– by Anthony Esteves

“Little pig, little pig…”

Michonne lies in bed. She looks at Rick as he sleeps. She rises from bed, gets dressed, heads to the living room and removes a rifle from within the fireplace. She places it in a carrying bag, unaware that Rick is watching her leave. One would think this were just a quiet morning had it not been for the constant reminder of one unforgettable, tragic night in the woods.

And a great number of reminders have just parked their vehicles outside the gate.

The moment has finally arrived. It’s collection time at Alexandria. Rosita and Spencer were in the process of looking for supplies when they see the unmistakable silhouette of the mad tyrant that is Negan on the other side of the gate. A frightening character who even when reciting a nursery rhyme, can make each word of that rhyme feel as if it is the last thing you are about to hear.

As Rosita and Spencer are ordered by Dwight to retrieve Daryl’s bike, while also stripping them of their firearms, Negan and the rest of the Saviors move throughout the town, going wherever they please and taking whatever Negan deems as being “half”. Newsflash: Negan’s version of half is much more than the common definition of half. The houses are raided and due to a tense standoff between one of Negan’s men and Carl, Negan decides to confiscate all firearms in Alexandria.

This episode showcases an acting tour de force put on between Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Andrew Lincoln. Morgan’s performance as Negan is spectacular; a living and breathing incarnation of the character in the comics. He knows he has broken Rick. He walks around nonchalantly, making references to Glenn and Abraham as if it was all part of a big joke. Lincoln’s performance as Rick is a disciplined one of pain, anger and defeat. While he hates every second of it, he knows he has no power against Negan. In order to keep his people safe, he sees no other option but to cower down to Negan and do what is demanded. Tense moments like Carl with the gun, the entering of the armory and Negan’s threat to kill Olivia if the missing guns are not accounted for, we see these moments between Morgan and Lincoln. From body language to tone of voice to simply watching the eyes of these two shows how much importance has been put into the writing of this “relationship” and how much dedication Morgan and Lincoln have put into their respective characters.

Aside from Negan and Rick, we see how this situation has affected the others. Michonne using walkers as target practice with her rifle, preparing herself to use it one day. Rosita’s goal to get herhands on a firearm, even if it means taking them from the belts of walkers, knowing full well that the Saviors are taking their stockpile. Spencer holding Rick accountable for their current predicament, even stating it to Rick himself and putting himself on the receiving end of a Rick threat. Father Gabriel having a renewed sense of hope, believing that in the end, all will be right and assisting Rick in whatever he needs, including a cover story regarding the whereabouts of Maggie. Moreover, the added emotional torture Rick has to endure seeing Daryl broken down and non responsive to him is just another dose of life under the rule of the Saviors and just another bundle of pain onto the shoulders of the leader of Alexandria. Then again, as Rick himself said in this episode, “I’m not in charge anymore… Negan is.”

Painfully said, yet easily verified as the current truth.