We open hot, following up right where we left last week with Jesus and Carl stowing away in the back of a Savior supply truck. Jesus: Smart, Tactical, Reasonable. Carl: Not so much. As they pull up Jesus talks Carl through the tuck and roll of jumping out of a moving truck so they can get out before the Saviors get to base Jesus goes first and Carl just waves good bye. Carl, launches into a suicide mission, grabbing an M4 and waiting. When he’s discovered he calls Negan out, who doesn’t hesitate to walk right out and…well, be Negan. Jeffery Dean Morgan was a little rough at first as Negan. Scratch that, the way they played it was a little rough, you’re supposed to love to hate Negan but those first few episodes, honestly, you couldn’t do anything but hate him. Morgan has proven just why he was chosen, little by little his charm wins you over. Obviously he doesn’t have Carl killed when he’s almost immediately disarmed, nope…he likes Carl so he picks him up and offers him a tour of the facility showing his power immediately by taking Carl to a high vantage point, saying “watch this” and walking into view where the entire camp kneels and listens. Really starting to get that love to hate thing down try not to chuckle when he walks into his little concubine lair and asks Carl if he wants to “look at those tittays” Of course the hate part comes right after that laugh when you see just how he runs his camp…a true cult leader, talking all of the women he sees fit as his wives and treating them worse than even if they were property.
There’s some cut-scenes having to do with Spencer and Gabriel that really seems like a waste of time that may or may not be leading up to something…basically Spencer is still a douche and blames Rick for everything that’s gone wrong in Alexandria, whiny waste of time if you ask me. Thankfully it’s not long until we get back to the meat of the episode. Carl and Negan, talk about layers. Negan takes Carl back to his room where they sit down and Negan gets right to it…punishment for the two men Carl killed during his ill-advised ambush, step one he wants to see under Carl’s eyepatch, now this is where it starts to twist. Up until now we’ve seen Negan as a pure psychopath at best but when Carl becomes upset at Negan’s jabs about how gross his missing eye is Negan legit feels bad, hell he apologizes and reassures the kid that if it were him, he wouldn’t cover it up. Comic readers know that this is the start of a long and very odd..I guess relationship is the word but it really defies definition, like something invented just for this weird world they live in. They never become friends but Negan seems to want to have a father like, or at least crazy uncle type relationship with the kid, they are knocking the start of this out of the park. Hell, Negan even shows remorse after he makes Carl sing “You are my Sunshine” and asks if his mom sung it to him. The man we’ve only seen as a jovial psychotic shows legitimate empathy when he learns Carl’s mother died.
Did you ever wonder how Dwight’s face got the way it is? Well, we find out first hand that this is the punishment for “cheating” with one of Negan’s wives, in the most grotesque moment since the premier one of the saviors, Mark, is made to sit in a chair in front of the entire group while Negan puts a hot iron to his face. After about 10 long seconds he starts to take it off and along with it comes half the guys face skin, like cheese off of a greasy pizza. It really puts out a vibe that Negan may actually think he’s doing this for the good of everyone, enforcing the rules will keep order, or maybe he’s just a sadist.
Poor Abraham, we only had a few minutes to mourn you before your death was overshadowed by someone we loved more. Finally, you get some love in the form of Rosita and Eugene sneaking off to the warehouse where Eugene was going to start manufacturing ammo. Rosita is hell-bent on getting bullets…or rather a bullet with which to kill Negan. Eugene is, well Eugene, and uses a bunch of unnecessarily complex words in an overly verbose way to say no when Rosita finally lets him have it. Calling him a coward and pointing out that Negan killed the man that saved them, and if just for once, to do something. Shocker, Eugene is pushed over and he goes to make that magic bullet.
Carl’s punishment doesn’t come it seems, the next thing we know Negan’s making him drive them both back to Alexandria but not before Jesus (you didn’t forget about him did you) who was hiding on top of their truck, slips off to infiltrate the Sanctuary…in what can’t be a coincidence some slips a note saying “Go Now” into Daryl’s cell shortly after. If you want to know how well the writing team of this show can switch gears look no further than the scene just after Negan and Carl get back to Alexandria. Negan has Carl give him the tour of his house. Backed by some happy go lucky music it cuts between scenes of Negan with his shoes off curling his toes on the lush carpet to shooting darts in Carl’s room then BOOM, dread, terror, anger, Negan walks into the last room to find Judith.
Aaron and Rick, who have inter-cut the episode on some undisclosed scavenging mission, come up to a building which is protected by a shallow lake full of walkers, their own little river styx. Then quickly down to one of the most unsettling scenes yet, Negan sitting peacefully on Rick’s porch bouncing Judith on his knee talking about how maybe he should just bury Rick and Carl in one of the flower beds out front.
All in all, a great episode that wonderfully sets up next week’s 90-minute mid-season finale. The preview of next week shows the shear amount of threads that all lead to a episode more volatile than a rickety truck full of nitro glycerin cruising down a bumpy road. Negan has Judith, Michonne’s headed to the Sanctuary, Rosita’s on a murder mission, Daryl might actually escape, Rick and Aaron are on to something big, Morgan and the Kingdom even factor in. We know this isn’t going to be the end of Negan but I’m sure it’s going to be something to remember.
Just as a final side note. Since writing these recaps I've always had The Talking Dead in the background while putting the final touches on this thing...maybe it's just the panel guests tonight but this show is like zombie nails on a dead chalkboard, it can't really get ratings to justify being on the air for like 5 years, right?