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The Walking Dead tears down Rick a little more as Negan comes to play

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The psychological games continue

After being away from our favorite group in The Walking Dead, we finally return to see what they're up to at Alexandria. Following the devastating events of the season premiere, Rick and company are in for a taste of the new world order when Negan and the Saviors arrive a bit earlier than expected.

This week, we got an extended 90-minute episode that mostly featured people being really bummed.

Life has barely returned to some semblance of normal at Alexandria when Negan comes calling. He marches right up to the gate and Rick, fully aware of what Negan is capable of, lets him in without question. Negan is all swagger and showman throughout the episode — a testament to Jeffrey Dean Morgan's fantastic portrayal of the character  — but his string of threats are real.

As nonchalantly as he can, Negan lets Rick hold his favorite bat, Lucille, as a psychological test. It's a reminder to Rick and the rest of his post-apocalyptic family that Negan is in control and completely unafraid. As a domineering bully, he's in his element. It's a nice return to form after his lackluster showing last week.

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Daryl and Dwight are both there with Negan, but Daryl, still shaken up from the last episode, doesn't say a thing the entire time. Rick tries to speak to him, but Negan quickly shuts it down. Toward the end of the episode, Rick attempts to bargain with Negan for Daryl. It's an interesting proposition for Negan, a man who practically gets off on mind games, and instead of shutting it down, he entertains the idea.

It doesn't take long for Negan to make his place at home, joining his Saviors as they proceed to ransack the town for supplies. It's more thorough and heavy-handed than the pig-exchange we saw in the second episode at the Kingdom. In an effort to exert more control and intimidation over the group they take all of their mattresses, which leads to Carl firing a warning shot at the gang in an attempt to retaliate.

Rick, however, smooths things over, playing the diplomat that we know he can often be when needed. It's actually a role we see Rick step into for the entire 90 minutes. Instead of trying to take on Negan, he assumes a mediator role, bargaining with him throughout. It's a painfully awkward mantle for him to carry. After all, this is a man who has been successful as both a survivor and a warrior.

Next, Negan demands all of their weapons. Alexandria's record-keeping gets them in trouble here, as Olivia's manifest shows two handguns missing.

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In response, Negan threatens to kill Olivia, a character we rarely see, making the entire scene feel lackluster and emotionless. The episode never explains why should we care about what Negan does to her. In fact, the entire episode seemed like it was full of characters that we either don't care about or simply don't like — including Spencer.

Spencer's been a pain the ass this entire season, and he once again proves how unlikable he is again in this episode. He and Rosita are sent by Dwight to retrieve Daryl's motorcycle after his own bike bit the bullet in last week's episode. They find the bike and — to reassure us that this is still a show about zombies — Rosita takes out half a dozen walkers armed only with a knife. Although terrifying and dangerous, the encounter with the walkers leads to the discovery of an empty pistol. Knowing that the Saviors were back at the camp and were planning on taking all of their weapons, Rosita starts to plan a way they can find more guns while keeping them out of sight from Negan.

But let's back up for a second and focus on the worst part of this episode: Spencer. The character has always been a pain in the ass, but he feels more useless than usual. At one point Spencer even antagonizes Rick, the gang's lovable pseudo-father, resorting to bringing up the deaths of Glen and Abraham upon returning to camp. Things get heated pretty quickly, and Rick, who we all know by now has been dealing with some understandable anger issues, threatens to knock his teeth out. It should have been the scene that we were waiting for — the return of warrior Rick — but instead it feels empty. Let's not forget, Rick practically bowed down in front of Negan for the entire episode.

At one point, it looks like the old Rick that we know and love might be returning as he tightens his grip on his weapon and thinks about attacking Negan while taking on a walker. But the feeling passes, and the newer, more submissive version of Rick returns. Negan, however, isn't done playing mind games with the group's Alpha male and forces Rick to confront Michonne and disarm her.

The Walking Dead season 7 episdoe4 AMC

Just when Michonne is ready to give him the "Everything we got, we got from fighting" speech, Rick opens up. He tells her about Shane, and admits that Judith isn't even his. I guess that's an explosive revelation from season two, but does it even matter at this point? It doesn't seem to matter to Rick anymore. He makes sacrifices to protect everyone. Bowing to Negan is just another sacrifice for survival.

By the end of the episode, Michonne finds all the mattresses that the Saviors stole burned up and destroyed by the side of the road. It's not that Saviors wanted them; they just wanted the Alexandrians to not have that little luxury, proving once again who was in control.

The Saviors are comically evil in their intimidation tactics, whether it's a random grunt being creepy to Enid or Negan cracking jokes and flexing his narcissism. Our crew has fought cannibals, the Governor and hundreds of zombies — all the Saviors really have are numbers. Well, that and all their guns. The uprising will be an uphill battle, and will require our group to make some key alliances.

Winners

Father Gabriel: Gabriel's come a long way since he tried to get the entire group kicked out of Alexandria. His quick thinking when Negan asked about Maggie gave a great excuse for her absence at the hilltop — they even had a recent grave to show off. Also, the scene where he first talks to (and sneaks up on) Negan is legitimately hilarious.

Rosita: I don't think Rosita has ever had a better role than her appearance in this week's episode. She stood up to Negan, had some impressive walker kills, found a gun and is the only one of our group who seems ready to fight back. Considering all she had before was a weak love triangle, I'm looking forward to the new vengeful side of her character.

Losers

Spencer: Damn it Spencer, do you have to screw up every situation? He makes things much harder for Rosita when she's stalking walkers, and pretty much spends the entire episode complaining about how Rick's attack on the Saviors completely screwed them over. How much more of his arrogant, annoying character are we supposed to take?