Sweet lord almighty. I haven’t seen a man emasculated like that since Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump. Help me count the ways. Negan took Rick’s guns; he threatened to rape a woman under Rick’s protection; he warned Rick not to so much as look at his former right-hand man, now one of Negan’s slaves; he got Rick’s son to behave himself when Rick couldn’t; he invaded Rick’s personal space repeatedly, getting right up in his face; he explicitly compared Rick’s subservience to him to fellatio; and then, oh right, he made Rick carry around his bat-wiener the entire time he was at Alexandria. I assume he also asked Rick to wash his jockstrap in a bath made of Rick’s own tears but that got cut for time. Then, to top it off, Rick had to confess to Michonne that he’s an actual “cuck” and that Judith isn’t really his daughter. It was an hour and a half of watching a man — a hero — get his balls stomped on repeatedly.
It was pretty great, I have to say. Although, from what I understand, this was all lifted more or less point by point from the comics. Maybe that explains why it was entertaining.
As much as I’m enjoying watching Jeffrey Dean Morgan chew scenery, I think Negan’s shtick needs to start evolving soon. We’ve established his supreme alpha-ness; this endless leather-jacketed cock-of-the-walk strutting around is starting to give off a campy “Fonzie of the apocalypse” vibe. Also, the show probably would have benefited if he had offed Olivia last night rather than give the gang a chance to find the missing guns. The downside of the blockbuster season opener is that you came away sensing that all of the killing-off of familiar characters was done for awhile. They whacked Abraham and then they whacked (sob) Glenn; they’re not whacking anyone else soon and we know it, which is why the threat to Olivia last night didn’t carry much menace. If Negan had killed her, it would have scrambled audience expectations that the Alexandrians were safe for awhile. Missed opportunity, but there’s always next week. Also: How does a canny, ruthless psychopath like Negan not realize that the gang is obviously lying to him when they tell him that Maggie died? He knew in his gut that there were two guns missing but didn’t know that the pretty pregnant wife of the guy whose head he bashed in is clearly being hidden somewhere? And on the flip side — Rick and the gang had the foresight to hide Maggie but not an RPG launcher? All they had to do was burn Olivia’s ledger and Negan wouldn’t have known how many guns there are.
There’s a bigger question, though. Why don’t the Alexandrians just leave? Hit the road. Pile into some cars and head west. It can’t be that the Saviors have so many men that they can afford to block all roads in the area at all times. Negan’s not going to follow them for hundreds of miles just to take revenge either. You can understand Rick’s trauma after watching what happened to Glenn, but his willingness to live in de facto slavery rather than to lead the group out into the freedom of the unknown is a weird choice that doesn’t square with his character. It’s a bit too obvious a plot contrivance, to keep him in tension with Negan and his bat-wiener, instead of being something that he might plausibly do. Maybe they should have devoted an extra hour to showing us Rick breaking down psychologically, like they did with Daryl last week, to sell us on his paralysis.
By the way: If you were as confused as I was last night about that smoking rubble that Michonne was staring at near the end (I stupidly thought it was some sort of wreckage), it turns out that those were the mattresses that the Saviors had seized from Alexandrians. Which, in hindsight, was a sharp, efficient insight into the character of the group. They didn’t seize the mattresses for their own use; they didn’t even destroy the mattresses in front of Rick and his group to intimidate them. They took them and destroyed them out of pure spite, as trivial and gratuitous as cruelty gets. That’s a fine, haunting detail in a show that usually paints in broad strokes.