A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

So our main characters have had more than enough of living under the Saviors’ rule.  With the second half of the season underway, it’s time to rise up, gather resources, and prepare for war.  Let’s jump back in with “Rock in the Road.”

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The episode begins in Alexandria.  After flipping through his Bible, Gabriel abandons his post and visits the pantry.  We hear a crash and then see Gabriel loading up as many supplies and cans of food as possible.  He packs up, leaving his Bible behind in the process, gases up a car, and drives off…with someone in the passenger seat.

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Over at the Hilltop, Gregory declares his deal with Rick’s group null and void since they failed to eliminate the Saviors.  As such, they aren’t trade partners and never met. Hell, Gregory feels Rick owes him for taking in Sasha and Maggie…the same people who helped save the Hilltop while Gregory hid.

Rick insists that they can defeat the Saviors.  It’s a better alternative than living under the Saviors’ thumbs while people die.  Gregory would rather continue his arrangement with the Saviors, so Maggie steps in and asks how many people the Hilltop can spare.  Tara insists that people will step up and fight if given the chance, but Gregory doesn’t believe the Hilltop residents are untrained fighters.  They just grow things.

Even though Gregory agrees that life would be better without the Saviors, he’s unwilling to lend his assistance.  Hell, as far as he’s concerned, Rick and his group didn’t even visit the Hilltop today.

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Though Gregory’s bullshit is difficult to bear, it turns out that the survivors may not need him after all.  Enid has told a group of Hilltop residents all about Rick’s plan and if there’s a chance that they beat the Saviors, then they’re willing to fight.  It’s a start, but even if Rick’s group found more weapons, they still lack the numbers.  The distance and geography work against them since Negan has so many outposts.

More than that, the Saviors will no doubt come to Alexandria in order to find Daryl, so it’s imperative that the survivors return.  However, Jesus reveals that he has one of the Saviors’ long range two-way radios, so they can listen in on anything happening at the Sanctuary.  There’s no rush to get back to Alexandria.  Instead, Jesus says that it’s time he introduced the group to Ezekiel…King Ezekiel.

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So Jesus leads them to the outer edge of the Kingdom, where they meet Richard and Alvaro, played by Carlos Navarro.  Jesus tells Richard that he’d like an audience with Ezekiel. Richard is skeptical of these newcomers, despite Jesus’ insistence that they’re good people who want to make the world less dangerous.  Richard will allow the group entrance, but only if they surrender their guns.  All two of them.  No big deal.

Though Richard is glad that Jesus, and not Gregory, has a backbone and a brain to boot, he doesn’t believe these trades or protection pacts will matter until they start dealing with the Saviors.  In response, Jesus believes this is the day that Richard will finally smile.

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So the survivors are brought into the Kingdom, which does have adequate numbers. They reunite with Morgan, who updates Rick and Daryl on Carol’s situation after she left Alexandria.  She’s fine, but just wanted to get away from everything, so after getting patched up at the Kingdom, she left.

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So Jesus brings Rick’s group to Ezekiel and his tiger.  It’s not often you see a tiger, more so in the apocalypse.  Rick states his case- Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom all have one thing in common: they all serve the Saviors.  Alexandria fought them once and won, but taking out one outpost didn’t eliminate the entire threat.  So…can you really call that a win, Rick?

Okay, whatever.  Ezekiel is upset that Jesus told others about his deal with the Saviors.  And that only became known after Jesus told Ezekiel about the Hilltop’s travails with the Saviors.  This arrangement isn’t known to the public for a good reason.  In Jesus’ defense, he broke the Kingdom’s confidence so Ezekiel could hear Rick’s plan.

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Ezekiel is hesitant in joining Rick’s fight against the Saviors, but the group points out that they’ve lost good people to the Saviors.  It’s here that Morgan finds out the fates of Abraham, Glenn, Spencer, and Olivia, not to mention Eugene being taken hostage.  And though Daryl escaped, he’s still a target.  Jesus thought this arrangement with the Saviors was manageable, but that’s changed.

For all the strength of Rick’s group, they lack the numbers and weapons.  If they strike first, together, they can win.  Richard likes this idea, as he doesn’t want to wait for things to get worse.  The time to strike back is now.  Ezekiel asks Morgan for his input.  Morgan admits that a lot of people on both sides will die, so he wonders if there’s another way to do this, like capturing Negan.

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Rick then tells a tale that I think he’s been itching to share for weeks: there was this road to a kingdom, and there was a rock in the road.  People would avoid it, but horses would break their legs on it and die and wagon wheels would fall off.  As such, people would lose the goods they wanted to sell.  For example, this one little girl’s family had a cask of beer that fell off.  As her family had no money, this was their last chance to get food.

The girl cried and wondered why the rock was there to hurt others.  So she dig and dug so deep and hard that her hands bled, but she after hours, she managed to remove the rock. However, just as she was prepared to fill the hole, she saw a bag of gold in that hole. The king put that rock in the road because he knew the person who dug it out deserved a reward that would change their life forever.

A bit of a shitty king, but I suppose he had a point.  Anyway, after Rick’s monologue, Ezekiel invites everyone to stay until tomorrow, when he will deliver his decree.

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Out in the woods, Benjamin runs into Carol, who heard him from a mile away because Carol has super hearing.  He explains that he didn’t run because he’s training to be a better fighter.  Carol tells Benjamin not to wander around alone at dark, but he tells her that Ezekiel will keep checking on her to make sure she’s okay since he looks out for the people he cares for, after all.

Benjamin offers her some food and water- he carries extra in case he runs into someone who needs it.  After all, there’s not a lot of people left and you have to help each other.

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That night, Benjamin tells Ezekiel that he’s getting better with the stick, as he managed to take out two walkers.  During his unaccompanied trip, he ran into Carol and said that his reason for carrying food and water is the same reason the Kingdom should work with Rick.  These visitors are willing to risk everything.  If the Kingdom doesn’t help, then Rick’s group may not win.

But on the off-chance that they do, they will have saved everyone and the Kingdom would have done nothing to assist.  And Ezekiel did say that he wants Benjamin to be ready for anything.  With this in mind, Ezekiel thanks Benjamin for his sage counsel.  The king is pleased.

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The next day, Ezekiel tells Rick and company that life at the Kingdom came at a cost, as he sent people to battle the dead when he didn’t have to.  He wanted to expand and create more places like the Kingdom.  Rick counters that the dead don’t rule them.  The world beyond the Kingdom isn’t as good and some people don’t have it good at all. Understatement of the century, Rick.

Ezekiel has to worry about his people.  He’s trying to hold onto this uneasy peace with the Saviors.  He won’t offer aid now, but he does offer Daryl asylum for as long as necessary since the Saviors don’t enter the Kingdom.  Daryl, though, wonders how long that would even last.  The group leaves unsatisfied and empty handed.

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Sasha tells Rosita that saw this coming, but she’s still upset.  Rosita doesn’t see why Sasha is telling her this, though.  Just because they both had sex with Abraham doesn’t make them friends.  Okay, does Rosita have a bug in her ass or something?

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Morgan wants Rick so he can hopefully change Ezekiel’s mind.  Richard, though, is more on board with Rick’s plan.  It doesn’t help the communities are just making the Saviors stronger by giving them food and arms.  Also, Daryl won’t be leaving.  Rick wants him to stay at the Kingdom.  That way, he can hopefully convince Ezekiel or, even better, stare him into submission.  That’s actually not a bad idea, Rick.

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On the road, the group overhears Negan’s eulogy of Fat Joey- apparently without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just Joey- and soon arrives at a blockade of cars in the road.  With a base not too far, they figure that the Saviors want to make it hard for people to reach this outpost.  The plan is to move the cars around and move them back so the Saviors don’t know others entered this area.

As the group gets to work moving the cars, they notice some explosives and steel cables needed for dealing with a walker herd.  The group welcomes themselves to these explosives, but they need to disarm them first.  Backing up won’t make a difference if the explosives go off.  At the same time, the group hears on the radio that Negan has ordered a search party to go find Daryl.

So now the survivors need to get the explosives and get to Alexandria before the Saviors. Good thing Rosita is an expert at disarming bombs.  Do you remember when Rosita was a pro at this?  I don’t.  Anyway, they need to unwrap the secondary explosives and make sure the casings aren’t messed up.  The explosives still need to be triggered to be set off, though there’s one in particular that Rosita doesn’t like.  She’s particular like that.

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Then, in the distance, Carl spots some approaching walkers.  There’s still time to disarm them and get the cars back on the road.  Sure, the Saviors will know that their bombs are missing, but this herd needs to stay on the highway.  The group may need it later.

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Jesus and Sasha head back to the Hilltop on foot.  As the others move the cars, Rick and Michonne cut through the wires and try to get as many weapons and explosives as possible.  They soon head to and hotwire two cars connected by the wiring and, in a set piece I’m sure most of us loved, they mow down the herd as the wire cuts through as many walkers as possible.

I guess it’s a good thing there was no rock in the road.  Rick and Michonne soon rejoin the others and head out just as the walkers are engulfed by an explosion.  Nice going, Rosita. But hey, they made it.  As Michonne tells Rick, they’re the ones who live.

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They return to Alexandria in no time.  Rick tells Tobin that everyone needs to get ready, but there’s no time for that, as Simon and a group of Saviors have arrived not for a tribute, but to find Daryl.  And Simon isn’t dumb enough to believe that Rick doesn’t know about Daryl’s disappearance.  So Simon wants everyone to partner up and search for Daryl.  That way, they can all watch him die if he’s found.

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The Saviors go through every nook and cranny of Alexandria, leaving a mess in the process, but don’t find Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that  but no sign of Daryl.  In the now empty pantry, Aaron tells Simon that it’s getting harder to find things for their community when they spend so much time gathering for Negan.

Again, Simon isn’t here to collect, but that day is coming.  Simon thanks Rick for his cooperation and tells him that if Daryl shows up, there’s no statute of limitations.  Well, at least Simon acknowledges that there’s still a statute of limitations in the post-apocalyptic world.  Tobin and Aaron tell Rick that Gabriel has disappeared, the pantry has been cleared out, and he stole a car.

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Aside from Rosita, no one wants to believe that Gabriel would steal from them.  Not to mention that Gabriel left his Bible, and Rick finds that curious.  He then sees the word ‘Boat’ written in a notebook.  So how would Gabriel know that Aaron and Rick were out there?

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As Aaron packs up, Eric confesses his concern, as Aaron did get the shit kicked out of him.  Eric doesn’t want Aaron to go after Gabriel, but after everything the community has endured, Gabriel is one of them and has proven his worth.  Despite the fear of what could happen if the Saviors returned while Rick and the others were out, Aaron is still set on leaving.

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After Rick and Aaron lead the group to the lake, Rick spots some footprints.  The group follows them and ends up in a clearing where, all of a sudden, they find themselves surrounded by a group of armed men and women.  And through it all, Rick eventually smiles.

So we’re back for the second half of the season and off to a good start as the main survivors get to work building an army to take down the Saviors.  Sure, they don’t make much progress since both Gregory and Ezekiel aren’t on board with this plan, but it’s only a matter of time before Rick has his united coalition to combat Negan.

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Before, when he decided to go for one of the outposts, Rick thought his plan was foolproof.  Attack the Saviors before they made the first move.  And despite doing that and more, the Saviors struck back and hard, so Rick needs to dial back his overconfidence. Rather than do it alone, he’s hoping that the Hilltop and Kingdom are just as fed up with Negan’s reign as they are.

Rick and company have proven time and time again that, when committed, they can overtake any challenge.  Hell, upon first learning about Negan, Rick said that confrontation has never been something the group has had trouble with, and then he met Negan.

So brute strength and heart alone won’t do it.  There’s strength in numbers and like the girl who dug out that rock in the road, Rick has to overcome obstacles in order to get back to some semblance of peace.

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Not just with Negan as that obstacle, but also in convincing the other communities that this is a fight they can win.  At this point, Gregory’s opinion is irrelevant since people at the Hilltop trust Maggie’s leadership and are already willing to put their lives on the line if there’s even a one percent chance that the Saviors can be defeated.

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And Ezekiel has every reason to be concerned.  He’s already kept his arrangement with the Saviors a secret and he doesn’t want to send more people to their deaths.  Why take the risk when there’s no guarantee of victory?  He’s sympathetic to Rick’s plight, yes, but not at the cost of his people.

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While Richard and Benjamin are already on board with fighting, I wager it’s going to take a major incident to push Ezekiel into joining Rick.  As Daryl asked, how long will the Saviors agree to not enter the Kingdom?  Someone is going to get hurt, killed, or the Saviors will break the peace because they can.  And that will what be what convinces Ezekiel that the Saviors must be removed from the equation if there is to be true peace.

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Also, I’m glad we got to spend a bit of time with Morgan, not just to get his reaction to who has been killed, but to see that he’s still keeping Carol’s location a secret.  And he’s still grappling with his stance on killing.  He did it to protect Carol, but despite hearing what the Saviors have done, he’s still looking for alternatives rather than going to war.  But like when he saved Carol, he may have to kill again to protect those going into battle.

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And even though Carol wants to stay out of the conflict- for now- she’s still a skilled warrior, as seen when she tells Benjamin about how to stay stealthy.  I’m unsure if she’s going to remain on the sidelines, but I imagine all that’s happened to her friends will at least get a reaction out of her.  Enough to draw her back into combat?  No idea.

