This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 7
The Walking Dead has taken a turn for the better in the last three weeks after a bizarrely disjointed series of episodes that took too long to get anywhere interesting. While Negan’s cartoonish demeanor hasn’t helped the show much, season 7’s main flaw has been the way showrunner Scott Gimple and the writers chose to tackle this year’s storylines. Week after week, there’s been this sense that the show’s finally been stretched too thin – too many settlements, too many characters, too many stories to tell. The Kingdom episode is a prime example of the “Why the hell are we focusing on this?!” syndrome that’s plagued the season. Some of you even complained about last week’s Tara episode, which I rather enjoyed, although I definitely see your point. There was no reason to put that episode there.
Even with the slow, hyper-focused stories that made up the first six episodes of the season, it doesn’t feel like anything is really going anywhere. The Walking Dead is increasingly interested in giving us hour-long glimpses of life in one place before moving on to the next thing without developing anything or fleshing things out. The season 7 slog has been one long, painful lesson in world-building without moving the story forward. We’re stuck in place.
Tonight’s episode, “Sing Me a Song,” doesn’t quite fix that problem, although it does tease that we might be starting the engines soon. The show has been stalling this whole time in order to give us the confrontation we’ll inevitably get in next week’s midseason finale: Rick vs. Negan. And it’s not that tonight’s episode really set the stage in an exciting way – say, how last year’s seventh episode tore down a side of Alexandria’s walls and let a horde of zombies in. It’s just predictable. I actually felt that this was one episode that should’ve stood alone from everything else that was going on. Of course, that’s asking a lot from a show that’s constantly setting things up.
Anyway, enough complaining. The episode did a satisfactory job of adapting one of the best storylines from Robert Kirkman’s comics, even if it doesn’t quite deliver the same amount of tension. For one thing, this is the least cringe-worthy I’ve seen Negan since the season premiere. It’s been tough watching Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan as an eeeeeeeeevil cartoon character who has really failed to translate well from black and white panels to Sunday night television. I can’t blame Morgan’s portrayal, which is actually rather faithful, but Negan just doesn’t work on a show that’s already had much more interesting villains, namely the Governor, who was infinitely more complex and tragic. In comparison, Negan is a one-tone villain who likes to remind us how bad he is pretty much every second he’s on screen. (Shit, I’m complaining again.)
While the Negan-Carl scenes play out much like in the comics, there were moments that didn’t really ring true for me on the show. Carl’s a lot younger at this point in the comics, so it’s easier to accept when he breaks down in tears after Negan forces him to take off his eye patch. And it’s kind of hard to believe that the cold-hearted teenage killer who stepped out of that truck at the beginning of the episode, clearly willing to die for a chance to take Negan out, would be singing for his life only thirty minutes later. While the show might say Negan has broken Carl, I’m not sure he does all that much to break him at all. Besides say fucked up shit about Lucille. The singing scene is just comical, as Negan swings his bat like a mad man. Gone is the tension from the comic panels.
Perhaps this storyline would have benefited from being the only focus of the hour. I’m not sure what Rick was doing in this episode, for example. It seemed that the only reason for showing us Rick and Aaron running around was to tease that they weren’t going to make it back in time to greet Negan with more supplies. Nothing really happened. It might have made more sense to put these scenes at the beginning of the midseason finale to build tension while Negan caused havoc back at the settlement. The Michonne portion of the episode was equally perplexing, although her plan to lure a Savior was pretty clever. I’d almost forgotten how fun it was to watch her outsmart the bad guys.
“Sing Me a Song” sets up an Inglourious Basterds-inspired midseason finale for The Walking Dead. Michonne is on her way to the Sanctuary, while Rosita has her bullet. Sasha and Jesus have their own plan, too. Daryl’s free and undoubtedly on his way to Alexandria, and Rick will likely arrive just in time to reject Negan’s move to the suburbs. By the end of this episode, it feels like season 7 is headed somewhere interesting – or at least more exciting.
– Spencer’s a big cry baby. I’m really annoyed about how much screen time this show has dedicated to his whining. I have a feeling Spencer won’t make it out of the midseason finale, though…
– I’m not sure we needed to revisit Rosita and Eugene’s plot to make a bullet this week. We knew Rosita planned to kill Negan weeks ago, and their scenes together didn’t really offer anything new.
– Who let Daryl go? The episode did a good job of making it seem like it might be Sherry or Dwight. Or it could’ve just been Jesus.
– The scene with the wives was really hard to watch. I really wish the show had left this one aspect of Negan’s storyline from the comics alone. I’m not sure I could dislike this villain more at this point…
– The iron scene wasn’t as shocking as I thought it would be. It might be because Negan was still doing his Joker bit through the whole thing.
– There’s pretty much never a reason for an episode of The Walking Dead to be longer than an hour. STOP.