We finally get our face-to-face showdown this week on The Walking Dead when Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and The Governor (David Morrissey) meet in a shack in the woods for a good ol’ fashioned negotiation. After last week’s amazing standalone episode, how does a return to the Team Woodbury/Team Grimes conflict fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
It’s no secret that the impending (and likely explosive) war between Woodbury and the prison will close out the season, so every episode we have ahead of our finale is fighting an uphill battle to feel relevant. I can’t say that ‘Arrow On The Doorstep’ is able to conceal its ‘spinning wheels’ syndrome, but like all Walking Dead episodes, we still manage to get small bursts of brilliance in a largely expository offering.
The cold open draws parallels to the brilliant opening we saw in this season’s premiere – a montage that instantly conveys a gamut of information despite the complete absence of dialogue. This time around, however, it isn’t quite as successful as it was back then. As we watch Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) cautiously approach the shack, we initially have no idea what the hell they’re doing and more importantly why they’re doing it. For all we know they could be on another supply run. It’s not until The Governor emerges from the shadows and cockily states “We have a lot to talk about” that we get a sense of what is going on.
As intriguing as this little sequence is, it’s hard to believe that either side would agree to a neutral meeting considering all that’s transpired between the two camps (Team Grimes in particular seeing as The Governor murdered Axel in cold blood and tortured Steven Yeun’s Glenn and terrorized Lauren Cohan’s Maggie). But the size-up between the two leaders does provide an adequate amount of tension and intrigue despite how unbelievable the circumstances are. As much as I knew it wouldn’t happen, I think everyone watching was collectively chanting for Rick to put a bullet in The Governor’s head and be done with it. We certainly couldn’t blame Rick if he did.
If we’re looking at this episode purely with regard to plot, not much happens. The Governor tells Rick that all he wants is Michonne (Danai Gurira) for personal vengeance and if she’s delivered to him, he’ll leave Team Grimes alone, giving Rick two days think on it. Rick (at least for now) knows that The Governor’s proposition is bullsh*t, knowing ol’Phillip wants everyone dead – plain and simple. What’s far more interesting is the 1% seed of doubt that Rick reveals at episode’s end in his conversation with Hershel. We know Rick isn’t stupid enough to trust The Governor wholeheartedly, but what if The Governor is just unhinged enough to only want Michonne? Is the sacrifice of one life worth it to avoid the slaughter of many? Is Michonne’s life worth the life of an innocent baby? It’s an impossible situation.
Let’s assume that The Governor will make good on his promise about taking Michonne and leaving the rest of Team Grimes alone – Rick still has to be ‘okay’ with betraying a member of his group that, as we’ve established, has adequately ‘earned her place’. If he doesn’t hand over Michonne, it could mean the death of everyone in his group, including Carl (Chandler Riggs) and baby Judith.
The fact that Rick is even questioning what do, despite it all, reveals that he’s still not as far gone as The Governor. Still, considering the avoidance of an all-out war and the inevitable causalities that will result, this is indicative that there’s still some humanity left in Rick. I’m not advocating that Rick be an idiot and trust The Governor (since we clearly don’t believe he’s being genuine) but Rick’s struggle reminds us that three-dimensional characters in complex situations don’t (and shouldn’t) make simple decisions. And besides, isn’t this why we love this show? Ultimately, I believe Rick won’t hand over Michonne and will confront The Governor in an all-out war, but showing us the seed of doubt (echoed in a lovely way in that huge ‘SEED’ sign above the negotiation table) helps to elevate the situation from the confines of predictability.
- The little breakaway scenes between ‘the muscle’ (Daryl and Jose Pablo Cantillo’s Martinez) and ‘the brains’ (Hershel and Dallas Roberts’ Milton) of each group are excellent for showing us the futility of this war. In such short vignettes, it’s bittersweet to see the instant bonding between these sworn enemies and the arbitrary nature of The Governor’s quest for ultimate power.
- I love how Andrea (Laurie Holden) is promptly swatted away from the negotiation table by both Rick and The Governor! It’s extremely satisfying to know that the other characters in the show are just as fed up with Andrea’s sh*t as the rest of us are.
- While we’re on Andrea, let’s add to the laundry list of reasons to hate her: Did anyone else’s jaw drop when it’s revealed that Andrea told the Gov about the ambiguity of Judith’s biological father? This had to have taken place *after* Andrea visited the prison. WHAT. A. BITCH!
- Although details about The Governor’s terrorization of Maggie aren’t revealed, Andrea still chooses to go back to Woodbury despite having more evidence that Philip is a sadistic bastard (and an olive branch from Hershel!). Even though we’re meant to believe that Andrea will act as a ‘double agent’ for Team Grimes while living in Woodbury, I still can’t shake the feeling that Andrea is just an idiot and will end up ruining things for everyone.
- We get one of the most explicit sex scenes the series has offered by way of Maggie and Glenn making- up from the Woodbury kidnapping fallout. Although I would have liked to have seen more complexity in how Maggie’s victimization affected their relationship, it’s probably for the best that these two go back to ‘finding love in a hopeless place.’
- Did Rick meet The Governor pre-apocalypse? I wondered if Rick’s comment about The Governor being the town drunk is just a jab, or if indeed they had met in their previous lives. Oh, and Rick’s line, ‘Either way, I don’t pretend to be a governor’ complete with a single raised-eyebrow? Pure gold my friends.
What did you think Dead fans? Do you think Rick will make a terrible decision and trust The Governor? Anyone want to start making bets on who will eat it in the final battle? Was Merle (Michael Rooker) the only smart cookie of the bunch when he proposed ambushing The Governor during the negotiations? Sound off in our comments section below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone here, so please keep any plot points from the graphic novels or online tidbits to yourself.
The Walking Dead airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC