel out of nowhere, who asks Negan if he wants to pay his respects. Negan asks if Maggie didn’t make it, and Gabriel confirms that the worst happened. To prove it, he even takes Negan to the cemetery, where he sees three new graves. A shame, as Negan would have asked Maggie to come back with him, despite what he did to Glenn. Then a gunshot rings out.
Carl holds a gun to some Saviors who are taking all of the medicine instead of half. When Negan arrives, Carl tells him that he needs to leave before he finds out how dangerous everyone is. Negan isn’t about to let Rick help his son. In fact, he likes Carl and tells him that half is what he says it is. He asks Carl if he wants him to prove how serious he is. Again. With that, Carl lowers the firearm.
This reminds Negan that Rick has a lot of guns, and given how Rick took a lot of guns from Negan’s outpost, this must mean that Rick has even more guns. And as Carl’s outburst has shown, Negan can’t allow that. Those guns all belong to Negan.
So Rick brings Negan and a group of Saviors to Olivia, who takes them to the armory. While the Saviors head with Olivia, Negan tells Rick that he’s not taking any food. It’s slim pickings and if Rick starves to death, Negan won’t get anything, so for now, Alexandria gets to keep its food. Rick is unsure how to respond, but all Negan wants is a thank you. The two got off to a rough start, yes, but Rick forced Negan’s hand.
Negan knows the two started off on the wrong foot, but he’s reasonable as long as Rick cooperates. He asks if Rick is cooperating, and Negan knows what it looks like, but he’s wondering if Rick may have some hidden firearms. Rick says that they’re all indeed in the armory.
On the road, Rosita and Spencer find Daryl’s motorcycle by the train tracks. Spencer realizes that the Saviors outnumber the Alexandrian community and accepts that this is their way of life due to Rick’s actions. Spencer believes that things might have been different and some people wouldn’t be dead if Rick rethought his actions. Now, though, they have to learn to live with this. Rosita, though, heads into the woods.
As the Saviors load the guns, Negan picks up one to find out if Rick has taken care of his guns…and finds out by firing into one of the windows. Then another Savior brings out the rocket launcher- the same one that Daryl used to take out some Saviors on the road.
Arat informs Negan that the group is short two firearms. Rick acknowledges that some people left for a run and took the guns with them. Olivia maintains that the inventory is correct, but she’s still two handguns short. To Negan, this means someone isn’t on board and he can’t have that. He tells Olivia that he doesn’t like killing women. Men, that’s no problem, but at the end of the day, this is Olivia’s problem.
Negan is going to work this out right now. Olivia screwed up at keeping track of guns, and that shit is life and death.
Later, in the church, Rick tells the community that he thought of hiding some guns since he did it before. What if the Saviors found those guns, though? Someone could die. It doesn’t matter how many bullets the Alexandrians have because the Saviors will still win. Hiding a few guns isn’t the answer. No one has to like it, but the guns have to be given to the Saviors. He then asks the group about the two missing guns.
If those guns aren’t found, Olivia will die. One of the residents asks Rick why the Saviors care since two guns shouldn’t mean much to them. Rick responds that most of the community didn’t see what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham. They can look away or help solve this now.
Eric asks what the way out is if they find the guns, but Rick says there is no way out. And with that, he tells the group that he isn’t in charge- Negan is. Eugene then notes that everyone isn’t present at the meeting.
Back in the woods, Rosita tries to approach the walkers and stealthily take them out, but Spencer calls out to her, attracting the roamers. Nonetheless, Rosita is able to take out the walkers because that’s how Rosita rolls. She then finds a gun, but the clip is empty. She knows that Negan will take all of the guns and isn’t afraid of Spencer ratting her out. Unlike Spencer, Rosita doesn’t believe that this has to be her life.
So Negan is enjoying some lemonade with Olivia at his side since she doesn’t really have a choice. Rick searches Spencer’s home to find the missing guns, but just ends up making a damn mess. Gabriel tells Rick that he feels that this will work out and that they will find the guns. Rick doesn’t believe that there’s a way to beat this, but Gabriel has faith in Rick. Things change. After all, Rick and Gabriel weren’t always friends.
Rick doesn’t believe that Michonne has the guns, and he thanks Gabriel for the makeshift grave he made for Maggie. Aaron tells Rick that he found nothing at Rosita’s spot. Even still, they will keep looking for the guns. As Aaron and Gabriel leave, Rick pulls up an air vent and, after finding a few items, pulls out two firearms.
In a bit of an uncomfortable scene, another Savior relieves Enid of her balloons and tells her to say please if she really wants them. When Enid complies, the Savior returns them. Well, he drops them. Carl doesn’t like this shit one bit, but Rick assures his son that the Saviors will be gone soon.
