Review: The Walking Dead, ‘Service’ aka 90 Excruciating Minutes in Alexandria

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The Walking Dead, “Service” Plot Summary:

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his men arrive early to get supplies from Alexandria while Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his crew look on.

I’ll be honest, I DVR The Walking Dead, and watch Westworld as it happens live on Sundays at 9 p.m. Last night when my wife went to DVR the hit AMC zombie series she said, “I wonder why this is a 90 minute episode?”

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

For the life of me I couldn’t remember anything huge on the horizon, but I got this aching feeling that this episode didn’t need to be 90 minutes. I got worried, Season 7 has been excellent so far. Every episode has been filled with terrific performances, tremendous character development, and interesting narrative developments, and world building. I was really worried this episode would be the one that snaps this streak.

So you can imagine the sinking feeling of dread and disgust that entered my body when I pushed play on my DVR, and the episode opens up in Alexandria.

Yes, Alexandria, the blackhole of the series. The place where anything fun, or exciting, or interesting (outside of two epic-in-scope battles) goes to die. It’s where Rick became a marble mouth and went crazy. It’s where Carol went all “I just wanna die.” It’s where Daryl became irrelevant. It’s where way too many underdeveloped and useless side characters popped up (and still are). And it’s where a lot of people lost interest in the show.

And guess what?

Alexandria brought everything to a grinding halt once again.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“Service” is the first episode in the “Negan runs the show now” arc of the series. It’s the first time we’ve seen Rick and company since the premiere. We’re supposed to see how Rick has to accept this new fate, how many don’t want to, and how some may never accept it. We also get a sidetrack of Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Spencer (Austin Nichols) trying to find Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) bike for Dwight.

To be honest, it’s not as bad as some of the Alexandria-based episodes from the past season or so. No, those were some of the worst episodes in the series history. However, this was excruciating to get through. There’s no way this episode warranted a 90 minute run time. They could’ve easily cut scenes of Michonne scowling, or one of the 20 scenes of The Saviors taking something, or even one or two of the Negan/Rick moments. Less is definitely more with this series when it comes to episodes that are table setters. The normal run time would’ve suited this episode perfectly. In fact, they should’ve dedicated 90 minutes to build up The Kingdom, or even Daryl at The Savior’s compound — not this.

“Service” will be remembered as another fantastic, scene-chewing episode for Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan. Morgan is totally locked into this character — he plays every note majestically — gliding through each scene with swagger, and danger behind every word and glance. The larger than life aspects of the character (and performance) cover up a lot of the dead air in the episode. And there’s a lot of it. Lots of staring, mumbling, and trudging through scenes by the “good guys.”

The other thing it will be remembered for is that Rick finally confirmed that Shane (Jon Bernthal) is actually the father of Judith. It’s a great little piece of business for Andrew Lincoln as gets to do a little more than either brood or yell; which is basically what he’s been reduced to the past few years. It’s also something that’ll generate some buzz and chatter on social media, given the fact the episode is pretty much a 15 minute sequence stretched out eight times longer than it needed to be. If you’re a cynic you could argue that the writer’s have had this scene in their back pocket for years, and have been waiting to use it to save a dreadful episode. That’s if you’re a cynic of course.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Outside of those two things — Morgan’s performance and the “big reveal” — “Service” is a fairly lifeless, uneventful, and typical Alexandria episode of The Walking Dead. Luckily, we got to Hilltop next week to find Maggie, so there’s more world building and intrigue to add here.

The Walking Dead cannot afford to have many episodes like “Service.” They’re already on thin ice with a large part of the audience. Yes, there was a huge audience for the premiere, and the ratings are  strong, but a lot of people are not happy with show. So, if they’re going to keep producing slow, tortuous and gratuitous melodrama you’re going to see people jumping off this series faster than you can say “Negan.”

Rating: 4 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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