The Walking Dead S07E04 “Service” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously on The Walking Dead: Abe and Glenn were brutally murdered by Negan who took Daryl hostage and tried to break him. He failed.
- So far.
- Morgan and Carol were taken in and healed by The Kingdom, a large well supplied group led by the wildly eccentric and kind of awesome King Ezekiel. They are currently unaware of just how bad things have got at Alexandria.
- We open on Rick and Michonne asleep in bed. Michonne wakes first and is clearly very far from okay. She gets up, dresses and pulls a sniper rifle from a hiding place. Rick sees her go.
- Michonne walks out into open country. She sets up a sniper’s nest on top of a burnt out truck, scouts her location and waits.
- At the house, Rick greets Judith. Eugene is repairing a radio when Rosita and Spencer roll up wanting to head out to scavenge for Negan. Eugene politely responds he isn’t up for it and Rosita snaps at him. An argument brews until… trucks approach.
- Negan, silhouetted against the gates, whistling chirpily, arrives.
- Spencer tries to give him attitude and Rick walks up. There’s a confrontation, which is offset by Rick opening the gates. Negan is early. Negan kills a Walker, preens expansively and then he and his men, including a badly beaten Daryl, enter Alexandria.
- Rick tries to talk to Daryl and is shut all the way down. Even worse, it turns out the terms of the deal have changed. It isn’t half the supplies, it’s whatever Negan wants to take from them. He bullies Rick into showing him around.
- Dwight confronts Rosita, taking the weapons she and Spencer had loaded into the car for their trip. Dwight gives Rosita a job; go get Daryl’s bike. The fact it isn’t on site is immaterial. He also steals her cap and empties her water just for good measure.
- Out in the wilds, Michonne gets a target. It’s a Walker. She misses, over and over again. Furious at herself, she beheads it and moves on. In the woods nearby, she finds a deer killed by one of her missing shots.
- Back at Alexandria, the Saviours are taking supplies, furniture, anything they like. One of Negan’s lieutenants brings him a video camera. It features Rick’s recorded interview from when he first came to Alexandria. Negan mocks Rick, explicitly stating that he wouldn’t have messed with THAT guy.
- Negan baits him again about Maggie and the tension is only cut by Father Gabriel arriving. They show him Glenn’s grave, and also Maggie’s grave. Daryl is taken with them and is crushed by the site of his other friend’s grave.
- A shot rings out.
- They find Carl in the sickbay, holding a Saviour at gunpoint. He’s refusing to let them take all the medicine. Carl is all posture and bluster but Negan calmly, politely and brutally talks him down.
- Negan remembers just how many guns they have and takes every single one.
- Olivia greets them at the stores and takes them through to the armoury. Negan waylays Rick and points out that he’s not taking any of their food. Rick asks what Negan wants him to say and again the mask slips, with Negan snarling that he might start with a THANK YOU.
- He asks Rick if any of the guns are secured elsewhere “waiting for their moment” and Rick replies, to the best of his knowledge, they’re not.
- Out in the wilds, Rosita and Spencer make it to Daryl’s bike. Spencer tries to be pragmatic; this is their lives now. Maybe if Rick thought it through it would have been different. Rosita notices something and heads into the bushes…
- Back at Alexandria, Negan “tests” one of the guns by firing it through a window. He’s delighted to see the rocket launcher that killed his men too and declares he’s going to have some fun with it.
- Back at Alexandria, Olivia is dragged in front of Negan. They’ve done the count, and they’re two handguns short. Negan turns to Olivia and tells her she’s bad at her job and that this is “life and death”.
- We cut to the church where Rick, hands shaking, is talking to everyone. He explains that he couldn’t risk some of the guns being discovered in hiding. The Saviours have won and while they don’t have to like it they have to accept that Negan is in charge.
- Rick literally does the, “I know someone’s lying” school teacher thing, pointing out that if the guns aren’t found, Olivia is dead. Aaron’s boyfriend asks how they get out of this and his response is that there’s no way to do that. Negan’s in charge.
