This is a spoiler-free review. Read on at the bottom for spoilers in full bloody detail.
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, of how the Walking Dead’s mid-season finale is nigh and although not officially labeled “Part 1”, this episode is just that. It’s one long set-up for the final episode, with plenty of seeds sown and brewing tension that ends abruptly, feeling like someone has just pulled the power cord from the television. While gripping throughout, it ends with frustration, knowing the answers we seek are another episode away.
Sing Me A Song is another, deeper, look inside the Sanctuary and at the curious way Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) chooses to rule. His people live in fear that Negan believes is respect, taking a knee and following orders blindly, because they’ve been told the rules keep them safe. One of his more peculiar rules surrounds keeping multiple women as wives. Within a room full of beautiful ladies dressed like they do the books at an autoshop, Negan prowls around them like animals at a zoo. He’s the alpha and he can do what he wants, although polygamy is one rule that seems unbecoming of him, for all the fear he evokes. But this is the apocalypse and all the old rules are out the window, so Negan has chosen to do what he likes, because he can. These women are there by choice; while they may not love Negan in a true marital sense, they know their life, or those of the ones they really love, could be a lot worse, if they keep him happy.
Negan made such a lasting impression when he introduced himself, one that has caused some of the residents of Alexandria to seek blood-thirsty revenge. Carl (Chandler Riggs) has already started his retaliation, last seen sneaking into the back of a Saviour truck, and Sing Me A Song follows up with his plan. Other Alexandrians are looking to kill Negan too. Rosita (Christian Serratos) is seeking ammunition, Michonne (Danai Gurira) appears to be on a one-woman mission and Spencer (Austin Nichols) wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps and lead. Instead of going about their business separately, perhaps they could all have colluded together and made a better plan, yet each one feels they are protecting the others by going alone.
Carl’s revenge plot apexes early in the episode and as Daryl (Norman Reedus) watches, Negan decides to get further acquainted with the cowboy hat-wearing teenager. Although Negan may be a psychopath, his interactions with Carl show him to be calculated and fair. Carl is a serial killer in the making, such a hard exterior oozing with courage, but Negan is able to find the weakness in him and remind us that Carl is still a child. His choice of punishment for Carl’s crime is left unsaid, but when Negan returns him to Alexandria, there is an edge of compassion in his behaviour; when he comes across another of the survivors hiding in a back room, he becomes a totally different person.
Also shifting gears again is Dwight (Austin Amelio), the once-escapee who decided the only way he and Sherry (Christine Evangelista) could survive was to take a knee and the ensuing punishment. He has shown both loyalty to his leader and hints of sympathy to Negan’s victims. What Negan perceives as busting the balls of his Saviours may actually be building up hostility within his ranks. Negan may be focusing too much on breaking Alexandria and its residents, while overlooking his own. But before we can explore more about the fate of Carl, a potential uprising at the Sanctuary or a rebellion in Alexandria, the episode ends and Sing Me A Song begins to feel a lot like Carl’s face… it’s missing something.
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Entrails and innards (spoilers)
– For Negan to have risen to power he must have known how to break his victims. That’s what he is trying to do with Daryl (Norman Reedus) and he is starting to do the same with Carl. Instead of killing Carl on the spot, after being threatened and seeing his own men shot in front of him, Negan takes him on a tour. He praises Carl, admits that Carl scares the hell out of him and offers him a beer. Carl is the very picture of bravery, running high on stupidity or adrenaline, standing up to his adversary in a way his father hasn’t. It isn’t until Negan forces Carl to take off his bandage and show his empty socket that Carl starts to crack. Negan takes a wild fascination to the wound, wanting to touch it and refusing to let Carl cover it up. With his insensitivity and almost unknowingly, Negan has found his way to break Carl, but what is he going to do with that power?
– The Saviours live (but not necessarily die) by Negan’s rules. He is a smart leader; he knows that it’s better to have people alive and working for him than dead and on the wall, which is why, should you break one of his rules, he won’t kill you, he’ll just introduce you to the iron. One of Negan’s wives falls back into the arms of her ex-lover and, although Negan has offered her the choice to return to her previous life, working on the bottom tier of the Saviours’ civilisation, she hurriedly refuses, knowing that her loyalty will see her lover get his face burned. It’s the same torture that Dwight had to suffer when he and Sherry returned to the Sanctuary and it’s evident that Dwight still harbours resentment when he’s forced to stoke the furnace and warm up the weapon that has maimed him.
– Former couple Sherry and Dwight might now be finding themselves on different pages. Meeting again in the stairwell, he tells her not to feel guilty about selling out Amber and Mark, but her reaction is one that suggests she might be enjoying her position. She is close to Negan as his wife and so able to get him at his most vulnerable, if she wanted to. She is pulling his strings. He repeats what she says to him; it’s in a different context but shows that he is paying attention to her. Sherry ends the conversation with Dwight prematurely – she may have started to enjoy being the woman behind the man.
– What do the residents of Alexandria think they’re doing? Carl, Michonne and Rosita are all planning to kill Negan, Carl obviously a little further on in his quest. Rosita has her bullet, made by Eugene (Josh McDermitt), but given begrudgingly and with a warning that doesn’t really need to be said: one bullet may kill her foe but it’s not going to take down his army. Michonne, fresh from building a wall of walkers, has captured a Saviour and is forcing her to be taken to Negan. She will end up in the same situation as Rosita would – the Saviours have the numbers and one person will not be able to take them all down. Little does Michonne know that Negan isn’t at the Sanctuary; he’s at Alexandria.
– Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is out scavenging and he and Aaron (Ross Marquand) have come across a boat that may be loaded with supplies. But while they’re out, Negan is back in their home and he has found Judith. Gone are all his hostilities and aggression, as he holds and plays with Alexandria’s baby. What will happen, though, when Rick returns and sees his daughter in the hands of his enemy? Another tragedy could be in store for the mid-season finale…
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC