Hi Fluids, great points as usual. Regarding the ironing scene, I figured that Mark was punished because the female Saviour messed up, but Negan doesn't want to hurt her because she's his wife. She cheated on Negan with Mark, so Negan ultimately punished Mark with the iron. While the story makes sense to me, I still agree with your points and I definitely wasn't able to make an emotional connection.
I give this episode a 60.
Finally we get to see multiple storylines in a single episode! I'm very happy that we got multiple stories and that already makes this episode a marked improvement over others this season. Unfortunately, multiple storylines doesn't mean that the episode moves at a quicker pace. The Walking Dead managed to have more content and still run a slow pace by extending the episode to 90 minutes. Because of these pacing issues, I can't help but feel that this episode would have been better at 60 or even 75 minutes.
Overall, I must say I enjoyed this episode. There were defined A and B plots, which was nice. The A-plot revolved around Carl, which was a welcome surprise since Carl hasn't had an episode focussed on him since "After" back in season 4. I loved seeing him build a relationship with Negan, with Negan ultimately respecting Carl for everything he's been through. I enjoyed their conversations. On the other hand, I thought Negan was great in this episode. I found Negan's presence in previous episodes to be annoying and honestly pretty bad (Though not as bad as The Governor thankfully). However, he was great in this episode and he works a lot better as a villain now. I wish he was like this back in "The Cell" while torturing Daryl.
The cliffhanger was fantastic as well with Negan holding Judith. This is an example of a good cliffhanger that allows fans to speculate on what will happen without pissing everybody off or creating fake drama (ex. Last Day on Earth, East, Start to Finish). I'm curious to see how Rick will react to seeing Negan with Judith. I wonder, could Negan possibly take Judith to punish Carl for killing 2 of his men? This cliffhanger successfully made me excited for the next episode for the first time this season.
The B-plots held their own as well. Rosita was great in her selfish and desperate revenge story. I enjoyed most of her scenes with Eugene, but I did have one issue with their interactions. After Rosita tries to apologize, Eugene calls her out on her selfishness and basically sums up everything her character is feeling. This really annoyed me because it proved once again that The Walking Dead doesn't believe in the principle of show, not tell. Thankfully Eugene was the one scolding Rosita since the lines would have felt awkward if Eugene wasn't Eugene. His use of words make it sound more natural, but I still saw through it.
I appreciate the roles of Michonne and Rosita currently. They are both angry and vengeful, making them wild cards. I'm interested to see what they will do and how they are going to react to Negan's presence in Alexandria, giving me more intrigue heading into the mid season finale.
In several scenes this episode, Dwight and Sherry shared some glances and then met by a stairwell and talked about Negan. This should sound incredibly familiar and it is. It highlights what I think is Season 7's biggest flaw: repetition. We have already seen this story from Dwight and Sherry so we don't need it again, yet we still get it. This isn't the only repetition in the episode either. Spencer's arc repeats the Rick vs Alexandria theme and the exploration of the Sanctuary repeats the entire concept of "The Cell". The Walking Dead can't just repeat its storylines to remain interesting.
My favourite moment in this episode was Father Gabriel speaking with Spencer in the car. Gabriel's character was revealed excellently as a dedicated Ricketeer, a far cry from the cowardly priest he was last season. I have enjoyed Gabriel's development and he has consistently provided good moments whenever he's been on screen.
My last main point has to be on Spencer. Spencer's story has been incredibly frustrating this season. His entire arc is just a rehash of the Rick vs Alexandria plot from Season 5 and 6. There are even some "Rick is god and you are wrong and are probably going to die in a couple episodes" speeches delivered in this episode to Spencer. It's disappointing since this arc should have been something new. For example, it could make Spencer likeable, which would have worked since Rick did actually mess up pretty badly here. Spencer's hatred of Rick should make sense and be relatable, but it's not written that way at all and instead Spencer comes off as a naïve prick who is just a coward.
-The Kingdom was introduced in episode 2 and hasn't been seen since. Why introduce it so early then? If it really has to be introduced quick, at least offer some other Kingdom scenes throughout the season. It's hard to believe that Carol and Morgan have only been in 1 episode so far, but are listed as main characters in the intro. Furthermore, Maggie and Sasha have only been in 2 episodes, which is ridiculous for the 2 characters who should be affected the most by the deaths in the season premiere. Hopefully we can see Carol, Morgan, Ezekiel, Maggie and Sasha in the mid season finale at least.
-This season is yet to have a good walker attack sequence. Maybe we can get one from Rick and Aaron, but I doubt it. Last season's "No Way Out" effectively killed all of the potential of walkers to provide tense scenes. I honestly can't believe that episode is being considered the best in the series by many people, especially considering its lasting effect on the series.
-Daryl looks like he may escape next episode. I think the note is from Jesus, but would Daryl think that? He may think it's a Saviour trick, which it very well may be seeing how TWD likes jerking around its fan base.
-It bothers me that the back of Negan's trucks weren't closed. It seems like a convenience just so Jesus and Carl could go in and out at their own will. Additionally, Jesus hiding on top of the truck makes no sense. Anybody who moves away will easily see him, plus it would draw a lot of attention for him to go up there. It's small things like this that make The Walking Dead feel unrealistic.
-I wish that Simon made an appearance. I really enjoyed seeing him in episode 5. Hopefully he can be back next week.
In the end, this episode fixed one problem, but unfortunately that's not enough to produce an above average episode since there have been too many problems with The Walking Dead recently. At least this episode succeeded in its primary goal: get me excited for the mid season finale. I have my hopes up that there will be a good episode next week and hopefully I'm not disappointed.