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The Walking Dead: Service

twd-service

Boy, that sure didn’t take long.  When The Walking Dead finally introduced the charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the villain Negan, it gave the show a much-needed jolt of energy.  By this point in the show’s long run, our main cast has encountered so many malicious groups that they have all become kind of faceless.  Morgan’s confident, sneering strut was at least memorable.  But after less than a handful of appearances, Negan’s already worn out his welcome.

The last time we saw Rick, he had been humbled by Negan and his men.  After killing Glenn and Abraham brutally, Negan nearly forced Rick to cut his son’s hand off.  For the audience, this all happened three weeks ago, but for the characters on the show mere days have passed.  As promised, Negan has come to Alexandria to collect half of their belongings.  “Half” is a relative term where Negan is concerned.  He’ll take what he wants and call it half.

The entire episode – which has been stretched needlessly to 90 minutes – consists of Negan rubbing his power in Rick’s face.  When someone else defies Negan, Rick intervenes and gets them to tow the line.  The entire extra-long episode is intended to drive home the point that Rick has been broken.  He denounces his own leadership and weakly does Negan’s bidding.  The season premiere made this same point for the duration of its hour-long run time three weeks ago.

Viewers are being asked to believe that Negan and the Saviors are completely different from every other human threat we have seen on the show so far.  But the thing is, they are not.  This being a television show, we know that Negan will not remain unopposed indefinitely.  That’s not how serialized narratives work.  We’re being told that this time it’s different, but no matter how much Morgan preens and sneers, we know better.

Remember last season when Rick and his gang repeatedly embarrassed the Saviors every time they encountered them?  Now we’re suddenly supposed to believe that this same group that seemed so inept last season is an unstoppable force and that submission is the only possible response.  But just as quickly as the Saviors were transformed from inept losers into dominating bullies, their fates will turn again when the plot demands it.

At this point, I’m going to address the elephant in the room.  It’s hard not to see the parallels between this episode and the current political situation.  Whether you believe it or not, a lot of people view our president elect as a charismatic bully not that far removed from Negan.  Watching him lord his position over Rick and the citizens of Alexandria echos the despair a lot of people felt following last week’s shocking election results.  As in the real world, there are small and seemingly futile attempts at defiance that will probably grow in intensity.

I realize some readers are going to reject this comparison.  Obviously, the creative team behind The Walking Dead had no idea when they made this episode of any real world comparisons.  The character of Negan was created for the comic book long before the 2016 presidential election ever played out.  But watching the episode at this specific period in time, it was impossible for me not to make the connection.  It probably didn’t help that the episode itself was so thin that I was also debating current events on Facebook while I was watching the show.

There wasn’t a whole lot else to draw viewers in.  Michonne has fully taken over Andrea’s storyline from the comic book in that she is involved with Rick and training to be a sharpshooter.  Rosita is attempting to build a secret cache of weapons with Eugene forging ammo.  Father Gabriel is unnaturally optimistic in the face of unending gloom.  And Rick, for reasons that are only known to the writers, tells Michonne that Judith is not his biological daughter.

This reveal is a real headscratcher.  For one thing, it has absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand.  It seems to have been shoehorned in to give viewers something to talk about.  But while there has always been reason to doubt Judith’s parentage, unless he’s found Maury Povich in the apocalypse, Rick cannot be certain one way or another.  Either way, it’s a moot point.  Shane is dead and Rick is the only father Judith will ever have.

With seasons of The Walking Dead split in two, we’re now halfway through the “A” half of the season.  So far, the show has done a bit of world building while hitting the same hopeless note over and over again often within the same episode.  It’s time to move on because this is getting terribly tedious.

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Posted on November 14, 2016, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. The Trump parallels are obvious but I’ve been reluctant to drag it into my TWD stuff. Besides the fact that I talk about that quite enough elsewhere, it’s also the case that it makes TWD look very in-the-now and topical, when, in reality, it’s just a coincidence. Other viewers have been commenting today on the Alexandrians’ stupid gun manifest and noting Clinton’s support for gun registration. Again, this is making TWD way too clever by half. TV TWD doesn’t have anything to say about the real world. Or anything to say at all.

