In “Service,” from season 7 of The Walking Dead, the community we know so well is tested yet again. This time it’s a somewhat different issue: Negan’s insistence on one-sided gun control as part of his demands that the Alexandria residents surrender. Yet again, the premise is simple: He threatens to kill them if they do not comply.
Negan gives Alexandrians more talk about how he’s actually being “fair,” and viewers should also remember that those slain by Negan were paying the price for Rick’s decision to murder Negan’s men at an outpost.
For many, this is pretty far from the most exciting episode of The Walking Dead. Personally, I see it as somewhat like the preparation scenes in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where Sarah Connor, her son, and the good guy Terminator are temporarily away from the action. By no means are those the most exciting moments, but they are relevant to the story.
In this case, we are getting a better idea of how Negan is able to dominate them and threaten their remaining supplies. In effect, they are supplying prisoners to the Saviors as opposed to being prisoners themselves.
The Walking Dead – Rick’s changing negotiation stance
Alexandria’s supplies are not completely gone, but Rick knows that such a danger is there. He also knows that if Negan initially agrees not to destroy them outright, he sees some value in them, and it could eventually be reciprocated in some way. Complying now not only allows them to survive while being outnumbered by the Saviors, but it lets him, and the Alexandrians bide their time to basically plot out their next moves (limited though they may be). In other words, this is not just about Rick’s relative weakness but also his ability to make the best out of a rotten situation.
At the same time, Rick does not seem entirely naïve about the virtues of compliance, either. He knows there are limits to that, too. Negan isn’t the type who surprises everyone by offering to share all of his resources with the community and let bygones be bygones. So, basically, you have the possibility that if Rick or anyone else objects too much too often, Negan can viciously attack, capture, and/or kill them. Sometimes you must negotiate from a position of vulnerability rather than strength.
How much power does Negan really have in this scenario?
Again, this is not the most exciting episode of The Walking Dead if you are looking simply for straight-up action. This is more about asserting power than some huge, immediate battle that continues throughout the night. Really, the action is more up to the viewer to imagine what could happen next, either in a future battle or in character development. Negan ultimately gains the upper hand without knocking Rick out, and we know that, hey, even if there are no guns, maybe in a future episode, Rick comes roaring back and kills Negan with a pipe.
Then again, this season is a little more complex than solving literally every issue by duking it out. A viewer gets the sense that, as season 7 progresses, it will likely be about how Alexandrians rekindle their relationships while being subverted by another “clan,” so to speak. Though Negan gained a brutal reputation for slaying prominent characters, it has been established that Daryl is taken to Negan’s home, the Sanctuary, with the intention of transforming him into a loyalist/slave. So he obviously does not just slaughter people without a perceived reason. There is some method to his brand of madness.
Don’t get me wrong, Negan is still cruel!
Looking back over what I’ve written here, I almost feel I am letting Negan off too easy. Well, that really is not my point, as he is still a fiend. This entire episode is basically Rick pleading with Negan to spare people’s lives, which certainly does not mean Negan’s just like Mr. Rogers.
Negan is still uninterested in running things in a more purely democratic fashion, which is placing everyone in greater jeopardy by creating instability and a seething resentment/lack of cohesion. We know he’s not against beating people to death, punching them in the face, or even severely disfiguring faces to get his point across, so you probably wouldn’t want this dirtbag babysitting your kids!
What are your thoughts on this episode of The Walking Dead? Let us know in the comments!