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This was good.

So after two additional episodes, we were finally returned this week to our core group of heroes. Instead of wasting our time with Carol and a tiger, we actually got to see the aftermath of Negan’s violence by spending time with Rick and the gang. This was vitally important; we need to be with the characters and stories that matter most. Last week worked, it was a decent episode that at least dealt in part with the main Negan storyline, and we got to see some of the inner workings of his group by watching their treatment of Daryl. This wasn’t enough however and in no world should this have happened after the Carol episode or before this week’s installment.

So congrats on that I guess, at least we are in the right area again, for now at least, we are going in the right direction. This week centred on the nasty fallout from the season’s premiere, the fear and misery permeating the lives of everyone in Alexandria, the stories told from the night’s survivors having spread out among the town. The entire episode revolved around Negan’s visit to Alexandria, coming early to collect what is owed, arriving with his thugs for the first of many payments. Obviously Negan wasn’t going to make this a pleasant experience for the guys, particularly for Rick, having him hold the bat that killed his friends throughout the entire visit — a shot at Rick’s masculinity and his now subservient relationship to Negan.

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Negan himself had a great time sending his guys into every house, taking their mattresses and basically anything else nice they had, not because they were needed but because Negan still needs to ram home that he is the one in charge. It was actually genuinely upsetting to see this happen but at the same time one couldn’t help but feel this is what these people deserve. Rick at the very least is getting his comeuppance for bad decision after bad decision, relying on strength over smarts, trying to strong arm his way through the apocalypse only to finally find someone he can not best. This is a fun switch and a dynamic that is being handled pretty well. I have however already grown tired of Rick’s perpetual teary eyes this season. Yes, things are awful and he has been essentially castrated by Negan, but displaying that level of emotion wears very quickly, the show will do well to have the character move on from the sad wounded animal phase pretty quick and at least have him feign acceptance of the situation. It is fun to see Negan make fun of and troll him time after time but it can’t and should not last forever. There has to be something else.

But this is where the show, right now in 2016, is at its best. THE WALKING DEAD is most successful when Negan and Rick are on screen together. There is a relationship building here and a chemistry between the actors that is actually interesting to watch. Something we haven’t seen since Shane departed the show way back when. Speaking of whom, Shane was actually mentioned, by name, this episode. Praise Moses. Instantly making this the best episode in forever by his name merely being brought up, it was actually nice to see Rick remember his old friend and partner, a man crucial to who he is, a man that surely wouldn’t have let this mess unfold had Rick not killed him. This welcome moment came along with the confirmation that Judith is not Rick’s child, that Shane is indeed the father. I’ve always felt a Shane cameo, a ghostly spectral hallucination of some sort would be a great and beneficial moment for the show and now couldn’t be a better time for such a thing to take place.  Rick could really use with the advice after all.

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The episode ended with Negan finally managing to get all of the guns (virtually) from Rick and the group, not being happy knowing that Alexandria was so heavily armed. It will be interesting to see how this storyline moves forward and I genuinely want to see what does unfold — making this rare territory indeed. Focused and pertinent episodes like this only further hammer home how badly this show needs to trim down. Having this show lose everyone but six key characters would be a huge improvement and allow the show to flourish without all this dead weight in a way it hasn’t been able to in a very long time. I am still hoping the Negan crusade against mediocrity continues, there has to be more casualties and at least one more main character departure before this season ends. There is still so much potential here and this episode just reinforced that. This week was really solid. I hope they keep it up. Good things can happen here.

Verdict

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