Who knew The Walking Dead could still be so funny?
But this is an odd place in the season for a 90-minute episode… and further proof that the last two episodes could’ve been condensed into a single outing. It’s nice to finally move forward after three episodes of effective sidestepping. There’s a good 15 minutes that feel out of place and extraneous. The Michonne B-plot was something better left on the cutting room floor, or for a later episode. It makes the episode feel less cohesive.
On to the good stuff. Negan continues to shine and prove that he’s truly the new star of everything Walking Dead. The distorted guitars when Negan is onscreen that meld into the softer piano tones for Dwight is nothing short of brilliant foreshadowing (and a testament to Bear McCreary’s excellent scoring). If it wasn’t for Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s brilliant performance all throughout, the aforementioned Michonne sub-story is enough to drag down the momentum. Watching Negan break Rick down even further, dangling Daryl in front of his face, is gleeful. We haven’t seen a Rick Grimes this broken in a long, long time. It truly is phenomenal to finally see his hubris catch up with him (as awful as it sounds).
Some notes on the rest of the characters: Carl is frankly annoying, and it’s hard to say that after Chandler Riggs has given insanely awesome performances in the show’s past. He hasn’t put in the same sort of effort, nor has he gotten any worthy material since season 4. Father Gabriel is a surprising standout, finally getting a chance to steal some scenes of his own amongst the bloated cast. Dwight as the “anti-Daryl” is also amusing; you can tell both men are cut from the same cloth, even though Dwight is far more acerbic.
Like the Michonne sub-plot regarding her “ self-imposed sniper training”, Spencer and Rosita have a small story of their own. Usually, separating characters works to flesh out their deeper innerworkings, but the pairing of Spencer and Rosita is grossly ineffective and quite boring. The writers have failed Rosita for nearly 4 seasons, never giving her a reason to exist on the show besides Abraham and Eugene. Now that one of them is gone, I feel they’re struggling ever more to define her.
It’s no surprise that Rick reveals that he questions the paternity of Judith, but it comes far later in the show than it did in the comic. It’s a weird topic to discuss at this point in the episode and it really doesn’t fit tonally. A lot of the stuff doesn’t fit here, honestly. The parts that don’t work bring an episode that’s a near perfect 10 in writing, down to something less.
The more you think about it, the more you remember that we haven’t even seen some of the cast this season. The teaser for next week reminded me that we haven’t seen Hilltop, Tara and Heath are still out on a run that never ends, and somehow… all of these dangling threads are going to convalesce into one ongoing story. Sometimes I feel like I need a spreadsheet to keep track of where everyone is (and it shows us just how “important” some characters are when they can go missing for weeks on end without even a passing word). I’m hopeful an actual “arc” will come out of all of the setup. As strong as this season has been, we haven’t actually had any unique moment occur. The “Lucille incident” was a season 6 holdover… what will actually define this season?