This is a spoiler-free review. Read on at the bottom for spoilers in full bloody detail.
This review belongs to Negan.
As does almost everything interesting that Alexandria holds within its walls. All taken by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and The Saviours, who came knocking on the gates earlier than expected, taking Rick (Andrew Lincoln) by surprise. It would appear that he hasn’t yet had time to explain to the other survivors who they serve now, but they’re about to learn, really quickly.
From the opening, ominous knocks that echo throughout Alexandria until the moment the gate closes behind them, Negan brings back the fear and palpable tension of the premiere, where it feels like anyone who breathes the wrong way may have just taken their last. Having seen an almost lighter side of Negan in The Cell, he’s back at his most vicious and repugnant, ensuring that none of his new disciples dare question his authority. It’s a lot to absorb and the episode has been extended an extra 20 minutes to really force home the unease.
Despite the extra minutes of dread, Service doesn’t succeed in telling us any more about Negan and the Saviours than what we learned in the opening episode. He makes demands violently, his alternative being death. It’s still morbidly petrifying and will cause your legs to tremble uncontrollably, but it doesn’t move the story along in any way or tell us something we don’t already know. Most of the episode is spent inside Alexandria with Rick red-eyed and obedient, but it feels like The Walking Dead is just repeating itself – a wasted opportunity to use that extra time.
Rick’s role within the group now is to keep them acquiescent; he isn’t the leader anymore, but he has to ensure the group tow the line. That could be harder than he thinks: with the deaths of two of their own still tender, the group is divided between those wanting vengeance and those ready to run. Those who want to fight are closer to Rick than maybe he had hoped, leading him further inside himself for fear of losing another one he loves. Opening up, we learn one of the secrets that Rick has kept bottled up, the one secret that is guiding his new obliging self and that which keeps him from smashing Negan’s skull in with his own bat. This is a different Rick, a shell of the one from the video footage that he recorded when he first came to Alexandria. That Rick is one that even Negan wouldn’t have wanted to face.
The footage reminds us of how far Rick has come and how he has fallen. He’s killed people, lots of people and that’s before he slew all those Saviours. There was a Rick Grimes who wasn’t unlike Negan, one that commanded fear and respect. He may have had the motive to always be doing the ferocious acts, so that those he loved most didn’t have to, or to keep them safe – perhaps now, though, it’s time for those he has protected over the years to step up and repay him.
There may be the smallest hint of an uprising afoot, with those who want revenge already standing up to the Saviours or sewing the seeds of rebellion. It is this behaviour that the broken Rick cannot let happen, if he wants to keep his family alive and Negan mollified. Daryl (Norman Reedus) remains a captive of the Saviours, and although Rick’s request he be released is rejected, should Alexandria do anything out of line, they may get Daryl back piece by piece. It is just another card that Negan holds over Rick, just one more of their possessions that he owns, because everything now, belongs to Negan.
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Entrails and innards (spoilers)
– We may have all known about Rick’s great secret, but for the first time, he openly admits to Michonne (Danai Guria) that Judith isn’t his. He says that he needed to accept that in order to protect her and so Alexandria must accept Negan’s new world, if they want to stay alive. It’s a hard truth to hear, but unless we get the monster-bearded Rick Grimes back, it is the only one that matters.
– Will Michonne obey Rick? Probably not. Not after she finds what the Saviours have done to their mattresses. Having initially taken them as protection payment, along with a host of other items, Michonne finds piles of mattresses burning not far outside Alexandria. Are the Saviours deliberately trying to incite them? Is this a test to see if they’ll fight back? Or was there a genuine reason for them being dumped that we don’t yet know?
– Dwight (Austin Amelio) has lost any empathy we may have shown him last week, back to being his arrogant and unpleasant self. This time taking it out on Rosita (Christian Serratos), demanding she goes out and gets him Daryl’s bike, but not before he strips her of her belongings and dignity. Rosita is one of those who wants to fight back and goes to great lengths to get her hands on a gun before realising that it has no bullets. (If only there were someone who thinks they can make ammunition in Alexandria…)
– If Rick wants to follow the rules, he isn’t off to a good start. Despite handing over extra weaponry and a deer shot accidentally by Michonne, as she tried her hand at sniping, he has lied about Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Negan wanted to take her with him, another potential wife to add to his collection but Rick, with the help of Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), say she has passed away and show him a freshly filled grave. It’s not clear how Rick expects to keep an alive Maggie hidden. Negan knows about the Hilltop – they were the ones who enlisted Rick to protect them from Negan in the first place – so should he pay a visit there to collect, he might come face to face with her and then what happens to that bond and respect that Rick has worked so hard to build?