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I like that we don’t spend an entire episode’s worth of Rick and company trying to recruit. It would’ve been easy to spend half the episode at the Hilltop, the other half at the Kingdom, and just end it there.  But these people have to keep moving because despite needing the numbers, they still have to contend with the Saviors, more so now that Daryl is a fugitive.

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Not to mention the fact that they’re desperate for weapons, which made the sequence on the road more hectic…even though these characters have such thick plot armor that we know they were never in any real danger, despite Rick and Michonne being surrounded.

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Plus, The Walking Dead has good set pieces when it comes to eliminating batches of walkers, but cutting through them with wire and two cars?  That’s some inspired ingenuity right there.  A bit ridiculous, but fun as hell all the same.

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Onto some character bits.  I can do without Rosita being such a prat to Sasha.  Where’s this coming from, by the way?  They seemed to be on good terms, last I checked.  If anything, I would think they’d be drawn closer since they both loved Abraham.  But no, she brings up that shared connection as a way to be cold to Sasha, who only expressed her disappointment about the situation.

More than that, she’s quick to throw Gabriel under the bus when he was the one to tell her that she didn’t need to sacrifice herself if it meant killing Negan.

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If I had to guess, maybe Rosita’s just salty that she couldn’t kill Negan from a few feet away.

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But what is Gabriel doing, anyway?  I wonder if it has to do with this new community we see at the end of the episode.  And though Rosita has turned her back on Gabriel, I’m happy that the others, especially Rick, trust that Gabriel wouldn’t just betray them.

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As for this new community, just who the hell are they?  At a first, quick glance, it’s easy to think these were Oceanside residents, but we saw men among them, so that rules them out.  But judging from Rick’s smile, he sees some advantage in this group.  Potential cannon fodder-I mean, soldiers for the war against the Saviors?  Who knows?  Here’s hoping we find out next time.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”

From bottle episodes to multiple plots, it’s time for The Walking Dead to end the first half of its seventh season, and if anything, it solidifies in Rick’s mind by episode’s end that things need to change and fast.  This is “Hearts Still Beating.”

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The episode begins at the Hilltop with Maggie sitting at Abraham and Glenn’s graves.  She later climbs the walls when Gregory tells her that people are saying nice things about her, Sasha, and how they saved the community.

Gregory doesn’t want it going to her head, but Maggie wonders if this bothers Gregory, who is about to eat an apple.  Then another Hilltop member, Eduardo, mentions that Maggie is pregnant, so goodbye Gregory’s apple and hello Maggie’s apple.

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We then cut to Alexandria, where Negan puts the finishing touches on a clean shave while Carl and Judith watch.  He then gets to work cooking up a storm.

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Outside, Tara gives Olivia some lemonade that’s intended for Negan.  Tara offers to take over, but Olivia refuses since she promised Rick that she would watch Judith.  She tells Tara to leave.

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Over at the Sanctuary, Daryl makes his escape from his cell.

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Meanwhile, Aaron and Rick find a boat riddled with bullet holes.  Rick wants Aaron to stay back, but Aaron refuses, saying that he’s seeing this through. Instead, he gets some wood to use as paddles and the two then set out on the water.

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As Carl sets the dinner table, Negan tells him to get another setting, but he soon gets tired of waiting for Rick.  Lucille, though, is hungry, so Negan orders Carl to pass the rolls.  At least he said please.  Lucille doesn’t have a pussy, but she apparently has a mouth.

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As Eugene enters the Safe Zone, the Saviors make good of Spencer’s supplies and are glad that he got messy for them.  One of the Saviors, Laura, played by Lindsley Register, tells Spencer that if he plays his cards right, they may show him where she lives.  Laura then tells an eavesdropping Eugene to fuck off and mind his own business.

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Back by the Kingdom, Carol reads from a book when she spots a package from Morgan on her doorstep.  Carol calls out to Morgan and tells him that the package of fresh food is unnecessary because Ezekiel is keeping her well-stocked.  Morgan promises to leave Carol alone, but she did call him over in the first place to ask how he’s doing.

Morgan is good, so now he can go.  He tells Carol that she may be going soft.  Morgan won’t be going anywhere, as he and Carol receive an unexpected visit from Richard, who wants to talk to the two about something important.

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On the water, Rick and Aaron continue their trek and take out as many walkers that are drawing close to their boat, which is taking on water.  They manage to reach another boat, but a walker has already made it her territory.  And then another walker grabs Aaron and drags him into the water.  After a bit of time passes, he resurfaces unharmed.  Sorry, Bob.

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However, Aaron and Rick come up short, as they find food and tons of guns, but no ammunition. Just a less-than-pleasant note from the owner.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Daryl sneaks into another room where he feasts on peanut butter and changes into a new set of clothes.

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As the two pack, Rick tells Aaron that he didn’t mean to imply that Aaron couldn’t help out.  It’s just that people don’t agree with Rick scavenging for the Saviors, so Rick wouldn’t blame Aaron if he backed out.  Aaron reminds Rick that he was with him on the road.  What they’re doing is going to keep people alive.  It doesn’t matter what happens to them, even if Michonne doesn’t see this as living.

After Alexandria lived free, it’s hard to give up what you have, but either your heart’s beating or it isn’t.  Same for your loved ones.  You take what’s given to you so you can live.

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Michonne is still on the road with Isabelle, who is continuing her drive presumably towards the Sanctuary.  Michonne asks how long she’s been with Negan and why she was out there alone, but gets no response.  Whether Isabelle believes that talking won’t change how this ends for her remains to be seen, but for now, Michonne won’t kill Negan today. She just wants to find a way to win and change how this ends for her.

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Back at the Hilltop, Sasha and Maggie get an apple pie as a gift for their work in saving the Hilltop.  Enid asks if Maggie is President yet, but she isn’t.  Also, Jesus hasn’t returned yet.  Enid knows that Sasha is lying to Maggie about Jesus, given that he left yesterday, not today, as Sasha said.  Sasha says this is for Maggie’s own good.  Enid knows that Sasha wants to kill Negan.

If Sasha had help, she wouldn’t have to keep this from Maggie.  But Sasha doesn’t want Enid helping or talking, even though this effort to take down Negan goes well beyond Sasha.

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Richard speaks with Carol and Morgan about communities that once banded together, but are now gone.  He lost hope in people until he found the Kingdom and met Ezekiel.  But now the Kingdom is under threat by the Saviors.  A few months back, some Saviors met Ezekiel and, recognizing his capabilities, cut a deal.  In exchange for food and supplies, , the Saviors wouldn’t hurt anyone or enter the Kingdom.

And since Ezekiel both trusts Morgan and likes Carol, Richard needs them to help convince Ezekiel to fight the Saviors.  There’s peace with the Saviors now, but Richard fears that something will go wrong or the Saviors will just stop honoring the deal.  Once that happens, the Kingdom will fall.  Richard lost his family to this world and he’s afraid that if nothing happens now, more will die.

He knows what the Saviors can do and does not trust them.  In essence, Richard wants Morgan and Carol to convince Ezekiel to launch a preemptive strike against the Saviors.

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Over at Alexandria’s church, Rosita admires her handcrafted bullet when Gabriel asks if it’s for her or Negan.  She’s not worried about dying so long as Negan is killed in the process.  Gabriel agrees, but he doesn’t see why does Rosita has to die.  And there’s no need to lie if this is their last conversation.

Rosita believes that Abraham was still alive, they could fight.  If Glenn lived, Maggie’s child would have a father.  Michonne and Carl have Rick, Aaron has Eric, Eugene knows things, and Daryl is strong.  Gabriel mentions Sasha as well and tells Rosita that it shouldn’t have been her or anyone else.

He is convinced that they will win, but they need to wait for or create the right moment together.  Rosita is a part of that, so she shouldn’t do this because everyone needs her.

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Richard knows that the Saviors outnumber the Kingdom, so they need to attack first while they have the advantage and, hopefully, the element of surprise.  Though a capable fighter, Carol wants no part of this and would still prefer to be left alone.

Morgan knows people will die, and he only killed to save Carol.  In Richard’s mind, there’s no difference between that and killing other Saviors to protect everyone else.  Richard tells While Morgan would rather build on the peace that exists now, Richard tells him that he’ll have to choose to kill one day because things aren’t going to get easier. He should choose now before losing someone close to him.

But Richard knows that there’s no reasoning with the Saviors.  He believes that the Saviors will turn on the Kingdom, and when blood is shed, it will be on Morgan and Carol’s hands.  With that, he leaves.  Carol tells Morgan that she doesn’t want anyone else knowing where she is, but he never meant for anyone to see her.

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Spencer enters his home and finds it turned upside down, but it’s soon cleaned up as he gets himself nice and ready for a confrontation.

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Back in the woods, Richard enters a hidden home and collapses to the floor as he eyes his supplies.

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Rosita then asks Spencer if he’s on for a date, but he just wants to get close to Negan, as he figures that he’s got good momentum with the Saviors.  Spencer asks why Rosita ended or even started what the two of them had, given that he felt they had something good.

Truth is that Rosita was trying not to think about shit. finds Spencer sweet, sure, but she admits that she just used him.  At the very least, she does agree to dinner with Spencer, no strings attached.

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Daryl again manages to find a motorcycle when he’s confronted by Fat Joseph, who surrenders and offers to let Daryl leave right now.  He tells Daryl that he’s just trying to get by, but Daryl just beats him to death just as Jesus finds him.  Daryl retorts that it’s not about getting by, but getting it all.  Before the two leave, Jesus pockets one of the walkie-talkies.

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After being refused entry by Arat, Spencer is eventually allowed to pass and officially introduces himself to Negan.

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Michonne and Isabelle companion are still on the road when they come to a stop. Isabelle tells Michonne that Negan is up ahead.   You know, because they’re all Negan. She says that whatever Michonne is planning won’t work, but she still has some choices. As her final move, Isabelle informs Michonne that there’s a silencer in the glove compartment…

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Meanwhile, Rick and Aaron return to Alexandria, when they learn that Negan is waiting for Rick.  The Saviors then check the truck for supplies, among them the note that Rick and Aaron found on the boat.  Why the hell do they still have that?  Anyway, the Saviors think that the disparaging note is meant for them, so they start beating the shit out of Aaron and stop Rick from interfering.

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Negan is overjoyed about Spencer’s housewarming gift, but the only thing missing is a pool table.  Luckily, the house across the street has one, but Negan has a better idea.

With the pool table set, Spencer tells Negan that he understands what Negan is trying to build with this network.  It makes sense, but Rick has a history of not working well with others.  More than that, Rick wasn’t the original leader and wasn’t as good as Deanna.  Negan finds that a sad story, but lucky for him, Rick isn’t in charge.  Even still, Spencer knows that Rick’s out-of-control ego will lead to him trying to screw things up.

With the Alexandria residents now gathered at the pool table, Negan asks what Spencer is proposing, and Spencer offers to be the leader that Negan needs.

But Negan has been thinking about how Rick, despite hating him, is out gathering things to make sure no one else is hurt.  He’s swallowing his hate to get shit done, and that takes guts.  Then there’s Spencer, who waited for Rick to leave so he could get Negan to do his dirty work.  After all, if Spencer really wants to be in charge, why doesn’t he just kill Rick himself?

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Negan says it’s because Spencer has no guts.  And with that, he plunges a knife straight into Spencer’s stomach and guts spill out everywhere.  Negan is beyond embarrassed, as Spencer did have guts after all- they were inside him all along.  The residents are left shocked, but Negan orders someone to get this mess cleaned.  He asks if anyone wants to finish the pool game, but no takers.  Rosita pulls out her gun and fires.

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The other Saviors finally let up on beating Aaron and Rick is allowed to help him.  They hear a gunshot ring out and it turns out that Lucille ended up taking a hit from Rosita’s bullet.  Negan demands to know about the bullet that he correctly guesses is homemade.

Since Lucille’s beautiful surface won’t look the same, Negan figures that Rosita’s shouldn’t either…unless she tells him who made the bullet.  Arat then places a blade to Rosita’s face.

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Rosita says that she made it, but Negan figures that she’s lying.  Negan orders Arat to kill someone, so with fucking perfect aim, she turns around and kills Olivia.  And this is where Rick and Aaron arrive just in time for Negan to ask for a thank you.  Even though this relationship started off tense, he just showed how reasonable how he was.  After all, Carl gunned down two Saviors, but Negan brought him home and fed him.

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Not to mention Spencer plotting behind Rick’s back, but now he’s dead.  Again, thanks to Negan.  And Rosita shot Lucille, so now there’s one less mouth to feed in Olivia’s death.  Negan wouldn’t have killed her- that’s all Arat’s doing.  Rick tells Negan that his shit is waiting for him at the gate, so he can leave.  However, Negan still wants to know who made the bullet.

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Eugene admits that he was the one who made the bullet, and Negan believes him.  Negan orders Lucille to give him strength and Negan will now relieve Rick of Eugene.  Whatever Rick scavenged is no good because after today, he’s in deep shit. Also, Negan loves Rick’s kitchen.  With that, the Saviors depart.  Spencer soon reanimates just as Rick puts him down.

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He later sits in the cell that Morgan built as he looks over a note when Michonne joins him.  The two embrace because, let’s face it, they’ve had one hell of a day.  Michonne confirms that she found what she was looking for, as she had to go her way instead of joining Rick and Aaron.  But when she found it, she realized that she didn’t want it to be her way, but theirs.

