The Walking Dead: Sing Me A Song


“Sing Me a Song” is the penultimate episode of the “A” half of the seventh season of The Walking Dead.  It’s an extra-sized 90-minute episode which I think we all know has more to do with ad revenue than it does story-telling.  This episode doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know from the last over-sized episode.  Negan is a bad dude.  He puts on a smile and he never shuts up.  So far this season, we have probably spent more time listening to Negan prattle on than we have spent with any other character including Rick – the show’s de facto protagonist.  In “The Cell”, viewers got an extended look inside the Savior’s compound from the points of view of Dwight and Daryl.  This episode is more of the same as seen by a recently captured Carl.

When last we saw Carl, he was riding in the back of a supply truck with the intent – but no actual plan – to kill Negan.  To say this is a bad idea would be an understatement.  There is no chance of Carl completing his objective and he should know that.  This plot point is lifted directly from the comic book where it made a little more sense because comic book Carl is significantly younger than his TV counter-part played by an actor who is preparing to go to college.  Carl of the comics is, I don’t know, maybe 12.  You expect that sort of short-sighted thinking from a twelve-year-old.  It starts to look like stupidity coming from someone with a few more years of cognitive development.

In the comic, Negan takes a liking to Carl because for a kid his age, he’s such a badass.  Once again, the realities of having a 17-year-old Carl on the show changes the way this plays out.  Just last week, we heard that the Saviors killed every male in the Oceanside Community over the age of 10 in order to keep them from posing a threat.  Negan suddenly taking a nearly adult Carl under his wing makes less sense than him being impressed with the courage of a tween who traveled to his secret compound with murderous intent.  This Carl is more dumb than brave and he poses a more significant threat than in the original story.

We can wave some of that away with suspension of disbelief.  But it’s hard to justify Negan’s interest in Carl beyond his relationship with Rick.  Chandler Riggs doesn’t captivate.  The bulk of this ninety-minute episode hinges on us buying that Negan is so impressed with Carl that he exempts him from the kind of treatment he doles out to just about everyone else – including his own men.  After lecturing about the importance of rules and burning the face of an underling, it’s a little hard to swallow that Negan let’s Carl off with a song.

Much of the Carl-Negan exchange came directly from the source material.  To give you a sense of the shift in tone brought about by a more mature Carl, here are some panels from the comic book:


I don’t want to harp on this point too much because realistically, there’s nothing much the show can do at this point.  They took seven years to reach this part of the story and in that time the actor they cast as a child has grown up.  I suppose it would have been nice if they hadn’t padded out the narrative to this point.  But it is what it is.

The purpose of all of this is to humanize Negan a little bit.  We get some insight into how he keeps his people in line.  Perform well, and you are rewarded with fresh vegetables at dinner.  Break a rule, no matter how arbitrary, and he will press a hot iron into your face.  Of course the problem is that Negan is still such an unpredictable sadist that it’s nearly impossible to believe his own men wouldn’t rise up against him, but that is the nature of these characters.

Another problem is that Negan has basically shot his wad.  When we met him, he brutally killed Glenn and Abraham as a signal to the audience that he is a bigger threat than most of the show’s villains.  But Negan can’t go around killing major characters every episode.  So he has to find reasons to keep Carl, Rick and Daryl alive no matter how they defy him while punishing minor character like Henchman Mark and a character to be named later (probably in the midseason finale).

The truth is, for all his speechifying, Negan’s not special.  They just gave the Governor a little more bluster and a signature weapon.  But the end effect is basically the same.

Unlike most episodes this season, “Sing Me A Song” did cut away to advance a couple of B-plots.  Probably not the ones you were interested in.  (Hey writers, it’s been five weeks since we had an update on the Kingdom!!)  Instead, we see Rick and Aaron on a supply run, Spencer and Father Gabriel on a supply run, and Rosita shaming Eugene into making the bullet he already agreed to make last time we saw him.  Presumably, some of this stuff is going to pay off in the future.  But most of it – especially the scenes with Rosita and Eugene which took a step backwards just to end up in exactly the same spot – felt like padding to reach the 90 minute runtime.

Potential spoilers:  I have a bit more to say about Spencer and his criticisms of Rick, but I’m going to save that subject for next week as I think that will play into the midseason finale.  For now, I’ll just say we have seen what happens to people who criticize Rick on this show even when they are 100% right.


