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The Walking Dead - Sing Me a Song - Review



The Walking Dead “Sing Me a Song” was written by the team of Angela Kang and Corey Reed and was directed by Rosemary Rodriguez, whose long list of credits includes The Good Wife, Empire, and Criminal Minds. Fans of the comic will no doubt be pretty pumped about how much of Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) story made it to their television screen. Once again both Riggs and Morgan turn in amazing performances, and it’s a treat to see these two actors absolutely nail their scenes together. This super-sized episode also follows a number of different storylines.

The episode begins with Michonne (Danai Gurira) walking down the road – past the burnt mattresses which so angered her. She seems to be following a reasonably fresh trail of some kind of fluid? From Negan’s vehicles maybe? Is she on reconnaissance? I loved her whistling as she walks down the road, luring out the walkers and then casually killing them.

        We see that she has a walkie-talkie with her – and the next shot shows Rick (Andrew Lincoln) waking up and immediately looking at his own walkie-talkie. Have the two got something planned? And if they do, would it have been better to tell Carl to prevent him going after Negan? It's nice symbolism to have the bloody katana pointing right at the walkie-talkie.

Aaron (Ross Marchand) is with Rick and asks him what time it is. It’s just past 5:30, so very early. Rick keeping track of time is an important symbol in the show – I’m thinking of Hershel’s watch, but more significantly when Carol (Melissa McBride) gives Rick her watch – and then finds it again in Terminus. Time pieces are often a symbol of community and the group working together.

There’s a beautiful transition from Aaron looking out the back of their truck and saying, we didn’t see that last night and the shot of the road in the mirror that takes us back to Negan’s truck and Carl and Jesus (Tom Payne) stowed away. Negan’s men seem to be discussing the herd that they’ve been waiting all night to pass by them. It seems Fat Joey (Joshua Hoover) is somehow involved in either manipulating where the herd is or taking it out – their conversations wasn’t very clear – dropping hints at things to come perhaps? I loved when the one remarks “Thank Christ” when they’re ready to get going again – because Jesus IS in the back of their truck!

Jesus sabotages some of the boxes – most notably the box with Gregory’s (Xander Berkley) scotch in it. Carl is also hunting around in the boxes – but he’s looking for a gun. Jesus uses syrup to leave a trail and is ready to jump out. His mission was to find where Negan lived. He tells Carl to just roll with the fall – you only hurt yourself when you try to resist it. And isn’t that a metaphor for dealing with Negan? It’s what Rick is trying to do to avoid anyone else being killed – at least on the surface.

        But Carl’s mission is to kill Negan – he’s not getting off. He tries to tell Jesus he’s not coming, but then fakes him out by telling him to show him first. Jesus and Carl are fundamentally different – Jesus has a pretty strong self-preservation instinct while Carl has already faced too much violence in his short life not to have been affected by it. He may not have a death wish, but he isn’t afraid of death either. His wave to Jesus from the back of the truck as it continues on its way is hilarious.

Carl doesn’t hesitate to start shooting as soon as he’s discovered, but he tells them that he only wants Negan – no one else needs to die – and he wants him because he killed his friends. Carl might be more violent and proactive than your average teenager, but he does still have some sense of justice. While we’ve already heard Negan’s voice as the truck began being unloaded, he announces his presence here with his signature whistle – it’s unnerving and incongruous. And it also reminds me of Michonne’s whistling at the beginning of the episode. Let’s never forget just how violent she can be.

It is curious that Carl doesn’t just start shooting when Negan appears. Granted, Negan enters from Carl’s blind side and keeps his men mostly in front of him, even pulling one directly in front to act as a human shield (and the guy loses his life for that). He tells Carl he’s adorable – and that Carl scares the shit out of him. He also guesses correctly that Carl chose the rifle he did because it looks cool – and that little identification intrigues Carl – but he does finally shoot, only to have Dwight (Austin Amelio) take him down while he’s distracted shooting.

Dwight is prepared to shoot Carl, and Daryl (Norman Reedus) is suddenly right there at the gate to the walker fence. In fact, he’s so intent on what’s happening with Carl that he almost gets bitten. Negan, meanwhile, offers Carl his hand to get up and offers to show him around. Carl just stares at him, and Negan remarks that he has the same stink-eye stare as Rick.

