The Walking Dead S07E07 “Sing Me A Song”
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously on The Walking Dead! Stuff! Went! Wrong! For! EVERYONE!
- This episode we open on Michonne glowering at a burned, damp pile of mattresses. She walks along, whistling, gathering Walkers to her. She kills them and begins building something with the bodies…
- Elsewhere, Rick and Aaron wake up in the back of a truck. Aaron sees something he missed last night and points it out to Rick.
- Nearby a pair of Saviours watch a herd finish walking across the road. And find the time to make a joke about a fat colleague of theirs because… honestly we have nothing.
- In the back of the truck, Carl and Jesus, who’ve been hiding all night, open boxes looking for possible weapons. Jesus uses maple syrup as a “breadcrumb trail” so they can find a way out. Jesus briefs Carl on how to jump out and… Carl waves at him as he drives off. Jesus chuckles grimly and starts his run.
- In the back of the truck, Carl sees the yard Daryl saw back in “The Cell”, grabs a gun and prepares for his suicide mission. Because he is INSANELY lucky, Negan himself is coordinating the unloading of this truck.
- Carl kills two Saviours. He’s tackled by Dwight, who is still awful, and Negan complements Carl on his chutzpah. He asks him for a hand up and Daryl, horrified, watches Carl is apparently adopted by the worst man in the world…
- We see Negan, with Carl by his side, give a pep talk to a group of Saviours.
- Back at Alexandria, Eugene and Rosita are heading out. Eugene thinks they’re finding goods for Negan. Rosita has other ideas, even when Spencer and Father Gabriel show up. Spencer tries to talk Rosita into helping out. She’s having none of it, and takes Spencer’s willingness to collaborate down hard.
- Back at Sanctuary, Negan proceeds to show Carl his harem of wives, including Shelly. He, with typical good-natured intimidation, questions her about if another Saviour tried to buck their responsibilities. She buckles and admits that one of his other “wives” encouraged the man to buck his duties and “cheat” on Negan with him even though they were clearly involved. Negan intimidates her, “thanks” Shelly and makes a point to be kissing her when Dwight and Daryl come in. Daryl is holding a snack plate. Actual cheese on sticks snacks.
- Daryl tries to intercede and gets shut down. Negan tells Dwight to fire the furnace up and mentions how it’s time for a little deja vu.
- Back on the road, Aaron and Rick find a gate. Written on it is “KEEP GOING. ONLY THING HERE 4 U IS TROUBLE.”
- They have no choice and break in anyway.
- Spencer and Father Gabriel are driving along, foraging. Spencer admits he hates Rick and doesn’t feel he should be in charge. Father Gabriel states that Rick brought out the good in him. Spencer brings the outpost attack up and Gabriel shuts him down very, very gently. He walks off, unarmed, leaving Spencer alone with the car. Spencer almost goes back for him, then runs off into the woods looking for something. He finds a walker, chained to a tree blind, with a bow and arrow at its side.
- At Sanctuary, Negan chats to Carl to get to know him better. He has the young man take the eye bandage off and complements him on how badass he looks with the missing eye. Carl, visibly weeping, is subjected to Negan’s enthusiastic “compliments”. Negan apologises and seems sincere.
- Joe, one of Negan’s men, appears and explains Negan left Lucille by the truck. Negan jokes about how Carl must have distracted him and bullies Joe a little more before throwing him out. Negan decides that Rick hasn’t taught Carl how to relax and be a man and decides that’s something he’s going to do. He switches again and demands Carl sing him a song. Swinging Lucille, Negan strolls around the room as Carl coughsobs his way through, “You Are My Sunshine”.
- Negan gets Carl to talk about his mom’s death and, suitably impressed, takes him back to the furnace.
- Mark – the man with whom one of Negan’s wives “cheated” on him – is tied to a chair. Negan explains the rules, claiming he doesn’t want to do this, as he leads his men in a twisted call and response. Negan shifts fear from sadness to rage. We see Daryl realise this is what was done to Dwight. Crucially, we see Dwight realise Daryl’s put it together too.
- Dwight hands Negan an iron that’s been heated in the furnace. Negan “apologises” as Shelly comforts her compatriot.
- Negan puts the iron on Mark’s face and he screams, finally passing out from the agony.
- Negan reminds them all that the rules matter; he claims he never wants to do this again and leaves with Carl.
