Sunday night's episode of The Walking Dead made some welcome changes but still failed to break away from the season's most irritating shenanigans.
In 'Sing Me A Song' the writers ditch the annoying habit of telling just one character or group of character's story, opting instead to give us several different subplots. This is great. Instead of just following Rosita and Eugene around for the entire episode, we also get Rick and Aaron, Spencer, Carl and Negan, Jesus and Michonne. Oh, and Daryl makes a couple of appearances.
To accommodate all these different plots, AMC lengthened the episode to a full hour (1.5 hours with commercials) instead of the typical 42 minutes. And as glad as I am that we didn't have to spend the entire episode with one or two characters, 'Sing Me A Song' in many ways ended up suffering from the opposite problem. There was simply too much going on in one episode and it all felt a little muddled.
While one or two or even three plots can be woven together pretty well, this was more like six or seven. On top of everyone else I listed, we even had scenes between Dwight and his ex-wife, Sherry. Dwight asks her how she sleeps at night, working for Negan the way she does. She asks how he sleeps at night. "I don't," he replies.
I still can't figure these two out. Sherry seems even more under Negan's thumb than Dwight, but that didn't seem to be the case in the episode with Daryl and Dwight a few weeks back. When she kisses Negan in front of Dwight, she seems to mean it. But maybe she just pretends well.
Rick and Aaron go out scavenging. Somebody named Leslie William Starton has written a warning sign outside of his camp. It lists off what weapons he has, how good he is with them (a "crack shot") and tells anyone reading it that he's warned them and will not feel bad about killing them, but if they've gotten this far into reading the sign and aren't dead then he probably is and they can "have at it, assholes."
They find a lake filled with zombies past the sign. The supplies they're looking for are at its center.
Michonne sets an ambush to capture one of the Saviors and have her take her to Negan. She does it the hard way, too, killing a couple dozen walkers and laying them out in the road on the off-chance that one of the Saviors drives through. That seems harder than using a log, but it's a good excuse to see Michonne be a badass. The more of Michonne being a badass we get, the better. The woman tries to escape at one point and Michonne shows her just how silly that idea is.
At one point Spencer is driving with Father Gabriel. The two debate Rick's leadership prowess, and Spencer says it would be a good thing if Rick never makes it back, which isn't such a terrible suggestion. Gabriel, however, is deeply offended (even though he once had very similar beliefs.)
"What you're saying doesn't make you a sinner, but it does make you a tremendous shit," he says. That's a pretty good line, and I wish I could agree with Gabriel about that. The priest leaves on foot and Spencer continues on his own.
He finds a zombie in a hunter's perch up in a tree who has a compound bow and a note in Latin that leads him to a buried treasure of supplies, which he plans to give to Negan since "that's what Rick wants." I don't like Spencer, but he's totally right about how bad Rick's leadership has been, and so far he's the only one who's been able to contribute anything to the cause.
Rosita and Eugene go to the place Eugene had planned to set up a bullet-making shop. Rosita, you'll recall, asked him to make her bullets in a past episode. Eugene decides he doesn't want to make bullets now that they're there, like a big baby. "Somebody has to pay the price," Eugene argues. Rosita has no patience for his arguments.
"You don't know anything, you don't do anything," she tells him. "You're a coward. You're weak. The only reason you're alive is because you lied and because people feel sorry for you. So for once, do something useful. Make me a bullet."
Later she apologizes, but he won't accept her apology. "I'd like to take it back to awkward silence now," he says. Then Spencer pulls up.
Jesus gets fooled by Carl into jumping out of the truck they're both hiding out in while Carl goes on ahead without him. The truck itself is kind of silly. The two were hiding in the back, but the only way they were able to hide like that was because the Saviors just pushed everything in there completely haphazardly. Then they left the back door open for the whole drive. Nothing is strapped down. I've worked enough shipping jobs to know that this isn't how it works. Just one of the many small details that The Walking Dead ignores that makes an episode feel less realistic.
In any case, we see Jesus later on the top of a truck that Negan and Carl are driving, but he's not there when they drive off after talking to Daryl. We do see Daryl looking up at the roof of the truck, but I'm not sure if he saw Jesus or not. Later, in his cell, someone passes him a note that says "go now" on it. Will he go?
