Walking Dead – Season 7 – Ep. 4 “Service”: A Review

Posted: 11/15/2016 in Uncategorized

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This week brought us a 90 minute run featuring Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) establishing his rule via a visit to Alexandria. Was 90 minutes necessary? Did the episode deliver after 3 thus far stellar runs? My review will present my case.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Negan. Despite the small physical differences with the graphic novel characterization, Morgan epitomizes this over the top, malevolent character. He does not over sell it. He opts for a bizarre jocularity with powerful undertones of menace. Funnily enough, this long time character actor’s most noteworthy roles are as villains, very charismatic villains. The Comedian in Watchmen is certainly not funny but I dare you to look away when he is on screen. The same applies with Negan. His very opening sequence is duly ominous with his shadowed form, bat in hand preceding his knock at Alexandra’s gates.

Here is the thing however…we get it…Negan is horrible, a malefic force of nature with a leering grin and an army behind him.  The viewer is also aware that Negan isn’t going anywhere. He is a long term enemy for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group. The question that must be asked, however, is how much can the viewer, along with the people of Alexandria, endure? A 90 minute episode, actually an hour long run as AMC is commercial riddled as heck, was an ordeal.  This is both a good and bad thing.  On one hand, the pacing, tone and performances were Oscar level. Every physical reaction, cringe, and emotionally poignant moment is felt by the viewer via nuanced and powerful performances by the cast. Most noteworthy are performances by Lincoln ,  Chandler Riggs’ Carl and Danai Guirira’s Michonne.

The discharging gun and reaction by Carl is an everyman action. Who would not want to drive off, or eliminate, a physical threat, a stranger ransacking one’s home? Negan’s promises hold little weight as they are malleable, contingent on his frame of mind or mood. The agreement he holds others to however is intractable. The tension presented in the kitchen at Rick’s home with Negan facing down Carl is stomach churning. The entire hour is and as such, while artistically laudable…presents a feeling of helplessness and despair. The plight of the Alexandrians is brutal. Rick’s place  as their leader is questioned with support coming from an unexpected source. Father Gabriel’s (Seth Gillam) moment with Negan elicits “Holy crap, you are creepy as shit sneaking up on me wearing that collar with that freaky ass smile.” This is gallows funny as one knows the source of the comment could just as quickly kill the priest. Gabriel’s brilliant thinking, however, does preserve a member of the Alexandrian flock and prevent further horror from occurring.

The comment “I’m not in charge anymore…” from Rick is followed by “Negan is” and what is deeply troubling is at this time, he means it. Two moments push the notion of Rick Grimes being broken. The first is the discovery of his “sessions” with Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) by the Saviors. Negan, smiling, views the video and says…”now that’s a person I would not want to mess with” before adding “that isn’t you anymore…” The other incident is Negan’s turning his back to Rick and handing him “Lucille” for safe keeping. This is the true demonstration of his power. He has no fear of anyone in Alexandria. He takes what he wants, bullies the citizens to his dark heart’s delight. Most cringe worthy is a member of his crew making Enid (Katelyn Nacon) beg to keep her balloons. This was deeply unsettling as the intimation of something far worse is strongly implied.

The fate of Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) as non speaking help is jarring. His fate is equal parts self punishment for his part in Glen Rhee’s (Steven Yeun) death, and Negan’s enforcing his will. The non verbal moments between him and Rick speak volumes and establish the level of dramatic ability the players on this show possess.

Michonne’s target practice, her act of defiance and preparation for rebellion, is quelled by Rick’s own actions. Her agreeing to try and accept that this is “their life now” is heartbreaking. Equally terrible is the earlier revelation of the level of cruelty presented by her discovery of the Saviors’ debris left behind on the road side.

Rebellion within the ranks festers via Spencer (Austin Nichols) both overtly and covertly defying Rick. Rick’s reaction to Spencer’s insult and trembling suppression of the urge to act against Negan show that he isn’t completely gone but just seriously suppressed. Rosita’s (Christina Serratos) attempt to gain weapons demonstrates that the urge to stand and fight is alive and well but might lead to dire consequences.

It is the mark of great writing that we care deeply for what happens to these fictional characters. It is a legacy show but how far this series can be pushed toward a nihilistic depth, while ensuring the possibility of being able to come back, is the challenge faced by the writing team. WD nonetheless remains simply outstanding and well worth your time.

 

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