Quick! Someone head down to where The Walking Dead is filmed, and check all of the set pieces for teeth marks. Because Jeffrey Dean Morgan has definitely been spending his time on camera chewing through the scenery. Watching his performance, and he certainly seems to be enjoying to the utmost his role as Negan, and he’s definitely indulging in every opportunity.
Look, I’ve seen a lot of hate thrown towards Morgan and his character since the most recent episode aired. A fair number of those critiques revolve around Negan being poorly written, or spinning to Morgan doing a bad job as an actor. I have to admit right here and right now that I just don’t see it. Yes, the writing is a bit repetitive this season, but that’s more of a result of choices made to break up the characters, and consequently the story, into separate segments. Truth be told, even through the terrible moments (fake Heath, anyone?), this season has actually been pretty darned watchable. No, the story isn’t moving forward terribly quickly. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some pretty good individual segments. Honestly, the weakest moments in my opinion came during the Carol/Morgan/Kingdom episode, and then the stuff with Carl and Enid. As for Negan, yes, we’re seeing just a touch of how twisted and dark this guy can be, but we have to remember that he didn’t rise to power simply by being a complete jerk to everyone around him. This season isn’t another “revolving around the Greene farm” season. The story is slow, but that’s to give us a little time with everyone. And while some people may have found Negan’s moment with Judith to be silly, I saw it as something much darker and more foreboding. When you Sing Me A Song, you don’t leave out the messy parts, and this season has done a decent job highlighting some of that mess.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of The Walking Dead without people doing some truly stupid things in the name of plot and story. We had a little extra time in this episode, which naturally gave us a few more opportunities to see people take leave of their senses.
Let’s make sure we’re clear on this. Daryl has been shown to have a couple of big brass ones underneath his dirty jumpsuit. He has stood up to Negan on a semi-regular basis. However, a part of him has been broken, as was evidenced by the way he took to mopping up the floor after the iron incident. Or is he broken? Is he actually playing a role like Carol did when the gang first made it to Alexandria, in order to find a better opportunity later? Either way, choosing to stand up to Negan regarding Carl’s safety just doesn’t make any sense. If he’s been broken, then not even seeing Carl (who was actually pretty safe, given Negan’s desire for visible revenge) should have spurred his threats. If he’s playing a role, then jumping to Carl’s aid could unravel everything he’s done so far. But hey, it landed Daryl back in his cell, where he could be gifted a lockpick.
Oh Spencer. I wasn’t sure I’d ever find a character I disliked as much as any of the cast from Fear the Walking Dead. Thanks for stepping up, buddy! Let’s see the things that Spencer does this week. He implies to Rosita that he may have a few more secret supply caches laying around outside of town. He openly plots a mutiny within Alexandria in front of Gabriel (who has grown quite a spine during his travels with Rick). Oh, and let’s not forget that he seems potentially open to the idea of handing Alexandria over to Negan and the Saviors. Sure, that last point isn’t expressly stated, but it would certainly fit in with the rest of his stances. Spencer could simply be reacting out of anger for what happened with his parents, but he’s clearly only looking out for himself, and simultaneously doing a terrible job of it.
At no point should Jesus have looked at Carl, and the stuff he did, with the utter bemusement shown on his face. Concern, maybe, because he knew Carl was going into the lion’s den. Anger, perhaps, at having been suckered by a kid more than once. But the “aw shucks” expression? Really? But hey, at least you made up for it by hiding on the roof of a truck and getting into the compound where you, um, stayed on the roof of a truck? And Negan doesn’t have any people in towers keeping watch? Um….
The laws of living under Negan are pretty well laid out, from everything we’ve been shown so far. Don’t steal from the community. Don’t push back against the leadership. Oh, and don’t shirk your responsibilities, especially so that you can get a little alone time with one of Negan’s “wives”. Yes, Negan’s harem is a troubling aspect, but it probably isn’t too far out of the realm of reason for a post-apocalyptic society to devolve to a point where the alpha male gets his pick of women to be at his disposal. So yes, while Mark and Amber had a past together, all of that went by the wayside when Negan “claimed” her as his own. Doubly troubling for Mark? He already had evidence, in the form of Dwight, for what happens when someone tries to betray Negan in this fashion.
Carl has shown regularly that he is not a planner. Not in the slightest. In fact, pretty much the only plan he actually had during this episode was to somehow get himself separated from Jesus, and even that was more of stumbling into the latter’s own plan to disembark for safety. Good job, Carl. Now you’re alone on the truck, being taken into the compound, with no reason to believe that Negan will be there to personally unload it. Of course, he IS there, and Carl gets to unload shots at the man responsible for Glenn and Abraham. Except for this nagging random Saviors who got in the way. Even had Carl succeeded in shooting Negan, what was the next step? He was outnumbered, and heavily outgunned. And you can bet that someone would have been ready to step up and fill in the void, should Negan have actually been gunned down. If only Carl could have, oh, talked with someone at some point about his plans. At least he made it back home, despite all odds.
That wraps up this week’s list. There were definitely some cringe-worthy moments, with Negan’s treatment of both Carl and Olivia showcasing just how disgusting and abusive this guy really is. And none of this is even really going into the sheer luck involved in the actual caches of supplies found by Spencer, Rick, or Aaron. Next week is the mid-season finale, and we’ve still got some far-flung pieces. Clearly, not everything can get tied together, but are we going to see our heroes actually start to communicate? Or are they going to keep acting on impulse, and not take a moment to see if anyone else might have a better idea? If the first part of this season is any indication, it’s going to be a frustrating mid-season.