Spoiler Warning for Season 7, Episode 4 of “The Walking Dead”
The depressing and harsh way of life under Negan is put on full display in the latest episode of “The Walking Dead.” Returning to Alexandria to pick up the pieces after the traumatic premiere allows viewers to catch up with the main group, however there isn’t much time for calm and peace. A visit from Negan and the Saviors establishes even more rules that the survivors are forced to live under; who will comply and who will defy?
The past two episodes have served to open the world of “The Walking Dead” by introducing new communities and showcasing the overarching grasp that Negan has on the many survivors in this post-apocalyptic landscape. “Service” picks up a few days after the deaths of Glenn and Abraham. Maggie and Sasha have been presumably dropped off at the Hilltop and the rest of the group has returned to Alexandria. Michonne wakes up in the morning and retrieves a sniper rifle that she had hidden in the fireplace. Michonne makes her way out into a field and scans the horizon, searching for walkers. One lone straggler makes his way into Michonne’s viewpoint and she takes several shots before using her katana to dispatch the walker. The katana has always been Michonne’s primary weapon, but she has quickly realized that in order to defend herself and the community, she will have to train herself with other weapons. Back in Alexandria, Rosita and Spencer prepare to head out in search of supplies ahead of Negan’s arrival; they ask Eugene if he wishes to tag along, but he is still very much distraught over the death of Abraham. Suddenly, a convoy of trucks pull up to the gate and Negan appears, his silhouette can be seen as he orders to be let into the community; Alexandria is now property of the Saviors.
Rick and Spencer open the gate and allow Negan and the Saviors to enter Alexandria. Daryl and Dwight are among the group, but Negan warns Rick against even looking at Daryl. Upon entering, Negan hands Lucille over to Rick before commanding the Saviors to search each house for supplies. Not only are they several days early to this pickup, but they are essentially free to take whatever they want. Negan checks in with Rosita, who stands sternly, not making eye contact, understandably furious at Negan for what he did. Dwight then walks over to Rosita and seizes her weapons (and Spencer’s) before sending her out to retrieve Daryl’s motorcycle. Spencer rides along with Rosita and the two arrive at the train tracks where Denise was killed by Dwight back in “Twice as Far.” Daryl hid his motorcycle in a bush before heading out to search for Dwight with Glenn, Rosita and Michonne. Spencer loads the motorcycle into the van while talking about the fact this is how life is now. However, Rosita wanders off into the woods with a clear mission in mind. She hunts down a small group of walkers and single-handedly kills them all in stealthy fashion. After realizing that the Saviors will be commandeering all guns in Alexandria, she collects a handgun from one of the walkers, but there are no bullets. Rosita has proven time and time again that she is well equipped to fight off walkers and other humans, but this episode demonstrates her tactical strength and long-term planning.
In Alexandria, the Saviors go house to house removing furniture and other belongings out of everyone’s homes. Negan grabs an orange soda from a cooler; this is a subtle reference to Daryl’s mission to obtain Orange Crush for Denise and Tara last season. A Savior shows Negan a camcorder containing the footage of Rick’s interview with Deanna after entering Alexandria back in the Season 5 episode, “Remember.” Negan then asks Rick about Maggie, stating that she was clearly in rough condition that last time he saw her. Father Gabriel appears and introduces himself to Negan, prompting a hilarious interaction between the two in which Negan calls Gabriel “creepy as shit.” Gabriel brings Negan and the others to Alexandria’s cemetery where a new grave has just been filled in; this is part of a quick-thinking plan by Gabriel to make Negan believe that Maggie died soon after Glenn’s murder. The heartbreaking aspect of this scene comes when you see Daryl’s face and realize that he now believes Maggie to be dead, along with Abraham and Glenn. Negan states that he would have brought Maggie back to the Sanctuary with him, likely to take advantage of the fact that she is now a widow. Suddenly, a gunshot rings out from the infirmary as Carl holds a pair of Saviors at gunpoint for taking large amounts of medicine. Negan’s may have his thumb down on Rick, but Carl isn’t backing down just yet.
Negan and Rick rush into the infirmary and find Carl threatening the two Saviors and refusing to lower his gun. Negan applauds Carl for being so confident at such a young age. Carl obeys Negan’s demands to hand over the gun, giving Negan the idea to take away all of the guns in Alexandria as a preventive measure against retaliation. Negan arrives at the armory/pantry with Rick and several Saviors to meet with Olivia. After handing over her inventory lists, Olivia leads the Saviors to help collect all of the firearms from the armory. Negan takes a few moments to lay down the laws again to Rick for what he expects from the Alexandria group; he demeaningly tells Rick that he won’t be taking any food, citing the low stockpile that the community currently has. He cruelly calls out Olivia to Rick, stating that she shouldn’t be in charge of food supplies because she is a “fat lady.” Outside, a Savior pulls Olivia out of the armory and tells Negan that two guns are missing, however this hasn’t been reflected on the inventory lists. A tense ultimatum is placed on the residents of Alexandria, either locate the two missing guns or Olivia will be killed. This is yet another sick mind game that Negan plays to establish his superiority and keep the survivors in line.
