The Walking Dead Sets The Stage For a Showdown

By  · Published on December 5th, 2016

Will the mid-season finale finally give us a rebellion against Negan?

With just an episode left until the mid-season finale, The Walking Dead still seems to be finding its footing. Tonight’s episode, “Sing Me a Song,” eventually set the table for a potential showdown between Negan and the bullet now in Rosita’s possession but is anything ever that simple on this show? With another ninety minute episode in store next week, it seems unlikely we’ll be getting rid of Negan anytime soon. And even if we did, where can Rick and the gang really go from here? So much has changed for our favorite characters and we know we can never truly go back to way things used to be.

Staying true to the comics seems to be a theme this season and the budding relationship between Negan and Carl is one ripped from the pages and plastered onto our screens. Despite all of his irritating cocksure speeches and zingers delivered with a shit-eating grin and a dip at the knees, Negan has never been more likable or interesting than he was needling around his latest fascination, Carl. After tricking Jesus into jumping out of the van full of goods they were hiding in, Carl grabs a gun and plows down two of Negan’s lackeys before stopping short at the man himself. Negan is impressed with Carl’s fearlessness and escorts the teenager inside of The Saviors compounds, showing off like an excited preteen at a sleepover.

The name of the game, as you probably had guessed several episodes back, is respect and Negan fancies himself a bit of an expert. It’s an fascinating space for Carl to find himself, while his loyalty to his father seems unshakable on the surface, the allure of what Negan can provide – women, food and luxury – paired with the respect he commands could slowly start inching Carl’s loyalties or at least confound them enough to make things interesting.

There’s still plenty to dislike about Negan however. Getting an entire community to bow in your presence doesn’t comes cheap, there are rules that must be enforced and punishments to dole out when the rules are broken. Carl gets a first hand look at how Negan keeps this balanced. A peek into Negan’s harem of wives proves to be just as disturbing as his more violent outbursts, as it becomes quite clear that these women constantly cower from Negan’s unpredictable temper and vindictive violence. There is no love here, only fear and dread. Later, Carl watches as Negan punishes a man for sleeping with one of his wives, searing the skin off of the man’s face with a hot iron, just as he had done previously to Dwight. For Carl, the admiration he witnessed in the beginning of the episode is likely looking more and more false, like the staged happiness displayed by a dictatorship.

Still, the two square off in a fascinating one on one filled with as much tension and dread as tenderness. For all of his terrible qualities, Negan is still a man with a backstory to waiting to be told and his fascination with Carl definitely hints at this. When he demands Carl take off his bandage and show his gnarled eye, he drives the boy to tears before pulling back and apologizing. Perhaps like us, Negan has forgotten that Carl really is just a child – one who has lost a mother and who has lost a hero in his father. While Carl is still clearly afraid of Negan, flinching from the swings of Lucille as he shakily sings for the psychopath, these tender moments between the two, paired with Negan’s genuine concern and interest in the boy could start to shift the tables and make things complicated.

Finally, Negan takes Carl back home but since Rick is out foraging for supplies, Negan decides to wait it out. Olivia, who is dutifully caring for Judith, is subjected to more tired fat jokes until Negan, perhaps having learned a lesson from his interactions with Carl, apologizes for his comments. And then immediately follows them up with some uncomfortable sexual suggestions. Will you ever learn dude? Olivia, perhaps sensing our annoyance, unleashes the slap heard round the world on Negan before scurrying off to make lemonade (sadly not the Beyoncé kind). What’s left to do but give Negan the grand tour in an awkwardly placed montage, where our favorite villain is fascinated by basic carpeting and running tap water. How quaint. But it is the discovery of Judith and Negan’s absolutely adorable interactions with the girl that prove the most interesting. What fresh hell awaits Rick on his return home? Two dead children in his flower bed or two children who prefer his enemy’s company? It’ll be interesting to see.

While the episode might have been better served focusing solely on Negan and Carl, our various segways set the table for things to come. First, Spencer is still annoying but managed to find a map in Latin (of course he can read Latin) that leads to several caches of supplies. Rosita bullied Eugene into making that bullet and wouldn’t you know, Negan just happens to be in town. Finally, Michonne continues to be the baddest woman on the planet, building her own roadblock of walkers and carjacking one of Negan’s people, demanding to be taken back to his hideout. But girl, he’s not there! Classic misdirection. Oh, and Daryl is about to break out of The Saviors compound. See you next week!

Jamie Righetti is an author and freelance film critic from New York City. She loves horror movies, Keanu Reeves, BioShock and her Siberian Husky, Nugget.