- Back at Spencer’s plot, he retrieves some rope from the car, ties off and brings the bow down . The Walker, caught in a harness, plummets to the ground, its arms severing as it goes and, presumably, damaging its head enough to kill it.
- Spencer checks the body, finds a note and smiles.
- Over at Eugene and Rosita, they break into the plant that Eugene and Abe found last season. Eugene tries to talk her down and Rosita cooks off on him. She tells him the only reason he’s alive is that he lied and people feel sorry for him. She also calls him a coward so, presumably, was asleep during the Horde assault on Alexandria last season which Eugene was part of.
- Eugene relents. He makes her a bullet.
- At Sanctuary, Dwight shares a cigarette with Shelly and tries to comfort her about selling out Mark and Amber. She denies she did that and they trade barbs. Dwight admits he barely sleeps.
- Back at Sanctuary, Negan refuses to let Carl re-wrap his eye. Carl confronts him, demanding to know why he hasn’t killed Rick, Daryl or himself. Negan responds that Daryl is close to breaking, Rick is finding him good stuff and he’s not decided on Carl yet. Negan asks if he should kill him, maim him or something else.
- Carl responds that Negan should jump out the window to save him the trouble of killing him. Carl calls him on EVERYTHING; that Negan knows nothing, that he can’t kill them. Negan chuckles and tells Carl it’s time to go for a ride, in a truck that Jesus has presumably been hiding on top of for a full day. Daryl tries to threaten Negan, Negan puts him in timeout and they drive off. Jesus has somehow disappeared.
- Later, Daryl is handed a note reading “GO NOW” and a key.
- Back at Michonne, she’s successfully put a barricade of Walkers across the road. A saviour truck appears, stops and a Saviour gets out. Michonne disarms her and tells her to take Michonne to Negan. They fight. Michonne wins.
- At Alexandria, Negan walks up on Olivia’s house with Carl. Olivia explains that Rick is out foraging and they’re practically starving. Negan, because the scriptwriters can’t seem to stop themselves, fat shames Olivia again. Because lols. We neither know nor care at this point.
- Negan apologises. And then propositions her. Incompetently. She slaps him.
- What follows is the deeply surreal sight of Negan being given the guided tour. He revels in the running water Alexandria has, takes his shoes off and goes full John Mclane on the carpet and… finds Judith.
- Meanwhile back at the… what… D-plot? Yeah let’s say D-plot, Rick and Aaron find a very large sign. It details the arms and supplies the house owner has. They believe everything they read which… well desperate times.
- And then they find out the truth; the man lived in a houseboat, in a reservoir.
- One crawling with Walkers.
- Meanwhile over at the C-plot, Rosita loads her bullet. She thanks Eugene, apologises and he shuts her down. She absolutely deserves it too.
- Improbably, they arrive back at the same time as Spencer. Who now has a car full of canned goods, medical supplies and flares from the hunter’s caches. He whistles.
- The gate opens.
- The saviour’s trucks have arrived.
- Negan, baby and Carl are on the porch and Negan is playing dad. He admits it may be stupid keeping Rick and Carl alive and toys with taking over as Juliet’s dad.
As an episode, this is almost non-functional. The only plot that sets up and resolves is the Carl and Negan one and the rest of the running time is taken up with scene-setting for the mid-season finale. It’s a chance to give people who’ve been horribly under-utilised some screen time and that’s good but it still feels a little like it’s marking time. Plus when this episode goes wrong it goes very, very wrong.
But the good news first. Chandler Riggs and Jeffrey Dean Morgan carry the episode and both do a fantastic job. We finally see Carl’s wounds this episode, and not just his physical ones. His confidence is shot, his sense of worth has gone with it and he’s looking for a heroic death. His plan, as other reviewers have criticised, is idiotic but that’s the point. Carl’s done, he’s looking for a way out.
Instead he gets Negan.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is always welcome on the screens of MyM Towers but Negan has been a wildly variable presence this year. One week he’s an understandable monster, the next he’s a panto villain. This week we get nuanced and there’s a real sense of the man’s emotional topography settling in now. Negan is very angry, is very spoiled and has no idea how to deal with people who stand up to him. This episode alone we see two people do it successfully and that’s a vital crack in the armour. Not just because it’s a weakness but because it makes him human. Negan believes his own hype but knows his own weaknesses. He CAN be beaten and this episode confirms it. Now the show needs to tell us how, and what the price will be, because there’s always a price.
Unfortunately in this episode that price is a record five subplots that are unresolved. Don’t believe us? Here’s the list:
- We have no idea if Jesus got anything useful from Alexandria.
- We have no idea who gave Daryl the key. We’re betting Dwight though. That chap’s face turn is definitely underway.
- Michonne spends the entire episode getting to the point where she starts travelling to Sanctuary.
- Rick and Aaron spend the entire episode hiking to the point where their plot will be next episode.
- We have no idea just how Rosita is going to get the chance to shoot Negan. Although at this point if she walks down the right street, she could just shoot him in the face on the porch.
This level of suspended gratification is an unfortunate side effect of serialised storytelling but it’s not been quite this bad before. There’s an inescapable feeling of the episode dancing in place and while it leads to some good character beats it still feels more than a little unfulfilling.
Worse, the episode gets very lazy a few times. We talk, in detail, about just how out of order the fat shaming is below but there’s also a sense of the whole thing being a bit of a retread. We don’t learn very much about Sanctuary or Negan but we sure spend a lot of time there. Rosita and Eugene return to the factory Eugene found with Abe and he’s sad about it. Rosita treats Eugene like he was at the top of last season, not the man he is now. Old, tired beats are wheeled out again and for a season this decompressed that’s a really bad plan.
Regardless, there’s a pair of rock solid performances at the heart of this episode and some fun stuff everywhere else. But, just like Spencer finds the note from the hunter, we find entirely too many plots ending in “See you next week” for our tastes.
- “You are ADORABLE. Did you pick that gun cos it looks cool?” This whole sequence is glorious but that line is the standout.
- “It’s like talking to a birthday present.” Again, genuine zinger from Negan.
- “Where’s Rick?”
“Dooooon’t caaaaareeeeee. Where’s Rick?” When Negan is written like a colossally pleased-with-himself sociopathic cat, like here, he’s magnificent.
- “Like to take it back to awkward silence now.” On the one hand, Rosita is understandably upset. On the other, she treats Eugene like crap this episode and deserves this.
- That opening image of Michonne is BADASS.
- Sanctuary is BIG. Like really big. It also looks slightly like a meat packing plant which is weirdly appropriate.
- The Negan/Shelly confrontation is quiet and vital to the show. She faces him down. He sees the woman she is, not the quiet trophy wife he expects and he doesn’t know what to do. So, he falls back on his usual ticks; smiling, complimenting their chutzpah and bowing out.
- Why does Spencer run into the woods? He’s supposed, we presume, to hear something but it still seems a hell of a Hail Mary pass.
- Why are the Saviours, who we are told weekly huge in number, not riding around in groups instead of easily-grabbed individuals?
- So Gabriel doesn’t have a single weapon on him, they’re at least a couple of miles out and… yeah.
- “The thing I can’t stop thinking is that maybe the only good thing that can happen for us now is he never makes it back.”
“What you’re saying doesn’t make you a sinner. It does make you a tremendous shit. Just for now. It doesn’t have to be terminal.” This is both great and highlights a major weakness hence it’s presence under Bad. Spencer has a point. Much like Mr Garibaldi in season four of Babylon 5, he’s the sole voice in the wilderness yelling, “BUT THIS GUY’S AN IDIOT!’ and honestly there’s some truth to it. But Gabriel does take him down in a very nice, very certain way.
- Hey, remember Carol and Morgan? No one else apparently does.
- The fat shaming is disgusting. It’s always been disgusting but this episode, when we get it three times? That’s enough. It’s past enough. This team of writers have demonstrated again and again that they can do genuinely brilliant work exploring the nature of evil. Fatshaming two separate characters isn’t evil. It’s cheap. It’s lazy. It’s pathetic. And for one of the biggest shows on the planet right now to be perpetuating a stereotype that has made people miserable for decades is beyond irresponsible. Lazy, stupid, banal writing. Grow the hell up.
- Writers Kang and Reed have both had solo episodes this year. Kang’s “The Cell” was excellent. Reed’s “Service” was not. Interesting to see how the plots they both handled evolve, largely for the better, here.
- Rosemary Rodriguez does great work on direction this week. She’s a veteran TV director and has worked on Third Watch, Castle, Rescue Me and many more.
Review by Alasdair Stuart