The Walking Dead’s clearest goal right now needs to be the development of Negan’s character. For the most part, the introduction of Negan was supposed to be the jolt of adrenaline that revived The Walking Dead, giving it energy that was to propel it through its seventh season. Instead, Negan has been the season’s weak link, mostly swaggering through each scene he’s in with awful Kirkland-esque dialogue and no real personality to speak of. If attention is going to be diverted away from Rick, if main characters like Abraham and Glenn are going to be purged (and Abraham, if you remember, had a fantastic episode in Season 5), if the main cast is going to split up, there had better be enough intrigue to fill the void.
Well…Negan hasn’t really done that. “Sing Me a Song” gives us a little more insight into the man behind the bat, showing us how he punishes people, how rules are abided by and broken at The Sanctuary, how his psyche informs his actions. And even if the improvement on Negan is really just marginal, just a small amount, it can hopefully evolve into something more interesting. The episode focuses on Carl as he assaults the Savior base, taking out two of Negan’s men before being captured and tormented by Negan. The Carl/Negan interactions are the most fascinating part of the episode, with Negan finding himself fascinated by Carl’s injury, sadistic in the way he treats him, but also sympathetic, likely because of the similarities he sees between himself and Carl.
Carl is a character that could really benefit from further definition. This episode does a great job showing us how far he’s come, how he doesn’t care about murdering Negan’s men in cold blood, and comparing him to Negan is a fascinating way to show us how darkened Carl has become. Negan is a character that brings the worst out of people, whether it’s fear, self-loathing, or anger. Carl has always been an angry kid, more now that he’s seen so much violence, but that anger is fueled through a sense of morality. Carl wants to use violence as a tool to achieve some sense of justice, even if that justice is filtered through his own rage. If The Walking Dead discussed this idea more, it would invigorate Carl’s character far beyond his depiction now. The same goes for Carl’s juxtaposition with Rick. While Rick has been in the background for much of the season, it’s clear that Carl is reacting in a more aggressive, militant manner to Negan’s rule than Rick. And it’s worth noting how Negan reacts to each of those reactions, as he looks at Carl with respect while he looks at Rick like he’s a dog to do his bidding.
The rest of the episode is rather bland and long, another extended episode that stretches out far longer than it should. Much of it is buildup, such as Spencer’s irritation at Rick’s leadership, Rosita and Eugene creating “the bullet”, and Rick and Aaron going on a supply run. None of that does much to develop any of the characters or really add much intrigue into the narrative, though, at the very least, it begins to comment on the frustration at leadership in the Alexandria community. Rick has essentially abandoned any notion of rebellion, and that has people frustrated, either looking to oust him or subtly rebel against Negan. It shows how people refuse to live under unfair authoritarian regimes, and that they’re not going to simply lay down without a fight.
“Sing Me a Song” wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t really interesting enough to invigorate the narrative and raise the tension before the mid-season finale. That said, it is great to see Negan in a new light, and it is great to see Carl’s character complicated by the juxtaposition with Negan. Now that Negan is in Alexandria, now that The Saviors and Alexandrians are primed for a showdown, we’ll see if this connection between Carl and Negan does anything to complicate such a showdown.
What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments!