“Service” approaches war and other forms of carnage, which appear more and more to be the true subject of The Walking Dead, from a new direction, focusing on the stockpiling of weapons. Its two parallel themes, exploring who controls those weapons and the shifting allegiances within Alexandria, may explain the extra length of this episode, which actually felt less repetitive than many hour-long episodes from the show's past seasons that have pounded home the same point one or two times too many.
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) saunters through the gates a graceless winner, still marinating in douchebag brio, bullying and terrorizing his opponents, in part by issuing constant threats of violence—though thankfully his only victim this time around is a walker. Ever the sexual predator, he slavers after Maggie, and he spews casually entitled hate speech like his homophobic aside to Rick: “In case you haven't caught on, I just slipped my dick down your throat and you thanked me for it.” All the more reason to root for Rick's diverse group to win their inevitable war with The Saviors—especially if they have the sense to entrust that inclusive, humanist, and surprisingly chill black guy (I mean Ezekiel, of course) with the day-to-day governing.
The Alexandrians had been knitting together as a community after Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) group and the original residents banded together to win their big season-six battle, but Negan’s fascist domination has shaken many people’s faith in Rick’s leadership. In “Service,” some chafe when Rick brings them together in the chapel and urges them to give up all their guns to the Saviors, while Spencer (Austin Nichols) has become openly defiant, taunting Rick so bitterly and publicly that Rick has to shut him down. The barrage of contempt he unleashes on Spencer, accusing him of hoarding food and booze because he’s “small” and “weak,” no doubt stokes the already hot fire of Spencer’s resentment, laying the groundwork for a potentially violent confrontation between them.
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