Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 7: Sing Me A Song

This week The Walking Dead continues its slow, lumbering shuffle toward the mid-season finale.

This week's episode had to be the most comic book-accrurate one yet. The show's recreated scenes from the comic before, but never to this extent. Most of the plot, nearly all the dialogue and even the stage directions in this episode were ripped straight off the page.

While it was definitely cool to see the comic come to life, it was a little too accurate. I read all this stuff a couple years ago, so I knew every line Negan and Carl were going to say, which honestly made it a little… dull. I know, I know, there's no satisfying me. It's just that I tend to enjoy the show more when I don't always know what's about to happen.

This episode also laid the foundation for the strange Negan/Carl relationship, which will become very important later on (if the show continues to follow the comic). There've been rumors that actor Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, may be leaving the show soon to attend college. I hope not, as that would severely screw with future storylines.

For weeks now I've been whining and complaining that The Walking Dead has been devoting entire episodes to minor subplots, which detracts from the main storyline (I'm lookin' at you, The Well and Swear!). I kept saying all they had to do was cross cut— show a little bit of Plot A, then spend a few minutes on Plot B, then Plot C and back to A. It's not rocket science.

This week the show FINALLY remembered how to cross cut, as it gives us several different stories, all in the same episode. See, The Walking Dead? that wasn't so hard now, was it? 

Although I'm glad to finally see this, I think the writers went a little overboard this week. There are at least SEVEN different subplots in this episode: Negan & Carl, Rick & Aaron, Michonne & Random Savior, Spencer & Gabriel, Rosita & Eugene, Dwight & Sherry and Daryl & the key. Jesus, any minute I expected Oprah to show up and start shouting, "You get a subplot, and YOU get a subplot!"

There was just way too much going on in this episode. In fact there were so many storylines this week they had to supersize the episode (again!) just to stuff everything in. Again, I get that they're trying to set up the pieces on the game board, but it's all about timing. Several of these subplots could have easily been incorporated into the previous two or three episodes.


The Plot:
Michonne walks down a deserted road, whistling Farmer In The Dell to attract walkers. A few begin following, and she sets down her bag, which CLEARLY contains a two-way radio. DID YOU SEE THE ESTABLISHING SHOT OF THE RADIO? ARE YOU SURE YOU SAW IT? IT'S GOING TO BECOME REALLY IMPORTANT SOMEHOW NEXT WEEK, SO BE SURE TO NOTICE IT NOW! She kills the walkers and drags them offscreen, making us wonder what the hell she's up to.

Cut to Rick & Aaron waking up in the back of a truck. Rick turns on his radio, which is obviously the mate of Michonne's, but there's no sound. Aaron looks offscreen, points at something and says, "That wasn't there last night."

Cut to Carl & Jesus riding in the back of the Savior truck that took the Hilltop's supplies in Go Getters. Jesus senses they're getting close to the Sanctuary, and says they should hop out before they enter the gates. He leaps out and does a pretty good Shatner roll, but Carl stays in the truck.

Carl grabs a machine gun as the truck rolls through the gates and stops. He hears Negan telling his men to unload the truck. As the door opens, Carl opens fire, killing two random Saviors. Dwight drags him out and throws him to the ground. Negan walks up to Carl and instead of bashing in his head with Lucille, he says, "You are adorable!" He offers Carl his hand and helps him up. The camera pulls back, and we finally get a good look at the massive Sanctuary. 

Negan leads Carl inside, and stands on a platform overlooking hundreds of Saviors. They all take a knee as they see him. He tells them it's a special day, and everyone will receive fresh vegetables for free— no points needed. He brags to Carl about how the Saviors all respect him. Does he really need the approval of this kid?

Negan takes Carl to his "harem" and introduces him to all his sister wives. He secretly talks to Sherry, who tells him that Amber (another of his wives) cheated on him with someone named Mark. Negan tells Amber he'd never hurt any of his wives, but cheating absolutely cannot be allowed, so Mark must be punished. 

Dwight enters with Daryl, who's carrying a tray. Daryl's shocked to see Carl, and tries to speak to him. Negan shuts him down.

Cut to Rick and Aaron approaching a gate with a stern warning painted on it. I guess this is what they were looking at in their first scene?

