When the episode begins with Michonne sneaking out the front door with a sniper rifle, you know it’s going to be an eventful one.
Sure enough, Negan turns up early, people in tow, even making a point of emasculating Rick by handing him Lucille to look after and forbidding him from speaking to the captive Daryl.
While his crew are off ransacking Alexandria, nicking everyone’s stuff and rubbing their faces in it while they do so, it’s inevitable that somebody’s going to snap.
Sure enough, it’s Carl, who somehow survives pointing a gun at some of Negan’s followers, which actually amuses him somewhat. What he’s less amused by is the apparent misplacing of a few guns – earning the poor Olivia his ire.
But hang on – another grave. Maggie can’t actually be dead – can she? We’re not buying it.
Sure enough, it turns out that the grave isn’t hers – it’s part of a clever ruse by Gabriel, whose sudden appearance ilicits one of Negan’s best lines (“Holy crap – you are creepy as shit!”). But why the need for it in the first place? Speaking of Maggie, where the hell is she?
Regardless, it’s not the central question of ‘Service’. Rather, it’s of how low Negan can make Rick sink.
As it turns out, the answer is ‘pretty low’. We’re pretty sure we haven’t seen Rick this defeated since Lori’s death way back in Season 3. The fire’s gone out, he has compromised, and with that he seems to have lost everyone’s respect.
It’s another episode aimed at establishing the new status quo – which is fine, but honestly, we don’t need any more episodes like this one.
We get that Negan is a horrible yet charismatic bastard – we got it before, and we get it now. If it was any other series then we’d be going spare at it for having yet another plodding instalment in which not a lot really happens. It’s only the sheer brilliance of Jeffrey Dean Morgan that keeps things from getting stale.
He’s only been in four episodes, yet already we can’t imagine The Walking Dead without him.
Then again, the show’s creators seemed to have learned from Game Of Thrones‘ example of taking shocking scenes from the source material and somehow making them even worse. And thus far, it’s an approach that seems to be paying off.