The Walking Dead: Service Review
The Walking Dead, season 7, episode 4, ‘Service,’ gave us our first look at what the Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) New Beginning meant for Alexandria. It was bad enough that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had to come to heel (and carry Negan’s favorite stick), but he was also forced to spell out the state of affairs to his Townies (most of them, anyway; Tara & Heath have been gone for a while). The whole exercise was meant to push boundaries in Negan’s favor, one way, or another; and everything – from an NRA nightmare, to Daryl (Norman Reedus) on display – was intended to get that message across.
Honestly, I would’ve been disappointed if Negan’s Little Pigs intro didn’t follow through with at least some huffing & puffing. I also would’ve been disappointed if the Alexandrians offered any in return – resulting in some entertaining-but-premature blowback.
I mean, sure Negan lording over Rick’s townies was meant to inspire a strong desire for comeuppance (anybody remember Gareth?); but I appreciated just how extra special needling it must’ve been, for some fans, knowing that it may take a good, long while (the script borrowing signature lines, from the source material, likely driving home that point). I’d dare say even J. D. Morgan seemed to be having way too much fun, with his job security, at their expense.
I didn’t just see Negan abusing his power, I saw J. D. playing to fan hate – and it definitely made it all go down easier. Sorry, it just did.
Dwight (Austin Amelio), was another story, however. Dwight Spite still has no redeeming value; and despite last ep’s insights, I still have no sympathy for the Devil, where trickle-down bullying is concerned. Sure, Dwight Spite still has a role – now being in possession of Daryl’s bike playing into his submission game – but there was room left for at least some of the bullies getting theirs. David (Martinez) & Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow) were standout contenders, for instance. If it’s one thing I learned from Lost, it’s that background characters that annoy their way into drawing attention get it. Just ‘it.’
At the same time, Carl (Chandler Riggs) likely won’t be winning over new fans, with his act of “man sized balls.” While I’m certain there were a lot of fans feeling the sting of pride, watching the Saviors trample on Alexandria, any recognition of what Gabriel might’ve been up likely came with the realization that Carl’s emo was going to be a set-back, at best.
Thanks to that foreshadow moment, Carl has gone from nearly losing his own arm, to costing the Alexandrians all of theirs.
Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) gets the prize for best re-intro; but even I found his new state of Zen to be on the creepy side. At least, once I realized it wasn’t an act, anyway. I hope it comes in handy, or he could go right back to being annoying, again.
In the meantime, Gabe’s collar gave him enough of a free hand to do something underhandedly useful (wished they hadn’t given the game away to viewers, though). While Gabe’s faith provided him some solace, others weren’t handling being handled very well.
I suppose Rosita (Christian Serratos) was understandably short – on pretty much every subject – given recent events; but not getting out of Alexandria in time made her day that less bearable. Having Spencer (Austin Nichols) in tow didn’t help. In fact, Spencer made things worse for everybody.
If Spencer starting to sound like Ron Anderson didn’t make him a dead man talking, his just being a dangerously noisy talker might’ve done it (so, Sam Anderson?). As irritable as Rosita was, I fancy the thought might’ve crossed her mind; but let’s see what the Showrunners have to say about his regression. His being the reason for the ep’s Lucille threat should add some weight – who wants to see Spencer Retired (really, really old show reference – maybe Avery Brooks fans might get)?
In the case of Michonne (Danai Gurira), her fireplace had one more thing to offer her, besides a reclaimed sword. The fact that it gave her the kind of breather Rosita & Spencer wished they had gotten, was likely the reason Rick allowed her to take it, in the first place. Of course, he wasn’t expecting Negan, at the time.
Michonne was basically the designated plot device of the episode. While zeroing in on a static target would’ve been better than starting with a moving threat, that was a pretty amazing lucky shot, coming out of her exercise. Plot lucky, even. The kind that guaranteed Michonne having to suffer the final indignity, in keeping Rick’s peace.
Her resistance also served up Rick’s closing argument. One where Shane & (now Walking Target) Judith were offered as examples of biting the bullet, for survival’s sake. I’m not sure Michonne bought it (kinda hoping she didn’t), but she got him to that point, all the same.
Rosita’s resentment, however, was left unchecked.
So even though the specter of a Lucille swing came back, after a number of threats, it was clear that Negan was more about letting the legend do the work, than actually working at the legend. If more demonstrations come along, fine – the bluffing would make for a better element of surprise – but without more done to back it up, his legend risks turning into a mid-season premier stunt.
If Rick being made to carry Lucille around wasn’t emasculating enough, there was the moment when Negan drew a distinction between Townie Rick, and Roadie Rick. A bit of video history served to remind us that Rick was once more beard than man – and Negan picked up on the domestication that had since set in.
Comfort is the antithesis of motivation (hell, even the Saviors understood that, to some degree – given what was done to Alexandria’s mattresses). Maybe ‘Service’ is where Team Rick bottoms out, so as to start finding its way back to wilder ways. Take that home with you.
Until such a time as Gabe’s faith is vindicated, however, ‘Service’ will have to be part of our inside look, at the show’s evolution of post-civilized man treatment.
Here’s the trick – and it’s a pretty established one: we’ve already seen what goes into the making of a post-apocalyptic marauder, courtesy of the evolution of Rick’s Roadies. For all intents & purposes, Rick had become a less demanding Negan, and we were too invested to care (or maybe even notice) by the time he did. It stands to reason, then, that The Walking Dead would take the time to show us what the least appealing aspect of a population conflict is like from within – collaboration.
Nobody likes collaborators (often, not even the ones they collaborate with); but no one likes marauders, either. At least, not unless they identify with the ones doing the marauding. With ‘Service,’ the show now presents Rick’s Roadies as Rick’s Rollovers, and expects us to accept that rollover, for their sake (we know ’em, we love ’em, we want them to keep their heads in a mostly solid state).
Yeah, we’re also holding out that a Rick rollover is just playing for an opportunity – but that’s usually the rationale of your average collaborator. Collaborators aren’t the same as turncoats; so I guess the point was to have us think of Rick, for every time the same speech has been given, by both fictional & historical figures, alike. Heck, Rick’s heard it a number of times, himself. Just because he was willing to serve as Lucille’s porter, doesn’t mean he’s given in to her.
I would love to know what Lucille & his beard were talking about, though, during their time together….
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