The Strolling Useless is again, and for us right here at The Verge it’s a chance to look at simply how efficient the present is at creating a posh villain. As performed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, mbadive unhealthy Negan has all the time been violent, but due to his man-baby antics, he’s stubbornly remained a comic book ebook thug, by no means really turning into the nuanced character the present so sorely wants.
Every week, I’ll be badyzing the present via its presentation of Negan: how he acts, how he delivers his jokes and threats, and most significantly, how his character develops in distinction to our supposedly virtuous heroes. We’ll have a look at all of the traits a villain is meant to excel at, together with these we detest, and boil it down into one single rating on what we’re calling the Negan–o–meter™. A rating of 10 means he’s one of the best, most complicated villain we’ve ever seen; a rating of zero means he’s just about the identical ol’ Negan he’s all the time been.
Warning: There will probably be spoilers.
Final week’s season premiere gave us quite a bit to consider. Did Rick’s group and the opposite communities actually reach taking out the Sanctuary, trapping the Saviors by way of zombie roadblock? What would occur to Negan and Gabriel, who have been left trapped in a cramped trailer? What did it imply for Negan’s reign that he didn’t see this coming, and failed to barter the protection of his folks?
Sadly, “The Damned” isn’t inquisitive about answering any of these questions. The episode unpacks the aftermath of the badault on the Saviors, however avoids the characters that arguably matter most. Actually, Negan doesn’t make an look in any respect. But when The Strolling Useless is adept at something, it’s taking fleeting moments that different reveals would gloss over, and turning them into whole episodes. Fortunately, this one nonetheless has loads of motion to dig into.
Aaron leads a shock badault
Based mostly on the ultimate moments of final week’s episode, we knew that Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom had all break up up into 4 distinct teams after the badault. “The Damned” tracks the exploits of every one as they attempt to stop distant teams of Saviors from saving Negan and his folks from the zombie horde. First up on that record is Aaron and a gaggle of Alexandrians who storm a gaggle of Saviors as they clear and prep firearms.
The ensuing showdown is a enjoyable and exhilarating train in zombie-based wartime technique, as Aaron and the opposite group members resolve to not push ahead on the Saviors. Negan’s cohorts badume they’ve the higher hand because of this. Below the management of a mysterious girl with an imposing angle and a few seasoned fight grit, the Saviors proceed to press ahead on Aaron, overlooking the truth that the women and men who’ve already been shot are littered behind them.
It’s solely when it’s too late to change course that the Saviors understand that Aaron’s plan all alongside was to let these downed women and men flip, making a zombie menace inside their very own strains of protection. Sadly for Aaron, his boyfriend Eric takes a bullet within the abdomen whereas displaying some shocking heroics through the firefight. It undercuts the tactical victory, and is especially unhappy provided that Eric spent a lot time making an attempt to persuade Aaron to not become involved with the bigger combat two seasons in the past.
“That’s not who we’re.”
The Strolling Useless’s main thematic focus has all the time been on the problem of rebuilding and upholding an ethical code in a lawless world. That’s on full show in “The Damned,” which reveals a lot of the extra aware characters fighting the rules of nonviolence and mercy as they plan to clinically neutralize the Saviors’ distant outposts. These are traits that Negan supposedly lacks, they usually’re what Rick and his allies hope will redeem them — and the world they’re preventing for.
But, that resolve has been examined again and again — primarily for Rick, Morgan, and Carol, however now for the others, as nicely. In “The Damned,” we see Jesus and Tara butting heads over whether or not to kill an unarmed Savior who claims he’s “not one among them.” Jesus defaults to trusting strangers, even probably murderous maniacs, whereas Tara seems to be succumbing to the cycle of violence and self-doubt that when plagued Carol. Tara is in the end confirmed proper when Jesus is taken hostage by the person, who reveals he was simply pretending in an try to trick the duo into letting him go. But even after disarming the Savior, Jesus’ religion in his beliefs stays unwavering.
Morgan, who final season remodeled from an virtually militant non-violent actor right into a brutal killer, has a wrestle of his personal that performs out extra in his thoughts than in opposition to one other member of the group. Having been taken unexpectedly by a lot of the Saviors within the satellite tv for pc compound, Morgan finds himself left for lifeless subsequent to 2 fallen companions. He then proceeds to face up, arm himself, and meticulously gun down greater than a dozen women and men — some unarmed — in a shock badault from the rear.
All all through, Morgan replays a important dialog he had with Rick a few seasons in the past, through which he argued in opposition to the strike-first mentality that kickstarted the struggle with the Saviors within the first place. Morgan is simply free of his violent fog when he finds Jesus and the remainder of the group holding the rest of the Saviors at gunpoint. When Morgan very practically kills a merciless Savior he acknowledges from a earlier encounter, he and Jesus conflict. “It’s not what we do,” Jesus tells Morgan, who ultimately decides to again down.
“Then what will we do, huh?” Morgan shoots again. It’s query, and a reminder that although Negan and the Saviors have given Rick and mates extra quick considerations, the bigger moral questions behind The Strolling Useless will nonetheless have to be answered after the bloodshed ends.
Carol learns a lesson in make-believe
Carol, trying extra comfy than ever within the Kingdom’s fight armor, spends a lot of “The Damned” serving to Ezekiel monitor a runaway Savior to stop him from radioing within the menace to a bigger distant outpost. The plot level right here is secondary, nevertheless; this sequence largely serves as one other alternative for Carol to soak up extra of Ezekiel and his worldview.
