– by Anthony Esteves

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“You see that?… Respect… Cool, huh.”

Michonne walks alone down a deserted road, whistling. The grass is overgrown. Only the sounds of nearby insects and the rustle of the tree branches is heard… aside from the growling walkers that tail behind her, which she ends quickly with a few swings of her blade. As she drags one body away, the camera focuses on a radio that is inside the coat pocket of the limp walker.

Jesus and Carl who are still hitching a ride in the back of a Savior truck. While Jesus jumps off the truck after leaving a trail, unbeknownst to him, Carl stays on the truck. As it parks and Negan’s men start to unload, Carl fires an AR-15 at them and demands to see Negan. After taking out a couple, Dwight wrestles Carl to the ground and removes the gun and Carl’s knife from his belt. Negan then stands over Carl and… lends a hand, offering to show him around. Catching the entire scene is Daryl, who is still trapped within a walker obstacle course; one that has grown in walker population. The camera pans back as we get a good look of the sanctuary of Negan’s Saviors. Carl witnesses the different areas throughout the sanctuary. He watches as Negan speaks to his followers below, all of which kneel as he speaks. Negan then brings Carl into a room filled with his wives, where he singles out one, telling her she can go back to Mark, but that she must remain faithful to him.

The primary focus of this episode is on Negan and Carl. Carl goes into this episode fueled by rage and vengeance toward Negan. When his attack fails and is given the tour of the facility, Negan acts like the raunchy uncle, joking around and giving Carl a beer. It is when they are alone in his quarters where we see the continued mind games of Negan. He humiliates Carl when he mocks his missing eye, then puts fear into him as he forces him to sing while taking a few practice swings with Lucile. Then, Carl is shown what happens when rules are broken and a rule breaker, in this case Mark, is introduced to his punishment, called “the iron”.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan embodies exactly what Negan is: a vicious sociopath with a twisted sense of humor and a demand for praise. The role comes naturally to Morgan who, outside of playing The Comedian in Zack Snyder’s “The Watchmen”, has made a career generally playing the likable heartthrob in romantic comedies. It is easy to see that Morgan is having fun playing this vicious tyrant.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

This episode also gave us insight into Rosita and Eugene, as she pressures him into making a bullet for her to use on Negan. Eugene is against it, but Rosita uses the guilt of Abraham’s death to get him to do it. We also get a moment betwen Dwight and Sherry, the former couple who have become servants to Negan. It is easy to see that there is still love there, but one that must be denied if they want to remain alive. However, it is the conversations between Negan and Carl that drive this episode, especially when Negan decides what he wants to do and takes Carl on a ride, all while Daryl can only watch as he’s lead back to his cell. catching a quick glimpse of Jesus on top of the truck.

While Michonne takes a Savior hostage, Negan has driven Carl back to Alexandria. Negann demands to be given the tour and eventually comes across Carl’s little sister. This episode closes with Rick and Aaron coming across some new property, Rosita, Eugene and Spencer returning to Alexandria, and the chilling sight of Negan sitting on the porch next to Carl with Negan holding and playing with Carl’s little sister. With a smile on his face, looking into the eyes of this beautiful child, Negan is considering killing Rick and Carl, burying them in the flower garden and setting up shop in Alexandria.

It is here where the episode leaves us as we await next week’s ninety-minute mid-season finale.