    One of my readers came up with a good comparison regarding Negan; he’s like a more sadistic version of an Adam West Batman villain. It’s dinner at camp–ham and cheese with corn on the side. I didn’t bother with the Shane stuff–it’s just more soap and isn’t supposed to make any sense beyond filling the usual melodrama quotient. TWD has now taken 4 1/2 hours to tell a story that any competently-written series would have told in one.

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    • Yeah, I’ve been real reluctant to open the can of worms. The comparisons are obviously coincidence, but dang if they weren’t on my mind. If the episode had been more compelling, I probably wouldn’t have been thinking so much about current events.

      The Judith bit was just so utterly random. And then on Talking Dead, they had one of those prerecorded interviews with Andrew Lincoln saying how Scott Gimple called him before shooting to let him know the reveal was coming. It just cements to me that this was done in order to have some kind of revelation. But 1, Rick wouldn’t know anything for sure and 2, it doesn’t matter even a little bit. As a big moment, it just falls flat.

      The episode’s two biggest problems were that it was too long and too repetitive. Pretty much every time Negan appears, the show hits the same single beat over and over and over again. Whatever entertainment value was to be had has long since been drained from the character. It’s time to move on, but I don’t think they have anywhere to go from here.

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  2. Bill Maher recently posted some fan art of Negan with Lucille over his shoulder, ‘Make America Great Again’ cap on head and ‘I voted’ sticker on his jacket. That shit was just a little too real for me.

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  3. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been the best thing on this show for a long time so Negan hasn’t worn out his welcome for me, but I can see that happening before long because he’s been overused. It makes me wonder if he’ll last the season or not. Because if he does then they’ll have to drag things out as you can already see the framework of how it will end, You really could wrap it up by the mid season finale without it being rushed. TWD is great at padding though.

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    • Well… like I said before, don’t expect Negan to be easily vanquished. Not this season and maybe never. Mild spoilers follow…

      Negan lives a long life in the comic book. After 60 issues, he is still alive.

      In the comic, there were years of stories in which a plan would be hatched to oppose Negan, the plan would fail, Rick would be taught a lesson, he would go back to doing what he was told, form a new plan, that plan would fail, rinse, wash, repeat. Until eventually the cycle was broken. But even then, Negan wasn’t vanquished.

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      • Heh, well, the show certainly loves having Rick flip flop between angry warrior/dictator and sad sack that only wants peace. So I guess they could do that for years

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      • I am not among those who hate on the acting of Chandler Riggs. He isn’t the best child actor I’ve ever seen, but he’s no Angus T. Young, either. However, as he’ll be attending Auburn University soon, his long term priorities may change in the near future and he may not want to be a focal character on the show in coming years.

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        • That’s a good point. In the comics, Carl is still around 10 or 11 years old at this point. The real world is intruding. It will be interesting to see how the show accommodates that.

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  4. Negan is able to wield absolute over every member of his group of cutthroat marauders because he’s constantly rubbing everyone’s nose in crap every chance he gets. As we all know, this instills fierce loyalty. And should anyone even entertain the thought of assassinating Negan and taking over control of an already established and functioning racket, they soon remember that even though they have firearms at their disposal, Negan has a baseball bat. Wrapped in barbwire. Can’t beat that.

    It’s pretty much fitting that JDM portrays this character in such a pathetic, 2 dimentional cartoon-like manner, (the 60s Batman TV show villain comparison nails it), as the ridiculous premise and plotting used in TWD is that of such fare.

    Except ‘Batman’ didn’t try to come across as a great dramatic masterpiece.

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    • With the Governor, it reached a point where you asked “Why would anyone follow this guy?” Negan is starting off way past that point.

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      • Agreed. But at least with the Governor, there were some different facets to his character. For instance, he would present his phony ‘they’re the bad guys, we’re the good guys’ spiel to his non-thug people as a means of manipulating them to do his bidding. Desperate for stability, there was at least a somewhat believable reason for his group to follow his wishes.

        With Negan, suspension of disbelief is impossible to anyone with a modicum of common sense. Luckily for the show, this poses no problem whatsoever when it comes to the many stalwart fans of TWD. Also explains the hell out of Trump being President Elect. But I digress…

        While I’m at it, regarding Judith’s parentage, wasn’t Rick in a coma for what, a couple of months? If so, simple math and the human gestation period would pretty much conclude he wasn’t the father. I mean, unless Lori had a thing for conjugal visits with comatose constables that is….

