by Billie Doux
Well, he is. Isn't he?
Honestly, this season is wearing me out. I hate how segmented it is and how I've spent way too much time with characters I don't care about. Even though I don't read the comics, I'm very aware that this is where the source material went and that they've been planning to do this for a very long time, but I think I'm still off center and angry about losing Glenn and Abraham.
And could you also please tell me why every Negan-centric episode has to be ninety minutes long?
Clearly, I am having difficulty with Negan. While I enjoy complicated villains and I will say again that I'm a fan of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and he's playing the hell out of the part, Negan is making me realize that I might prefer my Walking Dead villains a deep, dark, unambiguous black. Give me evil cannibals that I could never connect to, please. I honestly don't care for watching someone terrorizing his people and burning a man's face off, followed by good time lemonade and a genuine laugh out loud moment.
Negan might actually believe that he deserves the adulation, the kneeling and the harem, and that by making rules and enforcing them so horribly, he is ensuring the survival of his slaves -- but I doubt it. Negan knows that he is sinning, and he's doing it because he enjoys it. At least he enjoys the kneeling and the harem. Was Negan truly reluctant to burn Mark and Dwight, but felt that he had to in order to enforce his rules? Was it the same with murdering Abraham and Glenn? They're arbitrary rules, so does it matter?
(Of course, that was probably the point of Father Gabriel talking to Spencer about the difference between thinking about sinful acts and committing sinful acts.)
It appears that Negan's weakness might be that he's subject to his own whims. He was clearly disgusted by the unfortunate Mark pissing himself with fear, and to a lesser extent Fat Joey sucking up to him by bringing him Lucille. But he also treats Sherry as his favorite wife because she talks back to him. The way Olivia surprised herself by slapping Negan in the face when he said he would pass the time screwing her was strangely hilarious, as was the way he followed it up by saying he now liked her fifty percent more. Threatening Olivia that way may have just been Negan's idea of a happy funny joke, but Olivia's unexpected courage may have saved her from rape.
Carl's courage has certainly saved him, at least so far. Much of this episode was Carl hanging out with Negan and trailing him around carrying his bat as Negan taught him how his world works. Even though Negan has to punish Carl somehow for killing two of his guys, he hasn't done it yet because he really doesn't want to. Maybe making Carl his little buddy will be enough. Do I kill you, Negan wonders. Iron your face, chop off your arm, run a toothpick into your remaining eye? No, maybe I'll just make you wonder if I will, maybe I'll just make you feel horribly vulnerable by removing your bandage and exposing that frighteningly empty hole in your face. I'm not quite sure how getting Carl to sing for him is demoralizing, but whatever.
Chandler Riggs has had to deal with a lot of criticism of his acting, but he did a terrific job in this episode. He knows his character and he held his own with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, especially during that unwrapping his eye bandage scene when Carl nearly lost it, but didn't. Carl dutifully stood in the background and didn't react while Negan made him watch the unfortunate Mark get the iron for sneaking a moment with his own wife. The trip to the Sanctuary was basically suicidal on Carl's part, anyway. Carl might even have pulled the assassination off if he hadn't hesitated to kill people he didn't know.
While I am again vaguely aware of the direction of the source material, I do not want Carl to succumb to Negan's, um, charm. That's where they're going, isn't it? Carl is disenchanted with Rick, and Negan talked to him like he was an adult, discussed how cool having a harem was, handed him a beer. Carl has already confided in Negan that he had to kill his own mother, and Negan can't seem to help going into sympathy mode with Carl.
So now, Negan is in Alexandria waiting for Rick, sitting next to Carl and with baby Judith in his arms. Is he simply enjoying holding a baby, or is he looking for an opportunity to freak Rick out? I'd say both. How many of his guys did Negan take to Alexandria with him? Is Negan actually vulnerable to Rosita's brand new bullet now?