Carl goes into the Saviors camp to find Negan. He shoots a couple bad guys but doesn't pull the trigger when Negan actually shows up. When he took the first guy down I was actually rooting for Carl, but when he got tackled moments later I could only shake my head. How could he be so careless and stupid? Was this really his plan? Caaaaaarl!!!!
This is the "A" plot of the episode, which makes sense since it's yet another episode that centers almost entirely on Negan. Negan bragging. Negan doing terrible things. Negan cracking jokes. Negan making Carl take his bandage off his eye and asking him if he can touch it---probably his creepiest moment so far. Negan showing Carl his harem of wives. Negan melting a guy's face off with an iron. Negan makes Carl sing a song for him while he swings Lucille around and talks about his bat like it's a sentient being.
I do think that Negan came off a little better as a villain this episode. My problem is that we've had so much of him this season that it's almost exhausting to listen to him now. If we hadn't spent so much time with him before this, we might be more curious about what he was like. We've just been force-fed so much Negan at this point he's lost much of the surprise and impact. The face-melting scene was pretty gross, though.
Later, Negan takes Carl back to Alexandria to meet with Rick who isn't there. He messes with the lady who watches the supplies and makes more fat jokes (and offers to sleep with her while he waits for Rick) and then takes a tour of Carl's house. Naturally, he finds Judith. That's legitimately scary, though I don't understand why Judith is always just hanging out by herself, not crying or anything. Seems odd.
Read More: The Top 10 Most Annoying Characters In Season 7 Of 'The Walking Dead'
Here's how I would change the episode. I'd cut it back to the normal 42 minutes---there's no reason to keep releasing these longer ones. I would have put some of the stories in today's episode in one of the previous ones instead. Rick and Aaron, for instance, could have been in last week's episode with Tara, since they never interact with any of the other story-lines.
Indeed, at least parts of Spencer, Eugene and Rosita's story could have been pushed back to the previous episode. Or Michonne. The point is, it's great to have episodes with multiple storylines, but there's also too much of a good thing. Breaking up the long episode with Tara and the Oceanside Amazons with other characters would have been nice, and could have allowed this episode to be less cluttered.
On a more positive note, Negan---while still over-played with too many lines---did have some better moments in "Sing Me A Song." The iron scene was gruesome; his discovery of Judith chilling. The talk of touching Carl's eye was just creepy evil. I still don't care for Negan that much. As a villain he's still more annoying than scary, but at least these were decent moments.
All told, I'm glad we got to follow more than one story and I'm glad to see that the wheels are turning and some more exciting, interesting stuff may be on the way for next week's midseason finale. I'm less happy that we've only gotten one Carol episode, one Maggie episode, one episode touching on King Ezekiel and the Kingdom. I'm miffed that we've spent more time with Tara than Morgan or Carol or Maggie or Sasha this episode. It's very puzzling.
And I still hate Carl's hair. Negan, do us a solid and shave the boy's head won't you? You keep saying he's a "badass" but he looks silly. He'd look way more cool with a shaved top.
So both good and bad this episode. There were some great, tense moments no doubt about it.
Still, as ratings fall, I can't believe that this show is still getting a 70% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. My reviews show up there, often as rotten green splotches surrounded by all these ripe, red tomatoes. I just don't understand how this mess of a season can receive glowing reviews from anyone outside of die-hard fanboys and fangirls. When an episode like tonight's is among the best so far, and nowhere near as good as the best episodes of the past couple seasons, it's time to stop reassuring the show's creators that all is fine and dandy. This show is all over the place right now, and I'm honestly not sure what can get it back on track, but saying everything's fine and great is pretty wrong-headed.
What did you think? Am I being too harsh? Does stuff happen in the comics that also happens on the TV show that totally justifies everything and makes me not a true fan? Should I stop watching if I don't like it? Am I being a mean bully who just obviously hates everyone and everything about the show?
Because I don't feel that way. I feel like this is a show I love with characters I care about and it's being strangled to death. That's how I feel.