The Walking Dead continues its push into the Negan storyline as he and his motley crew pay their first visit to Alexandria. Some aspects of the visit were fairly predictable, while others were mildly surprising. Yet still, some moves were head-scratchingly confusing. It is understandable that the show has to hit its marks in order to further the story, but for those who even have a vague sense of what is coming, it’s hard to tell how long it will take things to play out. We already know that the show has been renewed for Season 8, but does that mean things will take on a slower, more deliberate pace? Granted, this is only the 4th episode of the season, but is two seasons too long for a build up to the inevitable confrontation?
As always, mild spoilers to follow for The Walking Dead.
The first thing that stood out in the episode was Judith. Holy crap, did she get big! Sure, it has been a while since we saw her as anything other than a bundle in someone’s arms, but to see her standing in the crib with so much hair on her head was a good indicator of how much time has passed in the show. Yes, there was a WAY bigger plot point involving her, but we will get to that in a moment.
It feels like it is mentioned nearly every week, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks as if he is having the time of his life playing Negan. While some may argue that he is a bit over the top, Morgan plays Negan as Negan is. When that line from the comics about the throat and the “thank you” came at the end of the episode, it seemed as if Morgan was born to deliver it. It was difficult to not feel some anger towards him as he and his people took “half” of everything from the Alexandrians.
Speaking of which, Negan’s strategy towards Rick is nearly perfect. He showed up early, in force, and removed all of the guns. This threw an already grieving Rick off even further. Rick had no plan of action to deal with The Saviors, but even if he did, it is doubtful that it would be enough to defeat their superior numerical advantage. By taking the guns, The Saviors removed Alexandria’s ability to fight back against them. Also, Negan was wise to bring Darryl along as a hostage to make anyone think twice about attacking The Saviors while they were inside the walls of Alexandria. It’s Strategy 101. The part that is borderline ridiculous is the fact that Negan did not leave anyone behind to watch over things. Whether it be a small garrison or just a couple of armed people, leaving someone behind would have been a great way to ensure that the entire population was “on board”.
Another thing that bears mentioning is Gabriel’s lie about Maggie. This effectively makes Maggie a fugitive. She cannot show her face in anywhere Negan or his followers may be. This also works to the advantage of the Survivors in that they have a person who The Saviors do not recognize or believe to be alive. This allows Maggie to spy and move unnoticed and without incident.
One of the big questions taken away from this episode is whether or not Rick has been broken. “Broken” may perhaps be too strong of a word. “Subdued” feels like a better fit in this situation. Old Rick would have had a plan in place the moment he returned from Glenn and Abrahams murder. It was fairly shocking to see that there was no plan. For instance, once Negan demanded that Alexandria give up all of their guns, I thought FOR SURE that Rick had already hidden some of them away. In fact, the thought occurred that Rick had secretly hidden away a dummy stash that he could reveal to Negan in order to make him believe that he had found all the guns. Nope! Nothing at all. New Rick just rolled over and let Negan have his way with his throat and said “thank you”. New Rick gave up guns that could have easily been kept by Alexandria. However, Rick knew that any disobedience would cost someone their life. Hell, it almost cost poor what’s-her-name her life. Heaven forbid we lose another cast member so quickly.
So back to that other news involving Judith. After years of not knowing, Rick finally confirms that Judith is not his actual daughter. Instead, Judith is the offspring of his former wife, Lori, and best friend, Shane. This was all revealed as Rick told Michonne about how he came to be in the zombie apocalypse. Rick used it as an anecdote to illustrate why he chose to give all of the guns to Negan. It was a very roundabout way for him to ask Michonne to accept their current situation. Yet, this was clearly done as some sort of fan service. Looking back on the series, there was some curiosity as to whether or not Judith was Rick’s or Shane’s but now it does not seem very important. However, as a fan, it can be appreciated that the writers and show runners would take the time to address that unanswered question from year’s past. By bringing up Lori and Shane, the writers made the audience think about those early episodes. It was sort of a conversational way of reminding us of how far the show has come. While this may not be the case, answering old questions could also be seen as tying up loose ends before the end of the series. As mentioned before , Season 8 has already been confirmed, but no one knows how long the show will go on.
With the direction the show is going, one cannot talk about it without at least referencing the comics. While there have been some large and small differences, the show has mainly followed the plotline of the comic. That being said and even for those who have never read any of the comic, it is pretty obvious that the show and the comic will and do not end with everyone accepting Negan’s rule. Carol, Morgan, and Maggie are still in play. Carol and Maggie are currently weakened in different ways, so that means some time will be taken to focus on getting them back to being battle-ready. So the question is, how long will the show take to build up to the confrontation? Two seasons seems like too much, but will one season be enough? Two seasons seems like far too much to lead into the confrontation. However, there does still seem like there is a lot of things that need to happen before then. As usual, it all boils down to how closely the comic is followed.