The Governor (David Morrissey) strikes back at Team Grimes this week by weaponizing walkers in an all-out assault on the prison. We knew it would only be a matter of time…
Let’s bitch it out.
Let’s jump right to the meat of the episode: The Governor quickly getting out of his whiny-kid funk by successfully launching a (somewhat) surprise attack on the Grimes gang, ‘zombie bomb’ and all. With Rick (Andrew Lincoln) spending much of the time before the attack in Nutsville, Daryl (Norman Reedus) still in the woods with Merle (Michael Rooker) and Glenn (Steven Yuen) doing a right-sh*t job as substitute leader, Team Woodbury couldn’t have chosen a better time to show up for their attack.
Looks like the Governor’s got his mojo back by very cleverly orchestrating the attack – starting with his manipulation of Andrea (Laurie Holden). Masterfully pulling the puppet strings, the Governor’s treatment of Andrea is a thing of beauty. He strokes her ego by telling her that she’s the best thing for Woodbury in their time of need, especially after her rousing speech last week.
He tells her that there’s no longer a plan of retaliation on the prison, but instead, he just needs a little bit of ‘me time’. And of course, poor, gullible, stupid Andrea buys it (although she does score some minor points in trying to squeeze the Governor’s whereabouts from Dallas Roberts’ Milton later on). Who wants to put money on Andrea bedding the Governor when he returns from the prison looking for some post-killing release? As much as I despise Andrea,it’s clear that the writers are leaving her in Woodbury in order to save her for the big showdown between Rick and the Gov at the end of the season. She’ll likely to play an instrumental role in determining who wins that final battle, likely redeeming herself and earning her place back on Team Grimes. Why else would she continue to stick around Woodbury, constantly overlooking the glaring reasons that the Governor is bad news?
Prior to the attack, it looks like the Grimes gang couldn’t be less cohesive. Rick’s abandoned the prison completely, symbolically crossing a small bridge into the shadows and literally embracing his vision of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Although it is wonderful to see finally see a close-up of Lori’s face and Rick’s reaction as she lovingly touches his cheek, I think it would be more effective if we didn’t see Callies at all. As I mentioned it in my review of ‘Hounded’, the visual manifestation of Lori detracts from the gritty realism I find so attractive about the show. Indeed, it’s more believable that Rick, sleep-deprived and grieving, wouldn’t entirely be over Lori’s death after just a few short days. Part of me wishes that the show stuck with the imagined phone call as the point of closure between husband and wife (or at the very least, waiting until season four to pull out her cameo).
The emotional damage on Rick is starting to feel tedious – there’s only so much we can take of him getting repeatedly knocked down. I understand that Rick is being pushed beyond his limits, and we see the ramifications of that in the Governor’s success when he attacks the prison, but it’s about time he snaps out of it. Either that, or he should completely succumb to Crazy Town, which would be much better communicated if the viewers weren’t privy to his hallucinations (i.e. seeing Lori).
In Rick’s ‘absence’, Glenn decides to take on the role of leader, letting his vengeance for the Governor’s attack on Maggie (Lauren Cohan) drive his tactical decisions. Thankfully Hershel (Scott Wilson), this season’s Dale, is the voice of reason. As passionate as Glenn is about marching straight over to Woodbury and taking out the Governor, Hershel is the one to point out his foolish impetuousness, instead suggesting that they vacate the prison pronto. As much as it makes sense for Glenn to fill Rick’s shoes, I appreciate how The Walking Dead very economically shows us that Glenn isn’t fit to be leader. Not only is no one on watch while Glenn tries to strategize, but it seems that even he doesn’t buy his role as ‘Glenn-tator’. One moment, he’s adamant about assassinating the Governor, but mere seconds later with Hershel in his ear, Glenn is quickly changing his plan. It’s nice to know that even in his heightened state of revenge, Glenn still has the foresight to see a suicide mission for what it is.
Daryl, on the other hand, shows us that he’s got the cojones to step in as leader if need be. Between saving the family on the bridge, defending Glenn (He’s Korean!), finally telling Merle that he’s no longer a part of his family, and saving Rick in his hour of need, Daryl very rightly earns the medal for most developed character on this series. Can you even imagine this Daryl capable of robbing the entire camp…because that was his role back in season one? My heart just about melts when we get the close-up of those scars on his back accompanied by the subtlest crack in his voice as he admits to Merle that he suffered the same fate at their father’s hands. Sigh – breaking the cycle. Our little trailer park prince has come so far!
Although the attack on the prison appears to be a win for Team Woodbury, it should be the catalyst that the fractured Grimes group needs to ban together and secure their titular ‘Home’. Daryl is now back on Team Grimes and can hopefully sway Merle to fall in line. Glenn returns from his ill-timed joyride to find that in his short tenure as leader, the group lost yet another member (Lew Temple’s Axel – who was actually a stand-up guy!) and came very close to losing everyone else. Here’s hoping this is enough to snap Rick out of his psychosis (if only temporarily), prompt him to take a shower and a much needed nap.
- Cinematically, the way in which the attack happens is brilliant. Much of the episode moves at a snail’s pace, but the shock of that bullet to Axel’s head and the subsequent spurt of blood all over Carol’s (Melissa McBride) face is just the visceral kick in the pants the episode sorely needs.
- Daryl scores even more points this week when he delivers the best zombie kill of the series: slamming the Hyundai hatchback trunk on a walker’s skull.
- Another noteworthy scene occurs when Maggie tells Glenn that the Governor didn’t rape her. He very clearly is relieved to hear it, and I suspect he foolishly believes that they’ll be able to mend their relationship because it somehow isn’t as bad as he thought. Maggie, on the other hand, continues to push him away, wanting nothing to do with him. I still maintain, as I did in the original episode review, that even though The Governor didn’t rape her, it doesn’t mean that Maggie hasn’t been irrevocably violated. I appreciate how the show embraces the complicated nature of what happened, and I’m hoping that this continues to be something the pair struggle to reconcile with in subsequent episodes.
What did you think Dead-fans? Were you shocked by Axel’s death? Do you think the Grimes gang will finally get it together and secure the prison? How do you think Andrea will play into the final battle? Hit up the comments and let us know your thoughts.
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The Walking Dead airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC.