Spencer Wright ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
With an extended 90-minute runtime, and being the first episode to showcase Alexandria following the events of the season seven premiere, episode four had a great opportunity to be one of the most emotionally gripping episodes yet. Though this season’s thematic plot of being under a new tyrant’s control was continued in a satisfying manner, it was the contrasting handling of the characters that led to mixed feelings in episode four. While The Walking Dead has excelled for years at developing its diverse assortment of apocalyptic survivors, the episode, titled “Service,” continues the legacy of exploring the depths of some of its characters and storylines while simultaneously failing to captivate with another, more two-dimensional character and storyline.
The episode, which revolved around Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors’ first visit to Alexandria following the harrowing season premiere, was interesting in its ability to showcase the most confounding aspect of the show currently: the juxtaposition of captivating and complex characters with uninteresting and stagnant characters. While half of the episode focused on the separate struggles of Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) to cope with the brutal murders of Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), the other half concentrated on Negan and his tormenting of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the other helpless Alexandrians.
With Rosita and Michonne, the audience is able to see how two of the fiercest fighters in the group are handling the loss of their loved ones, both in surprising and emotional ways. Rosita is especially intriguing: with so much of her personality left to be discovered, Rosita is able to showcase her intricacies as she harnesses her conflicted grief over a man who callously dumped her into aggression and an eagerness to fight. This arc, combined with Michonne’s reluctance to admit defeat in the face of their new enemy, provides captivating development of two powerful and absorbing characters- development which has defined the show for years.
However, this alluring development is lost amidst Negan’s storyline. In “Service,” that storyline primarily consisted of Negan holding, Olivia (Ann Mahoney), the gentle inventory clerk for Alexandria’s supplies, hostage while Rick frantically searched for two guns that were unaccounted for. While this style of storyline does not demand character development like Rosita’s or Michonne’s, it should command audience engagement and interest. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead, audiences are made to watch vaguely threatening monologue after monologue performed by a cartoonish Negan, which provides nothing to the show but tense interactions and stress-filled dialogue.
With the character of Negan, the writers rely too heavily on tension to maintain one of the many scenes he leads. However, just because a scene is stressful to viewers, does not make it interesting. Take the iconic “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” scene from the season six finale as an example: it was, of course, filled with loathsome stress for viewers, but that nervous feeling didn’t diminish the fact that the scene seemed to drag on, making the cliffhanger all the more frustrating. In order to make Negan a truly formidable foe—and make the scenes he carries feel equal to those of more-developed characters—the writers must craft a character that is more than just a sarcastic murderer with no complex motivations or traits.
Blessings and Afflictions:
Blessing: The opportunity to shine for all of the “background” Alexandrians! In a refreshing change of pace, the main conflict of the episode revolved around Olivia, a character who had only been given a handful of lines and scenes since her introduction in season five. In addition to Olivia’s growth were the fleeting yet exciting moments of dialogue for Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson), Scott (Kenric Green), and Tobin (Jason Douglas)—all of whom have been relegated to background glimpses in recent episodes. Though not crucial to the show, seeing other survivors still, well, surviving, is always nice.
Affliction: The small, but mighty, time-jump following the events of the season premiere. Of course, viewers can only handle so much grief and pain following the deaths of Glenn and Abraham in the first episode of season seven. However, getting to witness the reactions from characters like Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) or Enid (Katelyn Nacon) upon first hearing the horrific tale and seeing the gruesome remains would’ve been compelling to see, and would’ve allowed for incredible development of the survivors who stayed in Alexandria that fateful night.
Christian Serratos as Rosita
In terms of crucial characters on The Walking Dead, Rosita might not automatically come to mind. However, after tonight’s episode, that is about to change. Raging at Denise’s death, at Negan’s murders, and at Spencer’s foolishness, Christian Serratos embedded Rosita—a character with previously minimal development—with a tenacity that was both aggressive and terrified. With her former lover murdered in front of her, Rosita has forged a warpath against any who wrong her, and Serratos tackles the vengeance with genuine ferocity and fragility. Thank you, Saint Christian.