I hope we all appreciate that last night’s was a landmark episode. Not because it was number 100 but because “I hope you got your sh*ttin’ pants on because you are about to sh*t your pants” is the worst line of dialogue ever aired on American television. It’s not just that it’s a lame threat and stupidly tautological, it’s that it obviously would have been more effective if the second half of the line were cut. The only way I can justify the writers approving it is that they thought it perfectly summarizes Negan, a character they must hate writing by now as much as the audience hates watching him. Witless menace an inch deep: That’s our boy.
Let’s focus on the positive, though. The montage of the Grimes gang coolly assassinating the Saviors’ lookouts was snappy, and something the show would benefit from doing more often. Pacing has always been its weakest point. An action montage feels like a cool breeze. (Why hadn’t the Savior in the overgrown area already killed that zombie who was tethered to the pole, though? He was asking for trouble leaving it alive.) The games they’re playing with the timeline are interesting and ambitious too, and something they’ve already proved they can pull off to great effect. Re-watching last season’s finale, the way they set up Sasha’s death was one of the best things the show’s ever done. The episode opened with her in the dark, earbuds in, listening to music, with no explanation; bit by bit, over the next 90 minutes they filled in the details of where she was and why — a coffin, en route to Alexandria to be used as a bargaining chip by Negan, and in the throes of dying by suicide, a fact that wasn’t revealed until about an hour in. The revelation packed a wallop. They’re doing the same thing now (I think) with the mysterious cuts between Rick in the present, a future Rick who appears to be overcome with grief, and an even more future old-man Rick who’s somehow back in a placid Alexandria with Michonne, Carl, and little Judith. Best guess: One or more of those three characters will end up dead by season’s end, which explains why future Rick is grieving. And Grieving Rick is fantasizing about how things might have turned out if all of them had lived. The show practically comes with a guarantee now that a major character will be killed off in the season finale. It must be one of them and this is the foreshadowing.
Now, explain to me what was the point of the Alexandrians showing up on Negan’s doorstep to take him out, then having him saunter out right in front of them and not killing him on the spot. Earlier in the episode Rick offered his theory that Negan’s the glue holding the Saviors together: This is about one man, he tells Damien, to which Damien replies that it’s about one man on their side too. (Which is true. It’s always about Rick, to the show’s great detriment.) Rick himself has a clear shot at Negan and his lieutenants from close range for a good 10 minutes but he never takes it, preferring to banter inanely with him and, inexplicably, to give his deputies a chance to surrender. To make things extra stupid, he only finally begins shooting after giving Negan a countdown from 10 (which he abandons after he gets to seven, sure, but the countdown would have put Negan and his deputies on alert and got them ready to move). Then, after Negan and his gang dive out of the way, the Alexandrians began firing blindly en masse at the Sanctuary’s windows. Why? Ammo must be scarce and they’re facing a long war with the Saviors potentially. It makes no sense to dump that many bullets at a target without knowing that you’re hitting anyone.
This isn’t the first time Rick and Negan have had a comically drawn-out “I’m about to kill you but not just yet” exchange that lets one man escape, though. In the last episode, the season seven finale, Negan spent a good five to 10 minutes himself standing over a kneeling Rick and Carl, taunting Rick about how he was about to bash Carl’s head in and to smash both of Rick’s hands. Rick snarled defiantly that he was going to kill Negan someday and Negan spent another minute sneering at him before finally getting to the task of killing Carl — and wouldn’t you know it, at the last second, with the bat drawn back and aimed squarely at Carl’s head, Ezekiel’s tiger raced into the scene and distracted Negan. Is it worth expecting more from the show at this point than setting up increasingly stupid confrontation scenes between the hero and the villain where one clearly has the power to kill the other at any moment but squanders his advantage by talking too much? Watching that standoff last night, all I could think of was Dr. Evil’s son begging him to skip the overly elaborate Bond-style death scheme for Austin Powers for once and to kill him quickly before he escapes. Just shoot him! That was one of the best laughs in that movie. On “The Walking Dead,” that sort of thing happens every week now.