Jeffrey Dean Morgan is not an intimidating presence. That’s the main takeaway I had while watching another 90-minute episode of The Walking Dead. This does not mean “Sing Me a Song” was a bad episode, as there was some proper work done to develop the Saviors and Negan’s rule even more, but as a scary villain, Morgan is doing little for me. Sure, something will likely happen in next week’s mid-season finale to deliver on unpredictable turns that can match Negan’s constant sinister/goofy chatter, but for now, I’m baring with all his talking.
With a loose structure, some baffling writing choices and that Spencer character who just won’t die, this could have been a bad episode of television, but it all surprisingly works. While I may still miss getting to go back to the Kingdom (seriously, why am I not getting more Ezekiel and his tiger!), this episode at least convinces me that the show is moving somewhere plot-related. After a filler episode devoted to how Tara got some funky new sunglasses, this is a step in the right direction.
Much of the episode is focused around Carl. He starts out in the back of a truck with Jesus, where we last left him. Foolishly, Jesus hops out, thinking Carl will follow. The one-eyed assassin wannabe has other things in mind though, as he grabs an assault rifle and attempts to make a play on Negan. He fails spectacularly in a clumsily shot scene and we watch Negan attempt to seduce Carl to the dark side for the majority of the episode. Not a bad start to things, with the only risk being the amount of effort Morgan has to put into his acting abilities, as Chandler Riggs can only do so much.
That’s a bit of an issue right there. Between the writing and lack of much strong characterization for Carl as of late, in addition to Riggs not being the strongest in the cast, one has to wonder what makes this kid so interesting to Negan. Conceptually I’m all for this (and it certainly works well in the comics). This whole scenario allows us to have a window into what makes Negan work, something the show could definitely use. In reality, Riggs isn’t quite selling the “badass” lines that Negan seems so fond of.
Still, there’s plenty going on. Looking at this tour of the Sanctuary, we see what kind of leader Negan is. It includes giving out free vegetables to his people, as they kneel before him, purporting himself as a sexual threat to his “wives” if they don’t obey and placing a hot iron on the face of someone who broke the rules. It makes for a number of scenes that vary in tone, but also allow Morgan to play more shades than the one I’ve been seeing (and not really caring for) so far. For all the posturing we’ve seen from Negan, I was happy to see a little bit more behind who this person is.
By the time he brings Carl back to Alexandria, while I more or less felt this episode had already gone on long enough, I was entertained by the continued silliness of seeing this all play out. While it may be all too obvious that Negan’s most sensible choice would be to simply kill Rick, the idea that he’s taken a shine to him, Carl and apparently Judith means seeing a weird form of entertainment for the guy who just takes what he wants. Of course, things will have to happen to flip Negan’s attitude on its head, which is why we saw other developments over the course of this extended episode.
Michonne built a pile of dead walkers and ended up getting herself a hostage. She wants to be taken to Negan and who knows what this will bring her. Meanwhile, Rick and Aaron are on their scavenger hunt, which eventually leads them to a (possible treasure) boat surrounded by a lake of walkers. Rosita tough talks Eugene into making her that bullet. And lastly, Spencer talks with Father Gabriel about his obvious hatred of Rick and hogs up screentime with his uselessness. Presumably most of these things will matter, even if it means each of these subplots had no real ending.
The main story also didn’t really have much of an ending. We simply see Negan reveling in the idea of taking it easy in Alexandria, as he waits for Rick to return. Still, it allows for time to reflect on things like Negan’s interest in Carl and how he forces him to remove his head bandage. I can’t say I was all that disgusted or whatever by the sight of this, but it’s a moment like that or when Negan forces Carl to sing that this show at least got close to building up some interesting tension. Watching this episode wrap up with Negan being all goofy with Judith on the porch meant acknowledging the position he has put Carl and the others in. Ideally the payoff will be appropriate.
“Sing Me a Song” does well to move some pieces into place and expand upon who Negan is. I still have my issues with the insistence of making this blowhard into such a major force for this season (regardless of how accurate to the comics it wants to be), but at least we are starting to see some layers. If he’s going to be around for a while, these are certainly necessary steps. But now seriously, let’s bring back Ezekiel.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Michonne gets to whistle while she works and takes out a couple zombies early on pretty effectively.
- There was also more of Daryl this week. He’s being submissive, but is also given a note that could lead to possible escape. We’ll see about that.
- Dwight also got some time this week. He’s conflicted.
- Jesus uses syrup to make a trail. He’s later seen doing stealth moves to hide on a truck.
- I’m still amazed at how well this show has done by Father Gabriel, as far as making me so intrigued by him, compared to his first batch of episodes.
- Not all that fond of Negan body shaming Olivia, but then he stepped back and apologized. It weirdly worked to see him acknowledge how poor his humor can be at times.
- That music-set montage with Negan and Carl was ridiculous.