Editor’s note: this review of AMC’s The Walking Dead will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was another Rick and Negan affair, and it worked just about as well as all the others, which is to say not very well indeed. I know, judging from my Facebook feed anyway, that a lot of people like Negan. I just don’t get it. He’s not threatening. He’s not scary. He’s just irritating, and that’s a damn shame.
Regardless, we’ve got an episode to discuss. “Service” opens with Negan and his group making a surprise early visit to Alexandria to pick up their tribute. Rick had been expecting a week to prepare, but it seems Negan showed up after just a couple of days.
People are understandably upset, which was of course the idea. Negan’s whole raison d’etra is to create and exploit a power imbalance. Keeping people unsure and upset is a great way to do that. Having an overwhelming numerical advantage helps, as does ensuring that the exploited side of the equation has little to no means to defend themselves.
And that’s the crux of “Service”. Sure, Negan shows up to strut around and put people in their place, but his primary goal is to completely disarm Alexandria. That proves far easier than it probably should be.
Of course, there is some token resistance. Carl (Coral), for instance, brandishes a pistol and threatens on of Negan’s guys before threatening Negan himself. But all this accomplishes is providing Negan with a pretense to disarm the group.
The real tension in the episode comes when two firearms are missing from Olivia’s supply manifest. Negan once again uses this as an opportunity to intimidate, forcing the people of Alexandria to find the weapons before he stoves Olivia’s head in with a bat. This also accomplishes what is likely Negan’s secondary goal: eroding some of the faith the people of Alexandria have in Rick’s leadership.
Eventually, Rick finds the guns hidden in Spencer’s house, along with some stolen food and alcohol. They turn them in, and in a surprise move, Negan graciously accepts the guns and moves on. I thought he’d go ahead of execute Olivia anyway, just to keep people on their toes. Shows what I know.
The episode had a few other small moments during Negan’s visit, including Gabriel lying about Maggie’s death and backing up the story with a fake grave. Rick and Gabriel discussed the ruse later in the episode, which was nice considering how often The Walking Dead has been drawing out obvious fake-outs lately. I also liked how they took a lot of creature comforts, including most of the mattresses, only to burn them on the side of the road later.
We also got a couple side stories. The first was Michonne sneaking off to a field to teach herself to shoot a rifle. She’s really bad at it, but finds a dead deer, so I guess that’s a net positive. Of course she comes back just in time for Rick to force her to give Negan both the rifle and the deer.
Finally, Rosita and Spencer are on an away mission, forced to locate Daryl’s bike for Dwight, who also takes their weapons, water, and – bizarrely – Rosita’s hat. They locate the bike without incident, and Spencer starts spouting off about how much he hates Rick. Rosita doesn’t notice because she’s gone zombie hunting so she can grab a pistol from one of the zeds.
The episode ends with Rosita bringing a shell casing to Eugene, asking him to make her a bullet. However, the casing was from a Desert Eagle, so I kind of doubt it will be chambered correctly for the handgun she just procured. I am glad they’re returning to Eugene’s ability to produce munitions though. That was a promising story thread I had thought the show abandoned.
Overall, this was a largely boring episode, although disarming the Alexandrians will likely be a major issue for the remainder of the season. Negan still sucks.