This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 4
The Walking Dead finally brought the action back to Alexandria this week, after two episodes that I thought felt pretty disjointed as followups to the controversial season premiere. While last week’s episode didn’t feel as out of place as the Kingdom story, the first half of the season hasn’t been very cohesive. The fourth episode was a chance to begin to tie a lot of the loose ends together, while also progressing the story a bit – something this season desperately needs.
For the most part, “Service,” gives us the episode we’ve all been waiting for, as the odds continue to stack against Rick and his people. It was refreshing to see Rick and Negan together again. Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan continue to have amazing chemistry together, as the villain emasculates the Sheriff on his home turf. Lincoln is brilliant as the obviously conflicted Rick, who struggles to keep it together and not just bash Negan’s head in with Lucille, getting the rest of the Alexandrians killed in the process. Rick’s clearly in a position he’s never been in before, and Lincoln goes a long way to deliver a heartfelt performance.
In fact, Rick had the best scene of the night, a few minutes that reminded me that, for all the talk about Rick and Negan being two sides of the same coin, he’s still the good guy. I’m talking about the Judith scene at the end, of course.
Rick is a leader who feels the weight of all the lives on his shoulders. Even when Michonne reminds him that not every death is his fault, he’s quick to own up to the fact that all of their lives are ultimately his responsibility. After all, his arrogance got Abraham and Glenn killed, and Daryl forced into slavery. That guilt illustrates the big difference between the hero and the villain. At his very best, Rick is a selfless leader who wants to keep everyone alive. Negan, in contrast, is a narcissist who’s happy to keep people alive as long as they serve him well.
So when Rick admits that he’s known all along that Judith is Shane’s daughter, it goes a long way to redeem a character who’s done a lot of shitty things in the past two seasons. Even now, Rick carries his best friend’s death on his shoulders, and he’s trying to make it right by taking care of Judith as if she were his own. This revelation isn’t news to us, of course. We’ve all known all along that Judith is Shane’s baby with Lori, but it was great to see Rick acknowledge it and not care. Even in his darkest moments, Rick’s always acted in the interest of doing what he thinks is best for his people. If this week’s episode is proof of anything, it’s that Rick will do anything he can to keep his people alive.
Negan exploits the hell out of that weakness, too. Of course, we all know that Rick’s submission is temporary and that he’ll eventually find a way to take down Negan. That’s inevitable, but it’s still shocking to see Rick bow at all, to look so defeated and out of options. I can’t wait to see him rise up again.
Morgan’s perfomance as Negan was a bit better than last week’s, which I felt was a bit too cartoonish. That said, I still see how Negan could eventually wear a bit thin on fans who aren’t diehard comic book readers and don’t care how faithful the show is to the source material. Sometimes the performance is downright confusing, as Negan switches back and forth between rambunctious and threatening. At his very best, Morgan is an absolutely terrifying dude, staring down Rick like no other character can. At his worst, he’s shouting lines like “Easy peasy lemon squeezy!” I know I’ll get shit for this, but I’m starting to feel like perhaps Negan should be toned down just a bit. Use the lines from the comics, sure, but don’t make Morgan shout every other word like he’s a sports commentator.
One character who baffled the shit out of me this week was Dwight, who is back to playing a scowling villain after last week’s episode went out of its way to humanize the guy a bit. Hell, we could almost even say that Dwight came out a bit sympathetic in the end. But tonight he was just back to being a big dick. I’d hoped for a bit more nuance from the character moving forward, perhaps even a subtle reluctance to do whatever Negan says, but we don’t get any of that. Instead, Dwight’s just a big bully loving the shit out of everything he’s doing. It made last week’s episode feel like a waste of time.
“Service” does a great job of progressing the story, even if it’s at a turtle’s pace. It’s better than nothing. Alexandria is disarmed, Spencer is at odds with Rick, Maggie is now unofficially dead, and Rosita and Eugene are making a bullet that’s probably reserved for Negan. Speaking of Rosita, the writers have been giving Christian Serratos a bit more to do lately, and I think they took things in the right direction in “Service.” I like that Abraham’s death has made her stronger instead of sending her into a mourning period this show doesn’t really have the time to properly develop. I’m hoping for the same with Maggie next week.
– Michonne’s scenes are quite good this week, too. We see her coping with recent events in a way that’s quite true to her character, retreating from others and spending most of her time alone. You can see she’s really struggling with Rick’s submission throughout the episode, which is what ultimately leads to that great scene about Judith.
– Two storylines from the comics were set up in this episode that I’m pretty excited about. One involves Spencer – I think we all know where this is going – and the other has to do with Carl, who really impressed Negan tonight.