As I had unfortunately expected, this past week has been nothing but a post-7.06 shit-show with groves of fans spilling on the Interwebs about how “Swear” was the most boring, lame episode of The Walking Dead ever. If you read my review, you know that I personally liked it, and I think the episode will become very important later in the season. It also made very clear the wide reach Negan and the Saviors have, and so, if you’re thinking Negan is just another Governor and will be gone by the end of the season — well, think again. But, moving on, for those loud complainers, you should know that this week’s “Sing Me A Song” is one fantastic piece of writing and thus, will hopefully squelch most of the grumbling. Multiple character arcs. Great pace. And, of course, lots of Negan with all his brutality and famous one-liners. It’s another 90-minute installment, and unlike some of the previous extended episodes, this one definitely needed the extra time to be able to tell the full story.
A STAR-STRUCK NEGAN AND HIS NEW IDOL, CARL GRIMES
If you’re part of the general audience of the show and have never read the comics, the only side of Negan (Jeffrey Dean-Morgan) that you’ve seen thus far is the brutal villain who appears to get his rocks off by forcing people to submit to him and torturing those who refuse to go along. Not only does he seem to enjoy it, but it’s almost like Negan has created his own reality show and where he’s the star. But, as we learn in tonight’s episode, Negan is a far more complex character than simply a bat-wielding brute with a nice smile who will crush you if you cross him in even the smallest of ways. Instead, he’s a strong leader with a very interesting “code” who sees the value in traits like courage and bravery, and this is all exemplified when Negan gets a very unexpected visitor at the Sanctuary.
For the avid comic-book readers, you will absolutely love this episode. As we may recall, Carl (Chandler Riggs) pulled a Trajan Horse on one of the Saviors’ trucks while at the Hilltop, and a good deal of the 90 minutes is spent with the aftermath of Carl going full Billy The Kid once they arrive at The Sanctuary. Carl does manage to kill 2 Saviors, but because of his poor aim thanks to the loss of his eye, no luck on hitting Negan before he’s quickly wrestled to the ground by Dwight (Austin Amelio). With that, some may have thought Carl was about to have a very bloody dance with Lucille, but oh no. Negan doesn’t kill Carl, but instead is quite intrigued with the boy who has bigger brass balls than some of his own men.
That’s no way to treat our guest. Come on, kid, I’m going to show you around — Negan to Carl
Here begins what I consider some major idol-worship by Negan towards Carl. Yes, I know, how could someone so powerful like Negan and someone who appears to be so fixated on himself actually become star-struck with another human being? Remember, I told you that Negan was a very complex character, and so, just watch how he works. With Carl’s courage and complete lack of fear, Negan admires the boy, and so, Negan’s goal for most of the episode is to give Carl a tour of the Sanctuary, show him his way of life and how he leads, and basically try changing Carl’s opinion of him. I know, I know, he claims his motive is punishment for the 2 men Carl killed, but nope, not buying it. It begins with Negan addressing the Saviors and giving a clear demonstration to Carl that these people respect — in fact, worship — him and view him as their King.
Check this out — Negan to Carl
Negan walks forward and doesn’t even have to say a word and all of the Saviors kneel and bow to him. Now, that’s one expression of power, and judging from the look on Carl’s face, it’s something he has never seen before. Negan then goes on to say that the Saviors have gone out in the world, fought the dead, and have come back with some seriously good stuff (wait, does Negan’s followers not know that they get everything by strong-arming other communities??). With that being an incentive, Negan tells them that if they work hard and play by the rules, some of it could be theirs — all the while looking at Carl as if he’s seeking approval or he’s trying to impress him.
You see that. Respect. Cooh, huh. They’re still on their knees — Negan to Carl
Next stop on the tour of the Sanctuary — Negan’s harem. Ever since the Daryl-centric episode “The Cell,” we’ve known that Negan takes multiple wives. Remember Negan had offered to marry Sherry’s (Christine Evangelista) sister, Tina, but then, after Tina is killed and to protect Dwight, Sherry offers to become one of Negan’s wives instead. However, with the exception of Sherry, we have never seen the rest of Negan’s harem — at least until tonight. Judging from the panoramic view of the Sanctuary at the beginning of the episode and the living quarters of Dwight and other Saviors, Negan’s compound appears to be a real shit hole. But, when Negan and Carl walk into the room housing his wives, it becomes pretty clear if you’re important to Negan (or if you’re Negan himself), you get to live like royalty. The entire room resembles an old-style brothel with very fine furniture, and all of the women are dressed in nice, but revealing, dresses. Now for those who may be disturbed by Negan introducing Carl to his harem, you can officially get your head out of the gutter because remember Negan has a “code.” He refers to Carl as a “kid” in front of the women, and tells him that he should “definitely look at their tits,” but nothing else beyond that.