Riggs is just fantastic in this scene as you see so many emotions run across his face. He clearly hates Negan and still wants to kill him, but he doesn’t get what is going on with Negan – why is he offering his hand to him? But it’s clear that Negan is a master manipulator and a prick. He comments that Carl’s deadman stare is only half as good as Rick’s because Carl only has one eye – and that’s a clear hit – he clearly hits a sensitive spot for Carl. And Negan is a master manipulator because he knows what motivates people.

He asks Carl if he’s really not going to take his hand – and reminds Carl that he’s lucky he even has a hand. After all, Negan only stopped Rick from chopping it off at the last moment – and let’s not forget that Carl was prepared to lose it to save the others. Negan then turns to Daryl and asks how the new job is going – “is it hot enough for ya?” Is that why they make them wear jogging suits? To make it even more uncomfortable? Of course, it’s also “hot” with danger and walkers – and the jogging suits have to provide at least some protection from scratches.

But then Negan remarks it would be an even tougher job if Daryl only had one arm – it’s a nice veiled threat to Carl. And it works. Carl isn’t happy but realizes he has no choice. He takes Negan’s hand – and he puts his hat back on. And the hat is another important symbol, especially for Carl. It was his initiation to “manhood” when he was shot in season two, and it symbolizes him taking control and taking action. It’s also a kind of persona and shield for him as well.

Negan then turns his attention to taunting Dwight – and making sure that Daryl sees him with Carl as much as possible. It’s clear that Negan knows he can use Daryl against Carl, but how much can he also use Carl against Daryl? Negan tells Dwight to take Daryl and do grub prep – and it’s interesting that Dwight knows exactly what that means – what to make and where to bring it. Negan also laments that he’s not going to have time to screw any of his wives – except maybe one – and it’s clear that he means Sherry (Christine Evangelista) – further goading Dwight.

Carl wants to know what Negan is going to do to him. It’s the first time he’s really seemed even slightly nervous – and it disappoints Negan, who tells him not to shatter his image of Carl as a badass. And then he tells him he’s not going to ruin the surprise. You have to know that Negan loves tormenting people and this is one way to do it. After all, most times your imagination and waiting are going to be worse than what actually happens – or at least they prolong the torture. Admittedly, it can be expected that Negan will find something really horrific…

        But as Negan says “screw you” to Carl, it’s clear that he also is intrigued by this kid, and he puts his hand on his shoulder in a very fatherly kind of gesture. Morgan is so, so good as Negan. You see the mercurial changes of his emotions and you also see just how much he enjoys tormenting people, but you also see how thoughtful he is about Carl – he’s really not quite sure how to feel about him, but he also clearly thinks that here is someone young enough for him to really mold – and frighteningly, he seems to see something of himself in Carl.

Carl watches as Negan demonstrates the respect he garners. It’s absolute respect as everyone kneels in his presence because he rules absolutely. It’s not the way Rick rules – there is no room for any other opinion. It’s an interesting contrast to Rick addressing the Alexandrians in the church several episodes ago – and how people would stand to talk. People are required to play by the rules. Negan’s rules alone. But Negan also shows how he is a good leader. It’s to his advantage to make sure everyone gets fresh vegetables – if your workers are starving or sick, they won’t be good workers for long. Carl lingers at the railing after Negan releases them; it clearly has an impact on him.

Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) are heading out on what Eugene thinks is a scavenging mission for Negan. He’s narrowed down what are the most likely spots to search. Rosita tells him there’s no way she’s working for Negan. Spencer (Austin Nicols) and Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) are also going out, and Spencer tells her that there’s no resisting it. Gabriel suggests the four go together, but Rosita is determined to go alone with Eugene – because she clearly has a plan.

Spencer, on the other hand, seems to have accepted the status quo – it’s like taxes. But he also blames Rick. Rosita asks him if he thinks he can do better, and Spencer says yes. Rosita throws his hoarding back in his face and suggests he’s already got a stash – he should just pay his taxes and leave her alone. For those who read the comics, this may be the beginning of something…

Meanwhile, Negan takes Carl to visit the harem. Negan’s utter lack of respect for women is disturbing to say the least. All of Negan’s “wives” are dressed like something out of an auto magazine. He gives Carl permission to look at their titties – assuring him that neither they nor he will mind – but it’s another way to make Carl uncomfortable – and another way to possibly push him over a boundary probably set by his parents.

Negan is there to talk to Sherry about Amber (Autumn Dial), who is crying and talking to Sherry when Negan and Carl walk in. He specifically wants to know about Amber and Mark (Griffin Freeman). Sherry is clearly the “wife” in charge, and she does stand up to Negan and try to protect the others – she tells him that what they talk about when he’s not there is none of his business – pretty ballsy! Negan wants to know if Mark ditched re-direct duty to be with Amber – and thus we do circle back to why the truck in the beginning had to wait for the herd to clear – because Mark hadn’t done his job.

Negan tells her that there are rules for a reason – because nothing matters if you’re dead. He reminds her that she’s there because she gets that. And this opens up a questions we’ve seen before. Does nothing really matter if you’re dead? Is it worth it to be alive if you cross every line? If you betray your friends? Sherry admits that Amber made a mistake and asks Negan to take it easy on her. Negan asks her if she’s ever seen him hit one of them. She shakes her head no, but adds “I know you. There’s worse.” The two continue to stare at each other – and again Morgan is able to convey an entire conversation silently. He’s impressed that she’s smart enough to see through him, but he’s still won and he doesn’t break off until her eyes are welling with tears.

Negan gives his beer to Carl, making sure that Carl is watching and paying attention, and then he goes to Amber. He tells her that he doesn’t want anyone there who doesn’t want to be there. She’s free to go back to Mark at any time – but she cannot cheat on him. This shot is beautifully shot with Carl standing in the background between the two of them. Negan tells her that there are plenty of job openings and he’s happy to put her, her mother, and Mark all on the same job – and we can only imagine what that might be – staking walkers? Re-directing the herd? Amber is terrified and begs to stay. And she knows exactly what it means if she stays. She tells him she loves him, and he tells her that he doesn’t know why she’s crying – it’s all going to work out aces for her – but of course, not for Mark. And now, how could she ever go back to Mark?

Negan goes back to Sherry and clearly wants her to appreciate that he went easy on Amber. Sherry calls him an asshole – and he agrees rather than getting angry. He tells her that the messed up thing is that she likes him anyway, because she, like him, knows the truth. She knows what it costs to survive. She kisses him – and seems to be into it – or she’s just acting her part. Negan makes sure that they are kissing when Dwight and Daryl arrive.

Carl is shocked to see Daryl – Riggs’ face is classic. Daryl looks at him and gives him the barest of nods in acknowledgement. Dwight is clearly not happy. He’s got Daryl by the back of the shirt and Daryl is holding a tray of hors d’oeuvre. Dwight studiously avoids eye contact with Negan as he barely holds it together. Daryl, however, actually speaks and asks “Why you got him here?” – meaning Carl, of course.
   
        Negan acts surprised – but he’s clearly set this up. He throws Sherry’s words back in Daryl’s face – “What we talk about in here when you’re not here is none of your business.” And Negan is making a severe miscalculation here. He’s helping to align Dwight and Sherry with Daryl. And once again, Negan uses the threat against a loved one to keep someone in line – he threatens to take out Carl’s other eye with a toothpick.

Negan sends Dwight to get Daryl a mop – he’s going to find the most humiliating job he can for him – and make sure Carl sees it. He also has Dwight fire up the furnace for a little déjà vu – and we know what’s coming for Mark. Negan takes Carl and leaves. Daryl resists Dwight pulling out of the room and shares a long look with Sherry – clearly trying to enlist her help for Carl. Sherry also clearly wants to help – but turns back to the bar to down some whiskey – it’s clearly how she’s trying to cope.

The story finally turns back to Rick and Aaron. Rick is desperate to find something, so they investigate a laneway that has a warning sign. I’m betting that it’s probably somewhere they’ve passed – or Aaron has – and just decided it wasn’t worth it to explore. But now they are desperate.

Spencer and Gabriel drive, and Spencer asks if hating someone is a sin. Gabriel tells him that thoughts are just thoughts. It’s actions that count. Spencer starts going off on how he hates Rick. Gabriel maintains that Rick brought out the good in him – not just by bullying (and let’s face it, Gabriel needed and deserved to be challenged on what he’d done) as Spencer calls it – but mainly by inspiring him. Rick brought everyone together. He’s a man who finds a way. Spencer blames Rick for his family’s deaths. Gabriel stops Spencer from speculating on what ifs – they need to look to the future. And Spencer muses that the only good thing that can happen to them now is that Rick doesn’t make it back from his scavenging run. Gabriel has him stop the car.

Gabriel tells him that what he’s saying, doesn’t make Spencer a sinner, but it does make him a tremendous shit. This is another fabulous moment for Gilliam – and really starts to solidify Gabriel as a reclaimed character. “It’s just for now – it doesn’t have to be terminal.” Gabriel sees possibility for the future even for Spencer – and then he gets out and walks back. Unarmed!

Spencer gets out of the car – to call Gabriel back? And then suddenly runs into the woods – does he know this place? Did he hear something? He finds a hunter stuck up in a tree – now a walker – with a perfectly good bow. Spencer pulls down the stand the walker is on to get the bow, and gets more than he bargained for when the walker falls too. Luckily, for Spencer the fall kills the walker and he finds a note written in Latin that leads him to the hunter’s stash.

Negan takes Carl to his bedroom – which is a much nicer space than the one we’ve previously seen him in. Carl is clearly impressed when he asks if all those women are really his wives. Negan confides that he always wanted to screw a lot of women – why settle for just one – why abide by the same old rules?

Negan has Carl sit – it’s time to get started. Carl sits on the edge of his chair – he wants to know started on what. Negan wants to get to know Carl and tells Carl he’s smart enough to know why. Negan would expect a kid Carl’s age just to be moping around – he nailed Ron without ever meeting him! I wonder what he would make of Enid? Negan is impressed that Carl went on a mission and was smart enough to find him and kill two of his men – but he also knows Carl is smart enough to know that Negan can’t just “let it slide.”

Negan’s punishment is to force Carl to unwrap his eye. And of course, Carl also has to take his hat off. And Negan has to tell him to move his hair too. Carl is clearly ashamed of it. And I have to say that Carl’s missing eye is the most disappointing special effect that they’ve ever had on the show. It looks like exactly what it is – a piece of plastic stuck over the eye. However, Negan goes on and on about how gross it is until Carl starts to cry – and then he horrifies him even more by wanting to touch it.

Negan tells him it’s easy to forget he’s just a kid. He apologizes and says he didn’t mean to hurt his feelings – which he absolutely did mean to do. They are interrupted by Fat Joey who is bringing Lucille back to Negan – he’d left it by the truck – something he never does. Does Negan in some way see Carl as a substitute for Lucille? A new weapon to be used? Negan tells Carl that he wouldn’t cover the eye up – “it might not be a hit with the ladies, but no one is going to screw with you, looking like that.”

Negan then toys with Fat Joey – another object lesson for Carl. He asks if Joey was gentle with Lucille. Joey says yes. Did he treat her like a lady? Did he stroke her pussy? Joey is less and less sure how to answer and you can see the fear and uncertainty building until Negan defuses it and says a baseball bat doesn’t have a pussy – Joey laughs when Negan does and stops immediately – and flees – when Negan tells him to get the hell out.

Negan asks Carl if he sees now. It’s a lesson in men breaking each other’s balls – lessons that Rick is supposed to be teaching him. Of course, for Negan it’s about humiliating others – no one is going to be breaking Negan’s balls. Carl is clearly unconvinced. Negan asks him what he likes to do for fun. Does he like music? Carl remains unresponsive until Negan insists that in payment for gunning down two of his men, he wants Carl to sing him a song. Carl is momentarily pissed, but then realizes that Negan is getting angry. He tells Negan he can’t remember any songs – Negan points Lucille at his face – two inches from his good eye, and then starts swinging the bat violently. Am I the only one who knew Carl was going to start singing “You Are My Sunshine?” Riggs is again fantastic in this scene as we see him in one of the few moments when Carl is clearly terrified.

Negan tells Carl that Lucille loves being sung to. It’s the only thing she likes as well as bashing in heads. Negan wants to know if Carl’s mother sang that to him and where she is now. Carl just shakes his head. Negan asks where she is now – and Carl tells him he shot her. Negan remarks it’s no wonder Carl is a serial killer in the making – and then says it’s time. The iron must be hot by now.

Negan announces his presence by hitting Lucille on the railing and then addressing the crowd. Everyone is kneeling – including Daryl. This time he has Carl hold Lucille. He asks why he can’t let it slide, and the entire crowd parrots back “the rules keep us alive.” They sing his song. Negan tells them that they provide security and are bringing civilization back because the rules make it all work. If you try to cut corners and avoid the cost, it’s the iron for you.

Everyone is there watching, and Sherry tries to comfort Amber. Negan tells Mark he’s sorry before searing off half his face. Carl is appalled and looks to Daryl - and he's clearly disturbed that Daryl doesn't do anything. Daryl just watches, but he’s there to mop up the piss when Negan is done. Carl is not impressed – is he disappointed in Daryl? Dwight and Sherry exchange a look. Negan maintains he never wants to do that again, so they should all obey the rules. He says to Carl – that’s some crazy shit. You probably think I’m a lunatic – and he leads him away saying lets figure out what to do with you…

Rosita takes Eugene to the factory where he was going to manufacture bullets. She insists that he promised to make her a bullet. He tells her he’s given it some thought and while he won’t stop her, he wants her to take a moment and not act rashly. I will never not love McDermitt’s delivery of Eugene. He tells her, “I’ve analyzed this top to bottom. It doesn’t matter if your stealthy, snippy gun or knifey. Abraham was right. They have the numbers. It’s ballgame unless we put together a finishing move along with the man in charge.” Rosita doesn’t care if she only gets to kill Negan – Eugene reminds her that someone will have to pay the price and it might not be her.

Rosita insists that Eugene owes her and owes Abraham. She tells him he’s a coward and he’s weak and the only reason he’s alive is because he lied and people feel sorry for him. She challenges him to do something useful for a change. She clearly hits her mark. Eugene has lost a lot of the ground he’d gained in the courage department and it seems that Rosita has taken the rest away – it’s another example of ball breaking in the most mean spirited way.

We get another scene with Dwight and Sherry sharing a cigarette in the stairwell. Clearly, this is a regular thing for them to check on each other. Both are shaken by the events. Dwight tells her not to feel bad – and Sherry asks why should she? Dwight assumes she sold out Mark and Amber and she denies it. He remarks whatever helps you sleep at night. She asks how he sleeps, and he says he doesn’t. She says their deal was only supposed to affect them, but Dwight tells her that if you’re still standing, it’s always on someone else’s back. Sherry says they should go before someone sees them, and Dwight says we’re not doing anything. Sherry agrees, “no. We’re not.” And is clearly disgusted that they aren’t doing anything to help anyone – and that is also the excuse they are using to excuse the violence that is committed because of them – they don’t do it, it’s Negan, but they let it happen.

Negan continues to torment Carl. Carl is still sitting on the edge of his seat while Negan takes care of some paperwork. Carl finally asks if he can wrap up his face, and Negan says no. Carl gets angry and wants to know “Why the hell not?!” Negan is impressed at what a badass Carl is but tells him he can’t because he’s not done with him yet and he likes looking at it. Carl wants to know why Negan hasn’t killed him yet – or Rick or Daryl. Negan appears to give Carl a straight answer. He tells him that Daryl is going to make a good soldier for him. He thinks he’s holding it together – but Negan doesn’t think he is. Rick is already getting Negan great stuff. Negan tells Carl that breaking him is more productive – and fun. He asks Carl if he thinks that’s stupid. Carl says he thinks they’re different.

Then Negan tells Carl again that he’s a smart kid, so he knows he can’t just let him go. What should he do with him? Does he kill him? Iron his face? Chop of his arm? And Carl loses it and literally stands up and gets in Negan’s face, telling him to jump out the window to save Carl the trouble of having to kill him! Negan is impressed – and clearly delighted – by Carl. Carl tells him that he doesn’t think Negan is going to do anything to him. He tells him that if he really knew them, he would kill them, but he can’t. And then Negan suggests they go for a ride.

As Negan pulls out, we see ninja Jesus on top of the truck. He calls Daryl over to the truck and tells him that he’s taking Carl home because Daryl seemed worried. Daryl tells him “If you do anything to him…” and Negan calls Dwight to give Daryl a time out in the room. And in a nice throwback to Tara’s (Alana Masterson) goodbye to Rachel last week, Negan flips the bird at Daryl. But as Dwight drags Daryl off, Daryl looks up to the roof of the truck – does he see Jesus? When we see the truck pull away, the roof is empty.

Daryl is in the room and someone slips a note under the door that says “go now.” There’s a key and a match taped to the back of the note. Is it Dwight? Sherry? Jesus?

One of Negan’s saviors – Isabelle (Aerli Austen) – is stopped on the road by a pile of corpses. She gets out to investigate – and I loved the tight shot of her face as Michonne’s katana suddenly appears at her temple from the right side of the frame. Michonne tells her to take her to Negan. Isabelle very foolishly tries to get the drop on Michonne by slamming on the brakes and Michonne easily over powers her. Now the big question is, is this part of a larger plan? Is Michonne acting alone as Carl was?

Negan shows up at Carl’s and Olivia (Ann Mahoney) opens the door. Her first thought is to wonder where Enid is, but before she can say anything, Carl quietly tells her Enid is safe. Carl clearly doesn’t want Negan to know about Enid. Olivia is clearly terrified. Mahoney does a great job giving us a baseline of how a normal person would react to Negan. She hasn’t been hardened by having to survive the way everyone else has.

        She tries to tell Negan that Rick isn’t there but is out scavenging for Negan and that they are almost out of everything – they are practically starving. Once again, Negan makes fun of her weight and she dissolves in tears. However, even Olivia has a breaking point and she starts getting angry when he doesn’t even remember his name. He tells her that if she’s agreeable he’d like to screw her brains out – and she slaps him! And of course, Negan tells her he’s now about 50% more into her.

Negan then gets Olivia to make lemonade and Carl to take him on a tour. I loved the ‘50s style music as Negan checks out their entire house – like he’s shopping for a place in the suburbs. Carl tries to keep him away from Judith – Riggs’ face tells the story as Negan sees Judith and then picks her up, delighted. It’s hilarious as Morgan clearly gets along with the toddler fabulously and she’s completely content in his arms.

Rick and Aaron come upon a sign that identifies the owner as Leslie William Starton. The sign warns them he’s armed and won’t hesitate to kill them with a clear conscience because he’s warned them already. The sign concludes that the only reason they’ve made it that far without being shot is that he is dead, and he invites the reader to have at his possessions. Rick and Aaron continue but are still cautious. They find a houseboat in a lake surrounded by floating walkers. He may be dead, but Straton’s supplies are still protected.

Rosita and Eugene make their way back to Alexandria. Eugene appears to have made her a single bullet. She apologizes for what she said to him, but he won’t take her apology – and can you blame him!? Eugene calls her on it. She feels bad for what she said now that she’s gotten what she wanted, but she meant it when she said it. Eugene tells her he’s like “to take it back to awkward silence now.”

Spencer catches up with them on the road and his car is filled with food and supplies. The Latin note was a list of the dead guy’s stashes. Spencer tells them that his mother told him that class would come in handy someday. Rosita asks if he’s just going to give it all to Negan, and Spencer says that’s what Rick wants them to do – but he’s going to do more than that. The gate opens and Rosita sees the trucks and says he’s here.

The episode ends with Negan sitting on the porch with Judith on his lap and Carl beside him – a pitcher of lemonade between them. He continues to taunt Carl. Now he muses why is he keeping Carl and Rick alive? He could just kill them and bury them in the flower beds. He’s thinking he’d like to just move right in to the suburbs! And now Carl really is horrified because he’s terrified for Judith – maybe something he should have thought of when he left?

This was another fabulous episode. Great writing – I loved that both Spencer and Rick found survivalist stashes. We see that they haven’t had much success staying alive on their own – there is safety in numbers. It’s also clear that Negan may have gotten too big for his own breeches – has he pushed too hard? Has he misjudged Daryl, Carl and Rick? Morgan and Riggs are phenomenal in this episode – all of their scenes together are memorable – and extremely faithful to the comics. Who will act now that Negan is in Alexandria? Will Jesus, Daryl, and Michonne meet up at Negan’s compound? What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!



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