Whose Episode Is It?
We’re back at Alexandria, so there are plenty of familiar faces, with some focus given to Michonne, Rosita, and Spencer. But the star of the show, of course, is Rick. You’ll recall that Negan’s goal in “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” was to break Rick and ensure his obedience. As the Saviors’ “business relationship” with Alexandria begins, Negan is there to personally confirm that Rick is truly broken. It’s about as fun and exciting as it sounds.
Man Is the True Monster
I’ve made it clear that Negan’s smarmy shtick doesn’t work for me, and his arrival at the beginning of “Service” is almost self-parody. He walks up to Alexandria’s gate whistling a jaunty tune, then immediately sings, “Dun dun dun duuun!” before chanting “Little pig, little pig, let me in!” God, he’s irritating. What’s frustrating is that there are moments in “Service” when the smile slips, and Negan become angry and threatening, and in those moments he’s truly scary. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can deliver on some aspects of Negan’s character, but the “jolly murderer” bit is still a bust.
The Saviors have arrived at Alexandria earlier than they promised, and it turns out their definition of “half” of the Alexandrians’ goods means whatever Negan says it means. In this case, it means relieving Alexandria of all its weapons and medicine, but leaving all the food. After all, if the Alexandrians starve to death, they’re useless. So “Service” has plenty of scenes of Saviors plundering the Alexandrians’ homes, including removing furniture and mattresses, while Negan and Rick oversee everything. It’s basically all a big dick-swinging exercise for Negan, who makes it explicit when he whispers to Rick, “In case you haven’t caught on, I just slid my dick down your throat, and you thanked me for it.” Rick got the message in the premiere, and now all of Alexandria has to understand.
A Shred of Humanity
Things get tense when two guns are missing from the armory, and Negan threatens Olivia’s life unless they’re found. So Rick has to call a town meeting to basically let everyone know who’s really in charge now. There’s some muttering about resistance but Rick wants to make it clear: they’re not going to resist, because then more people would die. No one’s got the guns, but Rick finally manages to find them hidden in Spencer’s house (of course) along with some food and liquor. Rick hands them over, and also convinces Michonne to hand over her undocumented sniper rifle, which she’s been practicing with in order to take a shot at Negan.
Rick’s pleas with her match his pleas with the rest of the town: If there’s even the hint of dissent, the Saviors will retaliate and more people will die. And after Abraham and Glenn, that’s something Rick can no longer abide. In his guilt, he’s convinced that their new life of servitude is preferable to extinction, which he’s convinced will happen if there’s a revolution. Even if they teamed up with the Hilltop, the Saviors still outnumber them. Hey, Rick, have you heard of this place called the Kingdom? I hear a pretty cool dude is in charge. After his emotional speech to Michonne, she agrees to try and accept their new situation.
Viva La Revolución
The next day, Michonne heads out to the field where she was practicing her aim, only to notice some smoke in the distance. When she investigates, she finds all of the Alexandrians’ mattresses in a smoldering pile. They didn’t need them, they just wanted to make the Alexandrians suffer. And it’s doubtful that Michonne can stay true to her word in the face of that cruelty.
Of course, Michonne isn’t the only one having revolutionary thoughts this episode. Rosita and Spencer are dispatched to retrieve Daryl’s bike by Dwight, who is a pretty generic shithead this episode after his more nuanced portrayal in last week’s “The Cell.” He strips them of their guns and drinking water to ensure there’s no funny business, but while they’re retrieving the bike (left at the site where Denise died last season), Rosita wanders into the woods to hunt walkers. She’s not just blowing off steam; she’s looking for some of the Saviors that were killed that have reanimated. More specifically, she’s looking for their guns. Rosita knows that the Saviors are going to disarm Alexandria, and she wants some insurance. Spencer whines about this (despite having hidden guns at home, because Spencer sucks), but she manages to get a sidearm, albeit one without bullets. Good thing she’s friends with a guy who knows how to make them.
It’s unclear what Rosita’s plan is beyond just “be armed,” but Michonne’s clear plan of assassination again raises the question of what exactly would happen if Negan were removed from the equation. He has lieutenants, but no obvious number 2. And as we’ve seen with Dwight, some of the lieutenants have reason to resent him. The Saviors just seem like a house of cards that wouldn’t take much time to topple, but that’s mostly because they’ve received no development beyond Negan and Dwight. Right now they’re just a thuggish monolith, which makes pondering how to defeat them a dead end for now. With their superior numbers, “Kill them all” can’t be the solution, so the resistance will have to be smarter to achieve its goals.
I’ve talked before about how “The Walking Dead” has had trouble developing believable communities, and that was when we only had Alexandria to deal with. Now there are four, and the show should try and avoid reducing these struggles between groups into interpersonal conflicts. There was a glimmer of possibility this episode with the varying viewpoints expressed in the Alexandria town meeting, but most of this extra-long episode was just Negan in Rick’s face, being threatening. I’m afraid “The Walking Dead” may have bitten off more than it can chew by expanding its world so quickly. It should at least make more interesting use of its time.