Besides once again impressing Carl with his lifestyle and his leadership methods, the only major thing that happens in this scene is a conversation Negan has with Sherry. At the beginning of the episode, we see one of the Saviors’ trucks being slowed down by a small herd of walkers apparently because someone by the name of Mark (Griffin Freeman) had skipped out on “redirect duty” to be with a girl, Amber (Autumn Dial), who turns out to be one of Negan’s wives. Negan asks Sherry if the rumors about Mark and Amber are true, and after reminding her that she’d be dead if it weren’t for him, she finally admits they are. This entire scene is creepy on so many levels because it hints that even after such a short period of time, Sherry seems to have risen to be Negan’s main wife. She backtalks him, calls him an asshole outright and with no apparent fear of punishment. In fact, Negan seems to like her forthcoming and feisty attitude, and it actually seems to turn him on.
See, I wasn’t hard on her, even though I’m hard in general — Negan
You’re an asshole — Sherry
Yes, I am but the messed up thing is you like me anyway. You know the truth — Negan
Then, with a very steamy kiss between Negan and Sherry right in front of Carl and the rest of the harem, we are led to believe that perhaps Sherry has drank the Negan Kool-Aid, and she’s into him as much as he’s into her. But, then, we see the single tear rolling down her cheek afterwards, and we know it’s all about survival. It all sickens her, but what else can she do? Actually there is something she can do, and so tuck this away for the time being because it’ll become very important before the episode’s end.
The final stop on the tour is Negan’s living quarters, and man oh man, that guy has style (the whole thing reminds me of the set-up at the Hilltop. Gregory living like a King in the Barrington House, while most of his people live in those tiny trailers). Nice, oak, King-size bed, and I bet he even has Egyptian cotton sheets. This is also where Negan finally gets some quality 1-on-1 time with Carl and makes for some of the best moments of the entire episode. For the die-hards out there, these bring comic issue #105 to life and next to the big Lucille showdown in issue #100, these are probably the most famous Negan scenes in the entire comic-book series.
The whole point of it all is Negan simply wants to get to know Carl, but with his cold, insensitive attitude, it may not have appeared that way. First thing is Carl has to remove his bandage. As Negan says with one of his famous one-liners, “It’s like talking to a birthday present. You gotta take that crap off your face. I want to see what Grandma got me.” I laughed out loud, but it’s not very funny to Carl, and at first, he outright refuses. But, then when Negan reminds him of the 2 men killed, Carl finally agrees, and you can tell that the poor boy is about to cry.
Christ! That is disgusting! No wonder you cover that shit up. Have you seen it? I mean, have you looked into the mirror, that is gross as hell! I can see your socket. I wanna touch it. Oh, come on, can I touch it? — Negan to Carl
But, then, when Negan sees that Carl is actually crying, an amazing thing happens. Negan apologizes and says it’s very easy to forget that he’s just a kid. However, what Negan says next appears to have negated all of the hurt and likely will have a long-lasting impact on Carl.
All jokes aside, you look rad as hell. I wouldn’t cover that shit up. It may not be a hit with the ladies, but I swear to you NO ONE is going to screw with you looking like that. No sir — Negan to Carl
This last line — isn’t that something that perhaps Rick should have told Carl himself? After all, Rick knows that Carl would probably be self-conscious about how he’s going to look after the accident. But, no, and instead, it has to be their mortal enemy, Negan, who gives his son the best advice ever and quite honestly, demonstrates that in this day and age, perhaps Negan would make a better father than Rick could ever hope to be. Interesting thing to ponder, don’t you agree? Messed up but interesting.