Cut to Spencer and Father Gabriel out on a supply run, as the writers remind us these two characters exist before one or both is killed in the mid-season finale next week. Spencer is still going on about how much he hates Rick and how much he wants him to die. Gabriel tells him to stop the car, gets out and walks back home (!). Wow, you know you're an asshole when someone would rather walk through zombie country instead of ride with you.

Spencer exits the car too, and runs into the woods for some reason I don't quite understand. He finds a walker on a deer stand high in a tree. He knocks its bow to the ground and takes it for the Saviors. The walker falls off the stand, which "kills" it, I guess. 
Spencer searches its body and finds a note written in Latin. 

Negan takes Carl to his opulent bedroom (uh-oh…). He says he wants to get to know Carl better (Shields up! Red alert!). He says he's impressed that Carl killed two of his men, but can't let the matter slide. He demands Carl remove the bandage from his face as "punishment." Carl does so, and Negan reacts in horror at Carl's missing eye, saying it's "gross as hell." For some unfathomable reason this actually makes Carl cry (!), and Negan even apologizes (!!). He tries to make up by saying he was just "breaking his balls" and that's how guys joke around.

Negan then tells Carl to sing a song, which is pretty freakin' weird. Carl says he doesn't know any, and Negan points Lucille at his head, demanding he sing. Carl nervously croaks out You Are My Sunshine, while Negan practices swinging Lucille in the background. Well, at least he didn't sing Easy Street.

Negan and Carl enter the main hall of the Sanctuary, which is filled with hundreds of Saviors. Dwight stands to the side, grimly staring at an iron in a forge. Negan starts speechifying, reminding everyone that he brought civilization back to their world, and there are consequences to breaking the rules. 

We see Mark tied to a chair in the center of the room. Negan puts on a heavy glove, and picks up the red hot iron. He tells Mark he's sorry, but rules are rules and presses the glowing hot iron to the side of his face. The pain's so intense that Mark wets himself and passes out. Now that's entertainment! He tells the crowd that everything is square with Mark now, and to let his face be a reminder of what happens when the rules are broken. He hands the iron back to Dwight, whose face bears the mark of the iron as well.

Cut to Rosita and Eugene, as they enter the foundry he discovered last season in Twice As Far. Rosita bullies him into making her a single bullet.

Back at the Sanctuary, Negan tells Carl he can't just let him go, and asks what he thinks he should do. Carl says he should jump out the window to save him the trouble of killing him. Negan tells Carl he's taking him for a ride. Daryl sees them walk by, and tells Negan he'd better not hurt Carl. Negan tells Dwight to lock Daryl back in his cell. Jesus sneaks into the Sanctuary.

Cut to a female Savior driving down the road. She stops when she sees a pile of walkers blocking her way. She gets out, and Michonne comes up behind her with her sword. She disarms the woman, and demands she take her to Negan.

Cut to Daryl in his cell. There's no Easy Street playing, so that's a plus. He sees a note slide under the door. One side says, "Go Now," while the other side has a match and a key taped to it.

Negan and Carl arrive in Alexandria. He barges into Rick's house and demands to see him. Olivia (who I guess was there babysitting Baby Judith?) tells Negan that Rick's out scavenging for him, and won't be back for a couple of days. Negan says he'll wait, as he wants to present the unscathed Carl to him (Jesus, must this guy be validated by others twenty four hours a day?). He tells Olivia to make some lemonade, and has Carl take him on a tour. Negan barges into Judith's room and is surprised to see Carl has a baby sister. He picks her up and coos to her.

Cut to Rick and Aaron as they continue trespassing on the sign-painter's property. They find a zombie-filled lake with a house boat in the middle. Since the man hasn't shot them yet, they assume he's dead and his supplies are up for grabs.

Cut to Rosita admiring the bullet Eugene made for her. They return to Alexandria, just as Spencer pulls up. Turns out he reads Latin, and the note he found lead to a large cache of supplies. They open the gate and see Negan and the Saviors are there.

Negan sits on the front porch of Rick's house, holding Judith on his lap. He tells Carl he likes it here, and says he might have to kill them and take their house as he kisses Judith on the cheek. Creepy!

• At long, long last, this week we finally get to see Negan's Sanctuary. The slow tracking shot was impressive and well worth the wait, even though we should have seen it a few episodes ago, in The Cell.

Visually the Sanctuary is absolutely perfect. It looks exactly like it does in the comic, right down to the prominent fire escape, smoke stacks and the protective fence of walkers out front. They even added the heads on pikes!

