by Billie Doux
Can I start by saying that I don't enjoy the focus on one faction at a time? Maybe it was smart not to go back to Alexandria for a couple of episodes so that we could recover emotionally from the devastating loss of Glenn and Abraham, but enough already. I'm also wondering why this episode had to be extra long, especially since the focus was on one thing.
That said, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is practically mesmerizing. He is playing the hell out of Negan. It's hard to take your eyes off that toothy, horrible grin when he's on screen. And Andrew Lincoln did such a great job with Rick's helplessness. Rick kept flipping from practicality and protectiveness of his people to a rage so great that he kept nearly losing it. That was why Negan kept getting in Rick's face, why he made Rick carry his bat -- it was a test. You will carry my weapon for me, the thing that I used to kill two of your closest friends, because I have you over a barrel and you don't dare use it against me.
The last thing Negan said to Rick was about serving him sexually: "In case you haven't caught on, I just slipped my dick down your throat. And you thanked me for it." It's interesting how Rick connected that emasculation emotionally to the fact that he knows Judith isn't his biological daughter. That was one huge plot thread that was out fluttering and untied until now, wasn't it? I also liked that Michonne was his confidant. Despite her obvious need to fight, this situation with Negan hasn't broken them up -- at least not yet. Thankfully.
Living with Negan's rule is like having an abusive husband when there is no way to leave. The way Negan and his guys treated the women made my skin crawl: Dwight flirting in a sickening way with Rosita, who was clearly thinking about Abraham; Davey taunting Enid with the green balloons, which she obviously associated with Glenn. (I wanted to scream, she's a kid! Leave her alone!) The worst was Negan asking where Maggie was, because he wants her. We can all imagine how Maggie would feel if she had to "marry" the man who murdered Glenn. It's unthinkable. I hope they don't go there.
Yes, of course I wanted Rick to rebel somehow, although I knew he wouldn't because he knew people would die. At least Carl, Michonne and Rosita got to rebel. Rosita has never been a favorite of mine but that might change because I really liked what she did here: figuring out where she could find a gun, taking out the walkers alone, and walking up to Eugene in the end and asking him to make her a bullet.
And can I just say woo hoo for Father Gabriel and his creepy ass grin? Initially spineless and despicable, Gabriel now delights me. That grave for Maggie was so clever. Although I actually expected Negan to get his guys to dig it up. What will happen when Negan discovers that Maggie is still alive? You know he will.
Like Rick, Daryl the hostage spent most of the episode looking down; he was more successful than Rick at hiding his rage. Interesting that Dwight retrieved Daryl's motorcycle as a lure, hoping to turn Daryl into one of Negan's lieutenants. Good luck with that, guys. Daryl might get to the point where he'd try to fake it, but wouldn't Negan come up with some sort of horrible test for him? What if Negan demanded that Daryl kill one of the Alexandrians as a loyalty test or something?
How loyal are Negan's guys? They seem to enjoy being assholes and bullies, but if Rick had lost it at the gate and beaten Negan to death with Lucille, what would have happened? Would they have massacred the Alexandrians? I kept thinking of the Winkies, who were so grateful when Dorothy melted the Wicked Witch of the West.
There was a lot of bookending in this episode. Rick and Michonne woke up in bed facing in opposite directions, but in the end they made up their bed on the floor together. The action began and ended at Alexandria's gate with its proud sign that now means absolutely nothing, since the plunderers came right in.
Negan left their food supplies behind because he knew they were starving and of course, they can't be good slaves if they starve. But he took their medicine and, of all things, their mattresses. He just wanted the Alexandrians to lose something, to be uncomfortable every night. Honestly, I couldn't tell that the smoldering pile of things on the road were mattresses at first. They looked like tombstones. Were they supposed to look like tombstones?
-- There was bright sunshine during every Negan/Rick scene, a good counterpoint to Rick's emotional darkness. I also loved the backlit shots of Michonne on top of the truck roof. Have I mentioned lately how awesome I find Michonne? Even though she's a terrible shot.
-- Negan said that he doesn't like killing women, but I thought for sure he was going to kill poor Olivia, who was literally whimpering with fear. Is it wrong of me to prefer that he kill Spencer, who endangered everyone by hoarding guns as well as food and booze?
-- So sad that Negan took the rocket launcher.
-- While nearly all of Negan's soldiers were male, we did get a powerful female lieutenant called Arat. Interesting name.
-- Taking out a walker with a candlestick? Were they going for some type of symbolism there? Maybe a reference to Clue?
-- Was that Morse code sign in Rick's house before? Maybe it will be important at some point.
-- In this week's hair report, could someone please make Chandler Riggs cut his hair? It's gone way past Jared Padalecki and is starting to look ridiculous. How about a ponytail scrunchie?
Quotes, Negan edition:
"Little pig, little pig, let me in!"
"Easy peasy, lemon squeezy."
"You don't look at him, you don't talk to him, and I don't make you chop anything off of him."
"I can't be the only one to notice that you got a fat lady in charge of keeping track of rations, can I?"
"Is that you, Rick, underneath all that man bush? Shit, I would not have messed with that guy."
Negan: "Holy crap, you are creepy as shit sneaking up on me wearing that collar with that freaky ass smile."
Gabriel: (smiling freakily) "My apologies."
Carl: "You should go before you find out how dangerous we all are."
Negan: "Pardon me, young man, excuse the shit out of my goddamn French, but did you just threaten me?"
(to Carl) "Where were we? Oh yeah, your giant man-sized balls."
Honestly, I'm not sure how I felt about this episode. What did you guys think?
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.