Originally published on Flickering Myth on 14/11/16.
With the now royally infamous season 7 reaching its mid-way point before the Christmas break, it feels like it’s finally time for The Walking Dead crew to actually pick up the pace a tad. They’ve been dragging their knuckles somewhat in the weeks following Negan’s bloody intro, drawing out the misery for as long as possible, but to be honest, the effect has started to waver by this point.
Sadly ‘Service’ isn’t anything massively new. Finally the Alexandrians are back, but it’s still a bit of a slow one. Fear not though, there’s still plenty of exciting moments to recap, with a home base revolution seemingly getting closer and closer by the week and a series-wide revelation coming in the dying minutes.
1. “Little Pigs…”
We all knew it was coming, but episode four finally sees Negan rattling away on the gates of Alexandria, forcing his way in and taking what he sees to be rightfully his. In fact, we barely get any time for Rick and his leadership team to even tell the community what the hell’s going on, and it’s clear that Alexandria’s former Sheriff is feeling mega uncomfortable with the whole arrangement, refusing to look any of his comrades in the eye as he happily hands over all of their medicine and weaponry.
In the opening minutes alone we get plenty of Negan’s (surely soon-to-be prize-winning) bravado, a smattering more of silent Daryl, along for the ride but distinctly not allowed to chat to his former family, and probably Negan’s biggest dick-move to date: forcing Rick to carry Lucille around the compound for him. It’s a tense moment, but the speed with which Rick gives in is the most painful side to it. After all…
2. “I’m not in charge anymore…”
These are the precise words that come out of Rick’s mouth as he addresses the Alexandrians at their church, the very same place he took control from Deanna, and the very same place he convinced them all that going after the Saviours was a good thing. I’ve said it before but seeing a fiery and massively strong-willed personality like Rick bow before such a blood-boilingly frustrating adversary like Negan is so damn disheartening to watch.
This is the moment where it becomes really clear that Rick has given up. Even without Negan in the room, he tells his followers, his friends, his family that there is no hope; that they’ve already lost. There’s simply just no fight left in him anymore.
3. Rosita Gets Badass
Having spent most of her screen-time in the past mostly slinking into the background and serving as rarely anything more than Abraham’s arm-candy, Rosita actually gets a chance to shine here, which proves a nice change of pace. Forced to go out into the wilderness and retrieve Daryl’s bike with Spencer, gunless, she finds herself facing off with a whole bunch of undead Saviours, clearing off a hefty amount with just a knife. Impressive.
This also just so happens to kickstart her own subplot, around a mysterious unknown gun stashed in the woods that Negan knows nothing about. If he finds it at any point, she’s easily on the chopping block, so consider this the lighting of a mighty long fuse…
4. Judith Grimes?
Whilst there were certainly a whole lot of other late-in-the-game moments that deserve some love (Spencer vs. Rick anybody?) one that’s frankly unescapable is Rick’s speech to Michonne about how their lives have changed. Just when you think it’s all blood, guts and deluded head-bashing, The Walking Dead wheels out one of its most heartfelt speeches yet, a total emotional sucker punch several seasons in the making, as Rick reveals out loud for the first time, that he knows Judith isn’t his own child.
I mean, we all basically knew, but Rick digging up his past like this, saying Laurie’s and Shane’s names for the first time in what feels like (and probably is) years, and then using it as a way of convincing Michonne to give up the fight, is truly heartbreaking. We’re used to the main gang taking a hit or two every now and then, because they always recover and hit back twice as hard. This time? Not so much.
5. KILL OF THE WEEK: The candlestick
Again, it wasn’t a great week for character deaths; frankly, there weren’t any. Olivia (who? y’know, Olivia, everybody’s faceless Alexandrian) almost bit the dust but ultimately escaped with her life, so this week’s kill of the week goes to a nameless walker who gets annihilated by Negan with a candlestick of all things.
Whilst the kill itself is pretty neat, it’s more the context of this one that earns it the brownie points. Rick stands barely three feet away, forced to watch, whilst handling Lucille loosely in one hand. And just there, in the episode’s final act, we see a flash of something. A wavering anger; a moment of hope. Rick grasps the handle of the baseball bat and for a split second, genuinely considers taking Negan down whilst his back is to him. It’s the tiniest of glimmers, but one that definitely keeps us on our toes for future weeks.
Four episodes down and the set-up’s now very firmly in place, so we can hopefully just move on with the main bulk of the action now. And with next week promising a return to the Hilltop, with Jesus, Sasha and yes, Maggie popping up again, we’ll hopefully see a little more drive towards a spot of warfare.