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        • The timeline on TWD makes my head spin. I forget the details on Rick’s coma and how it relates to Judith’s parentage. I prefer the way it was handled in the comics where it was left as an open question with most everyone just kind of assuming she was Shane’s. Really, why would anyone care? Of course in the comics, Judith died along with her mother. Neither one died during childbirth. They were killed by the Governor’s people while fleeing the prison. But that’s a whole other debacle.

          Negan was a one-note character in the comics. I wasn’t a fan. His arrival signaled the comic book’s decline. But on the show, we’re spending so much time around him that whatever appeal he had is wearing thin.

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        • “wasn’t Rick in a coma for what, a couple of months? If so, simple math and the human gestation period would pretty much conclude he wasn’t the father.”

          TWD’s timeline is incredibly screwed up. Both Robert Kirkman and Glen Mazzara (back when the latter was showrunner) went on record as saying Rick was in a coma for “3-4 weeks,” but every piece of info we get contradicts it. Rick still had an open wound when he awakened, one that had to be kept covered, and he was still able to not only walk but perform complex mechanical activities like riding a bicycle. This suggests a coma of two weeks or less–flesh knits. But a few days after he awakened, the guy at the CDC had the zombie outbreak going on for months. When the group encountered that traffic snarl in season 2, there were mummified bodies in the cars–corpses that had obviously been out there for many months, if not years, and that was less than a month after zombie-ism would have started. One of the non-canonical webisode series had Rick in a coma for many months, which is entirely impossible. Then the next year, Kirkman and the showrunner for FEAR THE WALKING DEAD said Rick had been in a coma for about 5 weeks.

          The all-but-open secret here is that the TWD writers never created that most basic element of competent narrative construction: a timeline. Going by the Rick timeline–the nowhere-to-run-or-hide, nailed-down period in which we’ve followed Rick on camera–Lori’s use of a pregnancy test in season 2 wouldn’t have yielded any results because it hadn’t even been close to long enough since ANY relevant sex had happened for her to get a positive on such a test.

          I’ve written about this–the TWD timeline–quite a lot over the years and have three articles entirely devoted to it:
          http://cinemarchaeologist.blogspot.com/2012/03/walking-dead-9.html
          http://cinemarchaeologist.blogspot.com/2013/03/walking-dead-26.html
          http://cinemarchaeologist.blogspot.com/2014/08/walking-dead-47.html

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        • Thanks, JRiddle. I was hoping you’d chime in as the internet’s resident expert on TWD’s screwed up timeline. Nice chatting with you yesterday!

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        • “Going by the Rick timeline–the nowhere-to-run-or-hide, nailed-down period in which we’ve followed Rick on camera–Lori’s use of a pregnancy test in season 2 wouldn’t have yielded any results because it hadn’t even been close to long enough since ANY relevant sex had happened for her to get a positive on such a test.”

          Unless she conceived with Rick before his coma. But I’m not going to start dissecting the entire timeline of the series here, what would be the point? All I’m saying, is that if there’s a month of coma (which is apparently the case), then Rick could easily determine he wasn’t the father. That’s the point I was making.

          Thanks for the links though… it’s nice to see just how poorly contrived this joke of a show actually is…

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        • JRiddle’s write-ups on The Dig are essential reading. He skewers the show much more accurately than I do. Frankly, I can’t keep all that shit straight. The episodes and seasons all run together and I’m not going back to rewatch them.

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  5. Hey, I agree completely that trying to apply logic and reasoning to anything having to do with TWD’s story and/or plot is like expecting a backed-up sewer not to stink. But the issue here was whether or not Rick had any means at all to determine for certain, in reality, who fathered Judith. I’d say there is, but as you suggest, it’s a moot point since it’s a non-issue anyway, and just thrown out in the last episode to try and create a Twitter/media buzz to keep the sheeple on board. Think of a cat and a laser pointer.

    As for Negan, why would they hire an actor like JDM to play such a flat, cliched cheeseclown character when basically, a caterer or a stage carpenter could have easily pulled it off? Maybe they were afraid the money would have gone to a competent writer or something instead…

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