There are more Saviors than anticipated, but that doesn’t change how Michonne how feels or how things are.  There’s so much that they’ve lived through when they should have died and they will keep standing, so now they’re left wondering how they make that mean something.  After all, Rick once said that they’re the ones who live.  That’s why they have to fight: not for themselves, but for everyone.  They can find a way to beat the Saviors.

And Rick now knows that.

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Back at the Hilltop, Maggie again climbs the walls when she calls out to Sasha and Enid.  Turns out that Rick, Michonne, Tara, Carl, and Rosita have arrived at the Hilltop.  Rick tells Maggie that she was right from the beginning, as they need to get ready to fight.  Rick couldn’t have listened back then, but now he can.

Oh, also, Daryl and Jesus are at the Hilltop and he returns Rick’s colt.  Now reunited, the group heads towards the mansion as the first half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season comes to a close.

But wait, there’s more!  In a stinger at the end, Gabriel takes his post atop the Alexandria walls while the same individual who spied on Rick and Aaron watches him from a distance.

Well, that’s it for the first half of Season Seven and the wheels are in motion with the communities heading towards taking on Negan and the Saviors.  “Hearts Still Beating” is a very good episode and finisher for the first half that balances different storylines and communities very well.  It was all well-paced.  We’re at Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Sanctuary, or the Kingdom long enough to get the gist of what’s going happening.

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While I haven’t had a big issue with the episodes dealing with one community, it makes sense, given the situation, that things are ramping up, so of course we’d head back to multiple plots and catch up not just on how the communities are doing, but how they’re planning on dealing with Negan.

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And a big part of that has to do with being unified, as Michonne concludes when on the road and as she tells Rick in a very good speech about working together.  Making the most of this situation with the Saviors doesn’t work if everyone isn’t banded together.  Hell, even Gabriel tells Rosita that creating the right moment comes from working as one as opposed to going at it alone.  Hopefully Sasha and Jesus have let Maggie in on their plan.

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But a team won’t function as well without its leader, and it looks as if Rick has finally come around to fighting back as opposed to biding his time.  And that’s through a combination of the people who have either suffered or been killed up through this point, watching Aaron be beaten, Michonne’s speech to him, and how his own son went right to Negan’s stronghold, killed a few Saviors, and could’ve gotten himself killed.  Again.

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Rick had been brought down, but he’s not out.  And while Maggie instantly wanted to fight, it took him more time to come around.  Now that he’s ready for war and has reunited with the others at the Hilltop, now it’s just a matter of formulating a successful attack that won’t lead to more deaths, impossible as that sounds.  Instead of just taking the fight to Negan ahead of time, he needs a better strategy.

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He also needs to be more trusting of his new allies, as it was unnecessary for him to suggest that Aaron sit out the boat mission, even though he didn’t mean it.  Despite the tense, first encounter, Aaron has proven himself loyal and willing to help when necessary.  He was there when Glenn and Abraham died, so he knows the cost, but damn the consequences, he’s proving to Rick why he’s a vital member of this coalition.

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Over at the Kingdom, Richard is falling into the same trap that Rick did with his plan of a preemptive strike against the Saviors.  He knows that the Saviors can’t be trusted and he wants to take the fight to them ahead of time, but if he was aware of what happened with Rick, chances are he would be more cautious about wanting to get a potential early advantage against the Saviors.

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By the way, what’s going on with Carol?  Seems like she’s still in her funk about not wanting to kill or be involved with this conflict at all.  That’s fine, but for her to say that she doesn’t want anyone to know where she is and that she’d rather be left alone isn’t helpful at this point.  I doubt this is long term.  Maybe once she learns what happened to the others, she’ll go back to killer Mama Bear Carol.

At the very least, the seed has been planted in Morgan and Carol’s minds about the Kingdom playing a part in an offensive against Negan.  And as Richard said, Morgan will have to kill again eventually to protect the people in his life.  Once Rick arrives at the Kingdom, I wager he’ll do a better job of persuading the community to fight than either Carol or Morgan.

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Now let’s get to Spencer’s death, another comic moment come to life in a beautiful, bloody way.  The moment played out, note-for-note, like you remember it from the comics and it really showed what Negan sees in Rick.  For all his hatred for Negan, Rick, as far as Negan knows, isn’t a schemer.  He’s swallowing his pride and working for Negan in order to protect Alexandria.

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By contrast, Spencer would take the coward’s way out and, like Gregory, suck up to the opposition in order to get in their good graces.  Problem is that Negan gets off on and likes when people fight against him.  What Spencer’s doing requires very little thought because there’s no guarantee that Negan would accept him with open arms.  As broken as Rick has been this season, Negan at least knows that he has a spine.

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Oh, but Spencer’s not the only one making stupid decisions.  Rosita took a prime opportunity to kill Negan and had a perfect shot, and not only did she almost get herself killed- and she seemed ready to die- but she got Olivia killed in the process.  Why now?

Daryl punched Negan in the face, which led to Glenn getting killed. Rosita took a shot and missed, but despite that, her actions got someone killed.  Clearly Rosita never watched The Wire or she would have remembered Omar’s words: you come at the king, you best not miss.

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Perhaps it was impulsive thinking, but what made her believe she could pull off what amounts to a suicide mission?  She didn’t even land her target, and now not only is Olivia dead, but Eugene has been taken captive.

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That’s another thing: why does Negan decide to take Eugene?  Aside from the knowledge of how to make bullets, what could Negan get from him?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to take Rosita?  He took Daryl hostage and said that he had guts.  Take the woman who almost killed you instead of the guy whose skill is making bullets.  Or, hell, just take them both.  Rick wasn’t about to stop Negan.

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Credit where it’s due, that was a fantastic shot on Arat’s part.  The woman didn’t even give it much of a thought- she just spun around and killed Olivia on the first try.  It’s more impressive given how far away Olivia was when Arat could have just killed anyone in the crowd around her.  By the way, I love Arat.  Or rather, the intensity of Elizabeth Ludlow’s performance.  Like Daryl, she’s not a comic character, but is enjoyable all the same.

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The reunion at the end felt very earned, especially seeing Rick and Daryl reunite after Negan refused to let the two so much as talk or look at each other.  I would assume that Daryl and Maggie are on good terms as well.  Our group is down, but they’re not out.

And with most of our survivors back together, the time has come for the communities to combine their resources and slowly build a strong coalition capable of taking on their common enemy in Negan and the Saviors.  Will everyone answer the call? Will there be any holdouts?  And who the hell is spying on Alexandria?

“Hearts Still Beating” was a very strong outing for the first half of the season.  It balanced multiple communities very well and was both fun- mostly through Negan’s actions- and suspenseful to watch at the same time.  As we head towards war, I am very excited to see how things go in the second half of Season Seven.  See you then.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”

So after that slight detour to check in on Heath and Tara, it’s time to return to some multiple plots and see just what happens when Carl pays Negan a surprise visit at the Sanctuary. The comic fan in me cannot wait for this one.  Welcome to “Sing Me a Song.”

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The episode begins with Michonne on the road as she again comes across the burned mattresses.  Doing her best impression of Omar from The Wire, she whistles “The Farmer and the Dell,” and soon puts down two approaching walkers.  Setting down the radio and her katana, she begins dragging one of the walkers away.

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Elsewhere, Rick and Aaron awaken just past 5:30.  Rick contemplates radioing into Michonne, but doesn’t.  As the two prepare to head out, they make a new discovery.

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On another part of the road, some Saviors talk of how something is still going, but it might be the end of them.  At least Negan is smart enough to not let that mess anywhere near them.  Fat Joey also apparently rigged the herdway.

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When the Saviors finally depart, they are unaware that Carl and Jesus are also on this truck.  While the drive continues, Jesus pours syrup onto the road in order to leave a trail, thinking that they’re close.  Jesus wants to bail and follow the rest of the way.  The trucks are slow enough, so he and Carl will be in the blind spot and can race behind the other cars.

However, only Jesus jumps out and is left on the road as Carl continues towards the Sanctuary.  As the truck approaches, Carl loads up one of the machine guns and overhears Negan’s voice.  One of the Saviors tells Negan that the redirect has been screwed up.  They’re on it now, but there’s still a mess.

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As the Saviors check the truck, Carl opens fire and manages to gun down a few of the Saviors.  He demands that the rest lower their weapons, saying that he only wants Negan. Negan indeed presents himself, calling Carl adorable, even though he scares the shit out of him.

Dwight tackles Carl and confiscates his knife, but Negan orders him to back off.  After all, it’s no way to treat a guest.  Negan is all ready to give Carl a tour of the place, and Carl eventually relents and takes Carl’s hand.  Negan tells Carl that, like Daryl, he’s lucky, as both of their lives and jobs would be tougher with just one hand or arm.

As Dwight takes Daryl instead, Negan laments that he’ll maybe have time to screw just one of his wives today.  As for what’s in store for Carl, two things: Carl can’t shatter the badass image that Negan has of him, so Carl can’t show any fear.  Second, Negan sure as shit isn’t about to ruin the surprise..

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Negan brings Carl inside the Sanctuary, where he greets a waiting crowd of Saviors.  He tells his followers that they have gone out into the world, fought the dead, and come back with some good shit.  That shit can be theirs if they work hard and play by the rules.  As such, everyone, regardless of points, gets fresh vegetables at dinner.  Negan tells Carl that this is a sign of respect, as the people are still kneeling.

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Back in Alexandria, Rosita and Eugene have the first of many arguments this episode, this one over whether to gather supplies for the Saviors or ways to fight back.  Spencer, though, believes the three should travel together, but Rosita says that she’s fine with Eugene.

Spencer can grovel to the Saviors all he wants, but he still believes this is all Rick’s fault. Even if Spencer can do better, Rosita isn’t so confident that he’s capable.  If Spencer wants to provide for the Saviors, he can, but he’ll do so alone.

You know, Spencer certainly has a way with women.  Those that don’t end up in harm’s way can’t get far enough away from him.

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Negan pops by his harem and tells Carl that the women won’t mind if he stares at their tits.  He shares a drink with Sherry and wants to know what happened with Amber and Mark, but Sherry says that’s none of Negan’s business.  Fair enough, but Negan wants to know if it’s true that Mark skipped out on redirect duty to be with Amber.  After all, there are rules for a reason and nothing matters if you’re dead.

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Sherry is with Negan because she gets that.  She admits that Amber made a mistake and wants Negan to go easy on her, but Negan reminds Sherry that he’s never hit any of the women.  True, but Sherry knows that there’s worse to Negan.  This tale is to be continued.

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Negan then goes to Amber, played by Autumn Dial, and tells her that he doesn’t want anyone in his harem that doesn’t want to be there.  If Amber wants to go back to Mark, she can, but what she can’t do is cheat on Negan.  There are other women who would love to take Amber’s place.  If Amber wants to return to Mark and her mother, Negan can put all three of them on the same job.

Though Negan accepts Amber’s apology, but Negan reminds Amber that she knows what’s coming next.  It’s all going to work out fine for Amber, though.  Negan then tells Sherry to go fetch Carson.  Negan knows that he’s an asshole, but Sherry still likes him anyway.

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Then Dwight and Daryl just as Negan is kissing Sherry.  Daryl, as the help, brings in a plate of food, which is sad to see, I will admit.  He demands to know why Carl is here, but that’s none of his business.  If Daryl isn’t careful, a toothpick will go through Carl’s good eye.  Negan then tells Dwight to fire up the furnace.  It’s time for a little déjà vu.

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Back on the road, Rick and Aaron approach a gate with only a day to find supplies.  They climb the gate, which warns approaching people that the only thing beyond the gate is trouble, and head off to find supplies.  You’d think that, based on Terminus, Rick would be more wary of areas with signs.

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Elsewhere, Spencer asks Gabriel if hating someone is a sin, and it’s not since it’s a thought.  Actions matter more in the end.  Spencer admits that he hates Rick.  He was a cop, but shouldn’t be in charge.  Deanna, though, served in Congress and brought out the good in people.  However, Rick did the same for Gabriel through his inspiration.  More than that, Rick, despite not being perfect, kept people together and alive.

And neither Deanna nor Reg’s deaths were Rick’s fault.  Before Spencer contemplates what would have happened if things went differently, Gabriel only looks towards the future. No point in speculating on ‘What ifs.’  But Spencer sees no future as long as Rick is in charge.  The only good thing that could happen is if Rick doesn’t make it back to Alexandria.  Gabriel then orders Spencer to stop the car.

He tells Spencer that what he’s saying doesn’t make him a sinner, but a tremendous shit.  For now.  It doesn’t have to be terminal, though.  Fuck yeah, Father Gabriel.  Anyway, Gabriel then gets out of the car and decides to walk back.  Spencer soon also exits the car and heads into the woods.  He soon finds a walker up in a tree with a compound bow nearby.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Negan brings Carl to his quarters and confirms that yes, all of those women are his wives.  After all, why settle for just one?  Negan wants to get to know Carl better, as he’s fascinated by this kid.  He figured a kid like Carl would mope around and cry about missing things like prom, but Carl instead went on a mission and killed two Saviors.  And Carl is smart enough to know that Negan won’t let this slide.

Negan then orders Carl to take off his bandage.  Carl refuses, but Negan reminds Carl that two of his men are dead.  This is punishment, and Carl probably doesn’t want to piss off Negan right now.

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Carl soon relents and removes his bandage, revealing the socket where his eye used to be.  It is indeed disgusting as shit, but Negan finds it glamorous, even if won’t get Carl a girlfriend anytime soon.  An impressed Negan wants to touch it, but Carl soon gets very upset by this.

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Negan pulls back and apologizes for hurting Carl’s feelings.  He was just fucking around.  Soon, there’s a knock at the door.  Fat Joseph returns Lucille to Negan, as he left her by the truck, which never happens.  Negan reclaims Lucille from Fat Joseph and asks if he treated Lucille kindly like a proper lady.

And that includes if he patted Lucille’s pussy like a lady, but Negan is just fucking with Fat Joseph.  After all, a baseball bat doesn’t have a pussy.  That’s just Anatomy 101.  This is what Rick should be teaching Carl.  Negan then asks Carl to sing him a song.  Carl can’t think of any, so Negan asks Carl what his parents used to sing or play for him.

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Eventually, Carl begins singing “You Are My Sunshine” while Negan takes random swings.  Negan loves it, as does Lucille- the one thing she loves more than bashing in brains.  When asked about his mother, Carl doesn’t answer, so Negan puts two and two together.  More than that, Carl admits that he was the one to put her down.  Negan then orders Carl to get up because the iron should be ready.

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Negan tells his Saviors that what’s about to happen is hard to watch.  He can’t ignore the rules and let it slide because, as the Saviors say, the rules keep us alive.  The Saviors provide security and bring civilization to the world, but they can’t do that without rules because the rules make it all work.  Negan knows that it’s not easy, but there’s always a cost.  Here, if you try to cut corners, then it’s the iron for you.

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Negan heads down and receives the red-hot iron from Dwight.  He apologizes in advance for what’s about to happen to Mark, played by Griffin Freeman, but it is what it is.  With that, he presses the iron to Mark’s face as Mark lets out a horrible scream.  When Negan removes the iron, Mark passes out from the extreme heat.  With the ritual done, Negan orders Daryl to clean up the mess and tells Dr. Carson to get to work.

But everything is cool.  Mark’s face should be a daily reminder to everyone that the rules matter.  Plus, Negan doesn’t want to do this again.  He then leaves with Carl in order to figure out what to do with him.

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In the woods, Spencer manages to secure a rope to the platform the walker is situated on and gets it loose enough for the compound bow to drop.  He retrieves it just as the walker drops, losing its arms in the process.  Spencer pick-pockets the walker and, among the items he finds, comes across a note.

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Eugene and Rosita arrive at the munitions factory, though Eugene has no desire to be here.  He refuses to help, even though he did initially agree to do so.  Since then, Eugene has considered other options and is wondering whether this option even makes sense.  He’s not trying to stop Rosita so much as slow her roll.  And Eugene is seeing clearly.  As Abraham said, the Saviors have numbers and a single bullet won’t do it.

Someone has to pay the price, and even if Rosita is willing, it’s still an uphill battle.  Rosita reminds Eugene that she owes both him and Abraham.  If there’s a price, she’ll pay it. She lashes out at Eugene, calling him a weak coward and saying that he’s only alive because people feel sorry for him.  So for once, he needs to do something useful and make her a goddamn bullet.

Rosita, you’re being a real cunt right now.

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We return to the Sanctuary where Dwight and Sherry again have a smoke.  Dwight tells Sherry not to beat herself up, as he figures that she sold out Mark and Amber.  Sherry says that isn’t what happened, but Dwight sees through her lie.

Sherry says that this deal with Negan was only meant to affect them, but Dwight believes that Sherry is just standing on someone else’s back.  The two could be spotted, but Dwight isn’t worried since they’re not doing anything.  Sherry agrees with that much.

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Negan still won’t let Carl wrap up his face because Negan isn’t done with him.  Carl demands to know why Negan hasn’t killed him, Rick, or Daryl yet.  Negan has plays for Daryl, saying that he’ll make a good soldier.  Rick is already gathering for Negan, but as for Carl, that remains to be seen.  It’s better and more fun for Negan to break him.  So Negan asks Carl what he should do with him, since he can’t release him.

He could do a number of terrible things, but Carl suggests that Negan jump out the window to save him the trouble of killing him.  If Negan was going to do anything, he would have done it.  Carl doesn’t even believe that Negan would kill him, and maybe Carl is right.  As Negan gathers Lucille, he tells Carl that they’re going for a ride.

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As the trucks leave the Sanctuary, Negan is unaware that Jesus is atop his truck.  Negan tells Daryl that he’s taking Carl home and orders Dwight to take Daryl back to his box.  Back to Easy Street it is.

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So while Daryl stews in his cell, he gets a key under his door and a note that tells him it’s time to go.

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On the road, a lone Savior happens upon a roadblock of corpses when she’s soon approached by Michonne, who orders her to lower her gun and knife.  She orders the woman to take her to Negan.

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And just where is Negan?  Well, he’s back in Alexandria with Carl as he pays Olivia a surprise visit.  He wants to speak with Rick, but he’s out scavenging and might not be back today, so Negan will wait.  Olivia tells Negan that Alexandria is low on supplies, particularly with food, but Negan takes one look at Olivia and figures can’t be the case for everyone.  This makes Olivia cry.  A dick comment, but it’s Negan, so I’ll allow it.

Negan apologizes for being rude and offers instead to fuck Olivia’s brains out if she agrees, and that gets Negan a slap in the face instead.  That just gets Negan 50 percent more into Olivia.  He orders Olivia to make him a drink.

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So Carl gives Negan the grand tour of the house as we get a montage.  He even gets to meet and picks up Judith.

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Rick and Aaron- you remember them, right?- happen upon a sign telling them about an armed person who has supplies and ammunition.  The only way for someone to have reached this point is that the person who wrote the sign must apparently be dead.  Indeed, Rick and Aaron find what looks a houseboat.

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Rosita thanks Eugene for her bullet and apologizes for what she said, though Eugene rejects it because he knows Rosita meant what she said.  As the two make their way back, they happen upon Spencer, who found a list of caches from a dead man with a plan.  However, Rick is going to do more than just hand this over to the Saviors..

Well, Spencer won’t have to wait long to deliver the goods, as he, Eugene, and Rosita find that Negan is already at Alexandria.

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In fact, Negan, Carl, and Judith sit on one of the porches and unwind.  Negan likes it so much that he’d like to stay, and knows that it’s probably stupid to leave Carl and Rick alive.  Maybe he should just bury kill and later bury them in the flower beds.  He says this while holding Judith, which is creepy as fuck.

Now I’m no professional or a doctor, Jim, but I’ll just come right out and say it: I fucking loved this episode.  The Walking Dead has been going through a tough period right now with the ratings.  Perhaps people are tired, maybe the bottle episodes have gotten on their nerves, maybe the entertainment factor has dried up for some.  I don’t know.

I’ll admit that the bottle episodes have been somewhat slower, but at the same time, they’ve allowed for some very good world building and character development.  Plus, when done well, like the excellent “Clear.”  I wouldn’t personally say any of the bottle episodes we’ve gotten have been as good as that, but I’ve enjoyed them nonetheless.  But I can understand some criticisms when people say they’d prefer multiple storylines.

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We sort of get that here, to a point, but I dug this episode not just for its fun factor, but as a fan of the comic book, this felt like a treat as we got to see a lot of comic moments come to life.  And we didn’t even spend the entire episode at the Sanctuary, so those wanting several plots to play out at once hopefully got what they wanted.

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As for me, having comic moments on screen was the real joy of this episode to me.  We got the iron ritual, we saw Negan’s harem, and Negan bonding with Carl.

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Actually, let’s start there, because some of the stuff with Carl was a bit weak.  I don’t blame the acting because I do think Chandler Riggs did a good job, but I have to wonder how these scenes would have played out if this Carl was as young as his comic counterpart was at this moment.

I sympathize with Carl because of the position he’s put himself into, but it didn’t feel as uncomfortable as it was originally because Carl, though a badass in both interpretations, was just a kid.  Here, he’s already been hardened through things like putting down his own mother.  If anything, I just wish that we had more scenes that allowed Carl to show his vulnerable side.

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Having said that, I’m not really complaining.  I like how Carl, despite crying in front of Negan, maintained his composure, not to maintain a front, but because he’s not intimidated by Negan.  Hell, he went as far as telling Negan to jump out of a window and questioned whether Negan would even follow through on killing him.  Carl is tempting fate, but I think he knows that Negan wouldn’t kill him at this moment if he hadn’t already.

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But as Negan indicated, it’s more fun to try and break him.  And given the shit that Carl saw this episode, I would agree.  Even though this is the second tour us viewers have had of the Sanctuary, there’s something different about seeing it with Carl as opposed to spending most of the time in Daryl’s cell.  Here, we saw more of the Saviors and their devotion to Negan.

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As he tells his followers, there are rules.  Break them and you get the iron, which was a pretty disturbing scene.  I had hoped that the show wouldn’t cut away when the iron made impact, but we did eventually see it, so I’m not angry.  It showed how strict a stickler is for the rules, but also the lengths he’ll go to make sure his disciples stay in line because, as he told them, he didn’t want to have to do this again.

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The strange thing is, as evil of a man that he is, we see that Negan has standards.  He reminds Sherry that he’s never hit any of his women.  He previously offered Dwight a chance to bed any woman as long as she said yes.  And he’s not forcing any of the women to stay with him, even though their lives are far better living with him than scavenging for points.

And we see his softer side not just with Carl, but in Alexandria.  He tried to apologize to Olivia after making fun of her weight, and though he got slapped for his troubles, we’ve seen how much Negan gets off on people fighting against him.

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Though I maintain that seeing him hold Judith while talking about how he would kill Rick and Carl is one of Negan’s creepier moments.  Hell, just seeing Negan hold Judith was still creepy as shit.  He’s like the demented dad who loves fucking with you, but there’s some small part of him that still cares about your feelings.

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Negan’s a guy you should hate, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance makes him as eccentric and likable as he is in the comic, even though you’re also rooting for his death at the same time as laughing with him.

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But enough about Negan, because I could talk about him all day.  There were plenty of other great character moments this episode.  I loved Gabriel calling out Spencer on his shit.  Not only was he right, but this shows how far Gabriel has come since his introduction and some of his time in Alexandria.  This is the same man who warned Deanna that Rick and his group are dangerous people.

Now, even though he’s maintaining his faith, he’s not afraid to call someone a tremendous shit.  He’s witnessed Rick’s ability as a leader and even though Rick has made some bad decisions, he’s also shown why he deserves to lead Alexandria.  Deanna was a good leader, sure, but she saw something in Rick, and Spencer should realize that.

But he still doesn’t acknowledge Rick’s leadership, so chances are he’s going to do or say something that could lead to disaster.  I say that not just as a fan of the comic book, but the fact that he thinks things would be better if Rick didn’t return to Alexandria shows that he’s plotting.

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Not sure what to make of what Michonne’s doing.  Like Sasha and Rosita, she wants her revenge against Negan and perhaps she’s heading right to him, but I assume this will play out more in the mid-season finale.  And at the same time, she’s being proactive in her mission, and she’s better at this than trying to be Alexandria’s resident sniper.

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As for Rick and Aaron, I wager they may come across some weapons and the two may grapple on whether to keep them for themselves or, as Spencer is doing, hand over their items to Negan.  It would be nice for them to have an extra stockpile of weapons on standby in case needed.  The area they found looked pretty isolated, so chances are they could even leave the arms there, take down the sign, and keep quiet about the spot.

There’s a lot I liked about this episode and I’m very anxious to see how this will all play out in the mid-season finale, especially with Negan back in Alexandria, but before wrapping up, I’ll just go through one negative I have.

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The one part of this episode that I wasn’t a fan of was Rosita, or rather, her attitude towards Eugene.  I get her rationale.  She wants her revenge not just for herself, but for Abraham as well, and she’s not going to let anything stop her, especially if it’s possible for Eugene to manufacture a bullet.  What I didn’t like was her calling Eugene a coward and saying that his survival is due to other people’s actions.

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Rosita is way out of line here.  Yes, Eugene isn’t as gung-ho as her, but ever since “No Way Out,” Eugene has stepped up and done a lot to help the survivors.  He bit Dwight right in the dick, giving Abraham the opening he needed to attack the Saviors, and in “Last Day on Earth,” he was the one who ended up taking the camper, even though he ended up getting his ass kicked by the Saviors.

My point is that this even though Eugene is no Abraham, he has made significant development and has proven that he’s a changed man.  And for Rosita to call him weak felt like a step backwards.  He’s just hesitant to taking on the Saviors, and that’s understandable.  He was there in the lineup right along with Rosita.  Who could blame him for not wanting to just jump into this bullet plan?

Otherwise, “Sing Me a Song” was a great episode that allowed us to spend significant time at the Sanctuary as Negan bonded and became great buddies with Carl.  As we head into the mid-season finale, there are a lot of pieces in place to make for hopefully a great episode: Jesus may be of help to Daryl at the Sanctuary, Michonne is on the warpath, and Negan has made another surprise visit to Alexandria.  No one is on Easy Street right now.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 4: “Service”

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.”

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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.

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Michonne then stakes a post at an abandoned truck in the middle of an empty field and waits.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Oh, and someone let Enid out of the closet.  That’s good at least.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 3: “The Cell”

You know, of all the things that The Walking Dead manages to do to me, I never thought one of them would be to make me sick of a song that I had never even heard of prior to this episode.  But such is the case as we catch up with Daryl and see how life has been for him since Negan brought him along to the headquarters of the Saviors: the Sanctuary. This is “The Cell.”

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The episode begins with, Dwight watching, of all things, “Who’s the Boss.”  As he does, we hear The Jam’s “Town Called Malice.”  Subtle.  We’re then introduced to life at the Sanctuary as Dwight keeps tabs on folks in the compound, including one guy who gets a beating by three other Saviors.  Dwight minds his place, though, dropping to his knees along with other Saviors whenever Negan walks by.

The montage ends as Dwight is interrupted from his sandwich as he watches two men evade walkers outside the gates of the Sanctuary.  One walker in particular is impaled right down the middle, so he won’t be moving anytime soon.

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Later, Dwight prepares a sandwich of dog food and drops it off to his prisoner: a naked Daryl who is more than glad to take the sandwich.  Dwight heads out of the cell, leaving Daryl in the dark.  So now we see how Daryl has adjusted since he arrived.  Well, truth be told, it fucking sucks.  So does the music. He takes any and every meal that Dwight hands him without question. But he is eventually given a jumpsuit with an “A” on it to wear.

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Dwight takes Daryl to a kitchen and instructs the doctor, Carson, played by Tim Parati, who is just finishing with Sherry, to work on Daryl.  And Dwight instructs Sherry to not talk to Daryl.  As for Sherry, her pregnancy results are negative.  Well, maybe next time.  Sherry cautions Daryl to do whatever the others tell him.  Carson tells Daryl that Negan will take care of him.  He’ll heal up in no time.

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As the two leave, they run right into Negan, who needs to talk with Dwight.  All Daryl can do is sit and wait until Dwight returns.  When he does, he takes Daryl outside to see various other men in jumpsuits fending off walkers.  Dwight’s at least getting better with the crossbow.  He pushes Daryl up to the gate and gives him a choice: he can be like the men in the gates or like him.

Back in his cell, Dwight tells Daryl, who refuses to kneel, that he really doesn’t know what’s going on, but he will.  As Dwight leaves, that fucking song begins to play again. This song, turns out, is “Easy Street” by Collapsible Hearts Club. You can thank AMC for that one.  Anyway, the song gets to Daryl to the point that he starts kicking at his door.

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Negan and Dwight talk about Daryl’s condition.  It’s working slow, but Negan knows that it takes longer to break others.  Since Dwight is doing so well, Negan asks Dwight if he wants to have a blast from the past.  It’s a joke, but Negan can pick whomever he wants as long as she says yes.  Remember that.  Negan then asks Dwight if his penis is working right.  It’s not down for the count, but Dwight won’t be partaking tonight.

And Negan wonders why Dwight would turn down free pussy.  Dwight claims it’s because he hasn’t finished the job with Daryl, so he hasn’t earned the pussy yet.  Negan disagrees, saying that you earn what you take.  The talk is interrupted by a message on the radio from other Saviors.

As Dwight prepares to head out, Negan tells him that he wants his shit back, but doing this grunt work shouldn’t be left to Dwight.  However, Dwight says that he prefers it.

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So while Dwight heads out to an overpass, another Savior is left to watch over Daryl, who is still happy to take any food that he’s given.  When the Savior leaves, though, he doesn’t realize that he’s left the door unlocked.  When the coast is clear, Daryl sneaks out and makes his way around the compound.

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Back at the overpass, Dwight finds the road littered with walkers in what looks like a truly fucked up accident.  But then Dwight looks up and runs just as a walker is falls over the edge.  Dwight, now surrounded, begins shooting at the walkers approaching him.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Sherry discovers Dwight and tells him to go back while he can.  Whatever has been done to Daryl, there’s always more.  And Daryl won’t get away.  Should Daryl end up back, things will just be worse.

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Daryl doesn’t heed the advice and continues his escape until he finds a number of motorcycles.  Before he can do anything, he’s surrounded on all sides by Saviors.  Among them is Negan.

As Negan asks each of the Saviors who they are, they all responds that they are Negan.  The point, Negan is everywhere.  Daryl failed to realize that point.  Life might have been cooler for Daryl, but not anymore.  He reminds Daryl that Dwight gave him options.

Negan breaks it down: one, Daryl can end up on a spike and work for Negan as a dead man.  Two, he ends up out of his cell and work for points, but he’ll wish he was dead, or three, he works for Negan and lives like a king.

There is no door number four.  This is the only way for Daryl.  But Daryl doesn’t respond, no matter how hard Negan tries to get into his head or when he almost takes a shot at him.  In fact, Negan loves that Daryl doesn’t scare easy.  But that pisses off Lucille.  She finds that disrespectful.  Luckily, Lucille isn’t feeling thirsty today, but Negan is, so he…goes off to get a drink.  As Negan leaves, the remaining Saviors gang up on Daryl.

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He’s returned to his cell, where Sherry calls out to him from the other side.  She tells him that back in the woods, after she lost Tina and when she and Dwight robbed him, she reminds him that Daryl said they were going to be sorry.  Turns out that she is.

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Dwight soon finds a man, Gordon, played by Michael Scialabba, struggling with a walker.  He tackles him to the ground and tells him that he’s going back and will owe more. Gordon pleads to be let free, but Dwight won’t allow him to flee.  Even at gunpoint, Gordon is defiant, reminding Dwight that he used to be friendly.  After everything that Negan did to Dwight and Sherry, Dwight changed.

So Dwight tells Gordon that everything belongs to Negan or it will soon.  Gordon refuses to walk- in fact, he’s ready for Dwight to kill him.  Hell, he even wants him to do it. Gordon says that there’s more to life than what Negan wants.  There are more people than him, sure, but now, the Saviors aren’t losing.  Gordon says that after he and his wife, Maria, survived for a few months, they thought being at the Sanctuary would be fine.

They believed that they knew how to fight monsters.  Gordon drops to his knees and refuses to rise.  This is the last time that he’s going to kneel.  Dwight tells Gordon what he plans to do, even if it means digging up Gordon’s dead wife.  Gordon soon tells Dwight that he won.  He rises, saying that there’s nothing left.  With that, Gordon begins walking again.  After composing himself, Dwight raises his gun and fires.

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Later, Dwight returns to the Sanctuary and runs into Sherry, who gives him a cigarette.  He asks Sherry if Negan is good to her.  She says that he is, and that’s a good thing in Dwight’s mind.  Dwight maintains that he did the right thing, saying that it’s a hell of a lot better than being dead.

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Daryl, though, is still listening to that godforsaken song as he stews in his cell, but the music soon stops.  Dwight opens the door and tells Daryl to eat his sandwich.  After all, he got his friend killed.  Daryl shouldn’t pretend that he doesn’t know the score.  In response, Daryl chucks the sandwich at Dwight, who tells Daryl that he should be dead.  Negan, though, has taken a liking to Daryl, so he should remember.

And just before Dwight leaves, he puts a Polaroid on the wall.  Daryl tosses it down, but as he turns it around, he sees that it’s a photo of Glenn’s corpse.  And that’s when a new song starts: this time it’s “Crying” by Roy Orbison.  And Daryl does indeed begin to cry.  Dwight remains on the other side of the door long enough to hear Daryl crying before he heads off.

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He later returns and brings Daryl to meet Negan, who tells Daryl that Carson will fix him up.  Negan tells Daryl that a man like Dwight hustles.  Things weren’t always cool between them, though.  Dwight used to work for points- him and his wife, Shelly.  But Shelly’s sister, Tina, who needed medicine, fell behind on points, so Negan asked her to marry him.  He would take care of her because he’s a standup guy.

But Tina said that she would think about it.  Then Dwight took the medication and fled with both Sherry and Tina.  So Negan sent his men after Dwight because something like that cannot stand.  There are rules.  It cost a lot to go after Dwight, but he still got away.  However, Dwight manned up, returned, and asked for forgiveness, which got Negan’s attention.  However, Lucille is a stickler for the rules.

So Dwight begged Negan to not kill Sherry, which Negan found cute.  Instead, Negan would have killed Dwight, but Sherry offered to marry Negan if Dwight lived.  It was a start, but not enough, so Dwight got the iron and then Negan married Dwight’s now ex-wife. Through all of that, Dwight is one of Negan’s top men and the two are tight.  Point is that Daryl might be ready to be that guy.

All that Negan offers can be Daryl’s if he just answers one question: who is he?  Daryl doesn’t answer right away, so Negan asks again.  Eventually, Daryl responds with his own name, not Negan.  And Negan isn’t bothered.  It’s not his problem if Daryl made a dumbass choice.

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Dwight returns Daryl to his cell, telling him that he can wind up in the room or end up on the fence.  Daryl, though, now knows why Dwight took the medication: he was thinking of someone else.  It’s why Daryl can, too.

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Dwight goes back outside and spots the newest addition to the fence: a reanimated Gordon, who eyes Dwight from a distance.  Dwight stares back for a moment before returning inside the compound as the episode comes to a close.

So we’re given another contained episode with “The Cell” and it manages to be brutal at times, but not as brutal as the premiere.  From a narrative structure, this makes sense, as apparently this episode was originally meant to follow “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.”  Ezekiel’s debut would have been this week, but that would mean the show goes from Abraham and Glenn’s brutal deaths to Daryl being tortured in the Sanctuary.

Sometimes it helps to lighten things up, as we’ve seen with “The Next World” coming right after “No Way Out.”  The Cell shows us some of the inner workings of the Sanctuary, let us catch up with Daryl and process what he’s going through in light of what happened to Glenn, and revealed what became of Dwight and Sherry after their encounter with Daryl in “Always Accountable.”

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And that includes what life at the Sanctuary has been since they returned.  I like how even though we’re at the Sanctuary, we don’t see much of it.  I wager more of that will come in future episodes, but it was nice to see how Negan’s stronghold contrasts with other communities.

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Life here is much harsher than those communities based off of the points system alone, and given what we’ve seen of the Saviors, life is hell for those at the bottom of the food chain.  However, I do hope that we get to see more of this place from an outsider’s perspective.  Seeing it through Dwight’s eyes isn’t as memorable as it would be through Daryl’s eyes because Dwight knows this place- Daryl doesn’t.

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And part of that is the comic fan in me wanting to view certain aspects of the Sanctuary as they are brought to life, but things like Negan’s harem or the iron ritual are things I would refer to see rather than be told about them.

Granted, seeing all of that might have taken away from Daryl’s story and his struggle after Glenn’s death, but if we’re spending the majority of the episode here, it would be nice to see more of the Sanctuary along with him outside of a few rooms, the gate, and some hallways.  But hey, this probably won’t be the last time we see the Sanctuary.

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But we see that, unlike the other communities, being in the Sanctuary, more so if you’re working for points, is like living under a constant sentence of death, and you never know when your time will come.  Hell, it may never come, but it could also be anytime.  As Dwight tells Gordon, everything belongs to Negan or will soon.  Or, to go further back, it’s similar to the Hunters’ philosophy of being the butcher or the cattle.

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It’s a brutal life, but regardless of your choice, there’s no escape.  You can sacrifice whatever worth or dignity you have to live under Negan’s rule, but have a chance a chance at survival, or take your chances and wind up never escaping his reign, as seen when Dwight brings Gordon back to the Sanctuary as a walker and adds him to the gates. Even if Gordon wanted out, at the end of the day, he remained a prisoner.

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This episode helped make Dwight a bit more sympathetic.  He’s done terrible things, yes, but he made an effort to help Tina and now he’s paying for it.  Not just by losing Sherry to Negan, but also whatever remaining remnants he had of his former self.  For now, at least.

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Gordon reminded Dwight that he used to be much different and there’s still a good man behind all of the bad things that Dwight has done.  But rather than reclaim his life, as Gordon wanted for himself, Dwight has given into Negan’s rule and is willing to do and say whatever is necessary to prove his loyalty.

But there’s clear doubt on Dwight’s part.  It’s not helped by Negan mocking him whenever given the chance or admitting that he now owns Shelly.

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There are clear parallels between Dwight and Daryl, yes.  Both made a risky move to help a friend, someone ended up dead in the process, and they are now dealing with the consequences.  The difference is that while Daryl refuses to bend the knee, Dwight kneels because he knows that it’s easier than dying.  That and he can bide his time while getting in Negan’s good graces.

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But not Daryl.  The guilt of Glenn’s death is eating away at him and while he’s not completely broken, he’s not trying to punch Negan right now.  It’s like he’s been tamed, but still won’t blindly commit to his master.  Daryl feels that this is his penance, and Dwight showing him the Polaroid of Glenn is salt in the wound.

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Even though he’s trapped, at least Daryl took an opportunity to escape when given the chance, even though it may have just been a setup.  Though Daryl is surrounded without allies, he’s not 100 percent resigned to his fate and won’t just stew in his cell all day like a trapped animal.

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Despite Daryl’s shitty situation, he did end up vindicated in one regard.  He told Sherry and Dwight that they would be sorry, and that’s what happened with Sherry’s sacrificial move to marry Negan in order to save Dwight- who ended up getting the iron anyway.

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I feel that this was done to make Sherry seem sympathetic as well.  Like Dwight, she’s making the most of a shitty situation, but she’s chosen dependency through Negan instead of returning to Dwight, as that would have meant survival in order to get points. With Negan, there’s no need for that since he provides security.  So like Dwight, Shelly takes the easy way out.

But again, living in the Sanctuary, even under Negan’s protection, is a hellhole since, as Shelly tells Daryl, things will get worse, no matter how bad they are.  And as we’ve seen for them, Gordon, and probably countless others, they do.

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Although Negan isn’t in this episode very long, his presence is felt throughout and Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes good with what little screen-time Negan has.  Even though we’re at the Sanctuary, it would have been easy to give us too much Negan, but I’m fine with what we got here.  Plus, given how the Saviors appear to be headed for Alexandria next, I’m sure that he will get more to do in episodes to come.