- Then Eugene notices not everyone’s there…
- Out in the woods, Rosita is stalking a group of Walkers who used to be the Saviours who killed Doc. Spencer finds her just as she’s done. The good news is one of them was armed. The bad news is, he was out of bullets.
- Back at the Alexandria plot, Rick is getting increasingly worried. Gabriel tells him he has faith there’s a way to beat this but Rick isn’t having it, or Gabriel’s faith in him. Rick finds a hidey hole where Spencer has been keeping the goods he’s been stealing. At the bottom of it, in a silk bag, are the guns.
- Rick hands them over and Negan tells him he has to get everyone on board or else they go right back to square one. The Saviours load out, just as Spencer and Rosita come back with Daryl’s bike. He sees Michonne, with the deer on her shoulder and asks Negan for a second to speak to her. He refuses, Rick begs, Negan relents.
- Rick, still holding Lucille, meets Michonne. He asks her for the rifle and she refuses. Rick tells her if she doesn’t give it up, someone dies and he refuses to lose ANYONE else.
- Rick hands the rifle over and Negan is very, very impressed. He asks if Daryl can stay and Negan shuts him down. He asks Daryl to plead his case and Daryl, traumatised and broken, can’t speak. Negan tells him that the next time they come, if Rick doesn’t have something interesting for them, someone will die.
- Dwight hands Rosita her cap back as a “thank you” for the bike. He gives Daryl a chance to get the bike back, all he has to do is say the word, which we know is “Negan”. Daryl says nothing. Dwight drives off.
- Negan asks Rick if he’d like him to leave. Rick says yes and Negan tells him to say, “Thank you.” He does and Rick watches as Negan kills a lone Walker. Rick’s hand clenches on Lucille, he moves and…
- Negan kills the walker.
- The Saviours leave, after Negan makes a huge show of “remembering” to take Lucille back off Rick.
- As they clean up, Rick tells Spencer about the two guns in his house and what almost happened. Spencer’s one response is, “You went into my HOUSE?” Rick is an asshole to him; Spencer is an asshole right back about Glenn and Abe. Rick tells him he’ll break his jaw and, in a similar manner to Negan, threatens Spencer into submission.
- Rosita yells at Spencer about the guns and he replies that he had them for a while because he was worried about Rick being in charge. As he leaves, Rosita slips a sidearm from the wheel arch of her car…
- Back at home, Michonne confronts Rick. The gun he took from her wasn’t on the ledger. They could have kept it. Michonne confronts him, says they got everything they have from fighting. Rick is insistent that they’re outnumbered, even with the Hilltop. At least this way they have some kind of a life. Michonne asks what kind of a life they could have and Rick tells her about Shane and what he did for them while Rick was in hospital.
- He knows Judith isn’t his. He doesn’t care. She’s his daughter. He reiterates that this is how they live now and he doesn’t listen when Michonne says it’s not his fault when people die. He begs her to accept their new life and, slowly, she helps him make the bed and agrees to try.
- Later, out at the hide, Michonne climbs up on the roof. She hears noises and goes to investigate.
- She finds every one of their beds. Set on fire and left in the road.
- Back at Alexandria, Rosita finds the cartridge from the round Negan fired. She hands it to Eugene and says, “Make me a bullet.”
Well… that happened.
The last time the show did one of these extended episodes, it was, “Here’s Not Here”, the Morgan flashback. We LOVED that. A lot of other people didn’t. We suspect based on this week’s episode we’ll still be in the minority… just on the other side. Because this? This was DULL.
“Service” is designed to do two things. It does them in about half an hour and then hangs around a while longer. The first is to establish that Rick is broken, which we already knew. But, walking around Alexandria with Lucille in hand and Negan at his side, this is a very different Rick. Or at least one we’ve not seen for a couple of season. He’s at his lowest ebb and as a result, he and most of the other characters just sort of let stuff happen at them. The Saviours change the terms of the deal, so they get out of the way. The Saviours threaten to kill Olivia unless two missing guns are found, so they find them.