I assume the entire building's a CGI creation, as I doubt they were able to find such a perfect match in the real world (unless artist Charlie Adlard based it on a real location?).

• Wow, Spencer & Father Gabriel must be the series' oddest pairing yet. During their supply run, Spencer asks Gabriel if hating someone is a sin. Gabriel says, "
No. Well, not necessarily. Thoughts are just thoughts. It's our actions that matter in the end."

WRONG! I'm no Bible thumper, but even I know that ain't true! The Bible most definitely says that thoughts can be sins. In Matthew 5:27-28 is says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." 

In other words, thinking about cheating is the same as doing it. I would imagine the same goes for hating as well. I guess it's been a while since Father Gabriel cracked open his Bible and studied it, what with all the zombie killing and such going on.

• This week Spencer continues to rant about Rick. He blames him for the death of his entire family, says it was a mistake to attack the Savior outpost, and believes there's no future with him in charge. He feels the best thing for all of them is if Rick dies in the wild on his supply run.

The writers love to paint Spencer as a royal asshole, but the problem is… he's not wrong. Everything he said about Rick is true. Alexandria was getting along just fine until Rick, aka the Specter Of Death, came to town. The second he arrived, the bodies began hitting the floor.

• How the holy hell did the walker end up on that deer stand, fifty feet in the air? 

The only explanation I can come up with is a hunter was being chased by a herd of walkers and fled up onto the stand for safety. He then strapped himself in and waited for them to disperse. Then he either died of a bite or from exposure, the herd wandered away, and there he was.

• As I said earlier, Negan's meeting with Carl is probably the most comic-accurate sequence of the series yet. Every scene between them unfolds virtually word for word as it did in Issue #105 of the comic. The only real difference is Negan's colorful expletives, which have been scrubbed for TV.

Unfortunately, this scene doesn't work quite as well in live action as it did on the printed page. 

See, in the comic, Carl is about ten years old when he goes on his mission to kill Negan. Here on the show looks like he's sixteen if he's a day (actor Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, is currently seventeen). I have no problem imagining Negan being bemused by a small, but brave child killing his men. A teenager though? Not so much.

Same goes for the scene in which Negan taunts Carl about his mutilated face. That would cause any kid to cry. It's a bit harder to accept Teen Carl breaking down in tears over it though. Remember, this is the same kid who shot his own mother, and a few weeks ago he was willing to sacrifice his left arm to save his crew.

Same goes for the singing. I could see Negan asking a small child to sing to him, but why would he want to hear Teen Carl's cracking voice?

By the way, the singing scene was very faithful to the comic as well, as Negan gets in some ominous batting practice in the background.

And Mark's punishment was recreated in all its horrific detail too, right down to the stray strand of melted skin stuck to the iron! 

• Why does Rosita suddenly start speaking all "barrio" in this episode? She mocks Negan by saying, "No, we're not doing sh*t for that cabron (aka "asshole"), and calls Eugene a pendejo (aka "dumbass"). 

I don't remember he ever doing that before. Does she slip into "Rosita From The Block" mode when she's really angry?

• Negan has a short conversation with Fat Joseph, who brings him his baseball bat Lucille.

Negan: "Did you treat her like a lady?"
Fat Joseph: "Mm, yes. Yes, sir." 
Negan: "Did you pet her little pussy like a lady? I'm just screwing around, man. A baseball bat doesn't have a pussy."

Jesus, who wrote this scene? President Trumpy? 

• Near the end of the episode, someone slips a note with a key attached under the door of Daryl's cell, allowing him to escape.

So who passed him the note? The writers would obviously like us to believe it's Jesus, since the episode very deliberately showed him sneaking around the Sanctuary. I doubt it was him though, since he'd have just opened the door and been done with it.

My money's on Dwight, who's probably decided he's had enough of Negan's "good life" after witnessing Mark's mutilation, which reminded him of his own. It may also have been Sherry, Dwight's ex-wife, who seems to have a soft spot for Daryl.

Another reason I think it's either Dwight or Sherry— the note also had a match attached to it. That's presumably so Daryl could burn the note and destroy any incriminating evidence. Jesus wouldn't care if Negan found his note, but Dwight and Sherry most definitely would.

• Next week: The mid-season finale. I'm sure it'll be supersized, and lots of actors will be selling their homes in Georgia shortly after it airs.

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