Four episodes in, it's becoming apparent that The Walking Dead is starting to suffer either from significant content bloat or the lack of an actual editing team. It's absolutely inexcusable for an episode in which so little actually happened to be 90 minutes long. This is especially bad (and especially noticeable) coming in the wake of episode-long looks at the Kingdom and Daryl stewing in his own guilt.
Granted, this episode was at least a step in the right direction—it just took 90 minutes to make that step. Rick's broken, Negan's an asshole, Dwight desparately wants to be Daryl, and Carl needs a haircut. We get it. Now give us something new.
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week
Adam Wagner: The Saviors
What’s that old saying?
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
“Don’t eat cheese before noon.”
Or how about:
“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, [un]dead hands.”
The comics may have taken Rick’s arm, but the Saviors just took his arms. They’re out here trying to start their own NRA: the Negan Rifle Association. Once again, Rick is left begging on his knees—and this time for a different reason. It seems all Grimes & Co. have left in their armory is one sword-wielding Michonne.
Dammit! What was that old saying again?
Oh, I remember: “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.”
Pritpaul Bains: Eugene
Negan's the obvious choice, but his ascent has been drawn out enough this season—over and over and over again. I'm picking Eugene here. His bullet-manufacturing small business idea is back, baby! Are Rosita and Eugene really going to be the ones to form the basis of Alexandria's resistance to the Saviors? It's so ridiculous I kind of love it, but really?
They both are clearly personally vested in the matter, having been present during Negan's up-close-and-personal braining of Eugene's best friend and Rosita's ex-lover. Considering Abraham and Eugene basically found each other again over Eugene's discovery of the bullet mill, it seems a fitting way to fight on in his oh-so-ginger memory. And Michonne eventually (probably) joining their cause will only lend it more credibility.
Honorable mention to Shane, officially entering fatherhood from beyond the grave.
Joe Brosnan: Gabriel
It wasn’t all that long ago that Rick seriously considered killing Gabriel, but boy have things changed. One of the unfortunate realities of a show with a scope like The Walking Dead is that it’s quite difficult to properly hone in and flush out some of the secondary characters’ backstories. (Except for Daryl—we know way too much about Daryl.) As a result, I think that the audience doesn’t truly appreciate just how much Gabriel has changed over the past few seasons.
A devout man of faith has been forced to come to terms with the grim realities that force him to kill to survive. And whether you look at religion as a pillar or a crutch, there’s no denying that seeing a fully-robed priest can offer someone another glimpse at a type of peace that is all but gone in this world. Seeing Gabriel not only find his place amongst Rick’s group, but also watching him plot and scheme with Rick last night was a welcomed sight.
And while Negan’s soul is as charred as the group’s mattresses, perhaps some of his followers still have some good left in them. If anyone’s capable of finding that goodness, my money’s on the priest.
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
This show should just be renamed The Continuing Humiliation of Rick Grimes. How many more lessons in humility do Rick and crew need? They've seen what happens when you fuck with the Saviors in a big, big way, but Negan just keeps on emphasizing his point. If there was ever any doubt that Rick's was a broken man after the series premiere, this episode affirmed it.
Rick spent the episode trailing Negan like a subservient lapdog, carrying around Lucille at Negan's request and bending over backward to indulge his every whim. You can see Rick still occasionally wrestling with himself when he grips Lucille just a little bit more tightly as Negan relentlessly taunts him, but never enough to force him into action. Old Rick would've whacked Negan first chance he got, consequences be damned. He makes his fallen stature eminently clear to all of Alexandria in the Town Hall, and saying the words out loud again seemed to go a long ways toward affirming them within himself, too.
It's going to be a long road back for our hero. Let the growing out of the murderbeard begin once more.
For the second straight week, Daryl is paraded around in shame, emblazoned with his Scarlet Sweater, looking anxiously from Negan to Rick to Negan behind that rat’s nest of hair. And, to top it all off, you’ve got ol’ Two-Face stealing his ride. No leather vest, no crossbow, no soap, AND no bike? Identity theft is not a joke,
Jim Dwight! Millions of families suffer every year!
