Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Walking Dead S7x7 Sing Me A Song

The Walking Dead Sing Me A Song review
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
With the absence of a commander-in-chief they've always had in place, Team Family is on a rampage to get justice. Carl's on a road to ambush Negan, but the future serial killer's plans may be thwarted. This post contains spoilers - you've been warned!

Sing Me A Song was a giant homage to the comics, but unlike similar lackluster episodes, it exposed just how much Alexandria is a shell of what it once was. Rick's biggest threat isn't Lucille or her owner, but his family. Without a Rickocracy or even a Ricktatorship to follow, and left only with the direct order to provide for Negan, Alexandrians are doing what they please to keep their head above water.

Rick is off scavenging with Aaron. Michonne is performing her own walker mission. Rosita is desperate to start a war and make a bullet. Spencer is lecturing everyone about Rick's mistakes. And once upon a time, Lori received flack for not keeping track of Carl, but none of her poor parenting skills compares to the lack of supervision he has now.

After leaving Enid in good hands with Maggie and Sasha at the Hilltop Colony, Carl with Jesus hitchhiked on the Savior's truck to Negan's compound. On the way, Carl tricked Jesus to jump off the truck well before their intended destination and make his way to the compound by himself.

Carl got an eyeful of how Negan conducts business. Once arriving on the scene, he managed to kill two cronies, but his failed assassination attempt only inspired Negan more and slowly use Carl's impetuousness to his advantage. He took the little rookie under his wing to show him around the joint, and effectively, the episode explored more of how Negan's operation works.

Among other things, he runs a harem. Instead of marrying one woman, he's "married" to several, many who are legally married to other men in the compound who they are not allowed to have contact with. Otherwise, it's considered cheating, and the punishment for cheating is an ultimatum: the wife to be demoted/work the front lines/earn back points, or for the husband to be marked with an iron on the face as a pledge of the wives' further loyalty to Negan. As such was revealed during a brief discussion between Amber, one of his harems who spent time with her real husband Mark, who neglected his duties to see her.

Women, like food, weapons, shelter, etc. is a commodity to Negan. And, it' a shame that through his eyes we only see them that way. It's definitely a departure from the characters we've seen so far in Team Family and beyond. We saw a glimpse of Sherry and how she rebukes against his rules by meeting with Dwight in secret, but there wasn't much beyond Negan coercing Amber into staying loyal to him; even going as far as to hint that at least he doesn't hit her, treat her badly, or has to work for what he gives her (beyond sexual favors).

It's things like Negan's harem that makes me question why or how people see him as so charismatic, charming, etc. regardless if he's a villain, even one that is love-to-hate. I wouldn't feel so salty about seeing his harem if I knew it would go any further than surface-level creepiness. There's a lot that could be explored i.e. how and if a woman who isn't married chooses to be Negan's wife versus working or the women in his harem in general. But a brief introduction is exactly what we got, and the scene was still disturbing.

Negan's tour didn't stop there. In one of the best moment of the series so far for Carl, was when he was taken to Negan's penthouse for the real games to begin.

Morgan is much more impressive when he's subtle than when he over-exudes confidence. His ego-maniac driven monologs laced with nursery rhymes and overbearing smiles becomes over-the-top. I'm not quite sure Morgan or the producers are aware how non-threatening his collective performances are a broken record. For as plain and boring sociopath the Governor was, all of the bells and whistles of Negan's psychosis doesn't make him interesting.

Of the season so far, Sing Me A Song was Morgan's most balanced take. He finally managed to dial it down a notch, and his scenes with Carl were creepy and manipulative.

Negan ordered Carl to remove his bandage and then promptly began mocking him over how ugly he looked with the socket hanging out, even teasing if he could just touch it. After humiliating him, Negan back-peddles by complimenting the kid and telling him that he looks rad as hell, be a hit with the ladies, and no one would screw with him lookin' like that. He showed him the abhorrent nature of his harem but made it look cool like Carl could be living in a palace. On the flip side, Negan forces Carl to sing a song as he's swinging Lucille just feet away from him. And then he witnesses Mark getting ironed in the face and the consequences of Negan's no-cheating rules.
You couldn’t even protect Judith. You couldn’t protect… Hershel… or Glenn or Maggie, Michonne, Daryl. Or Mom. You just wanted to plant vegetables. You just wanted to hide. He knew where we were and you didn’t care! You just wanted to pretend. You just hid behind those fences and waited. They’re all gone now… because of you! They counted on you! You were their leader, but now, you’re nothing. I’d be fine if you died. - Carl to Rick, After (season four)
Carl's possible idol-worship towards Negan echoes to his contentious relationships to Rick and Shane. He always struggled against rebelling against his parents and striving for independence, particularly against his "dads". For the scariest transformation of his life, Carl was raised and looked after by Shane. When Rick returns after his coma, it definitely opened an opportunity for Carl to play the parents against each other, and seek either one of them out depending on the kind of support he wanted.

His expectations for Rick is obviously stronger and higher. Carl has a tendency to pull away from Rick if he isn't delivering the right-kind-of-leadership i.e. the way Carl thinks things should be done. Rick's choice to hide from the Governor versus his actions to wipe out the Saviors only lands him in the same precarious spot for his son to doubt his strengths and motivations. On top of which, when you add the deaths of loved ones, Carl holds Rick even more responsible. For as close Rick and Carl are, there's still plenty of room for Negan to wedge a hole between their relationship again.

Even though Carl witnesses Negan's harem and him ironing Mark's face, it's not until Negan takes Carl home to Alexandria that the reality of his actions is realized. The lights are on and only Olivia is home. Rick is out foraging, but that doesn't matter 'cause Negan has plenty of time to play house - for Olivia to make them lemonade, Negan to walk on the carpet barefoot, watch water drip from the faucet, and play darts.

But Carl only semi-faces real consequences for going after Negan when he gets his hands on Judith. He owns everything obviously and wastes no time trying to bond with her. It's all the more terrifying when he and Carl are sitting out on the front deck, and Negan suggests burying both Judith and Carl in the flower beds so he can move out to the suburbs and grill-out. And we all thought Pete was the worst Porch Dick.

Similar to most of the season so far, Sing Me A Song wasn't a terrible episode. Certainly, some interesting dynamics opened up between Carl and Negan, and his return to Alexandria only ramps up action and tension for mid-season finale. This was by far Morgan's best performance, even if this particular storyline didn't need a full ninety minutes to swing his high-school bullying around again. What did you guys think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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