Posted on December 5, 2016, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I really wish I’d gone through the comic stuff in my own rundown as you have here. This morning, I started to check on the responses I was getting at various locales and the very first one I saw was from a guy criticizing me because the Carl scenario was taken straight from the comics. But, of course, Carl was both much younger in the comic–more like 10 than 12–and much more capable than Coral.

    I added a footnote this morning about what you’re opting to hold over until next week. Rick, particularly under Gimple’s direction, has always been a terrible, terrible leader–a weak moron who almost always makes the wrong decision and gets people killed. The question of why anyone would follow him looms large over the entire TWD narrative. To get around it, the writers have the other characters speak of him in glowing terms, as Gabriel did here–in typical TWD fashion, trying to do an end-run around their own work. “Tell, Don’t Show,” instead of “Show, Don’t Tell.” Those who criticize Rick, on the other hand, tend not to last very long. Last year, this got to be like a running joke, in that it caused almost instant death. Perhaps Spencer will meet his comic end sooner than later.

    I think this ep incorporated half of what was originally supposed to be next week’s ep. I don’t have any info on it but it just ends right in the middle of the story and I’m guessing that’s because it was originally a one-hour ep that concluded on a different beat–probably Negan packing up to take Coral back home.


    • I read your review and I’m inclined to agree that the episode break is odd. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the original intent was to have a two hour finale with this episode being an hour long. Or maybe the finale was going to be 90 minutes and this one got puffed up too after the fact. But it wasn’t a natural story break, that’s for sure. If you’re going to do an extra-size episode it should build up to something more climatic than what we got here. I agree, the natural place to end this episode was when Negan and Carl changed locations. That or when Rick returns.

      We’ve talked before about the way the show deals with Rick’s leadership. Last season, they were hitting that note with a sledgehammer. If anyone thinks it will play out differently for Spencer than it has every other character to date, they haven’t been paying attention. But more on that next week as I suspect it will take up a chunk of the finale.

      I am giving them a small pass on the Carl thing because some of it is beyond their control. Having said that, the story could have been adapted to make it work better for a more mature Carl. If they had given him an actual plan that made sense, he still could have been captured and not looked like such an idiot in the process. But then, TWD has never worried about Stupid Character Syndrome, so why start with Carl.


      • It may have just been a money-grubbing change–make two 90-minute eps instead of one hour-long one plus a 90-minute one (I doubt they’d be planning a two-hour ep, as they’ve never done that before). I don’t watch Talking Dead anymore but I sort of wish I had this week–maybe someone would have said something about it. Maybe someone will next week. I think it probably originally ended with Negan going to the safe zone–that’s the logical break, him driving off with Coral to an unknown fate–and then they’d do a whole ep of him at the zone waiting for Rick to return while the Rick stuff played out. I’d have to watch it again to be more specific but I’m not going to do that. Maybe I’ll look at that part of it again though. Whenever something like that happens, the seams are usually pretty easy to spot.

        One of the show’s longstanding problems (and another we’ve discussed more than once) is that it pillages material from the comics while entirely removing the context that, in those comics, made those moments make sense. The business with Coral is just another example of this.

        It wouldn’t be TWD if it didn’t have all the subtlety of a jackhammer. I think something will happen next week that will set Rick on the path of opposing Negan. Maybe that’s even how the ep–the midseason finale–will end, with Rick giving one of those patented TWD speech about how they’ll overtly play along for now but they’re secretly a’ gonna’ be workin’ against Negan fer however long it takes. “We survive everything. We’ll survive this!”


  2. What stopped Carl from killing Negan when he had him dead to rights? Like you said, his entire intent was to do this, so what are we supposed to believe the reason is for staying his trigger finger? Carl’s not quite cold-blooded enough? Negan’s bigger-than-life charisma simply too awesome? Whatever, we all know he couldn’t shoot so that the story arc could continue but as usual, they don’t bother giving us an actual reason for it. That requires an idea. From a writer. Who works on TWD….

    Then there’s the one bullet. One. Other than Eugene, we haven’t seen anyone with any inclination towards loading their own ammunition, so even assuming that live ammo is that hard to find… in the USA…. after an apocalypse where what, 99% of the population has died off… we are also supposed to believe that essentially, no casings are laying around anywhere after most of the now-ultra-scarce ammo has been used up?

    And if Eugene is making a batch of gunpowder for one bullet, why not use the rest to fabricate, I don’t know… a bomb?