“The Cell” was a good look at some of the inner workings of the Sanctuary, but I hope we see more of it from a newcomer’s perspective as we learn more about life under Negan.  It gave us a slightly broken, but not defeated Daryl trying his damnedest to survive while being tormented from every side.

The episode did a good job showing how hard things have been for Shelly and Dwight since they returned to Negan, proving that no matter how much you want to escape, and even if you get away, there is nowhere to run when everything you have and all that you are belongs to Negan.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7 Premiere: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

We have been waiting for this moment.  The sixth season finale of The Walking Dead, “Last Day on Earth,” introduced Negan to Rick’s group as a menacing threat and the episode itself ended with Negan picking and beating an unseen member to death with his barbed wired bat, Lucille.  After a lot of buildup and momentum in the longer than normal episode, “Last Day on Earth” had a lot of people excited going into it.

To say that a chunk of the fanbase was dissatisfied, disappointed, or downright angry because of the cliffhanger ending would be an understatement.

Whether it was Greg Nicotero trying to justify the cliffhanger, the cast saying they themselves had no idea who had been picked, and Robert Kirkman himself even sort-of apologizing for the cliffhanger in a Letter Hacks section of The Walking Dead comic, it’s clear that someone heard the backlash.  Even without the cliffhanger, the show remained on people’s minds.

Fast forward to Season 7 and here we are with “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” There were a lot of promises going into this premiere, expectations from viewers, and hopes that the cliffhanger was worth it.

I myself was more disappointed than anything with the decision, but wouldn’t just leave the show because of a creative decision.    That’d be petty.  Would the premiere satisfy? Would we even learn about Negan’s pick?  And would it be worth the wait?  Oh, let me stop wasting your time.  Let’s jump right back into the world of The Walking Dead.

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The season begins sometime after we left off on “Last Day on Earth,” with a frightened Rick, now with blood on his face, declaring that he will kill Negan.  Not today or tomorrow, but someday.  Negan, though, wants to hear that again, as he isn’t impressed.

He asks Simon, Steven Ogg’s character, what weapon Rick had- it’s a hatchet.  Plus an axe.  Negan’s far from impressed.  Simon, turns out, is Negan’s right hand man, and one of those is important.

Without one, you’re left without work.  Negan wonders who Rick’s right hand man is, or whether that’s the one who met a now bloodied Lucille.  Negan claims Rick’s axe, stares Rick down, and pockets the weapon.  He then drags Rick with him into the RV for a little trip.  We then pan down to a bloodied mess on the ground.

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Negan forces Rick into the camper, but it doesn’t start.  Negan mocks Rick’s declaration to kill him, especially given what just happened.  Rick’s best chance is to use the axe to kill Negan right now.  Maybe he’ll get lucky.  Negan isn’t impressed with Rick’s bravado.  Once Rick grabs the axe, Negan is ready with a machine gun.  He socks Rick right in the gut for extra measure and then sees that dawn is breaking.  It’s a brand new day.

Still, Negan wants Rick to consider what can happen if he keeps acting this way.  The RV finally starts and the drive begins as Negan plows down walkers, all while Rick is reminded of his friends through convenient, black and white flashbacks.  The camper comes to a stop as Negan sits next to Rick, saying that he is his, as are the others.  Hell, even the axe belongs to Negan.  He wants damn near everything, didn’t you know?

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He opens the door and tosses the axe onto the roof of the RV, but still wants Rick to get it.  Rick refuses, but he eventually gives in, Negan forcing him out to retrieve the weapon.  In the thick fog, Rick fends off walkers while still having flashbacks-I mean, memories.

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He’s soon forced to climb the camper and spots the axe.  And then he looks out at the land ahead, filled with walkers and realizes he’s back at the spot where the man was hanged.  As Rick falls to his knees, he hears Negan taunting him for his optimism.  The world doesn’t work like that.  It’s time to think about what matters.

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We flash back to earlier that night as Negan is left unable to decide.  He goes one by one to pick his victim as Rick watches.  He finally lands on his choice: Abraham.   Negan goes to town and bashes Abraham’s head over and over.  Though Abraham was defiant in his final moment, telling Negan to suck his nuts, Negan continues the beating long after Abraham is dead.  His head is nothing but a bloody mess.

An overjoyed Negan wants everyone to look at his dirty girl as Lucille is bloody beyond belief.  He guesses that Rosita was with Abraham, but there was a reason that Abraham was picked.  He took a beating for the team, so Negan orders Rosita to look.  This is what leads Daryl to lash out and punch Negan.  The Saviors restrain him, but Negan doesn’t want them to harm him.  That lashing out is a no-no.  That shit doesn’t fly.

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Dwight is ready to kill with the crossbow at the ready, but Negan tells him to stand down, saying he doesn’t kill Daryl until he tries.  That’s now how this works.  The first one was free, and Negan will shut any other shit down.  Negan doesn’t know much about Rick’s group, but he’s a man of his word.  First impressions are important.  As such, he needs Rick and company to know him.

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So back to it, as Negan turns Lucille on Glenn.  With his face fucked beyond belief, Glenn attempts to call out for Maggie, but it doesn’t come out clearly.  Negan is sorry that the group is taking this so hard, but no exceptions.  So he gets back to work and beats the fucking shit out of Glenn, even long after he’s no longer has a head and his body is nothing a twitching mess.  Lucille is thirsty, as she is a vampire bat.  Timing, Negan.

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In the present, Rick and his axe remain on the camper, which is still surrounded by roamers.  And Negan still wants the damn axe.  He gives Rick one more try to get the axe, but then gunfire rains out across the roof of the camper.  Rick runs and grabs onto the hanged walker- risky move, but cool nonetheless, which begins to give way.  Before the walkers can claim Rick, Negan opens fire from the camper and kills the walkers.

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Rick crawls away from the walkers and retrieves the axe, all while having flashes of Lucille meeting the rest of the group.  He returns to the camper to find the door locked. Negan kills some of the walkers, which gives Rick an opening to enter the camper and return the now bloodied axe.  The journey continues until Negan arrives at the destination.  He knows that this is hard for Rick, losing two of his own and in front of his son.

He picks up Rick’s axe, saying that Rick must have been addicted to being in charge.  However, Rick can still lead a productive life of giving to Negan.  He then returns the axe to Rick, saying that he may need it.

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Negan dumps Rick out of the camper and brings him back to the spot where the murders took place.  He tells Rick that this was all because of the way that Rick looked at him.  Negan wanted Rick to understand, but he doesn’t like how Rick is still looking at him.  So Negan wonders whether he should give Rick another chance, and Rick does want one.  What happens next will determine if this is everyone’s last day.

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The Saviors put guns to everyone else’s heads.  Negan summons Carl to his side, and it takes some prodding to get Carl to comply.  He asks if Carl is left-handed, and he isn’t, so Negan ties his belt to Carl’s left arm.  He increases the pressure, but it doesn’t hurt.  He tosses Carl’s hat and orders him on the ground next to his father.  Negan then asks Simon for a pen.  When given one, Negan draws a line across Carl’s arm.

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Rick begs Negan not to do anything, but Negan isn’t doing shit.  Instead, he wants Rick to cut off Carl’s left arm.  Or else everyone else around him dies, as well as everyone in Alexandria, and eventually, Rick himself.  He’ll get to live long enough to understand what he’s done.  Michonne tells Negan that the group understands, but Negan wants Rick to understand.  And this job needs to happen or Negan will just kill Carl instead.

Then Rick offers himself to Negan, but this is the only way.  And not making a decision is still a decision.  When Rick refuses, Negan begins to count.  Rick cries that this can be him instead of his son.  Carl pleads with Rick to just do it.  Rick picks up the axe, but Negan stops him.  Rick answers to, provides for, and belongs to Negan.  Negan finally gets the look that he wants from Rick.  With that he, takes back the axe.

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Negan congratulates everyone for a productive day.  He hopes that, for everyone’s sake, they now understand how things work.  Things have changed.  Whatever the survivors had before is now over.  Negan then orders Dwight to bring Daryl along, so Dwight forces him into the van.  At least, in Negan’s eyes, Daryl has guts.  And he belongs to Negan.  If Rick gives Negan anymore shit, he will cut Daryl into pieces or have Negan do it.

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Welcome to a brand new beginning, Negan tells the survivors.  He leaves the group a truck that they’ll use to bring him supplies.  They’ll be back in a week for their first offering.  Until then, ta-ta.  With that, Negan and the Saviors leave.  As they depart, the survivors are left at an absolute low point with Glenn and Abraham now dead.

the-day-will-come-when-you-wont-be-maggie-goes-over-to-glenns-body

They sit in absolute silence until Maggie stumbles over and tells Rick to get ready to fight the Saviors.  Well, of course.  Rick counters that the Saviors have Daryl and an army, so it would be a suicide mission.  Still, Maggie wants to go to the Hilltop on her own while Rick and others go back to Alexandria.  Rick tells Maggie that there’s still hope.  And yet Maggie still wants everyone to leave.

Michonne refuses to let Maggie leave, but Maggie insists.  However, Sasha jumps in, saying that she’ll escort Maggie to the Hilltop.  The group coalesces around Maggie, Rick even begs Maggie to let them help her.  Maggie hugs Carl as the others begin moving the bodies.

the-day-will-come-when-you-wont-be-dream-sequence

As Negan’s words go through Rick’s mind, we get a dream vision of the group having an outdoor dinner in Alexandria, Glenn is even holding his future child.  Back in the present, Rick grabs the axe and heads into the camper.  He starts it up and drives off as a walker feasts on a pile of blood left by one of the bodies.

I’ll give the showrunners of The Walking Dead this: they know how to, for the most part, maintain tension and suspense.  My reservations and issues with the cliffhanger aside, because you can’t undo that, I found myself as tense as I was while watching “Last Day on Earth” back in April.  Most of the time.  These people know we want to have our expectations met and, if possible, surpassed.  Was that the case here?

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Well, yes and no, but I’ll get into that later.  Because the cliffhanger brought the momentum of “Last Day on Earth” to a screeching halt, this episode had to recapture all that momentum, build on it, and make the wait worthwhile.  I was hesitant going into this that the episode would just tease the death until the very last second.  If the show really wanted to troll us, the ending could have cut to Morgan and Carol arriving at the Kingdom.

Hey, it’s not like The Walking Dead is above dick moves.  But no, it didn’t do that.  It just stalled the same way I’m stalling in discussing how I felt about the episode as well as jumping all over the place.  So before getting into mixed territory, I do want to talk about what I enjoyed about this episode.

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To start, the acting.  Whether it’s the group crumbling as two of their own are killed or the hopelessness on Andrew Lincoln’s face as Rick finds himself defenseless against Negan, pleads to take his son’s place, or even trying to maintain some bravado in the face of death, the acting was stellar all around.

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And Lauren Cohan’s performance as Maggie in those final moments further sets her up to develop into the leader that we know she will become later.  And you gotta feel bad for Maggie.  She’s lost most of her family, and now her husband is gone as well.

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Next up, the brutality.  My word, the brutality.  You’ve got those hyperbolic folks who called the deaths disgusting or too much to bear, so I’m guessing people have forgotten what show they’ve been watching.  Or that, if they’ve ever watched something like Game of Thrones, this kind of violence and brutality should be nothing by comparison.

the-day-will-come-when-you-wont-be-negan-beats-whats-left-of-abrahams-skull

Watching Negan brutally beat Abraham and Glenn to death in all its gory detail, with guts and all spilling out, it was vicious, and call me a sadist all you want, I was grinning as well as shaking.  Negan’s introduction isn’t meant to be toned down.  He’s got a bat wrapped in barbed wire.

On top of the cliffhanger, if The Walking Dead didn’t give us the brutal deaths, it would feel like a cheat.  It’d be like cutting to black before someone is shot in the head.  You feel robbed of the moment, more so after the episode had to regain its momentum.

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So yes, I am a proponent of the violent deaths.  Some call it torture, but this is a show where the dead eat the living, a young, psychotic girl like Lizzie can kill her sister without remorse and later be justifiably executed while her back is turned, and people like the Hunters prepare, cook, and eat other human beings.  So seeing someone’s head bashed in should be easy to handle.

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Maybe I’m just desensitized to the violence of this series- though the comic still knows how to shock me at times- but this solidified how much of a threat Negan is and the violent lengths he’ll go to in order to make his point.  So I doubt those turned off by this moment will quit the show or turn them off altogether.  Like those who were enraged about the cliffhanger, I’m certain that they’ll return, at least out of curiosity.

The Walking Dead #100- Glenn's still alive after being hit with Lucille

And in a refreshing change of pace, Glenn actually got his comic book death.  That’s a rarity for this show.  Lori, Abraham, Dale, Shane, and even the Governor, just to name a few, have been killed in ways different from their comic book counterparts.

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But here, from the close-up of Glenn’s bloodied face to the way Negan looms over him, it was literally Issue #100 brought to life.  Details like that, coupled with Negan’s dialogue throughout, leave the comic fan in me very satisfied, on top of the death itself being very gruesome.

As with the previous episode, much of this has to do with the group’s bravado.  They were certain that they could stop Negan and the Saviors in their tracks by attacking a base and killing them in their sleep.  These two deaths are, to me, a welcome change of pace and from a character perspective, I think it’s necessary to see them suffer a loss.  And comparably speaking, they’ve only lost two people to the number of Saviors killed.

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But seeing the group and Rick especially look so defeated is crucial.  Their overconfidence led to them underestimating Negan.  And this gives Rick proper motivation to spur the group into action and launch a counterattack.  Before, it was just Rick trying to stop Negan before he could do something.  Now, he and the rest have motivation to get revenge against their fallen friends.

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And I enjoyed Rick’s interaction with Negan, if just to see Negan establish how threatening he is while trying to be cordial with Rick.  All while still breaking him down and after he’s just killed two of his friends.  It was tense, funny at times, and again, it’s interesting to see Rick at such a demoralized state after he’s been confident for so long.  A far cry from the Rick Grimes that towered over Gareth and the Hunters before butchering them.

the-day-will-come-when-you-wont-be-abraham-after-the-first-hit

That said, like “Last Day on Earth,” my issues with this episode have to do with the execution of the…well, executions.  Let’s start with picking Abraham.  I know that some people say they saw this coming based on Negan saying last season that the victim took it like a champ.  The theory turned out to be right, so good on them for figuring it out, and I will say that he wasn’t my pick.

In fact, based on conversations between him and Abraham, part of me thought that Eugene would have taken the hit. But then, the Saviors already roughed him up when they captured the camper, so maybe that took him out of the running.

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Had Abraham been the only victim, Negan still would have gotten his point across, and we aren’t given much time to process Abraham’s death.  Not just because there’s more to the scene, but because of Daryl’s interference, which led to the second death.

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And this is my problem: Glenn’s death, while comic-accurate, only seems to have happened because Daryl interfered.  In addition, Negan picking Glenn felt like an afterthought.  Not to mention it’s as if the show wanted to top the comic.  Negan only picked Glenn there, so how does the show surpass that?  Pick two for double the impact. But would Negan have done that had Daryl not tried to be the hero?  I don’t know.

But it rubbed me the wrong way that now it appears that Glenn’s death is not because Negan picked him at random, but because Daryl, unlike Rick, wanted to make a vain attempt to stop Negan.  That’s not necessary and it speaks to Negan’s restraint that he doesn’t have Dwight kill Daryl when he has the chance.

However, if we’re meant to grasp how much of a threat Negan is and how he has no mercy for the survivors, then he proved his point.  Glenn’s death felt like the emotional punch to the gut, but he’s the second to die.  We get more of the group’s reaction to him dying and there’s even a score in the background that plays against his demise.  Whereas with Abraham, it’s stark with no music.  We get the death as is and nothing more.

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So then why have both of these deaths place at the same time if the show is only focusing on one of them?  Sure, Glenn has been with us since the beginning and we know more about him than Abraham, but then why not have his death come first and then have Negan drive the point home by kicking the group when they’re doing and selecting a second person to die?  If the show was, without a doubt, going to have two deaths.

Last Day on Earth- Negan picks his victim, the cameraman

Or better yet, “Last Day on Earth” could have ended either with Abraham’s death or viewers seeing Negan pick him, rather than having the season end with a point of view shot.  Then, in-between Season 6 and 7, as we process who will die, assuming it will just be Abraham, the show throws a curveball by killing Glenn as well on the premiere, long after the multiple fakeouts where he ended up surviving.

The Walking Dead #100- Negan picks Glenn to die

See, here’s the the thing.  In the comic, Negan picking Glenn was a surprise because it did come out of nowhere.  Glenn hadn’t gone down the dark path that Rick walks and, as far as I know, no one predicted that he would get the bat.  After losing Abraham just a few issues before this, for an unassuming guy like Glenn to die was a major loss.

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But on the show, Glenn’s death comes due to Daryl’s actions, not because of Negan picking him at random.  And I don’t like that because, in a way, it kind of makes Daryl responsible for Glenn’s death.  Whether Daryl blames himself for what happened to Glenn remains to be seen, but I imagine it’s going to stick with him since he did prompt Negan to, as he said, shut that shit down, no exceptions.

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It didn’t help that the deaths kept cutting back and forth between Negan taking Rick with him to retrieve that damn axe.  We get that Rick is broken, but between going from the past to the present, not to mention those shots of Negan hitting everyone with the bat, broke up the flow a bit.

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Just have the two deaths play out in one long sequence.  Don’t make Rick have flashbacks or visions of everyone just to pad out the episode.  “Last Day on Earth” already didn’t need to be 90 minutes. This episode could have flowed better by having all of Rick and Negan’s moment take place at once after the deaths.

I don’t have a problem with nonlinear storytelling, but when this episode has to rebuild the momentum from Season 6, cutting from Rick and Negan to the murders was distracting at times.

And the dream sequence of everyone together at Alexandria was too heavy handed.  We know everything that’s going through the survivors’ minds just by Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan’s performances alone.  We don’t need a vision of what life for them could have been had things gone in a different direction for them.

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Oh, and it seems there are those who still felt that Rick would lose his right hand to Negan since the show’s version of the Governor didn’t follow through on the same actions as his comic counterpart.  But what works in the comics doesn’t translate to reality, and if Rick hasn’t lost his hand yet, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

With all that said, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” is a good episode and return to The Walking Dead.  The pacing issues and decision of killing two victims keeps me from enjoying the episode as much as I would like, but the acting, brutality, and leaving the survivors in an absolute low state made for an enjoyable watch.  Who knows?  I may grow to love it on repeat viewings.

And now that Negan has made his demands, I am very anxious to see how the group progresses from here and how this tragedy pushes them to strike back.  What becomes of Daryl and will he blame himself for Glenn’s death?  Does Rick have a plan yet to fight back against Negan?  If it wasn’t for a few issues, this would be a fantastic start for the season.  But these issues are enough to make it more good instead of great.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 6 Finale: “Last Day on Earth”

So the sixth season of The Walking Dead comes to a conclusion as Rick and company head to the Hilltop to get help for Maggie, but also contend with the Saviors.  However, while they’ve never had a confrontation, Negan’s official introduction puts a halt to their plans.  It also puts a major halt on any momentum you might have had as the season finale builds to a high point before ending on a disappointing conclusion.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan finds a horse

The episode begins with Morgan traversing the woods in his search for Carol.  He finds a sign that reads ‘You Are Alive’ and, near that sign, a horse that’s practically waiting for him.  Morgan tells the horse that it’s alive.  At the same time, we spot the Savior from last time, still walking with Carol’s rosary.  He continues following footprints that lead into the grassy fields.

Last Day on Earth- Carl and Enid talk

Meanwhile, Carl loads up, telling Enid to stay back and protect the Safe Zone.  Enid wants to go to the Hilltop, but Carl tells her that the Saviors are dangerous, based on what they’ve done to the others.  He won’t let that happen to Enid.  She asks if Carl wants to run into the Saviors.  Carl eventually tells Enid to grab some pistols from the closet.  And that’s when he locks her in the closet.

Enid asks Carl what happens if he doesn’t come back.  Carl tells her to just survive somehow.

Last Day on Earth- Rick and gang about to leave Alexandria

Rick, Abraham, Sasha, and Eugene load up the RV to head out and take on the Saviors.  Rick tries to talk Eugene out of it, but he’s not staying.  Rick doesn’t want Aaron to join, but Aaron is adamant.  He’s even willing to take multiple punches in the face.  Gabriel informs Rick that there are 24 hour watches to protect the Safe Zone while others are away.  If there’s an emergency, Gabriel’s first priority will be Judith.

Then Gabriel asks if Rick is comfortable leaving him in charge.  To that, Rick answers yes.  Spencer tells Rick that if the Saviors show up, if it’s not too late, try and make a deal.  Rick tells them to wait because he may have a deal of his own.

Last Day on Earth- Steven Ogg and a group of Saviors find a survivor

Back in the woods, a group of Saviors catch up to the running man. They explain that they made an example of the man’s friends and it could have stopped there, but the people didn’t stop.  They wanted to fight, so this is how it has to be.  The men beat the hell out of the downed man.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan finds Carol

Morgan and his new travel companion stop at a building, where they find Carol resting.  She didn’t want him to come, but since this is Morgan, he was never going to listen.  He inspects her wound- she’s bleeding badly.

Last Day on Earth- Steven Ogg and Saviors wait on the road

The Saviors, meanwhile, drag the runaway man to the road.  The presumed leader of the group, played by Steven Ogg, is ready to make an example of this man.

Last Day on Earth- Rick speaks to Maggie while on the RV

Elsewhere on the road, Rick and company travel in the RV.  Rick checks on Maggie and tells her that they’ll get to the Hilltop to make things better for her.  Maggie asks how he knows, but Rick tells her that everything they’ve done was by acting as a group.  They’re still here.  Things have happened because it’s worked out when it’s all of them.  When they work together, they can do anything.  Oh Rick, you have no idea.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan patches up Carol

Morgan patches up Carol, but she still needs stitches and antibiotics to make sure she doesn’t get an infection.  It will get dark in a few hours, so Morgan plans to survey the land and make sure it’s safe.  At dawn, they’ll head out to get help.

Last Day on Earth- RV group runs into a small pack of Saviors

The RV then stops when it runs into the blockade of Saviors on the road.  They walk out as Rick explains that the groups can make a deal.  Steven Ogg agrees, in exchange for everything, but one of the survivors has to die.  Rick tells them that the deal won’t work.  In fact, he was going to ask for their stuff, but he won’t have to kill any more Saviors.

One of the Saviors walks forward and sprays the downed man.  The Saviors reiterate that they don’t negotiate.  Rick and his folks fall back, but he asks the Saviors if they want to make today their last day on earth.  That’s a good thing to bring up.  Think about it: what if it’s the last day on Earth for Rick or someone he loves?  Rick should be nice to his people because anything could happen.  Be kind to each other.

Rick advises the Saviors to do the same.  The RV backs up for the moment.

Last Day on Earth- Eugene comes up with an alternate route

After a brief glimpse at obscure light, we return to the RV group.  Carl watches a walker approaching in the distance and asks Aaron why he didn’t stay in Alexandria.  Aaron owes Maggie.  Carl says that he’s out here because he owes them.  Eugene goes over the map for a visible route.  Shelton would work, even though it’s a longer trip.

Last Day on Earth- Carol wants Morgan to leave her

Morgan tells Carol that Rick also came looking for her- damn near everyone did.  He assures her that they’ll be back by the time they are.  Carol doesn’t see herself returning just like that.  She knows people care about her, and she cares, but that’s why she can’t be there.  Morgan counters that she has to, but Carol says that, after everything that’s happened, there are people that she’ll kill for.

But if you can’t or won’t kill, then you have to get away from them.  You can’t have both, and Morgan of all people should know that.  Morgan still believes that everything in life is worth a damn and won’t just let Carol die, but she tells him that it’s not his decision.  She then points a gun and pleads for him to leave.  If he cares about anyone, there is a price to pay.  Carol can’t do that anymore.

Last Day on Earth- RV group runs into another group of Saviors

Back on the road, Abraham asks Sasha if they can do something as big as what Glenn and Maggie did, because to him, that’s living.  Abraham believes that now he can.  Just so Sasha knows.  With a call of bitch-nuts, the RV runs into yet another group of Saviors.  Carl wants to end this right now, but Rick disagrees.  He can tell that the Saviors have been waiting.  The Saviors fire into the air as the RV heads in the opposite direction.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan cuts down a hanged walker

So Morgan heads out and finds a walker strung up in a nearby tower.  Though the walker is of no immediate threat, Morgan climbs the tower, stabs the walker, and then cuts it down.  He then enters another building and calls out for Carol, but gets no response.  He saddles up and rides off in pursuit.

Last Day on Earth- RV group finds chained walkers blocking their path

The RV team is down to half a tank of gas.  Sasha notes that the Saviors they just saw weren’t the same, but still Saviors.  Rick is still confident that they’ll get Maggie to the Hilltop, but the RV comes to a stop when they come upon chained walkers blocking their path.  The chains even go through their bodies.  Now that takes work.  They find that various walkers are wearing clothes belonging to Michonne and Daryl.

Last Day on Earth- RV finds an even larger group of Saviors

Bullets rain from all directions, but the group clears the walker blockade and continues their journey.  As Rick inspects the hair from one of the walkers, he tells the others that the Saviors want them in this direction.  Eugene is certain they can get back on track, but Aaron informs Rick that Maggie’s temperature is rising.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s an even larger group of Saviors blocking the road.  Rick advises Abraham to back up.

Morgan continues searching for Carol when he stops to inspect a walker.  Next to it, he finds the rosary.

Last Day on Earth- Savior finds Carol

Carol, meanwhile, is surprised by a walker, but she ends up pulling off its skin long enough to stab it in the head.  But then the Savior from the road surprises her from behind.  Rather than kill her, because that would make sense, he tells her that she’s going to lay there and he’s going to watch her die, just like his friends on the road.  He then shoots Carol in her shoulder for a good start.

Last Day on Earth- Rick checks on Maggie

Rick checks on Maggie, promising that they’ll arrive at the Hilltop safely.  More than that, she and her baby will be just fine.  Maggie believes in Rick.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan finds the Savior about to kill Carol

Back to the Savior and Carol, who smiles and is ready to die.  There’s nothing wrong with her anymore.  Why the Saviors hasn’t just shot Carol in the head is still beyond me, but he settles for shooting her in the leg.  He tells her that she hasn’t suffered, and Carol agrees.  With that, the Savior walks away while Carol rants that people decide when to die.  You don’t get to walk away.

