Rick, Carl, Abraham, Eugene, Aaron, and Sasha take an ill Maggie out of town in the RV to try and reach the hilltop where a doctor can help. On their way, they’re blocked by Negan’s group who showcase a beaten man from a different town that has crossed Negan as a warning. The group retreat but find every route they take blocked. Meanwhile, Morgan finds Carol and mends her wound, but she still refuses to return with him. She leaves and is confronted by the only man to survive her last encounter on the road. He shoots her twice to bleed her out and is eventually stopped and killed by Morgan who intends to bring Carol back home. At night, the group divide and take to the woods but are easily captured by Negan’s forces who are numerous. Brought to their knees, Negan appears before them and lays out the ground rules for how they are to be governed moving forward. As punishment for killing Negan’s men over the past few weeks, Negan plays a game to decide who he’ll bash to death with his barb-wired bat named “Lucille.” Negan chooses and then beats the victim to death from their point of view, but the audience doesn’t know who it is.
Anyone who read issue #100 knows who the bludgeoned victim was. Anyone who didn’t, we simply don’t know, but there are some things we can infer. Before we get into that, I have to say, this episode successfully brought an insane amount of attention to the detail of helplessness and fear. And Jeffrey Dean Morgan absolutely ripped into his role as the psychotic but tempered Negan, who ended someone’s life in the blink of several bat strikes to the head. Why they’re saving us the grief of knowing who is easy to discern, but the complexity of the unknown will rip at the fabric of the hardcore fan base for months to come. Do they follow the lore of the comic or do they take things into a different turn? As long as your heart was racing in the final minute of the episode, then the Walking Dead team did their job. It’s time to get prepared for a long summer.
The most noticeable element here was the illusion of control and the quickness that it could be pulled from the minds and hearts of the confident. Breaking a team of hard-fighting individuals is tough especially if we’re talking about Rick who has, up until now defeated every opponent who has threatened him and his own. Now he faces the numbers and the leader of an assembly we still don’t know the full scope of yet. How does one man keep so much order if all he has is a bat? Perhaps a better question is, how many have tried to cross him and lived? Everyone of Rick’s crew including the man himself captivated their roles with despair and desperation sweating through their skin and there was nothing they could do about it. That’s good acting and downright great television, because if the cast believes what they’re going through then so do we.
I also thought the final result of Morgan and Carol’s journey played out in a necessary and pragmatic way that showed both of them have to change in order to accept each other. If only the event was covered in a previous or future episode, it might have held an even stronger impact, but for now, it was covered with enough care that the message was still equally felt among the heart of the episode.
I don’t agree with not showing us who Negan picked and essentially killed. I’m not truly against the mystery, but the drawback is how much we’ll prepare ourselves so when the eventual reveal comes about in October, it’ll sting, like ripping a band-aid off, but it won’t fester like it would have if we knew tonight who died. Our minds will shift from theory to theory, from guess to guess, but that alone will distract us from the true heartache of losing a possible fan-favorite. If it’s Glenn then we’ll be angry because of the way he was treated in that fake-out all those weeks ago. If it’s Aaron, then maybe we’ll be annoyed, but it’s not the end of the world as he’s a much later addition with only a handful of episodes to mature his character on the show. If that’s the case, it’s possible all that energy spent in denial of grief may be for nothing. I would have just given the audience what they needed to see no matter how hard it would have been to watch. I have one theory why it’s Daryl but I’ll jump into that in a bit.
The moment Negan appears to the second he swings his bat. Everything was riding on how Negan came out and what he was going to say to Rick and group, and he didn’t disappoint. The jacket seems a little new but that was probably the point. He wanted to look both dignified and untouched by the world and most certainly by anyone who would dare call him an enemy. The easier he played the scene out, the more gut-wrenching the final moment was going to be because the power he held was infinite against Rick and his breaking mind. That’s how you instill servitude against the strong, at least, that’s how it will appear to work for the time being.
While Negan got his moment to shine, I think Carol should get this finale’s MVP spot. It’s almost haunting watching her go through the emotional fatigue of giving up and absorbing the amount of damage going into her and still clamoring for more. Her laughter mixed with near soul-crushing tears really sold at least her idea that death was a sure bet. In reality, it was very easy to guess how Rick giving Morgan a gun would lead to Morgan killing someone and likely the guy chasing Carol, but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy for him to do it. Carol could have easily taken worse wounds, and she still might be suffering a lot more before the next days sink in. After all, there’s no doctor in Alexandria and bullets shouldn’t stay in the body for very long. Her nature is to survive but now she’s fighting it because of the cost of protecting those she cares about. Morgan was the exact person she needed to talk to and the exact person she needed to see do exactly what she said needed to happen to get her to understand that leaving shouldn’t be an option when she’s surrounded by people who care. I’m glad she survived this round, because I think she can do a lot more good against Negan’s forces, if she’s willing to be who she has to be to survive.
My one theory that it’s Daryl and not Glenn is because of the ratings. Well that doesn’t make sense, right? Here’s my take on that. If it was Daryl now, surely that would cause an uproar for many months from the hardcore can base. That could inevitably effect the ratings of the premiere, and they want so much to break their records every season, and what better way then to tune in and find out who the victim will be? This way, if it is in fact Daryl, the backlash will be after the premiere makes its ratings count and by then the fan-base may be more forgiving because it’s hard to just put that show down. One idea anyway.
Based on Negan’s own words at the end, it won’t be Carl or Rick that took the beating. That still leaves plenty to question and I have to believe this show wouldn’t have someone like Negan beating Maggie to death even though he doesn’t know Maggie is pregnant. And if it was Maggie, I absolutely believe Glenn wouldn’t sit back and let it happen regardless of the consequences. Bullets would be flying in the background. Glenn himself would be the carbon-copy version torn right from the pages of the comic, but again, this show has been known to change the fates of many characters on this show. The first to die on the show and still currently be alive in the comic was Sophia. And the opposite with her mother, Carol, and Andrea.
Negan definitely outperformed but I can’t help wondering if maybe they shouldn’t have gone with such an exact duplication of Negan’s outfit and certain phrases. Negan in the comic reminds me of an adult Cartman, who had a fresh biker fashion and said the F-bomb a lot. This Negan didn’t, but still said everything else from , “Pee-pee pants city” to a whole mess of fear-inducing words that came out with a certain polite nature about him. This Negan was almost the same way, enjoying how easy it was to break someone by the rules he set and not bothering with being angry because anger means he isn’t 100% in control, and Negan absolutely is. Maybe visually he should look less rough around the edges and slightly older than his comic-counterpart is, but Jeffrey is an amazing actor and nailed the smile almost perfectly. I’m hopeful that this one scene hasn’t even come close to scratching the surface with how this TV Negan will be like.
As for more theories, I have to rule out any female because that’s just too brutal. Abraham and Eugene aren’t necessarily safe bets and here’s why. For Abraham, he found some solace with Sasha and commented in that general area while the sun was blissfully shining through the window in his view. Such a peaceful moment surely can have a drastic shift if he’s the one who Negan chose, not to mention, how proudly he leaned upward when Negan first brushed by him. As for Eugene, Abraham flat out said he was a survivor and has his confidence which could very well spell out the opposite effect, something that is ironic in nature, but also equally sad considering how much effort he put into becoming a faithful member of the crew. It’s just hard to say right now.
9 out of 10. The build-up and subsequent execution of a mystery character was as strong as it was going to be without completely decimating the hearts of those who adorn this show. Characters like Eugene, Abraham, and Carl gave their small speeches of pride, and protection and never letting things happen like they’ve done in the past, only to be at the surreal mercy of a new villain whose gross optimism is beyond anything Rick has faced before. Blocking the RV every way closed the walls of their tiny space and made them realize how small their world is against people who have banded together outside of their view. Even though Carol and Morgan’s finale could have been spared for another episode, it was a good call to include it considering how Morgan broke a cardinal rule to save someone who was important to the group. Though it’s a shame we’re stuck not knowing the identity of Negan’s mystery choice, it’s a clear indicator that the show isn’t ready for us to know on many levels, one of which I believe is about the ratings and not pissing off the fans for an entire summer. By the time October rolls around, we’ll be ready to accept whomever they choose, and the worst part is, the writer’s don’t have to decide write away. They can choose whomever they want up until the moment they start filming. Think about that while the weeks began to count up. Thanks for reading, we’ll see you again near Halloween season.
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