Negan is pleased to have the two guns back. He asks which resident held the guns and this matters very much since everyone needs to be on board. If not, the two sides end up back at square one.
The Saviors are soon ready to depart just as Spencer and Rosita return. Rick asks Negan for a second, and Negan eventually grants it. Rick heads over and meets with Michonne and tells her how Rick made him hold Lucille. He then tells her that he needs the rifle and knows that she’s out there practicing. Michonne refuses to give up her gun, but Rick isn’t about to lose anyone else.
Michonne does concede as Rick hands over the rifle to Negan, who is glad that Rick gets the message. Now that Negan knows he can follow the rules, Rick asks if Daryl can stay. Negan isn’t sure. He wants to see if Daryl can sway him. Daryl, though, doesn’t speak.
Now Negan tells Rick to start trying harder because the Saviors will be back. If Rick doesn’t have something interesting for the Saviors, someone is going to die. And no more magic guns. Negan is also glad that Michonne brought a deer. Good to have a woman hand over food without expecting him to put out.
Now that Dwight has Daryl’s motorcycle, he gives Rosita back her hat. He hopes that Rosita can find a place to lay her head tonight. When asked if she found anything else, Rosita responds that she only found Dwight’s dead friends. Nothing else.
Dwight tells Daryl that he can have his motorcycle back if he just says the word. Daryl, though, still doesn’t respond. Well, nobody died. Negan thinks that he and Rick will find his understanding. He then asks Rick if he wants him to leave. Rick thinks that would be good, so he thanks Negan. Another walker approaches, so Negan takes it out with a candlestick. Rick’s grip on Lucille tightens, but nothing comes of it.
Before Negan leaves, he remembers Lucille. Negan thanks Rick for being so accommodating. Also, Negan tells Rick that he just slid his dick down Rick’s throat and Rick thanked him for it. Very important to know. With that, the Saviors depart.
With the Saviors gone, Rick tells Spencer about the guns he took from his house since there were two missing. Rick calls Spencer weak for hoarding guns and food, but he just got lucky. Spencer counters that the group should have made a deal with the Saviors when they had a chance.
This doesn’t get to Rick until Spencer says Glenn and Abraham were lucky. This prompts Rick to warn Spencer that if he says any shit like that to him again, he’ll break Spencer’s jaw and knock out his teeth.
Rosita is also pissed that Spencer had guns, but Spencer’s justification is that he doesn’t trust Rick. He worried about him being in charge and admits that Rosita was right- this doesn’t have to be their way of life. As Spencer leaves, Rosita pulls out another gun hidden under one of the car’s wheels.
With the mattresses gone, Rick fixes himself a makeshift bed. Michonne tells Rick that the rifle was from the outpost and more guns could have been hidden, but she apparently didn’t hide anymore. Hmm. Michonne tells Rick that everything they’ve earned came from them fighting for it. Rick doesn’t believe that they have the numbers, even with the Hilltop.
Rick’s plan is to play by the rules and have some sort of life. He then brings up how Shane got Lori and Carl to safety after the outbreak started. Since Lori and Shane believed Rick was dead, they got together. Rick knows and accepts that Judith isn’t his, but he loves her as a daughter and will do what it takes to keep her alive. He’ll die before she does and Rick hopes that’s a long time from now so Judith can learn how to survive.
This is how Rick lives now. Michonne tells Rick that it’s not his fault when people die, but Rick says that sometimes it is. He needs everyone to accept these terms or this won’t work. As Michonne gets to work helping Rick with the mattress, she tells Rick that she’ll try.
Sometime later, Michonne returns to the field and climbs atop the truck once again. However, something in the distance gets her attention. Soon enough, she finds the smoldering remains of the now burned mattresses.
Okay, that’s just a dick move, Saviors.
That evening, Rosita, after coming across a shell casing, comes to Eugene and asks him to make her a bullet.
“Strategy” is a good episode with a few minor issues I have that don’t hinder my enjoyment, but do stand out enough to be noticeable. However, it was a change of pace to see the residents of Alexandria get a taste of what Rick’s group had to contend with on the road and comply with the Negan’s demands.
As Negan said in the premiere, it’s a brand new beginning for everyone. He and the Saviors swarm the Alexandria Safe Zone and hover over it like hawks for as long as they please and I was on edge at times to see how the residents would react, who might break, and how they would deal with this gang coming in and ransacking their homes.