Then Morgan arrives and orders the Savior to lower his gun.  He tells the Savior that he can survive this.  Before the Savior can fire, Morgan unloads on the man, killing him.  Carol still pleads for Morgan to leave her, but Morgan insists that she’ll come back from this.  Then two men in armor, one on a horse, approach.  Morgan reports that he found their horse.  Time to get some help.

Last Day on Earth- Rick and gang find another barricade

The RV group, now on foot, finds a barricade, indicating, as Abraham puts it, that they’re in shit creek with their mouths wide open.  Then the injured man from before is tossed over the overpass while hanging from a chain.  Rick advises Aaron not to fire since they’ll need the bullets for later.  So they leave the man to struggle and die.

Fire breaks out on the barricade.  Steven Ogg’s voice rings out, telling the group to leave because it’s going to get hot soon.  The team retreats to the RV and once again falls back.  With Maggie still in need of a doctor, there are two more potential routes.  Eugene doesn’t think the Saviors are waiting on them, but the RV itself.

Last Day on Earth- Eugene gives Rick the how to on making bullets

As night falls, Rick instructs Eugene to take the now gassed-up RV.  In return, Eugene gives Rick a recipe for How to Build Bullets 101.  Fair exchange.  Rick tells Eugene that they’re glad to have him here.  Eugene then asks Abraham why he never let him drive the truck.  Abraham never thought he could do it, but he was wrong.  Eugene is and always was a survivor, but no one knew it.

Last Day on Earth- Group goes on foot while carrying Maggie

So Rick, Carl, Sasha, Abraham, and Aaron, with Maggie resting in a cot, head on foot while Eugene fires up the RV and goes in another direction.  Maggie pleads for Aaron to let her walk, but he won’t.  Carl agrees with what Rick said before- they can do anything, just as they have before, and they will again.  What happened to Denise, Carl won’t let that happen again.

Last Day on Earth- Saviors surround the survivors

But then they hear a familiar whistle.  With no way to tell where it’s coming from, the group starts running through the woods at full speed until lights hit them dead on.  They end up in an open area, surrounded by Saviors all around them.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the Saviors managed to capture Eugene and the RV as well.

Steven Ogg is glad the survivors made it to where they’re going.  He demands they group hand over their weapons.  He then orders Maggie be lowered and everyone get on their knees.  It takes a moment, but Rick and the others soon drop to the ground.  Rick looks absolutely petrified.

Dwight enters the scene and opens a van, where we see Daryl, Michonne, Rosita, and Glenn, who are also placed on their knees.  With an audience ready, Steven Ogg then knocks on the RV so we can meet the head honcho of the Saviors.

Last Day on Earth- Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, makes his first appearance

Out steps Negan, played by The Comedian himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  He asks if anyone is pissing their pants yet, because they’re getting close.  Gonna be pee-pee pants city real soon.  He introduces himself to Rick, and doesn’t find it cool that Rick killed so many of his men.

Rick has no idea how not cool that shit is, but Negan brings him up to speed while also swearing that Rick will regret crossing him in a few minutes.  Whatever Rick does, you don’t mess with the new world order.  Even if Rick is stupid, he can understand that you hand over your shit or Negan will kill him.

Today was career day.  A lot was invested so the survivors would know Negan.  Rick has shit and he’ll give it to Negan.  That’s his job.  That’s a nasty pill to swallow, but swallow it he will.  Negan notes that Rick built something.  He thought he was safe, but word is out that he is, in fact, not safe.  In fact, Rick is pegged if he doesn’t do what Negan does.  If half of his stuff is too much, he can steal until it evens out.

This is the new way of life.  The more Rick fights back, the harder it will be.  So when the Saviors knocks on your door, they will walk right in because they own the place.  He asks Rick if he understands, but gets no response.  This wasn’t all going to happen without a punishment.  Negan doesn’t want to kill anyone.  In fact, he wants people to work for him, but that can’t happen if they’re dead.

However, a lot of Saviors died, and for that, someone has to pay.  How?  Negan will beat the holy hell out of them with his awesome, barbed-wire wrapped bat: Lucille.  But now to find out who gets the honor.

Last Day on Earth- Negan speaks to Carl

Negan walks down the line, but stops at Carl, recognizing that he has a lot of their guns.  He offers to put a disheveled Maggie out of her misery.  Glenn tries to intervene, but Dwight stops him.  Negan doesn’t want that kind of outburst again.  Negan sees that Rick doesn’t know what’s going to happen, which could explain his fear.  He also sees that Carl is Rick’s son.  When Rick lashes out, Negan threatens to kill the future serial killer.

Last Day on Earth- Negan picks his victim, the cameraman

But Negan simply cannot decide, so he’s got an idea.  Eenie-meenie-minie-mo.  He goes down the line and finally lands on a victim.  We don’t see who it is, but Negan lines up Lucille and bashes the victim over and over again as the sixth season of The Walking Dead comes to a close.

Well, that was most definitely an ending.

Last Day on Earth- Abraham and Rick spot a large group of Saviors

Okay, I could rant about my issues with this finale, but I’ll start with the positive aspects.  First off, I think the tension and atmosphere with the RV group was well done and kept building as the episode progressed.  Yes, it was repetitive to see the RV back up over and over again, but heading into a scenario where the survivors were bound to be captured, it was interesting to see them in a situation where they couldn’t predict the outcome.

Last Day on Earth- Rick has words with the Saviors

Much of this circles back to the group’s overconfidence, and it’s easy to see why.  Rick and company have come up against and kept the Saviors at bay in every single encounter.  Denise was an unfortunate casualty, but otherwise, they’ve wiped out the opposition with no problem.  As Rick said to Jesus, the group has never had a problem with confrontation.

So to them, this would be like the Governor or Terminus: a challenging obstacle, but nothing they couldn’t overcome.  It helped that the world has trained them for this and the Saviors, up until now, have been disorganized and incompetent, so it’s easy to see why, for once, Rick’s group wanted to take the safe option of avoiding confrontation.

Last Day on Earth- Maggie rests

And it was nice to see Rick make Maggie the priority.  He could have put his group in multiple firefights that they might have won, but that would just prolong Maggie’s suffering and drag out an already long episode.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan receives help

On that note, to go slightly off-topic, this episode did not need to be 90 minutes.  Carol and Morgan’s subplot, which felt drawn out to ridiculous lengths, felt like filler until the very end because Carol was resolute in her decision to leave.  Morgan had a bit of development with his decision to kill a human, but he was forced to do so if he was going to protect Carol.

Last Day on Earth- Carol shot in the shoulder

But even that felt drawn out because the Savior didn’t just do the practical thing and shoot Carol in the head.  No, he has to draw out her suffering by shooting her in the arm and leg.  But why do this?  Carol killed a handful of Saviors, so this guy watching her suffer doesn’t do anything for him except give him enough time to gloat so Morgan can find him.

Last Day on Earth- Savior won't kill Carol for some reason

That’s one of those bad tropes where the villain has the protagonist cornered and could kill them at any second, but instead, they have a conversation.  Am I suddenly watching a James Bond film or The Walking Dead?  And now both Carol and Morgan are in the company of newcomers from the Kingdom.

Last Day on Earth- Planning an alternate route

You could have condensed this subplot to a few scenes to devote more time to the group on the road.  More conversations with Rick and Maggie, more about Carl and Aaron talking about why they came on the journey, more of Eugene frantically trying to come up with a new plan each time the Saviors blocked the path.  Make this feel like a do or die scenario.

Because until the end, what we got was the RV team making detour after detour and being antagonized by the Saviors.  They were frustrated, but kept finding alternate solutions.  When they were forced to split into two groups and head on foot with Maggie still weak, the group had reached a point of desperation.  Not enough to break them because, like past situations, they were confident that nothing could stop them.

Last Day on Earth- On your knees

But then they ran right into a trap.  I’ll say this about the final few moments of this episode: while I have my reservations about the finale, I think the tension when the group wound up caught was perfect.  I was as tense as they were the entire time and, for once, we saw fear on all of their faces.

Last Day on Earth- Ready to meet Negan

The fear that they couldn’t talk or shoot their way out of this situation.  The fear that Maggie wouldn’t get the help she needed in time.  The fear that maybe, for all the Saviors’ threats and demands, this time someone would pay for the amount of people Rick and his group have killed.  And the fear that Rick, for all his thinking, underestimated this boogeyman named Negan.

Last Day on Earth- Rick filled with fear

While the acting on The Walking Dead is normally very strong, Andrew Lincoln in particular sold his performance as Rick not by what he says, but his facial expressions.  Aside from Carl getting shot in “No Way Out,” I can’t remember a time recently where Rick looked so helpless.  He was confident that he could handle the Saviors, but now he’s on his knees, unarmed, and without a prayer.  I saw not a confident leader, but a man trembling in fear.

Last Day on Earth- Negan can't decide who to kill

But then Negan shows up with something to…prove.  Not to fear since we don’t see the result, more on that later, but to prove that he and his Saviors will make due on their promises.  First off, credit where it’s due: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is great in his introduction as Negan.  He’s smug, carries a huge presence, and is both humorous, yet threatening at the same time.

Last Day on Earth- Negan demands to know who is the group leader

When Negan finally appears, Jeffrey Dean Morgan commands the scene.  It left me on the edge of my seat how the show would handle adapting this character to the screen and, for the most part, the show succeeded.  Negan’s dialogue is, at times, point for point, ripped out of issue #100 as he makes both threats and jokes.  Up until now, Negan has existed as a ghost, but I was just tense at the thought of how he would retaliate.

Last Day on Earth- Negan has no answer for Rick

Rick sees Negan as an obstacle, but Negan views Rick as a business partner.  You don’t just up and kill your partners.  You barter, you negotiate, and you establish the new world order in society.  Negan doesn’t want to kill anyone because, in his mind, they work for him.  And judging from him sizing up Rick, Negan takes pleasure in people resisting his reign.  All the more satisfying to pummel them into compliance.

Last Day on Earth- Rick meets Lucille

So going into this moment where one of the characters will be beaten to death is a big deal.  Not only are these most of our main survivors, these are a lot of our power players and heavy hitters.  Well, less so with Aaron, but he did get the survivors to Alexandria, so there’s that.  For Negan to pick one of them at random and kill them in front of the others should hold a lot of weight and be a moment that leaves us as shellshocked as Rick.

Last Day on Earth- Negan thinks that Maggie looks shitty

Should.  Heavy emphasis on that because, at the end of the day, we’re left with a massive tease that left me more disappointed than anything else.  I’m not angry or confused because it’s not the first time that The Walking Dead has baited viewers.  Manufactured is the word.  Coupled with the many commercial breaks, the finale led us along to this confrontation with Negan, but then we’re left dangling as Negan beat the cameraman to death.

But why take such a copout?  There’s no need to build such suspense for Negan’s first appearance, put the survivors in actual peril, draw things out in a 90 minute finale, give us Maggie’s weakening state, and then not show Negan’s victim.  That brings the episode’s drive to a screeching halt and it dilutes the finale of its tension.

Last Day on Earth- Negan smiles

For a character like Negan and for a comic moment as iconic as this, and for all the talk the cast and people involved with this show talked about the emotional turmoil of this episode, to end like this isn’t suspenseful.

Last Day on Earth- Glenn and Lucille

It’s taking the easy way out instead of leaving audiences as distressed as the characters would be.  Let us live out this horror with them by showing us who Negan dies.  Don’t do it from a first person perspective and try to justify this as setting up the next season.  It knocks the wind out of you and ruins an otherwise well-directed and tense final moment.

Last Day on Earth- Negan has to pick someone

The unfortunate thing is that this is going to be what people talk about between now and Season 7.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance as Negan was great, though I’m surprised we still didn’t get as much as a single F-bomb, especially after The People vs. OJ Simpson has used it, at the time of writing this, four times on FX.  No.  For better or worse, people are going to remember the cliffhanger ending.

Because it’s the last moment of the season and just ends without a clear resolution, that’s what viewers, writers, and everyone that watches the show will remember.  Me personally, I do not like having a cliffhanger end the season on this note, but my opinion amounts to nothing.  For such a strong season and buildup to Negan’s first appearance, this left a bad taste in my mouth by the time the credits rolled.

Last Day on Earth- Negan meets Rick's group

Would I have liked the season to end with us seeing Negan’s victim and watching the group crumble at one of their lowest moments?  Absolutely, as morbid as that sounds.  I think it would have worked for both comic fans and solidified to TV only viewers that Negan is a real threat, proving that by having one of the main characters killed.  Plus, we’d know the group’s incentive to launch a counterattack after losing one of their own.

I’m not going to spend time speculating on who it might have been, who to rule out, and what impact this could have on Season 7 because I’m still going to tune in, but the final moment of this finale has left me hollow.  Not knowing the identity of the person picked is a cheap way to string viewers along, never mind the backlash I’m sure this move will generate.  But as of now, this finale dropped the ball.

Is “Last Day on Earth” a bad episode?  Of course not.  The tension was high, Jeffrey Dean Morgan made a good first impression as Negan, and we saw Rick Grimes at a low moment in his task of eliminating the Saviors.  I’d argue that the last 15 or so minutes were some of the tensest moments on the show thus far as it fills you with dread about the survivors’ fates.  And despite my irritation, I plan to be around for Season 7.

However, the unnecessary 90 minute runtime, some slow moments, and the cliffhanger diluted what could have been a strong outing for Season 6.  In a season of high points, fake-out deaths, and surprise moments, this was a letdown.  Instead of getting Something to Fear, we got Something to Frustrate.  It’s a weak ending to an otherwise good season.