The Walking Dead has never been flush with hope. It’s been more about survival. But as Service unfolded, it’s clear hope doesn’t live here anymore.
Negan and the Saviors totally humiliated Alexandria this week. Negan took special pleasure in emasculating Alexandria’s two Alpha Males — Rick and Daryl — in front of everyone. In a lot of ways this was rougher to watch play out than the season premiere.
Last season’s 90-minute special was an introspective look at Morgan. He was at his worst, but by episode’s end Morgan turned a very necessary emotional corner. Service offered no such satisfaction. This was The Saviors once again ironically living up to their name by being Alexandria’s tormentors. Right down to taking most of their mattresses, which they burned just for the fun of it later. That was just cold. Any shred of sympathy Dwight might have earned last week was shattered thanks to his skeevy harassing of Rosita.
Even in the face of everything they’ve endured, there’s still some fight left. Rosita battled a small walker herd just to secure a gun. Michonne resumed target practice to regain her fighting edge. That didn’t work out so well for Bambi’s mom. But it was Carl whose defiant act put Alexandria in an even worse position.
What makes Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of Negan so great is his delivery. Every line is like a sneering taunt daring someone to challenge him especially when he talks about wanting to hook up with Maggie and laughing off killing Abraham. Like most bullies, Negan is counting on the threat of his actions to keep everyone in line. That’s the kind of credibility one gets when they use a baseball bat to mash in someone’s head.
If there’s even the slightest glimmer of hope it’s that Michonne and Rosita aren’t willing to sit back and endure this reign of Negan peacefully. Rosita wants Eugene to make her a bullet presumably for one good shot at Negan. That’s the kind of strategy that will get her killed, but it’s something.
Michonne, has the better long-term game plan, suggesting Alexandria and Hilltop united could beat Negan. Rick’s right in thinking that’s not enough, but with two more of his lieutenants Carol and Morgan getting in with the Kingdom, three communities might just be enough. That clearly seems to be the destination for the season. The big question is if the season can sustain itself or get swallowed up in the relentless crush of The Saviors’ onslaught.
It hasn’t taken long to establish The Saviors’ as the most insurmountable opponent Rick and the gang has faced. The worst thing that could happen is Season 7 spends too much time reinforcing what was quickly established in four episodes. Pretty soon, we’ll need to see the tide turning even if it’s baby steps. That’s preferable to drilling home that The Saviors are awful, awful people.
But we know eventually Rick will adapt. He’s done in several times already from a law-abiding police officer to this renegade outlaw capable of doing anything to protect his family and friends. Andrew Lincoln delivered a tremendous performance throughout the episode, but he really shone in Rick’s confession to Michonne. He knows Shane is Judith’s father, but he’ll love and protect her like his own daughter.
Rick has that same devotion to his friends and after losing so many of them he can’t bear the thought of directly causing another loss. That’s the leader’s burden and Rick is finding himself in a place where he doesn’t want the responsibility of keeping people alive. For the sake of everyone, Rick is going to need to find his nerve again quickly.
Service furthered the nightmare for Rick and Alexandria. It was a crushing episode that magnified the gang’s problems. It’s time for some signs of life though to keep this season from being too one-sided in favor of Negan.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: AMC