With the looming threat of death hanging over Olivia, Rick call a meeting of all of the community members in the church to discuss the missing guns. Scott and Aaron’s boyfriend Eric voice their concerns about the current situation with Negan, but Rick stresses the fact that Negan is the leader now and that no one should act out against him. He explains that not everyone saw for themselves what Negan did to Glenn and Abraham; Negan is one hundred-percent ready and willing to kill those that step out of line and Rick wants everyone to completely understand this. Eugene mentions to Rick that not everyone is in attendance at the meeting, referring to Michonne, Rosita and Spencer. Rick nervously searches Spencer’s apartment with Aaron and Gabriel. He looks out the window to see Negan sitting beside Olivia on the back terrace, yet another example of psychological taunting. Rick compliments Gabriel on his cleverness with the fake grave for Maggie. Gabriel expresses his faith that things will work out, citing the drastic change in his relationship with Rick as proof that bad situations can always get better; this is excellent character development for these two characters who were once essentially complete opposites, but who have since grown into trusted friends. Seth Gilliam continues to showcase his skills in both lighthearted and action-heavy scenes.
Rick opens an air vent on the floor and discovers a secret stash of food and a small bag containing the two missing handguns. He makes his way to Negan and delivers the guns, effectively freeing Olivia from the looming presence of death. It’s worth noting that while Olivia may not be a major character (or close member of Rick’s core group) there is a definite sense of fear throughout the episode on the side of the viewers and Rick that Negan will follow through on his threat to kill her. Rick made a promise to Deanna in her final moments that he would protect the residents of Alexandria like they were his own family. After the events of “No Way Out,” where every single citizen of Alexandria (including Olivia) came together to fight the herd of walkers, it is clear that the “us vs. them” mentality that Rick originally had is completely gone; he has embraced everyone in the community as his family and he will work and fight for each of them. Across the street, a Savior creepily teases Enid (who somehow escaped the closet) for wanting to keep her collection of deflated green balloons; the Savior forces Enid to beg, while Carl angrily looks on. This is a heartbreaking scene when you remember the brief friendship that developed between Enid and Glenn after his escape from the dumpster last season. The green balloons were Glenn’s way of signaling to Maggie that he was still alive. In typical Glenn fashion, he reinvigorated Enid’s will to live and gave her reason to keep fighting. Glenn had a massive impact on each of the characters and we are finally starting to see just how much he meant to everyone.
At the main gate, the Saviors prepare to leave with their supplies. Rosita and Spencer return with the motorcycle and Michonne lurks in one of the burnt out homes just outside of the gate. Negan allows Rick to speak with Michonne privately for a few moments. Rick fearfully asks Michonne to hand over the rifle, stating that he realizes that she is preparing for battle against the Saviors. Michonne regretfully makes her way into Alexandria to hand over the rifle; she also has a deer that she shot, which Negan claims and takes for himself. Rick asks Negan if he would allow Daryl to stay in Alexandria as a reward for their compliance to the various demands. Negan explains that if Daryl pleads his case, he may consider allowing him to stay, however Daryl chooses to stay silent, unwavering in his determination to not fully kneel and become “Negan.” Dwight hops on the motorcycle and rides off, but not before making snarky remarks at Daryl and Rosita. After a forced “thank you” from Rick, Negan rides out with the Saviors and their large collection of new supplies. A pitiful and saddening shot of Daryl and Rick staring at one another as the caravan drives away signifies the fractured state of the group. What hardships will Daryl have to face after returning to the Sanctuary and will he ever be allowed to return to his home? How many more loops of “Easy Street” will he be subjected to?
As the dust begins to settle, Rick takes a moment to call Spencer out for hiding food and guns. Spencer retorts by blatantly blaming Rick for the deaths of Abraham and Glenn. Rick makes a clear threat to break Spencer’s jaw if he ever speaks like that to him again; Spencer has always been rather duplicitous, but Rick’s actions once again demonstrate his dedication to keeping the promises that he made to Deanna. Rosita scolds Spencer for not speaking out about the guns before recovering the ammo-less gun that she found on the walker. She visits Eugene and asks him to make a bullet for her. Inside, Rick creates a makeshift bed out of blankets due to the fact that the Saviors took nearly everyone’s mattresses. Michonne confronts Rick about his willingness to bow down to Negan’s demands. He states that Alexandria simply doesn’t have the numbers to fight back, even when the Hilltop is added into the mix. Rick then opens up to Michonne about Judith, explaining that he isn’t actually the biological father of her, Shane is. He tells Michonne that he had to accept that Judith wasn’t his daughter, but that he has embraced her as his own child and would die to protect her; he also states that he wishes to watch her grow up and teach her how to survive. He relates this back to their current situation, urging Michonne to accept that Negan is in charge and that there is nothing that can be done about it yet. While most fans have long agreed that Shane is Judith’s biological father, it is incredibly emotional to hear Rick speak about it in such a profound and moving way. It’s odd to think that Michonne never met Shane or Lori, yet she has essentially become a mother to Judith and Carl. Mirroring the beginning of the episode, Michonne walks out into the field, but is drawn to a large plume of smoke. She finds a massive pile of the mattresses from Alexandria burned. This is a final sick twisting of the knife by Negan to assert his dominance over the group.
“Service” is an absolutely phenomenal episode that increases the element of fear by bringing it to the home of our survivors. Negan proves himself to be a calculated monster that is incredibly entertaining to loathe; his various quotes and interactions with other characters are strangely humorous. This episode features a major amount of development for Rick, Rosita, Spencer and Michonne among others. While some characters have been broken down by Negan (Rick, Eugene, etc.), others seem to be raging with anger and ready to fight (Rosita, Michonne, Carl). This new era of “The Walking Dead” proves to be depressing and uncomfortable to watch, in the best possible way. While the situation is incredibly grim right now, there are certain seeds that are being planted for a future war later on down the line. Once again, the acting across the board is remarkable, specifically that of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira and Christian Serratos as Negan, Rick, Michonne and Rosita respectively. Next week’s episode looks to be focused on Maggie, Sasha and the Hilltop Colony. Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.