I always wonder about the viewership of television shows like The Walking Dead that have the misfortune to run during the Oscars ceremony. Did most of the world watch Walking Dead last night, or DVR it in favor of pretty dresses, Adele, and magnanimous back-patting?
If there’s one thing The Walking Dead does well, it’s to remind us that in the zombie apocalypse, the real danger isn’t zombies. It’s us. Loyalties shift from day to day, power takes precedence over mercy, and everyone has guns. Since returning from hiatus, the series has slowed considerably. Is anyone else already tired of Rick’s “wandering through crazytown?” Yes, we understand he’s been through a lot and the pressure is wearing him horribly thin. This is, after all, the apocalypse. However, his self-indulgence is obnoxious (and I had really hoped we were rid of Lori once and for all).
Following their return to the prison, Glenn and Maggie aren’t in the best shape. Glenn can’t stand the idea of Merle joining the posse, and hates Maggie a little bit for her pragmatism – she realizes perfectly well that they need more able-bodied men, even ones like Merle. When it feels like Rick is welcoming Daryl and Merle back to the prison, Glenn throws a tantrum. It’s all the more poignant for his beaten face and blackened eyes – Merle did those things to him, and if I were Glenn, I’d want the guy dead.
Daryl, of course, can’t leave his brother behind, so goes with Merle. In the woods, the two of them bicker and argue. Just in case anyone forgot, Merle is still an asshole to his little brother. When they get into a minor physical altercation, Merle rips off Daryl’s shirt, revealing a back horribly scarred by a whip. In this scene, we get an important, humanizing glimpse into the Dixon abode of yore – and how the brothers turned out the way they did. “I’m sorry,” Merle says to Daryl about their childhood, and he really means it this time. “I had to leave, or I woulda killed him.”
Daryl, newly attuned to the cries of a baby, hears a child crying and follows the sound with a grousing Merle on his heels. The two discover a Mexican family fighting off a herd of walkers, and help them escape. Merle complains to Daryl the whole time about wasting bullets, and Daryl responds (god bless him), “There was a baby!” Merle’s just going to have to deal with this new, softer Daryl.
Speaking of families, Maggie craves a stability she’s unlikely ever to have. In a scene that is sad and telling, Beth hands her sister Lil’ Asskicker and explains how to hold the bottle so the baby doesn’t get gassy. Motherhood, it seems, is something Maggie will probably never experience. And if Glenn doesn’t get himself together, his rage is going to kill him, leaving her all alone. She’s pulling away for her own sake.
After revealing to Carol that he was in prison not for pharmaceuticals as he previously said, but for robbing a store with a toy gun, Axel takes a bullet to the face courtesy the Governor. In the hail of gunfire that follows, Carol uses poor Axel’s body as a shield. The prison crew miraculously hold off any further fatalities, but the Governor sends a truck through the gates and unleashes a horde of walkers. Checkmate.
In last night’s episode, Carl takes a moment to tell his dad to take a damned break already. This poor kid watched his father kill his mentor, helped birth his baby sister, shot his mother in the head, and is now watching his father spiral down the rabbit hole of madness. And yet, he’s the sane one? Stephen King wrote in a foreword to one of his novels that kids have malleable, adaptable minds – which is why they can look the boogeyman in the face. It is only in adulthood that we begin to harden, our mental walls thickening – the boogeyman is a figment of the imagination, of course. When those walls begin to crumble, when the boogeyman becomes real, we tumble toward insanity, as Rick is doing. Carl’s world is still shifting and changing, his mind adapting; the question is, how will he turn out?
The Governor, meanwhile, is building an army. It includes asthmatic teenagers and old ladies with arthritis, but it is an army nonetheless. For the Gov, it is literally an eye for an eye, and as Merle warns, the prison posse is dealing with a very, very dangerous man. “He’ll leave Rick for last so he can watch his family and friends die ugly,” Merle explains.
Carol and Daryl continue their gentle flirtation. She has become rather zen in the last few episodes, and her words in this episode are important. “He’s your brother, but he’s not good for you,” she tells Daryl. Them’s fightin’ words coming from anyone but Carol. Hershel approaches Merle to get a feel for him, and the amputees quote the Bible at one another. Hershel has fully taken Dale’s role of peacekeeper and father figure (which only serves to further convince me that Jeffrey DeMunn quit the series unexpectedly, facilitating Dale’s untimely death).
Andrea asks Milton to help her escape from Woodbury, and Milton, that snake, reports her to the Governor. When the Gov gives Milton the go-ahead to help Andrea out, the two of them trap a walker, chop off his arms, and curbstomp him (this scene was really difficult for me to watch), rendering him harmless. In the process, Tyreese’s crew stumbles on Milton and Andrea, and Milton leads them back to Woodbury. Using Michonne’s method, Andrea heads toward the prison using her pet walker as a deterrent against the other biters.
Of course, since Rick went crazy on Tyreese’s people, forcing them out into the wilderness, they’re going to pick whatever side offers them shelter…and that’s a big problem for the prison crew. When Andrea arrives, she sees just how things have changed, the conditions in which her friends are living, the deception under which she’s been toiling. No one, on either side, can tell where her loyalties lie. I don’t think she knows.
Andrea accuses Michonne of telling lies, while Michonne tells Andrea what’s actually been going on – that the Governor sent someone to kill Michonne, that he would’ve killed Andrea too, if she’d left Woodbury with her friend. “Those people need me!” Andrea cries, to which Michonne responds cooly, “I did not realize the Messiah complex was contagious…you chose a warm bed over a friend.” Ooh, burn. The truth hurts, huh, Andrea?
Carol, ever the voice of reason, tells Andrea she can stop this. All she needs to do is give the Governor the night of his life, then when he’s asleep, end it all. When Andrea returns to Woodbury, she does give the Governor a lovely night, and then holds a knife to his neck…but she can’t quite pull it off. (In other news, the Governor is so slimy that watching him kiss Andrea actually caused an involuntary moue of disgust to appear on my face…I can’t help it.)
In other news, the prison has great acoustics, and while the Governor may have electricity through which to play his creepy piano sonatas, Beth has a pretty voice and knows the beauty of Tom Waits.
We keep trading people back and forth, from Woodbury to the prison, back to Woodbury. With Tyreese and company on the Governor’s side the prison is in more trouble than ever. Merle appears to be basically a hired gun, useful to whichever side he’s currently on…and that side will always be Daryl’s. And who will Andrea choose? She’s the only wild card.
What did you think of the last few episodes? How do you think it’ll end? Do you think Tyreese and Andrea will rejoin the prison crew? Share your thoughts in the comments!