“Do I really feel the supreme confidence, or is my job to easily mission such certainty?” Ezekiel ponders with Carol at one level. Because it turns into clear they could lose the Savior they’re monitoring, Ezekiel retains the keenness excessive. “No and sure. Sure and no. After which lastly, sure to each,” he provides. At first it performs like his normal Shakespearean nonsense. However Ezekiel’s willingness to point out Carol his true face — “faux it ‘until you make it” he tells her at one level — makes their dynamic way more fascinating, as Ezekiel realizes Carol has forgotten what it means to fake and even interact in one thing as harmless as theatrical make-believe.
“I’m king as a result of I’ve supplied a light-weight to guide my folks ahead within the darkness, they usually have turned my fictions into realities,” he declares. Within the face of Carol’s doubt concerning the mission, Ezekiel says his boundless enthusiasm and refusal to simply accept failure is the supply of his energy — and the rationale residents of the Kingdom are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the better good. The Savior in the end does reach warning his others concerning the menace — he’s shortly thereafter mauled by Ezekiel’s tiger Shiva — however the King rallies his troops nonetheless.
In a small however pivotal approach, Ezekiel is educating Carol about one thing she thought she had deserted: hope. The trick to persevering on this world isn’t to run away, afraid of accepting accountability, and it isn’t to undergo nihilistic violence and quit on humanity altogether. As a substitute, Ezekiel helps Carol discover a third approach ahead towards their shared purpose, even whether it is via an little bit of elaborate function play.
Rick finds a well-recognized face
Whereas everybody else largely succeeds of their respective missions to cease the Saviors’ rescue efforts, Rick and Daryl have a harder time. The 2 begin by making their approach up a multi-story constructing that they imagine incorporates weapons that will probably be used to interrupt Negan out, however the duo inevitably break up up.
That leads Rick proper right into a one-on-one showdown close to the roof with a Savior who very practically murders our important character together with his naked palms. After failing to coerce the situation of the weapons out of him, Rick brutally impales the person on a chunk of metallic. It’s a grim scene, and extra proof that our supposed hero continues to be extra at residence doling out extrajudicial homicide than he’s negotiating or convincing his foes to search out frequent floor. This level is simply additional highlighted when Rick discovers that the person was defending not a weapons cache, however an toddler youngster.
In a show of uncooked emotion, actor Andrew Lincoln renders Rick’s interior torment as he sees a toddler that clearly reminds him of his personal daughter Judith — whereas realizing that he seemingly simply murdered her father. He barely has time to badume earlier than he’s caught at gunpoint by one other Savior, revealed to be a personality named Morales from all the best way again within the present’s first season. (Morales break up with Rick’s group once they determined to journey to the Facilities for Illness Management in Atlanta.) The person is now apparently a member of Negan’s crew, and tells Rick that he’s already referred to as in backup to seize him.
On one hand, this seems like an pointless blast from the previous: an outdated character audiences barely keep in mind coming again, without end modified, to conveniently badist the principle character understand how totally different he’s change into, too. It’s particularly irritating figuring out the airtime might have been used to, say, flesh out Negan’s character. However maybe The Strolling Useless has one thing extra meaty in retailer for Morales and Rick’s reunion. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. Morgan himself was a first-season character that disappeared early in Rick’s travels, solely to point out up later — and change into an important a part of the ensemble.
Evaluating the villain
This can be a robust one as a result of, nicely, Negan doesn’t ever present up in “The Damned.” It’s weird, however not completely out of character for the present. The Strolling Useless is thought for segmenting its storylines, spreading them out throughout many episodes in what typically seems like an pointless refutation of conventional narrative construction.
Sport of Thrones has set the gold normal for interweaving storylines, and plenty of reveals within the post-Breaking Dangerous world make use of breakneck plotting to attraction to our binge-watching tendencies. The Strolling Useless, then again, has made a behavior of hanging whole storylines out to dry for weeks — one thing that’s notably irritating given how a lot water-treading the present has indulged in throughout latest seasons. We’d love to judge the villain for this episode, however the largest enemy of “The Damned” is the present’s gimmicky, keep-away plotting — which appears to repeatedly confuse stress with merely pretending sure characters don’t exist. Chalk it as much as AMC’s starvation for scores, which has trapped The Strolling Useless into 16-episode seasons its story merely can’t deal with.
Menace: Regardless of his disappearance, we do really feel it mandatory to present Negan some factors for menace right here, contemplating how vigorously Rick and the others appear to preventing to stop giving him any final shred of hope that he would possibly escape. (And for probably turning Morales right into a bloodthirsty Savior.) In fact, as viewers, we all know this isn’t the tip for Negan. So it’s additionally troubling to badume what violent act the writers will give him to bounce again with.
Negan-o-meter™ Rating: 2 out of 10
Transferring the needle
It’s tough to have a dynamic, complicated unhealthy man if he isn’t given any display screen time. So the obvious factor that showrunner Scott Gimple and his crew might do to unravel the present’s villain downside within the subsequent episode could be to truly present the villain. Maybe we’ll get a Negan-specific episode that delves into what he did main as much as Rick’s badault on the Sanctuary, or possibly a whole episode devoted to the philosophical sparring between him and Father Gabriel.
However the choice to take away him from this episode completely doesn’t bode nicely. The largest downside with the best way The Strolling Useless has dealt with Negan is that the present hasn’t targeted on making him a robust character unto himself. It’s as an alternative relied on the concept followers are so enamored with Negan from the comedian books that the present doesn’t need to do any heavy lifting in any respect. That’s why audiences have needed to take care of seasons filled with teases earlier than Negan lastly arrived, and hyped-up cliffhangers as an alternative of self-contained tales.
“The Damned” appears to point that the present continues to be inquisitive about taking part in those self same video games — regardless of the promise that this season will give attention to the “all-out struggle” between Rick and Negan. Even only a few small scenes in each episode would go a great distance towards reworking Negan from a dad-joke plot machine into an precise character. Sadly, we’ll have to attend till subsequent week to see if The Strolling Useless is .