It didn’t help that Negan changes the terms by saying that he dictates what half is. Again, I can watch Jeffrey Dean Morgan all day and never tire of his performance. Negan strolls into Alexandria like he owns the place and gets off on degrading Rick to where he is now. Negan tests Rick, handing him the very instrument that was used to kill Glenn and Abraham, and gives Rick many opportunities to retaliate, knowing that Rick won’t.
Despite how Negan strips Rick and Alexandria of what they have, the man is willing to barter. He says often that he’s reasonable as long as everyone else cooperates, and that’s the case when he allows Rick to keep the food. What good are servants if they’re starving, after all? As we saw at the Kingdom, though the Saviors are bullies, they will work with people who bend to their power.
But there are times when I can’t help but wonder if the Saviors take it too far. Sure, that’s part of the point, but things like that one Savior taking Enid’s balloons, Negan taking all of the guns instead of some, and burning the mattresses feels like the Saviors are doing this just to fuck with Alexandria. And not only are they doing that, but they can do that and get away with it.
These are the kinds of actions that give people like Michonne and Rosita a reason to retaliate, not keep the community docile, because we’ve seen Negan let Alexandria keep their food. I would imagine he’d be willing to let them keep at least a few guns, but he did say that he determines what half is, as if he’s more than happy to change his own rules.
It’s not that the Saviors need the guns, chairs, mattresses, or other supplies they take from Alexandria- it’s that they can take them and know that Rick Grimes isn’t in a position to lead another attack on the Saviors. Negan refusing to hand over Daryl or talking about how he slid his dick down Rick’s throat- it’s all to taunt Rick, as if tempting him to fight back.
But like “Last Day on Earth,” I find it refreshing to find Rick stopped right in his tracks. This was a man who thought he could get the jump on the Saviors and crush Negan, but he learned the hard way that wasn’t the case.
Now he’s made to watch the community members look on helplessly as they’re stripped of what they own and he can’t do anything about it. But he managed to fool Negan in regards to Maggie ‘supposed’ death, so if anything, Rick has that card up his sleeve since we know that Maggie intends to fight.
One of the better examples of this was when Negan goes through Deanna’s interviews- a callback I liked. The Rick on video openly admitted to killing and wasn’t ashamed about it. This Rick is left red-eyed, neutered, and can’t raise his voice in opposition because he won’t let anyone else die. It’s maddening to see Rick in a vulnerable state and Andrew Lincoln’s performance sells how complacent Rick has become.
Another callback I liked was how Rick’s attitude towards Negan circled back to his relationship with Lori and Shane. He knows that Judith isn’t his child, but he’s willing to accept that because he wants her to have a chance at survival. Her parentage doesn’t matter because right now, Rick is all she has. And right now, this arrangement is all that Rick has. He may not like it, but he’s not about to let someone else die due to his actions.
While we’ve seen Rick as a man who is more than willing to let his rage fly, it’s interesting to see how him biting his tongue and holding back his rage ends up coming out towards others. Granted, Spencer should have known better than to bring up Glenn and Abraham, but also, Rick telling Spencer to say ‘yes’ felt the same as Negan demanding that Rick say ‘thank you.’
Segueing off of Spencer to Alexandria as a whole, I’m curious just how much the community knows about their new way of life. Rick’s speech to the residents felt like something he said for the first time and some seemed surprised and confused when the Saviors walk into the Safe Zone without confrontation. But I imagine someone has to know what happened to Rick’s group when they were on the road.
Spencer obviously knows something since he brings up Abraham and Glenn, and Gabriel knew enough to make the fake graves. And while Negan arrived ahead of schedule, I thought, given how he only gave Rick a week, he would give Alexandria as much notice as possible. But hey, two of their comrades were just beaten to death. They may not want to discuss this matter.
While Rick may be willing to keep his head down for now, that’s not the same for everyone else. Carl shows no weakness in front of Negan, Michonne kept a rifle despite the risk, and Rosita are still willing to fight. Rosita is hiding guns and will no doubt follow-up on Eugene’s plan to make bullets, which we first learned of when he and Abraham found the factory in “Twice As Far.” Also, hope we get follow-up on Michonne learning to shoot.
By the way, after “The Cell” softened Dwight, he looked to be back as a regular hard-ass with him taunting and, for some reason, hitting on Rosita, but given how there’s clear animosity between him and Negan, it could all be a front.
So while the survivors may have lost a bit of their bite, they aren’t defeated altogether. “Service” showed the residents of Alexandria at a low point as Negan waltzed in, pulled down their pants, leave them in vulnerable state, and serviced them with his dick while they thanked him for it. At the very least, he didn’t feed them Lucille. While this episode didn’t need to be as long as it was, it was enjoyable and tense all the same.
Oh, and someone let Enid out of the closet. That’s good at least.