The Walking Dead: 7.04 Service

You wouldn’t think a show about the zombie apocalypse would have trouble being fast- or even moderate-paced, yet here we are. The Walking Dead is in the middle of events that make up one of the most exciting story arcs of the comics, but the show is taking its sweet sweet time getting anywhere with it. Longer-than-usual episodes are always highly anticipated, but this one was something of a let down. Episode 4 of season 7 firmly established that at least for now, Rick and the others at Alexandria are bending to Negan’s will, as the start of the episode saw Negan and crew arrive early to the town and immediately start taking things and humiliating people. Dwight was present again in this episode, only to cruelly taunt Rosita seemingly for the fun of it - an action that directly contrasts with the more vulnerable and sympathetic side of him we saw last week.

By opening the episode with having various Alexandrians prepare to gather supplies for Negan before he’s even showed up, the audience is left feeling like a crucial scene has been missed or skipped over. It seems an inexplicable waste not to have shown Rick and the others returning to the town after the events of the season premiere, and having to explain to everyone else what had happened in what would surely have been an emotional and powerful scene. Instead we’ve jumped ahead to where everyone already knows the situation, but some townspeople seem not to have acknowledged the gravity of it. Neglecting to show the gang’s return to Alexandria makes no sense at all, especially given that the writers seem hell-bent on drawing out every excruciating moment of everything else going on.

The episode on the whole seemed largely just to consist of self-indulgence on the Negan front. Sure, Michonne and Rosita finally got a fair bit of screentime and old favourites Spencer and Gabriel popped up, but by and large the Big Bad Villain just talked a lot about how big and bad and villainous he is in a way that conveyed no real suspense whatsoever. Michonne and Rosita’s antics made it clear that they’re ready for action, and that they won’t take Negan’s nonsense lying down like Rick appears to be doing in the interests of keeping everyone alive.

But for all indications that Rick is now completely subservient, there were still small signs that he’s not completely downtrodden just yet. From telling Michonne he’s thought about the numbers for a fight (how the tables will turn once he finds out about The Kingdom!) to his hold on Lucille twitching once Negan’s back is turned, to hiding the fact that Maggie is still alive, clearly he’s not quite given up yet.

On the topic of Maggie though, one has to wonder what exactly his plan is there. Why is he happy to conceal her but not a few guns? Did he deceive Negan just with the intent of keeping her safe, or is she a human secret weapon? Are the people of Alexandria and the Hilltop planning to play hot potato with her until the day Negan inevitably discovers she’s alive? The next episode will shed a little light on the situation for sure, as the format of hopping between character groups and plotlines continues next week with what Maggie and Sasha have been up to.

One of the few highlights of the episode came in the form of Rick’s conversation with Michonne, as he talked about Judith and the long dead Shane with perfect sadness and sincerity. Witnessing the topic of Judith’s parentage finally be addressed again after so long felt like a wild but almost pleasant nostalgia trip that was over too quickly. It’s a shame that Rick couldn’t have spared a couple more sentences for Shane, given how the ruthless attitude that caused his end in season 2 may have been very well suited to more recent events. Fans often refer to Shane as being ahead of his time, and indeed, a line from Rick about how he could have used him there with them now would’ve had a lot of weight and gone a long way.

Without a doubt, this week’s The Walking Dead was the weakest episode of the season so far. The extra 20 minutes or so were completely wasted on this uneventful montage of Negan swaggering around and spouting ridiculous phrases (even Jeffrey Dean Morgan can’t redeem the likes of “easy peasy lemon squeezy”). The more Negan talks, the more disengaged the audience becomes. It’s amazing how the writers can make such a formidable villain seem positively boring, and one can only hope that the pace of the show picks up again soon, before Negan’s monologues and nursery rhymes send viewers completely to sleep.

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