Okay, this is starting to legitimately get creepy, dude. You’re not Daryl. You’ll never be Daryl. All you are is a redneck-fetishizing butterface with an inferiority complex the size of Carl’s balls. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if in the final episode of this season, Dwight kills Daryl, peels off and wears his skin, and then makes love to the flayed corpse while shooting a celebratory arrow into the air. Yo Kirkman, make it happen.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
I’ll go with Negan, mostly for his exemplary patience in not wasting anyone in Alexandria despite numerous attempts by the townsfolk to coerce him into murdering one of them. Looking at you, Spencer/Olivia/Carl/Carl's hair/Rosita/Michonne/Rick/random rebellious citizens in Town Hall meeting.
I mean Jesus, people—did Rick's fall and the collective experience of the captured teach you nothing of the man? Gotta say, though, buddy's starting to get a little one-note. Swagger swagger one-liner ominous grin swagger Lucille swagger swagger. Negan is a villain best served in small doses. Anything more than that and his failings as a character start to become glaringly obvious. Considering his fairly significant role in 3 of 4 episodes this season, TWD is starting to go to this well a little to often. If this keeps up, viewers are going to get tired of this season's Big Bad sooner than the showrunners might've expected.
Two of Herschel’s best qualities were pragmatism and appreciativeness—two traits that Rick exemplified in totality last night. Pragmatism was on display first as Rick swallowed the bitter pill that is the harsh reality that Negan owns the upper hand and that his group needs to comply with the Saviors’ demands. Rick’s appreciativeness came later on when only moments after swallowing that bitter pill, Rick dutifully swallowed Lucille 2 and thanked him for the throat massage. Rick Grimes, what a standup guy.
Gabriel has certainly changed over the last few seasons—the optimism and faith that were once annoying and misplaced are now refreshing and important. Plus, he’s thrown in some extra scheming to help the cause. And even if that white collar and “freaky-ass smile” are “creepy as shit” in a world of so much violence, Gabriel seems to be the only one sticking to his guns. (Was that the saying I was looking for earlier?) I'm hoping for Gabriel to be the God-fearing, gun-wielding religious superhero of Alexandria. I mean, he’s no Hebrew Hammer, but … that’s probably a good thing.
- Maybe Michonne’s inability to aim a gun is a good thing for her. She’s easily the best fighter remaining in Rick’s group, so her stock is rising. (JB)
- The Carl Rebellion is a lot less cringey in the comics. (JB)
- Carl only has one eye to begin with. That much hair must at least completely impede his vision a few times a day, which is a few times too many in the apocalypse. (PB)
- So let me get this straight, Rick. You made sure to hand over every single gun, even the unregistered ones, because you didn’t want Negan to find out and kill people. But what happens when he inevitably finds out that Maggie is still alive? (JB)
- MURDERBEARD SIGHTING. Even Negan fears Rick's old murderbeard. (PB)
- Hot diggity dog…pans quickly out…there were a lot of commercials. (JB)
- Rosita sassing Eugene will never grow old. (PB)
- “You are creepy as shit.” Negan dissing Father Gabriel is a massive point in his favor. (PB)
- Spencer's kinda throwing in the towel pretty easily. Seriously, has no one in this world heard of “biding your time”? (PB)
- Who is Olivia? (AW)
- How is Shane being Judith's dad a “bombshell”? It was blatantly obvious from Day One. C'mon. (PB)
- Someone get Rick to a hospital because cuckolding him from the grave is a third-degree Jon BERNthal! (I'll show myself out…) (AW)
- Speaking of burns: burning all those mattresses was a total dick move, but a pretty effective assertion of dominance. (PB)
- Next week: we look in on undead (but unzombified) Maggie, and Trevor from GTA V just wants to talk, yo. (PB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
Trunk-impaled zombie. Only because we've already seen sliced-face zombie earlier in the season. We like to keep things fresh.