So far, this season of The Walking Dead has been pretty disappointing. After last week’s Tara-centric episode/complete waste of time, my wife and I had a serious discussion about abandoning what has been one of our favorite shared television programs. I’d still have to watch for you guys, of course, but she certainly doesn’t need to suffer.
But maybe…just maybe…this week’s glimpse into The Saviors’ main basecamp would give the show enough juice to continue being a staple of our Sunday nights (or at least have a spot on the DVR).
We’ll start with the subplots first before diving into the main part of the episode.
Rick and Aaron go on a supply run, which eventually leads them to a dwelling marked with a threatening — and surprisingly well-spelled—sign. A closer look reveals that a possible bounty of supplies sits on an island surrounded by a lake filled with walkers.
Michonne shows off some Savior-level whistling skills as she strolls alone down the highway. This attracts a horde of walkers, which she dispatches and uses to build a blockade.
Later, one of the Saviors stops at the walker roadblock and gets out of her truck. As expected, Michonne gets the drop on her. She then forces the woman at gunpoint to get back in the truck and take her to see Negan.
They travel all of about fifteen feet before the Savior tries to disarm Michonne. This results in a predictable (and awesome) ass kicking, followed by Michonne once again demanding that she take her to see Negan.
As if Tara’s episode last week wasn’t bad enough, the show’s writers decided this week to put two of their most unlikable characters—Gabriel and Spencer—in a car together and have them argue for ten minutes…although I will say that Gabriel calling Spencer a “tremendous s--t” for wishing that Rick would die was kind of great.
Since no one can stand being around Spencer for an extended period of time, Gabriel gets out of the car and starts walking back to camp. Thankfully, the spot where Gabriel had him stop the car just so happens to lead Spencer right to a dead/zombified survivalist stuck in a tree. In an effort to take the walker’s crossbow, Spencer knocks the Survivor Zombie from its perch, causing it to land perfectly on his head and die. As if that weren’t convenient enough, Spencer searches him and finds a list (written in Latin) with directions to various caches of food and medical supplies. And wouldn’t you know it—Spencer can read Latin, too!
I swear, this better end up being an elaborate trap. A series of happy coincidences like this is bad enough without also having to see Spencer look so smug about it.
Number One With a Bullet
Rosita wants one bullet. Not a clip of bullets. Just one. Maybe it’s because she intends to kill herself (I hope not) or she’s throwing practicality out the window in favor of dramatic symbolism via the one bullet she’ll use to kill Negan (ugh).
Either way, after yelling at Eugene and making him feel terrible about himself, she gets him to make the bullet for her.
Welcome to The Sanctuary
Last time we saw Carl, he had stowed away on one of the Savior’s trucks along with Jesus. Carl somehow convinces Jesus to bail, then arms himself with a nearby automatic weapon and prepares to mow down some bad guys.
Sure enough, one of Negan’s men spots him, charges, and gets lit up. Carl continues firing, managing to miss everyone else. Then Negan shows up, giving Carl a perfect opportunity to gun him down at point blank range—which of course he does not. Instead, he kills another goon before getting beaten up and taken hostage by Dwight.
Look, I get the need for dramatic tension, but Carl had to know going in that this was a suicide mission. Why the heck would he hesitate at the sight of the very man he’d been determined decided to kill? And you can’t say it was because he was scared to murder someone—Carl just showed how unafraid he was to gun down a couple Savior redshirts.
At least in the comic version of this scene, Carl went a little crazy with the gunfire (and killed a lot more bad guys). Here, he just ends up looking weak. And speaking of weak, remember how Daryl couldn’t speak when Negan gave him the chance to leave and rejoin Alexandria? Well, it appears the sight of Carl was enough to make him ask his captors what another main cast member was doing there. He didn’t get an answer, of course, but it would have been nice if the opportunity to be with his people again had been worthy of a few words.
But I digress…instead of being angry about this act of rebellion, Negan is impressed by Carl’s testicular fortitude—so much so that he decides to take Carl on a tour of the Sanctuary.
Their first stop is the swanky room where Negan houses his harem of unwilling brides. They are all wearing black dresses and (understandably) anguished expressions. Sherry is there, which of course means the girl she is consoling/talking to (Amber) ends up getting busted for trying to hook up with her pre-Sanctuary husband.
Negan makes some ominous threat about what has to happen next, then makes out with Sherry in front of Dwight. Daryl stands off to the side with a cheese and fruit plate and watches with a blank expression on his face. Carl looks grossed out. Dwight looks pissed. I looked at my watch for the tenth time.
The next stop on Carl’s Sanctuary tour is Negan’s luxurious bedroom. After plopping down in a couple of comfortable charis, Negan forces Carl to take off his eye bandage.
Yes, it’s gross.
Negan responds by laughing and making fun of him, then actually seems to feel bad that he made Carl upset. Unfortunately, Negan destroys this brief moment of humanity by demanding that Carl sing him a song—preferably a pop tune that he likes or something his parents used to sing to him. Carl responds by stuttering out a horrifically sad version of “You Are My Sunshine,” which was a poor choice for two reasons:
– Even during happier times, there is no way Rick and Lori ever sung that to each other.
– Did anyone else think this was a HUGE missed opportunity for Carl to start singing that Easy Street song from a few episodes ago?
Seriously, we get it.
Next, Negan takes Carl down to the main Sanctuary gathering area to watch Amber’s “ex” husband/boyfriend get branded with a hot iron. This could have been a really effective scene, especially if they’d stayed with the Reservoir Dogs-esque camera cutaway during the branding. Instead, we actually see dude’s face get burned via some shoddy CGI and latex effects.
When it’s over, Negan turns to Carl and jokes about what a lunatic he must think he is. My response was to scream “WE ALREADY KNEW YOU WERE A LUNATIC SIX EPISODES AGO,” but I don’t think anyone heard me.
I for an Eye
Negan and Carl go back to the bedroom. Carl threatens to kill Negan and asks why he hasn’t killed him, Daryl, or Rick yet. Negan gives some BS answer about how turning them into soldiers and/or messing with them is more fun. Then he decides to take Carl back to Alexandria.
Before they leave, Daryl threatens to hurt Negan if anything happens to Carl. This results in him being put in a cell again, which allows Sherry the Wandering Plot Device to slip a key under his door along with a note telling him to escape…which again, he TOTALLY COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT ANY PROBLEM THREE EPISODES AGO.
As Negan’s truck pulls out of Alexandria, we see Jesus on top of it (and somehow invisible to the Sanctuary snipers). He drops down just before the truck gets on the road and disappears into the Sanctuary.
Visit to the suburbs
After arriving in Alexandria, Negan proceeds to fat shame Olivia, which makes her cry. He responds by offering to make up for his rudeness via “screwing her brains out,” which is even worse. At this point, I almost expected him to then to camera ala Bugs Bunny and say “Gee, ain’t I stinker?”
After that bit of awkwardness, Negan forces Carl to take him on a tour of his house. This eventually leads them to baby Judith (who the hell is watching this kid?) Negan instantly takes a liking to her, picking the tiny tot up and making everyone watching at home squirm and feel uncomfortable.
Later, they all head out onto the porch, where Negan rocks Judith back and forth and wistfully ponders the idea of killing Carl and Rick once he returns from his trip with Aaron.
Is it Good?
That depends on your definition of “good.”
Compared to the last few episodes, this one was a masterpiece. Aside from a couple issues (which I’ll discuss below) Jeffrey Dean Morgan manages to carry the episode with some scene chewing showmanship. In the grand scheme of things, however, it continued The Walking Dead’s trend of decompressed, expositional storytelling.
My friend and fellow teacher, Brian Wargel, said that ‘Sing Me a Song’ felt like “one of those faculty meetings that could have taken place in an email,” which might be the best description I’ve ever heard for why this season of The Walking Dead has been so below par. We spent most of 90 minutes (!) being reminded what an awful and scary person Negan is. His reaction to Carl’s transgression was interesting, but it didn’t do much to move the story forward.
And sure, seeing the iron burn punishment happen was a little shocking, but we’d already been told about it during one of Negan’s long speeches a few episodes ago. And speaking of Negan’s reaction to Carl, this is the first time I’ve had a problem with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of the character.
In the comics, Negan genuinely likes Carl and Rick. He even desires their approval on some level. Here, he just acts like a complete psychopath. Even his one moment of humanity/regret over how he made Carl feel was immediately followed by that stupid “sing me a song” scene.
Also, we know he’s not going to kill Rick when he gets back—and Rick will get back, because we know he’s not going to get killed by a random walker inside a lake. I don’t know Jesus well enough to be scared for him, I don’t care enough about Spencer to be scared for him, and I still have absolutely no idea why Rosita is so dead set on having only one bullet.
The only subplot that really matters right now is Michonne’s, which will end up being a severe disappointment if at least part of it doesn’t involve her going full Kill Bill and slicing up some Saviors.
With next week being the mid-season finale, we’re running out of time for plot threads to get resolved to at least a halfway decent cliffhanger.