This half season concludes with two 90 minute episodes, which probably is a sign that they wanted to cram too much into these 8 episodes, or that they just paced it wrongly (and many viewers would agree here). We get the aftermath of Carl’s arrival at the Sanctuary and another hour of Negan screen time. This is starting to become wearying as the character, as fun as he is to watch, becomes slightly one-note so I hope the mid-season finale will have some escalation.
Some side plots first. Michonne lures out some walkers and later sets up a trap for a Savior. She manages to sneak up on her and tell her to take her to Negan. Aaron and Rick go out to scavenge and find a place with some aggressive messages on the way. There is a houseboat with a great number of walkers in a lake around it. So that will be a perilous venture to loot this boat but they have only one day left to return with something good. I wonder who wrote all these messages and to whom the houseboat belongs. Will they watch Rick or is that a deserted place?
Rosita takes Eugene on a scavenging trip, which turns out to be Rosita forcing him to produce a bullet. She really gives it to him straight that he is useless apart from his knowledge and that he is a coward. Driven by her grief and vengeful motives, she might have overdone it a bit as I actually considered the two being rather friendly. Eugene goes to work but there’s no way this single bullet will end their problems.
Spencer, after giving Rosita shit for not contributing to pay the taxes, drives off with Gabriel. He talks to Rick being a bad leader and wishing he would not return from his supply run. Gabriel, becoming more and more likeable this season, tells him that it wouldn’t make him a sinner but it would make him a “tremendous shit”. Mic drop. Gabriel out. Gosh, that felt satisfactory as probably the nicest and most forgiving person in Alexandria hates Spencer.
Carl and Jesus are on the way to Sanctuary in the back of the truck. Jesus leaves a trail with syrup and wants to jump out and continue afoot as that is safer. Carl tricks Jesus into jumping out first (Jesus, how naïve) and stays in the truck. He hears Negan and I believe even sees his shadow on the thingies that close off the trunk room. But of course Carl needs a clear vision to shoot Negan and is seen by a Savior who unloads the truck. He starts shooting and hits one guy. Carl demands to see Negan and has three people at gunpoint. Negan comes out (hiding between a Savior as a shield) and mocks Carl. The Saviors overwhelm Carl after he killed another. Daryl has to watch helplessly and Negan threatens to cut off his arm if Carl doesn’t comply. And so Negan’s playing with Carl begins. He shows him around the compound.
After a speech to his minions in which he so benevolently grants everyone vegetables for dinner, he takes Carl to his harem (he even calls it by its name). He pressures Sherry into revealing that one of his workers, Mark, skipped work duty to be with Amber, one of Negan’s wives. Negan confronts Amber and (as promised to Sherry) goes easy on her. Nevertheless, she breaks out in tears and assures that she loves him. Negan kisses Sherry as if he knew Dwight was about to come in any second. Daryl is also there and has to hold a plate with snacks for Negan. He later dares to threaten Negan not to touch Carl, which means the old Daryl is still present, he hasn’t been broken yet. We later see someone sliding a note (“GO NOW”) and a key underneath his door. That could either be Sherry who might have a guilty conscience after trying to dissuade Daryl from fleeing (and regretting her and Dwight’s deal with Negan), or it could be Jesus, who we see is watching everything on the compound. If the latter is the case, they’ll definitely be able to escape.
Negan goes to this room with Carl and makes him put off his eye bandage. In a simultaneously funny and hard-to-watch exclamation of disgust, Carl is ashamed and starts crying. Negan, unusually sincere for a moment, apologizes as he forgot Carl was still a teenager. So Negan is seriously impressed (“do not shatter my image of you”) with Carl’s badassery (he shot his own mum) and audacity (scaring the shit out of Negan by almost killing him) and the question is whether he is looking for a padawan or a new twisted way to torture Rick. Anyway, he makes Carl sing a song which was an awful scene. It was neither psychologically that hurtful nor important enough thematically to name the episode after it. I get that Negan can ask anything he wants of anyone but I feel one could have been more creative with this one.
What follows is the most gruesome scene since the season premiere. Mark is punished in front of everyone. Tied to a chair, his face is burned with a hot iron and Mark passes out (so that’s how Dwight got this ugly). Negan emphasizes that rules are important and in classic Negan-style even mocks Mark.
After Carl confronts Negan with his observation that he wasn’t able to kill him, Rick or Daryl, that he’s weaker than he pretends, Negan takes him to Alexandria and enjoys provoking everyone. He takes Judith and ridicules well-built Olivia for stating they’re practically starving (You? By “practically” you mean “not really.”). An uncomfortable surprise awaits Rick and everyone who will return to Alexandria next episode. There hasn’t been a mid-season finale without any trouble so I guess we’ll see some escalation of conflicts.
© by AMC, images taken from their website
title image: © by AMC (Photo: Gene Page)