Unfortunately, Negan and Carl’s time is cut short when Negan realizes that “the iron” is probably ready by now. Uh, oh. Yes, that little matter of Amber cheating on Negan with her former husband, Mark, is about to be resolved, and at the same time, we’ll get the 411 on what happened to Dwight and how he got his burnt face. I’m not going to go into much detail on this, because I think you probably already get the idea. Basically, if you agree to become one of Negan’s wives, the rule is simple — you can leave at any time, but you **never** cheat, and you sure as hell don’t cheat with your former husband. But, if you happen to be that stupid and do it anyways, the punishment is pretty severe. Well, not if you’re the wife because, hey, Negan wouldn’t want to mess up that pretty face. Instead, the former husband gets half his face ironed off, which is exactly what happens to Mark for his little indiscretion with Amber. OUCH!!! And, that’s all I have to say about that. Just brutal. Not quite as bad as the Lucille scene but a very close 2nd.
LET’S KILL NEGAN — SAYS CARL, ROSITA, MICHONNE…WELL EVERYBODY!
It seems that Carl isn’t the only one who wants Negan’s head on a spike because it appears everybody and their dog have the same idea. Let’s start with Rosita (Christian Serratos). We know she’s itching to kill Negan especially with her showing up on Eugene’s (Josh McDermitt) doorstep in the episode “Service” and telling him to make her a bullet. Apparently, Eugene hasn’t made good on his word yet because while Spencer (Austin Nichols) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) think they should go out as a group to look for supplies for the Saviors, Rosita lies her ass off and says she and Eugene will be fine on their own. Little do they know that Rosita has no intention of scavenging and instead takes Eugene to the factory he had intended to use for his bullet-making endeavor. She’s a real ass too, and if you’re like me, you’ll hate the little bitch by the end of the episode. Eugene doesn’t want to make her the bullet because he knows full well what she’s going to do with it, and he makes a very good point that if she tries but doesn’t succeed, then someone else will pay the price.
I’ve analyzed this, top to bottom. It doesn’t matter if you’re stealthy, snipey-gun or knifey, Abraham was right — they have the numbers. Someone will pay the price. Even if you’re willing, from everything we’ve seen, it’s not a lock you’ll be the one — Eugene to Rosita
But, she doesn’t care — she’s clearly blinded by rage and revenge. She calls Eugene a coward. She says he’s basically worthless. And, on and on and on until he finally breaks down and gives in. Rosita, it’s official — you are now on my shit-list because you made Eugene cry. Argh!! Of course, Rosita tries to apologize after-the-fact, but it doesn’t matter — the damage to their relationship has already been done. How much you want to bet that Eugene will end up being right? That is, my money’s on Rosita using that bullet and getting her one shot, but missing — then, someone else will end up paying with their life.
Now, on to Michonne (Danai Gurira). I am actually surprised at Michonne’s actions in this episode and thought she was smarter than this. I know she is only going along with Rick’s plan because of her feelings for him, but honestly, the half-baked plot she hatches tonight really isn’t much better. While Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) are out on a supply run, she has a plan of her own. She ventures out to the same location where she found the mattresses from Alexandria that the Saviors had burned, and it’s like a lightbulb comes on in her head. Obviously, this is a road the Saviors had used to get back to the Sanctuary, and so, there’s a good chance other Saviors would come down this same road. So, if she could figure out a way to ambush those Saviors, they could take her back to the Sanctuary, and she could take out Negan and hopefully end his reign of terror. Her plan works too. Using her handy Katana, she kills dozens of walkers and uses their bodies to form a roadblock. Then, when an unsuspecting, lone female Savior comes along, she is forced to stop her truck, giving Michonne the perfect opening to ambush her and threaten her life unless she takes her to Negan.
NEGAN, CARL, JUDITH AND LIFE IN THE BURBS
Now that the Mark and Amber situation at the Sanctuary has been resolved, there’s still the problem by the name of Carl Grimes. What is Negan going to do with him? One thing is for sure — if it had been anybody else, they would be dead now. But, Negan likes Carl. He’s a brave bad-ass, and there’s not many of those left in today’s world. Negan continues to ponder what to do, but what Carl says next I think makes the decision for him.
Why don’t you jump out the window, to save me the trouble of killing you — Carl to Negan
Now, THAT’S the Carl that Negan finds so fascinating and who impressed the shit out of him, and so, with that, he decides it’s time to take Carl back to Alexandria.
