This past week was a difficult one for many Americans. After the election results, movies and TV became much-needed distractions from fear, anger, and despair. But those hoping to return to normalcy with The Walking Dead may have been put off by Sunday night’s 85-minute-long episode: Negan bullies his way into Alexandria earlier than expected, takes more than he originally promised, terrorizes two of the women, and leaves the community with nothing but a mix of fear, anger, and despair.
Did the episode need to be extended? Probably not. (I didn’t fully register the fact we had a chunk of additional time this week.) But it demonstrated where each member of the once-thriving Ricktatorship now stands in the age of Negan.
Michonne: The skilled samurai doesn’t seem to recognize Rick anymore, as her gaze upon waking in the morning is full of doubt and unease. She doesn’t tell him when she sneaks off to sit watch in a straw field with a rifle she keeps hidden in the fireplace, but he sees her anyway as she walks out of the house. Alone, she sits atop the roof of an abandoned car and waits, scouting for something that may never come. When something eventually does arrive, it’s a walker. Her confidence is shaken. She can’t seem to hit the creature even — after firing close to 10 rounds — and is forced to dispose of it with her sword. Leaving the dead behind as a marker, she wanders into the woods and spies a dead deer, which is never a good sign — Carl was shot in season 2 after encountering a deer, and the animal was again spotted in that fateful season 4 episode (“Grove”) with Lizzie and Mika. It could be seen as hope, and Negan has killed theirs.
Eugene: As he tells Rosita and Spencer when they want to leave Alexandria and go scavenging for Negan, he’s “dealing with uncertainties.” He’s fiddling with a radio of some kind, hoping he can offer the Saviors something they want or need and live to fend for themselves another day.
Rosita: Still angry over the death of Abraham, she’s now p—ed. When Negan arrives at Alexandria, he does so days before his deadline and brings with him trucks and vans full of his dogs. He often says or does things that distort or warp something typically warm and pleasant, often doing so in a sing-song rhythm. Here, he’s banging Lucille against the gate and shouting, “Little pig, little pig. Let me in.” When they see Daryl among Negan’s crew, Rick tries to approach him, but their new leader warns Rick to not even make eye contact with him. Staring down Rosita, she also complies, leaving Negan to giggle that they almost had a situation. Rosita is again bullied by Dwight, when he tasks her and Spencer with retrieving Daryl’s motorcycle. He remembers it from their stand-off at the train tracks and knows she knows where it is. Before he lets them leave, he takes their guns and empties their water bottle, taunting them not to take too long.
Daryl: The archer is broken. As we saw last week, he’s been physically and mentally tortured in the Sanctuary in hopes of promoting him into Negan’s higher chain of command. He feels great guilt for his actions that led to the death of Glenn, but there was a slither of hope when he told Dwight he can’t give in because of someone he loves. Even now as he stands silent and bruised among the Saviors, helping them carry ammunition from the Alexandrian armory to their vans, we remember that. After Rosita and Spencer return with his bike, Dwight offers it to Daryl, saying he just has to say the word (i.e. Negan), but he remains silent. I’m hoping he’s not completely down for the count, that maybe he’s playing along and waiting for the right opportunity.
NEXT: A ruse and a standoff
Father Gabriel: This man is single-handedly trying to keep hope alive in Alexandria. He fearlessly approaches Negan, who’s comically spooked when he sees someone “creepy as sh-t for sneaking up on” him. Negan had mentioned “the sick girl” (meaning Maggie). Putting two and two together, he figured out she’s Glenn’s widow and was hoping to ask her to come back to the Sanctuary with him and become one of his brides. He remarks how he loves widows just after their husbands die: “They’re empty inside…but not for long.” That’s when Gabriel walks into the picture and executes a ruse: When no one was looking, he dug an empty grave and made it seem as though Maggie had died, given that Negan still misconstrued her pregnancy symptoms. Later, when he’s helping Rick look for the missing guns in their inventory, he again promises they’ll find them and no one will have to die today.
