“You didn’t think I was gonna leave Lucille, did ya?”
After a sluggish two weeks, The Walking Dead has begun to delve back into the heart of things in the fourth episode of season seven, appropriately titled “Service”.
While “The Well” and “The Cell” introduced a host of new characters for us to maybe care about and more than likely watch die this season, “Service” brings us back to the ones we’ve been rooting for all along and reveals the harrowing extent of the emotional damages Negan has already inflicted on our survivors.
The opening scene is a powerful one despite its lack of any dialogue; Rick and Michonne are lying in bed, less than an arm’s length from one another, but you can feel the mountains of loss, pain, and unspoken words between them as Michonne awakes and stares at Rick’s back. This scene asks the question in everyone’s mind after a trauma, after the blood has dried and you’re left with the people you love hurting beyond imagine. What do you say? You can’t take away their pain, because you are barely even able to comprehend the depth of your own.
After grabbing a gun she had stashed in the fireplace, without realizing Rick was watching from the doorway, Michonne heads out. We get a glimpse of Eugene, who is not handling the death of Abraham well at all, and soon, Negan appears to ruin everything, strangely by doing nothing at all.
He bashes a walker’s head in and lets Rick know he has no say whatsoever in how their exchange — and all that are to come — will go. Of course his lackie Saviors are in tow, including Daryl. Rick tries to speak to him; Negan threatens him. “You don’t look at him, you don’t talk to him, and I don’t make you chop anything off of him.”
He then makes Rick hold Lucille while he peruses the street, and it’s this single, silent action that says so much about his character; we all know that Negan felt invincible, but by handing Rick his prized weapon and actually turning his back on him in full confidence, Negan displays his total power over Rick. He can place in Rick’s hand the weapon that killed his friends, and he knows he’ll walk away unscathed. For all that he has taken, he has gained insurmountable control over our group’s former leader, and there is no question that, even in death, he could take infinitely more.
Speaking of taking, he wipes Rick and the rest of the Alexandria survivors clean out; mattresses, couches, and even the last of their guns all go to the Saviors, leaving them completely defenseless and vulnerable, dependent solely on the Saviors’ protection.
Negan encounters Father Gabriel while he’s in the midst of emasculating Rick for the upteenth time, and when he asks about Maggie, insinuating that he’d love to fill the hole Glenn’s death has caused her, we learn that she didn’t make the trip back to Alexandria. Or so we think.
Negan is taken to a fresh grave, but there’s no way for us to know whether or not Maggie is actually buried there. It’s highly unlikely that the writers would kill her off without its audience watching; the give-and-take, masochist/sadist dynamic between the show writers and audience is just too deeply ingrained for Maggie to be offed without even a single tear shed or drop of blood to show for it.
It’d be more likely to bet that the grave is a deterrent for Negan and that, sooner or later, Glenn’s lady love is going to emerge and get her revenge.
Just so we don’t forget that he’s a big kid now, Carl threatens the Saviors who are raiding the house and even decides to mouth off to Negan. This scene was probably meant to evoke anxiety from viewers, but it was so stupid on Carl’s behalf and so another transparently needless example of Negan’s love for dawn-out torture. It was really just empty screen time that could have been dedicated to actual story progression instead.
Unfortunately, this happens 20 minutes into the episode and the remaining 50 minutes carry out in the same fashion. For a full hour, we and our characters are subjected to repetitive interactions between Negan and the survivors that don’t do anything but reaffirm the already well-established fact that he’s not just “the bad guy,” but a really bad guy.
We also get that scene from the episode 2 promo where Rick is in the church and tells the group that Negan is the one in charge. I don’t know why this was shown as a promo immediately following the premiere since it didn’t actually happen until now, but at least it’s been said and done. The only problem is that it doesn’t feel half as powerful as it did during the promotional ad, because now we have already seen that Negan is boss and hearing Rick announce it after he’s been emotionally belittled and knocked down time and time again (even in just this episode alone) means nothing.
Ultimately, “Service” is just another episode of The Walking Dead. It starts off strong because it shows us the characters we’re most concerned about, but ultimately, it fails to introduce any new plot elements or progress the storyline — a concept that becomes more vague with each passing episode.
If you really like Negan, you’ll probably love “Service,” but if you are like me and want to see an actual story emerge from the smoking ruins of the devastating season premiere, then you’re going to wind up disappointed.