Once they get there, that’s when the real fun begins, and one of the best scenes there is with Olivia. She claims that they are all practically starving to death because of the Saviors, and Negan can’t help but laugh in her face because of her weight. This causes her to break down and start crying, and I’m not talking the “sniff sniff” stuff from a couple of weeks ago. I’m talking taking-her-glasses-off sobbing. But, no worries, because Negan is a sensitive guy (cough, cough) and does apologize — then, offers to “screw her brains out” to make it up to her. Olivia’s response — a giant slap in the face! Oh snap! I literally laughed out loud, and it definitely takes Negan off-guard. Ironically, Negan once again demonstrates that he likes the feisty type and tells Olivia that just made him like her 50% more. Ha! Gotta love Negan!
Then, Negan demands Carl show him around their house, just like HE did by giving Carl the full tour of the Sanctuary. Hey, that’s just common courtesy, right? To the music of Janis Martin’s “Bang Bang,” off they go and Carl is fine with it — until he gets to Baby Judith’s room. He tries to stall and claims it’s just a room they use for storage, but nope, Negan’s not buying it. Negan opens the door while Carl looks on in horror, but to everyone’s surprise, the show’s super-villain seems to be quite good with kids, particularly babies (perhaps TV Negan was a Dad in his old life, even though he’s not in his comic-book backstory?). The episode ends with them all on the front porch, sipping lemonade, while Negan rocks Judith to sleep. Quite sweet — no, not really, when you finally realize what Negan’s plan may be.
I was thinking about what you said earlier, Carl. Maybe it is stupid keeping you and your Dad alive. I mean, why am I trying so hard? Maybe I should just bury you both down in one of those flower beds. And, then, I could just settle into the suburbs — Negan
Oh. My. God. When Rick and Michonne get back, you can bet shit’s going to hit the fan!
Finally, what about Jesus (Tom Payne) and Daryl (Norman Reedus)? Very interesting question considering we see Jesus on top of Negan’s motorcade at the end of the episode, and in a flash, he’s gone. Then, just a few moments later, a match, a key (maybe to a motorcycle?), and a note saying “Go now” are slipped under Daryl’s cell door. Coincidence? Could this be all Jesus’ doing? After all, he’s the only one I know who can break into shit without anybody noticing (remember Alexandria?). Or, could it be Sherry, trying to right a wrong for back in season 6 when she betrayed Daryl? Regardless of the “who,” it looks like Daryl is on his way to freedom and back to Alexandria.
And, Rick and Aaron? Their entire supply run totally sucked ass except for the very last day when it looks like they may have hit the jackpot. They stumble on a sign written by a William Starton who claims to have an apocalyptic lotto stash of ammo, food, and supplies but who also says if you’re reading this and got this far, then he’s likely dead. Well, not really having a choice, they continue on and do find the man’s stash — on a houseboat in the middle of a lake and surrounded by walkers. That’s not the problem because I’m sure Rick and Aaron will have no trouble cutting through that water walker herd. The real problem is the fact that it appears they are being watched. Saviors perhaps? Or another group entirely? I thought I would never say this, but considering Negan is already waiting for them back in Alexandria, let’s hope for Saviors.
Whew! Yes, all of this happened in tonight’s episode and all in 90 short minutes (actually close to 60 minutes if you take out commercials). While some fans have complained that the past few episodes have been “slow,” I’m fairly certain tonight’s “Sing Me A Song” just made up for that — and with interest. Holy shit. In case you’re not convinced, let’s summarize. Carl manages to ambush and kill 2 of Negan’s men but is spared. Instead, Negan becomes totally star-struck with Carl’s brass ball bravery, and they bond over beer, fine women, “You Are My Sunshine” and a date with an iron. Rosita puts in motion a dumb-ass plot to kill Negan, and Michonne charges forward with another dumb-ass plot. Yes, the “Dumb-Ass Sister Club.” And, Rick and Aaron hit the lottery with the mother of all supply stashes, but you better get home, Rick, because Negan’s already scoping out your home, your kid, and your baby. And, please, whoever’s watching you, please try hard to not let them follow you back to Alexandria! All in all, a fantastic piece of writing and a phenomenal foundation for the big showdown that is to be next week’s mid-season finale.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A+
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com