Carl: The old Rick is still alive in his son, who, despite nearly losing a limb during their last encounter, is brave enough to pull a gun on one of the Saviors as they take their mattresses, furniture, and guns — way more than Negan promised they would initially take. His warning shot draws Negan’s attention, who attempts to set the boy straight as Rick fearfully watches, unable to do anything to shield his child. “I said half your sh-t, and half is what I say it is,” he warns. Carl eventually gives up the gun to his father, which prompts Negan to launch a new search for all guns and ammunition in Alexandria. Carl is then put in his father’s shoes when he helplessly watches as a pervy Savior makes a creepy pass at Enid, stroking her cheek and calling her a “pretty little girl.”
Rick: Rick is a hard one to fully crack. He’s clearly terrified of Negan and verbally spreads the new dogma throughout the community, but there are signs of crazed, feral Rick still in there. As another power move, Negan forces him to hold Lucille during his entire visit. After he finds the camcorder with footage of Rick’s first Alexandria interview — after he prods Rick with the image of claiming Maggie for his bride — his grip on the bat tightens, as if he’s ready to unleash the dragon. He also gives Negan some lip in the armory when asked if he’s cooperating: “What’s it look like?” And just before he gives Lucille back to Negan, there’s another moment when he might allow his rage to take over. But he keeps suppressing it.
When Negan threatens to kill Olivia over the two missing guns from the inventory, Rick frantically scrambles to locate them, tearing into Spencer’s home and eventually finding them in a heating vent in the floor — along with some other bits and bobs he later chastises Spencer for keeping. When he sees Michonne hiding with her deer bounty off to the side, he first begs Negan to give him a minute and then begs Michonne to relinquish her rifle. He felt personally responsible for these people before Negan, but after the deaths of Glenn and Abraham and the near-maiming of his son, he doesn’t want to lose anyone else.
NEXT: Who’s baby Judith’s father?
Spencer: Rick’s rage is again stoked by Spencer, who blames Rick for leading the people of Alexandria into this new fascist regime. “This is our life now. This is where Rick got us,” he tells Rosita after driving to the railroad tracks to fetch Daryl’s bike. Rosita refuses to believe this will be their lives from now on and goes off into the woods to kill walkers in the hopes of finding more guns they can bring back to defend themselves. Spencer tries shaming her for it, but when they return and learn Rick found the secret stash of guns in his house, he admits to Rosita he took them because he didn’t trust Rick. Spencer confronts him with his frustration, saying how he led them all to this “promised land.” But when he brings up the memories of Glenn and Abraham, Rick threatens to break his jaw and rip out his teeth should he ever say anything of the kind again.
Aaron: The once-hopeful beacon of Alexandria stays pretty much in the background, but his boyfriend, Eric, stands up during Rick’s town hall and asks how they’re all gonna get out of this. While Rick’s answer isn’t optimistic at all, the question indicates the same feelings of doubt, suspicion, and rage from spreading from Spencer throughout the community.
Sasha, Tara, Maggie: None of these women are present during the raid of Alexandria. Maggie wanted to be alone in the wilderness to deal with the death of Glenn and Sasha vowed to stay with her, but where’s Tara?
With the scene between Negan and Rick in the armory, their similarities came into focus. On a physical level, they’re both rocking that grey scruff, but the Ricktator was much more similar to the way Negan is now, which is probably why he’s taken a liking to him. As he remarked after seeing the camcorder, “I wouldn’t want to mess with that guy.” He gets off on dominating someone with comparable strength and channeling it as his own, and that’s what’s happened — Rick is now the kind of guy who begs permission to allow Daryl to stay in Alexandria, and even Daryl is now the guy who remains silent, an obedient prisoner, before going back to the Sanctuary.
It looks like their survival may lie with the women this season. Michonne confronts Rick as he’s making their new sleeping arrangements on the floor and tries to get him to see the tragedy of their new lives. Though she resolves to try and accept things, she later returns to the straw field where she follows a trail of smoke find their mattresses — Negan didn’t take them, he burned them. Rosita, too, is ready to fight and proves there’s still hope for them yet. But first, she needs Eugene to make her a bullet from Negan’s stray casing.
Looks like he left them more than he thought.
One last thing before we leave you: This is the first episode since season 2 that’s addressed the parentage of baby Judith. It seemed like one of those small tragedies that would linger in the backdrop for the entirety of the show, but Rick is very much convinced Judith is Shane’s child: “I know Judith isn’t mine. I know it. I love her, she’s my daughter, but she isn’t mine. I had to accept that. I did so I could keep her alive.”