[Warning: The following will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead’s seventh season, including the most recent episode.]
This week we finally return to Rick and the folks at Alexandria. Negan's new world order has begun to divide our group, both physically and emotionally. Some scavenge to gather supplies for the Saviors, while others begin developing foolhardy plans to go after Negan.
Carl is the most foolhardy of them all, making it all the way to the main man himself, but his assassination attempt doesn't exactly go as planned.
As we saw two weeks ago, Carl hitched a ride aboard a truck bound for Negan that was leaving the Hilltop. Both he and Jesus wanted to find out where Negan actually lived. Turns out it's a gigantic factory, surrounded by a large force of chained zombies and indentured workers — including Daryl.
Jesus hops out before the truck stops, thinking Carl is right behind him. But Carl has other plans. Well, plans may be generous. Carl grabs an assault rifle and begins shooting moments after the first Savior starts to unload the truck.
“I want Negan!” he shouts.
Credit to Jeffery Dean Morgan once again for making Negan both strangely likable and terrifyingly menacing at the same time. Even after Carl shoots another one of his men and Dwight tackles him to the ground, Negan is more impressed than angry.
He takes Carl on a little tour of his home base, and strokes his massive ego by showing off the power he holds. This whole 90-minute episode provided a good look into Negan's society, including his fearful harem, his kneeling foot soldiers and his barbaric criminal justice system.
The relationship between Negan and Carl remains uncomfortable. Negan is a bully and a sociopath, showing no real remorse or care for his actions. But he seems to genuinely enjoy Carl, if just to show off like an older brother returning home from college.
Negan makes Carl remove his bandaged eye, then makes fun of how gross it looks. When he sees Carl grow upset, he immediately backs off. Not because he cares, but because he wants Carl to like him, to be impressed with everything Negan has built. Some men get punished with a literal hot iron branded on their face; Carl is simply forced to sing a song.
Since we're in Savior HQ, we also see more of Daryl, Dwight and Sherry. Dwight and Sherry continue their awkward smoke breaks together where they mostly regret the terrible choices they've made.
Daryl is completely powerless and basically working as a janitor. But perhaps not as broken as Negan thinks; when Negan is ready to take Carl back to Alexandria, Daryl actually begins to threaten him. Negan has Dwight put him back in the cell he spent the majority of the third episode in. Later, someone passes him a note with the words “go now.” Just remember, that the last time he tried to leave it didn't go so well.
Despite the extra 30 minutes, this episode left a lot of stories dangling as we checked in with quite a few of our survivors. Rick and Aaron have the slowest, most boring journey as they hunt after what may be a doomsday prepper’s last stand, complete with a zombie-filled moat.
Spencer and Father Gabriel argue over Rick and the situation they're in under Negan's rule. Gabriel defends Rick, and eventually leaves Spencer to walk back. Spencer finds a zombified hunter in the woods, and gains a hunting bow as well as a note, written in Latin, that leads to a cache of food and medicine. Uh, that's pretty great?
Rosita and Eugene are supposed to be finding supplies as well, but Rosita is still hellbent on killing Negan. Eugene has second thoughts about making her a bullet, but she dresses him down and calls him a coward. Eugene is a coward, but in this situation, he's also not wrong. They need numbers to defeat Negan, not passionate assassins.
Speaking of passionate assassins, Michonne is apparently on a similar mission. She creates a barrier of zombie corpses on a street and waits. A car pulls up and stops, and Michonne captures the armed woman inside, demanding she take her to Negan.
Oh, Michonne, if only you had stayed back in Alexandria. Negan's right here! He and Carl return to Rick's house to await his return. He manages to insult Olivia while sporting that famously charming Jeffrey Dean Morgan smile. To creep us out further he holds Judith, playfully talks about killing Rick and Carl, and even moving in.
For another lengthy 90-minute episode, we still didn't see a whole lot happening. At least we did check in with most of our Alexandria crew, but now everyone's spread out even more than before. Our group needs to unify if they have any hope of taking down Negan and the Saviors. Or take one of the many, many chances one of our characters had to quickly kill Negan.
Negan: Negan's back in the winners column. He toned down the goofiness and let out the monster a bit more. His scenes with Carl were genuinely enjoyable. While Negan lacks any complex layers, he makes up for it in screen-filling presence.
Carl: As an angsty teen, Carl has a pretty low bar to hit. But he manages to be emotional and angry without being too annoying. I also genuinely enjoyed when he talked back to Negan. “If you knew us you would kill us, but you can't.” Carl may be bravely stupid, but he did try to kill Negan and lived to tell the tale.
Jesus: I was hoping Jesus would be a fun addition to Carl's meeting with Negan. Instead he was a non-factor. Did anyone see what happened to Jesus after he stole away on top of Negan's truck? Presumably he hitched the ride back to Alexandria. Jesus take the wheel!
Spencer: Spencer's still an asshole.