We're almost halfway through season seven of The Walking Dead after last night's 90-minute episode, "Sing Me a Song." Next week will bring the mid-season finale and things are set up to be fairly interesting. This first half has been a painful slog through Negan's new world order as the TWD writers have expanded the universe and introduced a slew of new characters and places. But all that's over now. Going forward, I expect the show to build momentum that crescendoes in WAR and the season seven finale sometime around April 16 next year. But, for now, let's take a look at what lies ahead next week:
**Spoiler ahead for The Walking Dead show and comic.**
Negan and Carl and Judith
In the comics, Negan and Carl form a tentative bond and "Sing Me a Song" offers the first real hint these two will be connected going forward. After arriving at the Sanctuary, Carl fires wildly into a crowd of Saviors, killing two before he's disarmed and captured by Negan. What ensues is a cat and mouse game as Negan walks the fatherly intimidator line with his new young friend, breaking him down by exposing his eye hole and making Carl remember that time he killed his mother. The tears flow and Negan builds him back up, showing him a glimpse of the power he holds before heading back to Alexandria. The episode closes with Negan declaring he might bury Carl and Rick in the flower beds while bouncing Judith on his knee.
What's Negan's game here? He wants to break Carl and take him for his own, which means breaking Rick also. If he has to kill either in the process, so be it, but Negan's shown an abject desire to keep enemies alive in order to make them followers later. He'll keep screwing with Carl and use Judith as a chess piece in how he manipulates him. Rick will obviously get caught up in this also.
Rick and Aaron
Perhaps the worst part of this season's first half is the absence of Rick, the show's hero and best character. He's made a few speeches, but hasn't done much. He's about to clean out the water-bound caches of Leslie William Stanton and I'm guessing this will keep him busy for most of the entire episode next week. He and Aaron will have to fight off walkers and they'll eventually get a ton of stuff to bring back. Look for Rick to find weapons and hide them somewhere for the future. He may even find something game-changing. He'll return to Alexandria near the end of the episode and find Negan there.
Daryl and Jesus
The most exciting development last night was Daryl receiving a gift of a key and a match with a note telling him to "Go now." With Jesus roaming the compound, one might guess the note came from him, but I think it was Sherry judging by the feminine handwriting. Plus, how would Jesus get that key so fast? Sherry would know where to find it. Expect Daryl to escape next week, probably with help from Jesus and maybe with help from...
Dwight and Sherry
The show is setting us up for a Dwight vs Negan showdown. Last night, the burned blond guy had to watch Negan make out with his wife in front of him. Then he had to watch another savior (Mark) get his face stamped with a hot iron the same way his was. Dwight won't be able to take it much more and, despite his status as one of Negan's lieutenants, he'll rebel against the guy and Daryl may be the vessel that makes that happen. Dwight and Daryl have been linked since they met and there's more to their story. If Sherry did give Daryl a key, Negan may kill her for the betrayal. And Dwight won't take that.
Daryl's ticket out of the Sanctuary may very well be Michonne, who's hijacked a Savior and her car and is currently en route to the compound. I don't see her getting very far but she may run into Daryl on his way out. With Carl with Negan at Alexandria, Daryl doesn't have any excuse to fight and should make his way out.
Last night's episode also saw Rosita finally get her bullet, something she's been talking about for 200 episodes, or seemingly so. So what'll she do with it? One bullet, one shot at Negan? It could happen. But I think it's more likely Rosita's plan will backfire and she'll cost someone else his or her life. The preview for next week's episode shows Negan covered in blood spatter and Rick doing that 100-yard stare he does when he's forced to watch someone die in front of him. Will Negan kill Rosita? It's entirely possible, but I doubt it. I think we'll see Negan kill someone with Lucille next week, but not Rosita. He's gonna kill...
The guy who hates Rick is about to go down. Look for Spencer to excitedly kiss Negan's ass next week with his newfound stash of tree hunter supplies. Negan will accept the gifts, but he won't accept Spencer's insubordination. He'll try to tell Negan to kill Rick and put him in charge, but that won't go over well. Negan doesn't appreciate people who challenge authority and someone who challenges Rick may challenge him down the line. Negan will club Spencer to death with Lucille in front of everyone, closing the mid-season finale. Rick will watch, and take it.
The Walking Dead returns next week on AMC.