It took us almost a month, but we're finally back at the Sanctuary with Negan and Co. Assuming their fearless leader was zombie food, the hierarchy of the Saviors fell into disarray, making it all the more clear that Negan is el jefe grande. When juxtaposed to Rick, whose leadership has been called into question several times (including the little squabble with Daryl in this episode), Negan is slowly being repainted as the better option at the top. He puts it well when he tells Gabriel that he may kill people, but he doesn't get people killed. Can Rick say the same?
Another decent episode this week, but alas, it seems our prediction about the Garbage People was but a week late. Let's hope the writers get enough stuffing this Thursday and avoid the inevitable filler on Monday.
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week.
Adam Wagner: Shane
Jon Bernthal—the cuckolding best friend of the Sheriff—is back, and he couldn’t be more brutal and badass. Fresh with unlimited brooding grunts and guttural screams, an arsenal fit for an army, and an insatiable thirst for vengeance, The Punisher might have been the most brutal show I’ve ever seen. The blood and violence felt real (save for the unrealistic recovery time of life-threatening injuries), the gore was horrifying, and Bernthal’s turn as Frank Castle near perfect. So, Shane is my riser this week because I’m damn sure he’s glad he got out of this trash fire while it was still good and jumped ship to something worth watching.
Pritpaul Bains: Simon
Facing the prospect of a Negan-less Sanctuary, it was Simon who stepped up to fill the void of tall, scoliotic sociopath on the show, threatening mass-murder and a snitch-hunt with grandeur and aplomb. He doesn't appear to share Negan's perspective of people as a resource, does he?
With that said, if this whole Savior thing doesn't work out for him, he's got a lucrative future awaiting him in post-apocalyptic agriculture. Simon's Genuine Hilltop Sorghum! Gluten-free pancakes are guilt-free pancakes. All you hipster survivors (RIP Gareth), get ready to fill your bellies up with Simon's love.
Joe Brosnan: Negan
First and foremost, Negan survived a perilous, grim-looking situation—a feat alone that would qualify him for the title of this week’s riser. But it was more than that. His pragmatic decision to smear zombie guts all over his
plot armor leather jacket proves it’s no accident that he’s survived this far. (And yes, you’re right—I’m totally ignoring the lethargic, convenient walkers that couldn’t figure out how to eat him or Gabriel. Deal with it.)
“The Big Scary U” confirmed what I had long suspected: I’m much more interested in Negan and his gang than I am of Rick’s group. More of this, please.
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
Dwight may have been sweating a little when Simon announced the mole-hunt, but he probably found a little solace in the fact that most of his companions would place suspicion on Eugene, not him. His diverting the discussion from rats could have been his guilt kicking in to defend Eugene, or simply self-preservation, but it did serve to divert Eugene's attention squarely onto him—and Dwighty-Boy got careless.
This is probably the truest test we'll see Eugene face in terms of where his loyalties still lie. Expose Dwight to Negan, and he'll solidify his place amongst the Saviors forever. Protect Dwight and potentially turn the tide of war for the benefit of his former friends, though they may not be willing to accept him right away. Let's see what happens.
All those weeks of sittin’ in shittin’ pants and nothing happens? I guess Negan was just preparing Gabriel for his plan of waiting it out, which without a bathroom in that little trailer, could … I suppose … result in needing to wear shittin’ pants? Maybe Negan should have ended the first episode by saying, “I hope you got your coveralls on. Cause you’re about to cover all your clothes in zombie guts.”
Oh well. Shittin’ pants or not, Gabriel still dirtied up his clothes (but managed to keep that white collar pristine), meaning our watch has ended.
JB: Female Negan
Seriously, Female Negan, what the hell were you thinking? You don’t just shoot into a crowd of people—especially in a narrow hallway. Say goodbye to everyone’s hearing for the next few hours. Also, I know you’re not that good of a shot, as evidenced by the fact that Rick’s entire group of main characters are still alive despite having just faced down the barrel of your gun. If I were Negan proper, your ass would be off the small council faster than you can say steel nutsack.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
Negan rarely exhibits the qualities of a true
Hershey Hershel’s Hero, but this week he showed mercy and understanding (even if it might have just been strategic). After leaving us with a huge dingleberry scatological cliffhanger in the season premiere, Negan spared a square by making Gabriel his #2 and saving them both from the buildup of zombies trying to force them out. He even humored the priest with a confession in an attempt to (ab)solve their problems.
Though his back may be curved, Negan actually played it pretty straight this week.
Not gonna lie—I was extremely surprised at how much I enjoyed the relatively introspective scene with Negan and Gabriel. I'm consistently digging Father Gabriel's character more and more in the last couple of seasons. While he makes this gradual approval difficult at times with his decisions (I'm with Negan. “Why would you stop for that bearded prick?”), his response (“I think … I'm here to take your confession”) sold me on the rest of the scene from the get-go.
It's always refreshing to see Negan drop his guard once in awhile, as well. Gabriel may be headed to the Barely Breathing column next week—depending on whether he got bit or if he's just sick—but this week, his impromptu trailer-park confessional was riveting television.
JB: Black Negan
It was a fleeting moment that you may have missed, but after Female Negan closed her eyes and shot into the crowd, Black Negan didn’t even flinch. All the dude wanted was some goddamn air circulation. Maybe even a little oscillation. But no. Thanks to all the Boss Negans and their unpreparedness, all the Worker Negans are sweating their tails off. And yet, despite the inhospitable working conditions, not even a bullet whizzing six inches past his ear sets him off. Now that’s self-control.
- I appreciate attention to details, and thus I appreciate the old Lucille-marks indented into the table by Negan’s seat. He’s clearly put on this show before. (JB)
- Negan's new Tinder bio: “I have a leather jacket. I've got Lucille. And my nutsack is made of steel.” (AW)
- “We've eaten dog together, so I imagine in some way that joins us for life.” I imagine it does, Eugene. (PB)
- Nobody wants your pickles, Eugene. (JB)
- Negan has turned into a crasser Pete Repeat: “I hope you’ve got your shittin’ pants on. Because I’m gonna make you shit your pants.” “…thin dicked politician threading the needle with your thin, thin dick.” The writing team must have been eating garbage. Because the only thing coming out of their mouths is garbage. (AW)
- Brilliant, Rick and Daryl. Way to destroy a weapon that could have changed the course of the war because you turned a strategic disagreement into a dick-measuring contest. (PB)
- I very nearly shut my television off when Daryl and Rick started fighting. (JB)
- I hope Gabriel survives … is something Season 5 me never thought I’d say. (JB)
- “I think … I’m here to take your confession.” YEAAHHHHHHHHH! *opening credits* (AW)
- Oh look, a context-less chopper we're supposed to care about. (PB)
- Next week: the return of the Garbage People and Discount Milla Jovovich! Where are Eugene's suicide pills when you need them? (PB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
Lucille with the assist!
See also: The Walking Dead Power Rankings 8.04: “Some Guy”
Joe Brosnan, Adam Wagner, and Pritpaul Bains all write for Criminal Element and love Spaghetti Tuesdays. Follow them on Twitter @joebrosnan_, @shagner904, and @pritpaulbains, respectively.