Sunday, November 20, 2016

(TV) The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead ‘Service’ Review

After three long, agonizing weeks, we finally get to check-in with the Alexandria crew and how they're dealing with the deaths of Glenn and Abraham. Surprisingly enough, they seem to be in relatively ok spirits- coping a lot better than I certainly am- although we never get a chance to catch-up with Maggie, who was arguably impacted the most. "Service" takes place a few days after the season premiere, giving our heroes a bit of time to come to terms with their new reality. But, their brief respite is cut cruelly short, when Negan arrives (ahead of schedule) to collect his offering. Again, this episode focuses on the psychological battle of wills between Rick and Negan, and while I wish it had focused a bit more on how other, more secondary characters are doing, Rick v. Negan is sure to be the crux of season seven, and the mesmerizing performances of both Jeffery Dean Morgan and Andrew Lincoln, are well worth the trade-off.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
If you’ve been following The Walking Dead from the start, it’s probably been pretty tough to watch Rick so beaten down and emasculated. For the past seven seasons, our fearless leader has helped the group navigate through dangerous situation after dangerous situation, projecting an unflappable level of bad-assery amidst the most daunting odds. We’re briefly reminded of this Rick of old, when one of Negan’s soldiers finds Deanna’s video recorded interview of Rick from when he first arrived at Alexandria. Even Negan admits, though jokingly of course, that this bearded, videotaped version of Rick is not someone he’d want to mess with. And, it appears that, no matter how farfetched it seemed at the time, Carl’s season five prediction came true- the quiet and safety of Alexandria made the group weak. Of course, it can be easy to sometimes mistake strength for weakness. A retaliatory strike on Negan might seem like the heroic move to make, but as Rick calmly explains to Michonne at the end of episode, The Saviors have an insurmountable numbers advantage over both Alexandria and the Hilltop, so for now, they wait and go along with Negan’s demands. And despite how awesome it would be to have Rick pull one out of the old playbook and bite Negan’s throat out, what Alexandria really needs is a leader who shows strength in restraint, remaining in control and not resorting to immediate retaliation (which is basically what got everybody into this situation in the first place). I think Rick can and will be this kind of leader.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Elsewhere, in supporting character land, for the first time in her two-plus seasons on the show, Rosita finally gets to actually do something. In fact, after countless episodes with literally zero speaking lines, Suzie Crabgrass finds herself front and center in her very own B-plot. And what a B-plot it is. In direct opposition to Rick’s plan to seemingly rollover and give Negan all of Alexandria’s guns, Rosita decides to fight back- scavenging for weapons and hitting up Eugene for some home cooked bullets. It’s pretty likely that it’s only a matter of time before Rick gets wind and tries to shut this plan down; but regardless, it’s nice that Rosita’s list of accomplishments will contain something other than getting dumped by Abraham. With the recent “thinning” of the main cast, it’s only natural for some of the plot to trickle down to characters who have been previously ignored narratively. So far, we’ve already seen a bit of this with Morgan’s prominence in The Kingdom, and the first multi-episode Daryl storyline since the Beth arc. Hopefully we’ll see the same happen to other characters who have either felt neglected (Michonne), or need to pivot into new roles (Maggie). Oh, and am I the only one who would *love* to see an Aaron-centric storyline?
(Photo Credit: AMC)
Speaking of Daryl, we do get a few scenes this week with everyone’s favorite scraggly haired biker. In yet another demoralizing jab at Rick, Negan parades a pajama-clad Daryl around Alexandria, ordering him around left and right like his own personal errand boy. Negan doesn’t even allow Rick to communicate with his de facto righthand man; though, there is an interesting theory floating around the Reddit-verse that suggests otherwise. As for Negan, there really isn’t much more I can say that I haven’t said already. Negan is a fantastic antagonist, portrayed brilliantly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. And, despite sagging season seven ratings, I strongly believe that Negan will be the catalyst that saves The Walking Dead from its long-simmering creative malaise. The only question is- will enough people start tuning back in to enjoy it?

And just like that, we’re halfway through season 7A, and just four short weeks away from the midseason finale. It doesn’t necessarily feel like it though, as the first four episodes of the season have been relatively good, in terms of quality, and have all served to move the plot forward, as opposed to past seasons that typically start to lose steam around this point in time. I’m looking forward to Rosita and Eugene’s secret bullet manufacturing plan; but in a more general sense, I do wonder if the writers will be able to maintain Negan’s threatening air. Given the show’s history of less than compelling bad guys, I could envision a scenario where the next several encounters with Negan are all bark and no bite, with viewers getting distracted by the charismatic one-liners, and forgetting just how incredibly dangerous Negan is. Hard to imagine, right? But the further away we get from the season premiere, the less “real” Negan’s free killing ways become. As much as I hate to say it, The Walking Dead might need to introduce a couple more characters to Lucille, as the season goes on. Here’s hoping next week doesn’t make me eat my words.

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