NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead” are present in this review
Carl is a character that has been really wanting for great storylines, for years even. At last, he was given a truly standout plot on this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, one that also continued to follow the source comics fairly closely, beyond having to acknowledge story changes unique to AMC’s television adaptation. “Sing Me a Song” still suffered from being yet another unnecessary 90-minute episode though, including commercial breaks, burying the great core Carl/Negan storyline under a whole bunch of filler that feels like it’s only there to start laying groundwork for next week’s midseason finale. Worse still is that the midseason finale will also occupy a 90-minute timeslot!
AMC has a big problem, because The Walking Dead is bleeding viewers like crazy right now. A lot of that is due to this season beating dead horses and constantly going around in circles, and unfortunately, “Sing Me a Song” was very guilty of both this week. Once again, we get an excessive overdose of Negan’s grinning cruelty, doubling down on the same old tired story elements that Season Seven has constantly trotted out. That was made even worse by the fact that this episode, as with virtually all of the previous extended 90-minute episodes to date on this show, really did not need to be as long as it is.
Maybe next week’s midseason finale will be the exception and not the rule. Maybe that will be the episode that deserves to fill a 90-minute timeslot. For now though, AMC just doesn’t seem to know how to truly leverage these 90-minute The Walking Dead episodes, because they always feel bloated and dragged out. There were good moments here, such as the previously mentioned Carl/Negan storyline, and some decent interactions between characters like Gabriel and Spencer, and Rosita and Eugene, but this episode seriously needed about a half-hour or so chopped out of it.
This was most evident during our latest look at The Sanctuary, the home base of Negan and The Saviors. A lot of what we see and learn here is a complete re-tread of what was already portrayed in, “The Cell” from a few weeks ago, only now it’s Carl that gets to be the eyes of the audience, instead of Daryl. “The Cell” was a great episode, and one of Season Seven’s best so far, but repeating it is not the key to fixing the many flaws with The Walking Dead’s latest season. It just stinks of AMC not having any better ideas of how to fill the space before what is hopefully the truly interesting stuff goes down in the midseason finale next week.
When Negan and Carl interact, and Negan displays something of a strange respect for Carl, that’s when this episode is often at its strongest. Carl’s character has always been one of the less likable presences on this show, sadly, but here, he finally started not only emulating his more appealing comic book counterpart, but also became more tough and entertaining in general. Not every moment between Carl and Negan succeeded, with some of Carl’s more emotional turns feeling odd and out-of-place, but the ones that did really helped to elevate what was mostly a disappointingly dull episode.
Particular standout moments include when Negan makes Carl uncover his lost eye, then comments on the result, along with Negan making Carl show him around his home in Alexandria, where he eventually discovers Judith. Negan discovering Judith is one of the main ways that the show is deviating from the comics, since Judith is dead in the comics, but as promising as it is that Negan might threaten the Grimes family in a very brutal way through Judith during the midseason finale, it also led to the episode ending on something of a weird note, with Negan simply musing to Judith about killing Rick or Carl, and wondering why he won’t. On paper, it’s menacing, but in practice, something about the direction felt off, and it felt like the episode just stopped prematurely.
As I said though, there were at least other standout bits in the episode to keep it watchable, despite some of the boring, repeated stretches. Rosita forcing Eugene to forge her a bullet, then calling him out directly for being a coward who won’t do what’s necessary, was the one subplot that felt like it worked well. Honestly, Eugene seems like he’s in the right though regardless, when he tells Rosita that one bullet is just going to get one of the Alexandrians killed, even if it may take out Negan. With Jeffrey Dean Morgan already confirming that he’s on board for Season Eight next year though, it seems pretty much certain that Rosita’s attempt to kill Negan is going to fail, and either her and/or Eugene will probably die as a result.
As much as Gabriel confronting Spencer about not knowing his place was cool, not to mention satisfying after all of the times Gabriel has been a spineless, backstabbing coward himself in the past, the rest of Spencer’s plot didn’t really need to be in the episode. Spencer literally just bumbles around, then shows up with a bunch of supplies that he got off-screen towards the end of the episode. Similarly, Michonne walks off, then takes a Savior hostage and forces her to get her to The Sanctuary. Couldn’t that have just as easily been done in the intro to next week’s midseason finale? It just wasted time here. Finally, Rick and Aaron find some supplies guarded by a pond of Walkers, and that’s about all they do this week. Yet another pointless subplot that could have been severely cut down, or removed entirely, since this is another simple setup for next week’s midseason finale that contributes nothing to this week’s episode.
Again, maybe next week’s midseason finale will be exciting and finally get this show moving forward, since there definitely seems to be a sense of various survivors dissenting from Rick and heading towards The Sanctuary for their own attempt at a coup. I seriously doubt that any of them are going to be successful in killing Negan, much less this early in the season, but maybe we’ll get a good storyline to close out The Walking Dead’s 2016 run on anyway. For now though, “Sing Me a Song” was another overlong, drawn-out episode with one good storyline, a decent subplot, and a whole lot of filler. This show has one episode left to at least close out the first half of its season on a solid note, and it’s bound to be another Negan-heavy offering, though if the show is going to continue to rely on Negan this much, it really needs to stop making him a one-trick pony.
- Carl/Negan interactions
- Rosita's confrontation of Eugene
- Negan discovering Judith
- Too long, and too many recycled story elements
- Most subplots are a waste of time
- Weird, abrupt ending