Before I leave the Saviors, I should also spend a moment discussing Dwight and Sherry, the most interesting and sympathetic of Negan's slaves. For me, the iron scene (which I mostly didn't watch) was all about Dwight looking into the fire and obviously remembering how it happened to him, and the harem scene was about how Sherry had to relive Dwight's punishment when it was going to happen to Mark and Amber, and how she couldn't let her true feelings show on her face. I hated how Negan said that he wouldn't have time to screw any of his wives today, and then he looked deliberately at Dwight and said, "Well, maybe one."
There was another little Dwight and Sherry meeting in the stairway. It would look bad if they got caught, even if they are just talking. I care about them now. Be careful, Dwight and Sherry.
After the Negan/Carl stuff, my favorite scene in this episode was Father Gabriel discussing the nature of sin with Spencer, hearing what Spencer thought of Rick, and deciding to get out of the car and go home alone. Clearly, when Gabriel commits to something or someone, he doesn't fool around. And it's difficult to feel anything for Spencer when he continues to demonstrate what a spoiled brat he is. That reference to Deanna made him look even worse in comparison. Rosita thought Spencer was probably hiding something special from all of them, and she was right, wasn't she? Once a hoarder, always a hoarder.
What else? Michonne hijacked a redheaded woman Savior and said "Take me to Negan," which is sort of what Carl just did. (And that was it. We've gotten way too little Michonne this season.) Rosita forced Eugene to machine-shop a bullet for her; actually, couldn't it have been two or three? And we got a little of Rick and Aaron on the hunt for something to give Negan; they found a survivalist's outpost with a bunch of threats on signs and a booby-trapped lake full of walkers. More next week, I assume. It would be cool if they found an arsenal that they could conceal from Negan, but I don't know if Rick is ready to take a chance like that.
Jesus was something of an afterthought, but I loved how he (1) ruined the crate of expensive booze from the Hilltop, (2) left a trail out of the Sanctuary with syrup, and (3) snuck in on the top of a truck, a trick he previously pulled on Rick and Daryl. Did Jesus write the note that was slipped under Daryl's door, or was it Dwight? I bet it was Jesus. It may be too soon for Dwight to turn, especially so soon after the iron reminder.
-- The full pan shot of the walkers at the Sanctuary fence was rather cool, with the heads on pikes and the stakes and all.
-- Daryl didn't have much in the way of lines. He basically served food, mopped up pee, and looked like he was hiding how upset he was that Carl was there.
-- During the Michonne road scene, the two walkers trailing her looked a lot like her previous chained pets.
-- When Spencer was crouching over that armless walker that he brought down from the tree, I was absolutely certain it was still animate and would bite him in the crotch. But no. Why did they waste a set-up shot like that?
-- The midseason finale is next Sunday. And yes, it's another ninety minute episode, like this one.
Negan: "Damn. You are adorable. Did you pick that gun 'cause it looks cool? Kid, I ain't gonna lie. You scare the shit out of me."
Spencer: "This is like taxes."
Negan: "I know. Every woman where you're from dresses like they do the books at an auto shop."
Father Gabriel: (to Spencer) "What you're saying doesn't make you a sinner. But it does make you a tremendous shit."
Negan: "I can't do it. It's like talking to a birthday present. You gotta take that crap off your face. I want to see what grandma got me."
Negan: "Two men! Two. Men. Punishment. Do you really want to piss me off?"
Negan: "All jokes aside, you look rad as hell. I wouldn't cover that shit up. It may not be a hit with the ladies, but I swear to you, no one is going to screw with you looking like that, no sir."
Negan: "Were you gentle? Were you kind? Did you treat her like a lady? Did you pet her little pussy like a lady? I'm just screwing around, man! A baseball bat doesn't have a pussy!"
You know, I'm trying really hard not to think about the election. Could they ix-nay the ussy-pay?
Eugene: "I've analyzed this top to bottom. It doesn't matter if you're stealthy, snipey, gun or knifey. Abraham was right, they have the numbers."
Dwight: "If you're still standing, then it's always on somebody else's back."
Four out of four birthday presents,
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.