Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to captivate me as the villainous, yet charming leader of the Saviors. On my second and third watches of “Service,” I continually skipped through the “boring” stuff to get to Negan’s dialogue scenes with Rick. He’s a little long-winded at time, needlessly drawing out sentences in a faux-comical way instead of getting straight to his point, but it’s his presences on-screen that draws my attention.
He’s so overpowering both physically and spiritually, with the latter being Negan’s most important trait. Rick’s already a broken man before Negan comes knocking at Alexandria’s gate, but by the end of the episode, when he’s lost all Alexandria’s guns, a bunch of supplies, almost got Olivia killed and failed to get Daryl back into his community, not only is Rick’s leadership called into question, but also his manhood. Negan’s a mental terrorist above all else and if he breaks Rick’s will to rebel, he knows that’s more valuable than killing somebody or taking their things.
So the gist of the episode is Negan and the Saviors visit Alexandria for the first time and take a bunch of their stuff – most importantly their guns. I don’t believe this needed to be an extra long episode, especially since it focuses on a singular plot line. I think the regular hour time slot would have been sufficient, but episode 704 does accomplish its number one goal effectively: making us hate the Savior more than we already do – specifically Negan and Dwight.
I really love that the Negan’s show dialogue is taken almost word for word right from the
page. His introduction is much the same way, minus a fuck-ton of swears of course. JDM blends Negan’s comic book lines with original show lines tremendously well, making the larger-than-life character that much more believable on-screen.
Spencer’s incompetents and petulance continues to show in this episode. Negan makes his presence know with three solid raps with Lucille against Alexandria’s front gate. Spencer rolls back the cover and asks the very dumb (and possible life threatening) question, “uh, who are you?” to which Negan gleefully replies, “Oh you better be joking!” This scene is one of those I like, ripped right off the page as it was written and slapped onto out television screens.
Rick arrives at the gate to let Negan in still with a look of defiance on his face, though still not as defiant as the “I’m gonna kill you” scene from the premiere. Negan hands Rick Lucielle as he walks in – clearly an act of power over Rick, handing him the tools he used to kill two of Rick’s closest friends.
Dwight comes up swinging this episode in the “Biggest Walking Dead Douche Bag” competition. As Rosita and Spencer are about to leave on a supply run, Dwight stops them and proceeds to get all up in Rosita’s face. He commands them to go get Daryl’s bike at the spot where he dropped it – the same spot where Dwight shot and killed Denise last season. Before they leave, as deliberately as possible, he takes Rosita’s and Spencer’s weapons, leaving them with nothing to defend themselves. He then takes Rosita’s hat for no apparent reason and her full canteen, which he immediately pours out while she watches in a cold rage.
The Saviors ransack the town, going through everybody’s homes, taking “half” of whatever they want. One of them finds the video camera that former leader Deanna uses to interview Rick and the gang when they first arrive in Alexandria. This peaks Negan’s interest; he hopes to find “a little freaky deaky” on film. What he sees instead is a very grizzled, a very dangerous-looking Rick, who we all remember is the ultimate bad ass through season 5. Negan says to Rick, “Jesus, is that you, Rick, underneath all that man-bush? Shit, I would not have messed with that guy!” He then points the camera at the despondent Rick we’ve come to know in season 7, “But that’s not you anymore is it?”
And it’s not. Rick isn’t the shoot first, ask questions later, borderline psycho we knew from the past. He’s a diplomatic leader, trying to restore a sense of normalcy and peace in this apocalyptic world. He cherishes every life he’s been given dominion over in Alexandria – a far cry from the “how many of you will I have to kill” Rick that arrived in season 5. He’s so afraid the Negan will kill even one more person that he completely gives up his own free will and the life he’s built-in order to appease this fascist asshole.
However Carl doesn’t share Rick’s mindset. In the face of assured death, Carl pulls a gun on the Saviors trying to take his stuff out of his house. He looks Negan straight in the eye with, as Negan says it, his “giant man-sized balls,” and tells them to leave before they find out how dangerous they all are (another scene straight from the comic). Negan respects this enormously, but he can’t abide this kind of behavior out of someone he rules over. He lets it slide since Carl gives up right away, but the incident reminds Negan of how many guns Alexandria has stockpiled. He takes every rifle, every handgun and every bullet Rick and the gang had in their possession.
This instance never happens in the comic. On the page, Negan somehow passes over Alexandria’s guns as the Saviors pillage their houses. The show is definitely more believable, but it’s interesting now because I have no clue how Rick eventually plans to fight back without a single rifle in hand. He could hook up with the Kingdom, but it’s unknown how many guns they have – some of their warriors carry around spears still. The Hilltop we know doesn’t have any weapons other than knifes and other sharp, close combat tools. So I can’t imagine how Rick can get out of this predicament with Negan, though we know a huge showdown is on its way.
Negan makes it a point to tell Rick that him and his boys aren’t taking any food away from the Alexandrians. He expects a thank you from Rick, but Rick stands in silent defiance. Negan expressed his power over Rick again by getting right in his face and demanding gratitude for his “act of kindness.”
If I was Negan, the quiet contempt Rick shows in this instance and many other instances that day probably warrants a barbed baseball bat to the head of somebody in the community. I found this a little inconsistent with Rick and Negan’s established relationship dynamic, especially after the fireworks in their first meeting.
As Negan is about to leave, Michonne comes back from her long walk to accomplish whatever she wanted to accomplish, undocumented rifle in hand. As it is undocumented, Negan has no way of knowing about it. But, during a private meeting between Rick and Michonne, he pitifully convinces her that she must give the rifle to Negan. He can’t afford Negan finding out they have even one gun and someone dying over it. Michonne can’t believe how Rick is acting, but she gives it up willingly.
On the surface, it looks like Negan accomplishes his goal: instilling fear in Rick to foster absolute obedience. I really want to believe that Rick isn’t completely broken at this point. We’d expect Rick and the gang to be plotting something in the background to get overthrow their oppressor and take the power back for themselves, right? My theory is, Rick’s trying to gain trust with Negan so he lowers his guard a little. Rick can’t tell anyone in fear something might spill to Negan. Is that what happens in the comic – yes. But, the show is sometimes different from the comic.
Finally Negan decides to take off, but before he goes, he want to hear “those two magic words” from Rick. Rick “thanks” him, then Negan leans in and whispers another line exactly from the comic, “In case you haven’t caught on, I just slid my dick down your throat and you thanked me for it.”
As Rick walks away, Spencer has the gall to act like a tough guy, exclaiming why Rick’s been a bad leader and that he got Abraham and Glenn killed. Rick stops, doesn’t turn around, but says to Spencer in a calm, bad ass tone we used to know, “You say anything again like that to me, I’ll break your jaw and knock your teeth out.” Naturally, Spencer tenses up, being the pussy that he is.
We knew Negan held the power over Alexandria before episode 704, but now we understand how overbearing his grip actually has become. Rick is outwardly a completely broken man. He’s not willing to put up any kind of fight against Negan. He tells Michonne that this is just their life now and that he can’t bear to see anyone else killed, close friend or distant acquaintance because of him. He says, “We play by their rules, we get some kind of life.”
The episode closes with Rosita going to Eugene, telling him to make her a bullet for a gun she found. At least not everyone’s lost their will to fight.