In what has become a sad running joke, every time ‘The Walking Dead’ runs an extra-long episode, it feels like the same amount of actual content as usual with twice as many commercials. Never has that been truer than this week’s oversized 90-minute special, during which basically nothing at all happens.
It’s almost comical how little plot there is to recap this week. Here it is in a nutshell: Negan comes knocking at the Alexandria gates demanding half of everything inside, and then spends 90 minutes intimidating Rick. That’s pretty much it. Nobody dies in this episode. Nobody attacks anybody else. No significant action occurs. A handful of zombies get clubbed, sliced or stabbed, but nothing that impacts the story in any way.
Perhaps I’m making this sound like a huge waste of time. It’s not, but I see no reason why we needed an extra half-hour on it.
In what starts out as a quiet morning, Michonne slips out of her house, taking her katana and a rifle she’d kept hidden in the fireplace. Rick sees her leave but lets her go. She spends most of the day in a field in the middle of nowhere, practicing target shooting zombies. She’s not very good at it. Frustrated at her inability to kill one with the gun, she angrily has to resort to the sword. Afterwards, she finds a dead deer in the woods. Did she kill it with a stray bullet? I should hope she doesn’t plan to bring back meat that’d been chewed by zombies.
In Alexandria, the calm is shattered by the arrival of several trucks. Negan cockily struts up, demanding to be let in. He’s a few days earlier than he said he’d be and he doesn’t give a shit whether they’re ready for him or not. As a demonstration of his authority, he makes Rick hold Lucille, the bat he killed Glenn and Abraham with, and carry it around for him the entire day. He’s brought a crew of minions to load the trucks for him, including Daryl, but he won’t let Rick speak to him. When Rick mentions that they’ve set aside half their supplies, Negan chastises him. Only he decides what he’ll take, not Rick. He sends his people off to search all the houses.
Dwight demands that Rosita get him Daryl’s motorcycle. (I thought he was riding Daryl’s bike last week, but I guess that was just some other random motorcycle.) When she says that it’s not in the town, he guesses that she knows where it is. Dwight allows Rosita and Spencer to leave town to go fetch it, but takes their guns first. They drive a ways until they find it on the side of the road. Rosita goes running off into the woods chasing a zombie, and idiot Spencer nearly gets her killed shouting her name. Rosita has a brief struggle with several zombies, but kills them all with her knife. The point of this is that she saw a gun in one zombie’s belt. Unfortunately, its clip is empty.
When Negan asks Rick about Maggie, Father Gabriel interrupts. This leads to the funniest exchange in the episode as Negan howls about Gabriel being creepy as shit. Gabriel tells him that Maggie died, and even brings him to a fake grave he made for her. Negan is disappointed. Despite smashing her husband’s head in, he was pretty certain he’d get her into bed eventually.
Negan’s mood is really spoiled when a gunshot rings out. He and Rick head to the dispensary, where they find Carl holding a Savior at gunpoint, upset that he was taking all the medicine, not just half. Rick tries to tell Carl to back down, but Negan gets right up in his face and threatens to get very angry. After a moment, Carl surrenders the gun.
Negan tells Rick that they can’t be trusted to have guns, so he orders his people to clean out the entire armory and confiscate every gun in town. He’s impressed at finding the bazooka. However, when the armory inventory shows two pistols missing, Negan demands that they be found and brought to him immediately or he’ll have to harm Olivia, the quartermaster.
Rick gathers the townspeople in the church and implores them to turn over the missing guns. “I’m not in charge anymore,” he explains. When Eugene points out that not everyone is present, Rick realizes that Spencer probably took the guns. He searches his house until he finds a hidden stash of food, booze, and the two pistols. He turns them over to Negan.
Michonne returns to town just as the trucks pack up to leave. Rick makes her turn over her rifle, which wasn’t on the inventory, and gives it to Negan as an act of good faith. He also takes her deer. Rick asks if Daryl can be allowed to stay, since they’ve been so compliant. Negan laughs at the suggestion. He tells Rick that he’ll be back soon, and they better find something “interesting” for him or somebody else is gonna die.
Rosita and Spencer also return. Dwight takes Daryl’s motorcycle. Negan makes Rick say “Thank you” and hand back Lucille. Rick has to watch as Daryl is driven away with all their stuff.
Rick confronts Spencer about the guns, but says that he’s more upset about the food and liquor. He calls him weak. Spencer retorts that they should have made a deal with the Saviors earlier rather than attack them. He blames Rick for their current situation, and for Glenn and Abraham’s deaths.
Among the other things taken, Negan drove off with most of the mattresses in town. As Rick makes up a spot on the floor to sleep, he can tell that Michonne is disappointed at his passivity. He decides to tell her about Shane, and drops the bombshell that he “knows” that Judith is not really his daughter. Nonetheless, he’s all she has, and he needs to protect her. He tells Michonne that she needs to accept their current situation or it won’t work.
Michonne says that she’ll try, but the next day she heads back out to the field again. (Without a gun, I’m not sure what the point is, other than to get away for a while.) When she looks around, she sees something and heads toward it. She finds a big smoldering pile of all the town’s mattresses. They’d been dumped on the side of the road and set on fire. Negan didn’t take them because he wanted the mattresses. He just wanted to break their spirit.
Rosita had hidden her newly-found pistol in the wheel well of her car. In the final scene of the episode, she goes to Eugene and asks him to make her a bullet.
I get what the show-runners are doing here. After all the shock and horror of the season premiere, they want to show that Negan can still be threatening and scary even without killing anyone. His presence will loom over Rick’s group even when he’s not there. That’s all well and good, but that point comes across pretty quickly without needing to drag it out for an entire episode, and I see no reason at all why this episode needed to be longer than any other.