    Obviously, this is setting everything up for a really tense scene somewhere down the road where everything hinges on taking that one shot, all the chips on the table, do or die… oh, the suspense…. etc…. but as usual, nothing even remotely feasible is given as a reason for WHY it is only one bullet.

    Zombies are real.

    They write for this show.


    • If I remember correctly, in the comics, Eugene actually starts manufacturing bullets in bulk. This wasn’t a major plot point. It basically established Eugene’s value to the community after Abraham died. He told Rick he could do it and then we’d check in every now and then to confirm that yes, Eugene was making bullets. It did factor into some later plot development that I won’t spoil here, but it’s wasn’t some big major thing. I suspect the “single bullet” focus here is more of a way to pad out something that was never really a storyline in the first place. But who knows.

      I think JRiddle uses the term “plot armor” to describe the way in which certain characters are protected from the consequences of theiw actions. Rick and Carl have it. For now, so does Negan. I also ran across and observation that Rick Grimes and son both manage to be praised despite doing nothing to deserve the accolades. It is seriously a mystery what Negan sees in Carl or why Father Gabriel imagines Rick as a great leader.


    • It can’t be that Coral isn’t cold-blooded enough–he’d just murdered the guy in the truck seconds earlier. How hard would it be to, I don’t know, make the gun jam or something? Or better yet, write a better scenario so that Coral wasn’t in that position in the first place.

      Eugene only made a single bullet (which doesn’t make any sense at all) because that single bullet is going to be used for something later.


      • Riddle- I agree with the premise that Carl is a cold-blooded killer; sarcasm is sometimes lost when it comes to the written word… my bad. And yes, why even introduce the gun in the first place when it results in such a moronic scene completely lacking credibility and logic? As usual, all this could be avoided with good ‘ole competent writing, but that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon…

        lebeau: the entire ammunition scenario; with a factory at his disposal, Eugene should have been a one man bullet factory since the day they discovered it, as ammunition would pretty much be bona fide currency in such a post-apocalyptic world, so naturally, nothing is done on the matter, as the characters are much too busy running around Creation acting as idiotic as possible.

        And while we’re on this, where the hell are the .22s? I’m pretty sure it is the most mass-produced firearm caliber around, lightweight, relatively quiet, zombie-effective…etc…. and while I’ve seen NOBODY use one, (See: idiotic) we are left to believe that there are no .22 ammo anywhere as well…. oh well, at least gasoline never goes bad….


        • The sarcasm wasn’t lost on me; I was just having a moment. Spent a lot of time off and on today replying to comments on the show.

          And Lebeau, that has just reinforced my thought that I should have gone into the differences between what happened last night and what happened in the comic. A lot of viewers are offering hostile words toward the ep for the whole Coral scenario and those looking to defend the series are responding by asserting that this came directly out of the comic. That’s only superficially true though. That crucial context–Carl being a small child–is missing. You instincts on this were right.


        • By this point, we have both made the context argument so many times it almost goes without saying. The show often lifts directly from the source material. But even when it does, the context around the events have changed so that certain elements no longer make sense. With Carl, who isn’t the same age as he was in the comics, you have to account for that. You can’t just recreate his story panel for panel because he’s not the same character. A 17 year old and a 10-12 year old do not behave the same way. But the writers on TWD aren’t concerned about such trivial matters.


  3. I don’t know if things are different this year, or if I’m just noticing it more but nearly every episode this season boils down to “one or more of the cast members does something really stupid, giving us this week’s plot”. Carl in the truck, Rick & Darryl in the season opener, Darryl trying to escape, most everything Tara did last episode, etc. Without stupidity there is no story.

    As for Carl, I strongly suspect we are only 3-4 years since the show began. I remember around the time they found Alexandria they said it had been 2 years. Plus that baby is maybe a year old? So I think we are supposed to believe Carl is 13 or so. That is young enough to fit with what happens in this episode, it just looks ridiculous when being played by someone who’ll be an adult in real life in 6 months.


    • They can’t really expect us to believe Carl is 13, right? Time and space have always been wonky on TWD. They intentionally leave these things vague so as not to be caught in mistakes. But really, it just makes everything muddy. We should have some idea how much time has passed or where things exist in relationship to each other. TWD never makes the effort.

      I don’t think stupidity is anything new on the show. But this season’s structure of mostly self-contained episodes (also not new, but very pronounced this year) highlights the individual stupidity.


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