That’s it. That’s what this episode does. It’s designed to show what life under Saviour rule is like and, robbed of the laser focus on Daryl last week, the answer is a resounding “nasty, brutish and probably short”.
It’s not even enlivened by Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan. After a gloriously over the top entrance the character stays there the entire episode. He flips from flamboyant charmer to dead eyed monster three times across the space of the episode and each time Morgan holds your attention but, each time, has to work harder. There’s none of the nuanced monster we saw last week, just a nasty manchild who likes threatening people and thinks fat jokes make him sound clever. He’s an adolescent with a baseball bat. A barbed wire schoolyard bully. He’s one dimensional where previously he’s been the finest monster in The Walking Dead’s rogue’s gallery.
That problem extends to the other characters too. Rick here is exactly as he was with The Governor; broken down but with the berserker rage already clearly building. It makes for a nice image with his hand tensing on Lucille but this is ground that’s been covered with him again AND AGAIN and he never really moves very far forward. If we really have to sit through another season of “Rick becomes evil again and then remembers his idealism” then how much do the huge changes the show has successfully implemented over the last two years really matter? Worse still, how long before we’re back here yet again?
Michonne fares a little better and her acceptance of Rick’s acceptance is a poignant moment that comes a good 40 minutes late in the episode. Olivia is reduced to a literal walking punchline, Eugene even less and Rosita and Spencer are pushed into the spotlight at the worst possible time. It seems, based on this episode, that they’re next for housecleaning. It makes sense, given how little Spencer in particular has had to do recently, but much like the gag Negan makes about “old” Rick, seeing it so blatantly is more than a little on the nose.
“Service” still has moments, with both Gabriel and Michonne turning in good work, but that’s all there is. There’s no compelling reason for the extra running time, no arc through the episode beyond, “Everyone is horrified at the brutal murders of their friends and Negan’s an asshole”. It’s a rare, and definite, low point for the show and more troubling, it shows just how much Rick and the central plot suffers in comparison to the satellite ones. Here’s hoping balance is restored next episode.
- Negan’s “DUN DUN DUUUUUN” as he approaches is genuinely very funny.
- Negan handing Rick Lucille shows incredible contempt. It also shows how, even now, he doesn’t trust Rick and is testing him.
- “You are CREEPY as shit!” Negan’s best lines are often when he’s surprised and this is one of them.
- “Do you want me to prove how serious? AGAIN?” The dialogue may be mostly lousy this week but the moment the shot rings out and Negan’s face goes dead is amazing. Even with rough material, Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers.
- “You find anything else out there?”
“Just your dead friends.” OUCH
- “I could have hidden more.”
“No.” Incredible complexity to these very small lines. Rick is both horrified that she has hidden more guns and desperately hopeful. Michonne is both ashamed that she didn’t think of it and disgusted that Rick asked.
- Yes, the scene in which Rick talks about Lori, Shane and Judith is very sweet.
- Negan’s dialogue is uniformly terrible this week. It’s not the lack of profanity either, it’s the fact that for the first time he presents as one note. It’s not JDM’s fault either, but an hour in the company of preening southern thug Neegan is about 15 minutes too much.
- “I can’t be the only to notice you got a fat lady in charge of keeping track of rations, can I?’’ And this can sod off. Point and laugh at the fat person is lazy writing. There are a thousand ways you could show Negan being evil that are more interesting and leave much less of a bad after taste.
- How DARE this show do the flash cut to Lucille from Negan threatening Olivia? That’s cheap circus tent nonsense that will work less and less well every time they do it. Glenn’s first “death” was the ONE time this show could do that. It’s now done it twice more and counting.
- So Rick seriously doesn’t notice that Rosita and Spencer are missing? Come on…
And The Random:
- David Boyd worked as a director of photography on Firefly and has six previous episodes of The Walking Dead as well as acting as director of photography on Friday Night Lights on his CV.