The ‘muscle’ of the Grimes gang moves in on Woodbury this week in search of their own, while we get a revealing glimpse into what kind of operation The Governor (David Morrissey) is running.
Let’s bitch it out…
I have to admit that after a string of excellent episodes, this is my pick for the weakest offering of The Walking Dead this season. I feel like on the whole, it’s primarily a transitional piece leading up to the inevitable showdown between the Grimes gang and the Governor’s Woodbury crew. The episode starts off well enough, with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) cautiously bringing Michonne (Danai Gurira) into the prison after she passes out from her gunshot wound. It’s mildly interesting that she’s equally as mistrusting of them as they are of her – but apparently, that gets old really fast.
Instead we speed through any exposition because we know that Michonne is the only way Rick & Co. are going to realize that Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) have been kidnapped. In order to expedite everything, Rick quickly trusts her and they go trotting off merrily to Woodbury together. Am I the only one wondering why Rick is so quick to trust a stranger? Considering what happened with Andrew (Markice Moore) just a few days ago, this seems very out of character. Let’s get serious here, folks: Rick doesn’t even know her name!
The sense of urgency comes from the cold open, when we see poor Glenn get beaten to a pulp by evil Merle (Michael Rooker). We know that Maggie hasn’t yet been interrogated, but for an attractive young girl during the apocalypse, being bound to a chair in a basement room is never a good thing. Time is clearly of the essence for these two. And this is the primary reason why I don’t think I particularly enjoyed this episode: I felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen and everything in between is just filler. I knew Michonne would eventually reveal that Glenn and Maggie were kidnapped and Rick & Co. would venture off to find them. And, of course, we wouldn’t get to the actual showdown because that would take too much time. Essentially this episode just made me incredibly impatient for the dramatic confrontation. I don’t want the set-up for the mid-season finale; I want the mid-season finale. The anticipation robbed me of any kind of enjoyment.
That’s not to say that we don’t get moments of brilliance (this is The Walking Dead after all). I definitely appreciated the moment when Carol (Melissa McBride) is reintroduced to the rest of the gang. It’s a short, touching moment, and I’m glad to see that Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) death is still reverberating within the group, even though (narratively speaking), we got closure last week.
In the same vein, before Rick hops into the still-immaculate green Hyundai (it takes a licking…), he shares a moment with Carl (Chandler Riggs). There are few words spoken, but Rick’s sympathy for Carl’s role in Lori’s death feels genuine and appropriate. Carl expresses a kind of numbness to it all, but he softens a bit when Rick finally addresses it with him. And I’ll admit my heartstrings pulled a little each time I heard Rick refer to newly-named Judith as “his baby” *swoon*.
Back at Woodbury, Andrea (Laurie Holden) doesn’t annoy as much this week, mostly because she doesn’t really say much. But more interestingly, we get introduced to the Governor’s latest experiment: entrusting Milton (Dallas Roberts) to see if any human consciousness remains once someone reanimates as a walker. I love the contrast of the slow-reveal of what was going on with Mr. Coleman juxtaposed with the quick lunge to Milton’s jugular once Coleman turns. Yeah, Andrea is right (for once) but I feel bad for Milton as he sees months of work (and hope) disappear in a matter of seconds.
The Governor’s interrogation of Maggie is quite effective, albeit incredibly uncomfortable and nauseating. I can honestly say I was completely surprised on how smoothly the Governor was able to orchestrate it. It’s a relief to see that he isn’t a rapist on top of everything else, which ultimately makes his character more nuanced and interesting. That’s not to say Maggie isn’t horribly violated and that the Governor isn’t a sadistic bastard. If the Governor had gone through with the rape, there would be nothing redeeming about him and nothing would matter except his swift death. This still may be true, but right now, there are still intriguing facets to him and unanswered questions. I can’t help but think he was very much the mild-mannered, upstanding citizen before the apocalypse happened and his slow descent into the bowels of humanity is intriguing. Contrast this with Merle, who continues to be a straight-up a**hole. Rooker’s character is annoying because an a**hole is all he is.
The scene that follows when Maggie cracks and gives up the prison is incredibly well played, particularly by Yuen – who doesn’t utter a single word but conveys around a thousand emotions in a matter of seconds.
Despite these moments, the episode feels like a dud to me. Part of the problem boils down to the lack of character development and the breakneck speed. I know people griped about how drawn-out last season was, but quite frankly I had more investment when we spent time building things up.
I still feel like I know absolutely nothing about Michonne so I question why she even went to the prison in the first place. She evaded Merle’s capture so why is she willing to risk her life to help Rick get Glenn and Maggie back? Is it because of Andrea? We know next to nothing about her relationship with Andrea, so again, it’s hard to imagine why she wants to head back to Woodbury when she made such a stink about leaving it in the first place. If Michonne is truly all about ‘survival’ then why would she bother complicating things by going back? It’s questionable but it gets us to the final few seconds of the episode where Rick & Co. are at the Woodbury wall ready to attack in what will likely be an action-filled mid-season finale.
- I absolutely hated the little cabin interlude as Rick & Co. escaped a swarm of walkers, mostly because the total and utter disregard for human life. Is this a not-so-subtle (literal) jab at the fanboys who are constantly dissecting this show? This poor man was just sleeping in his home only to be killed and fed to the swarm in a matter of seconds. And it doesn’t even address the millions of questions as to how this man managed to survive all this time, how he’s completely oblivious to the apocalypse outside his door, and what the heck the deal was with his dog. With all of this time we spend debating humanity over the course of the series, it doesn’t sit well how the body count of relatively innocent people is starting to climb as quickly as the walker count.
- I’m not sure how I feel about the “new” Rick when he pushes Michonne’s gunshot wound to get answers about Glenn (clearly a torture tactic). I know that Rick needs to do “whatever it takes” to ensure the safety of his group, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to see him as the “good” counterpart to the Governor’s “bad”. Are they essentially just two guys doing the same thing for different groups?
- I love that Beth (Emily Kinney) saying she’ll “go” (and get Maggie) equals going to the front gate and opening it. Good job, Beth.
- Another excellent scene is Glenn’s chair showdown with the walker Merle tosses in. Not only does it show us just how far Glenn has come as a survivor, but it also makes it more believable that the Grimes group managed to clear out the prison. The Governor finds it unfathomable that a small group would have been able to take on all those ‘biters” but that’s because many of the Woodbury folks are completely oblivious to the danger outside the town walls. A tactical note to Rick: in order to beat the Governor, you just need to coax an onslaught of zombies into Woodbury’s gates.
What did you think Dead fans? Did you find this transitional episode more enjoyable than I did? Do you think Maggie and Glenn will make it out alive? What do you think the reunion between Merle and Daryl (Norman Reedus) will look like? Hit up the comments and let us know what you think.
*A gentle reminder that we adhere to a spoiler free zone, so please leave out any references to the comic book about upcoming plot points you’ve seen online.
The Walking Dead airs its mid-season finale next Sunday at 9pm EST on AMC.