The writers of The Walking Dead probably intended last night’s episode to be a gut-wrenching, suspenseful interlude in the lead-up to the great battle. Unfortunately, lackluster dialogue and a displeasing lack of suspense leave us wanting more. We already know how the Governor functions, and we don’t need more evidence of his shortcomings as a human being. We don’t want Michonne to lose any of her badassery as she becomes more attached to Carl and Rick. We know Rick likes to play the hero. We didn’t need an entire episode to pound in these aspects of our characters.
Andrea has set up a meeting between the Governor and Rick because, as the Governor says, the two of them “have a lot to talk about.” Well, that’s an understatement. In a shadowy, abandoned warehouse, the two meet. The Governor plays at removing all his weapons, but has a gun taped to the table where Rick can’t see it – of course he does. How much will it take to convince everyone around him this man is out of his mind, and the farthest thing from trustworthy?
For backup, the Governor brought Martinez (his new sidekick since Merle abandoned Woodbury) and Milton. Rick came equipped with Daryl and Hershel. Andrea came to oversee the festivities, of course. After kicking Andrea out of the warehouse, the Governor and Rick eye each other warily, conversing occasionally in measured tones and sipping on whiskey. While the leaders “calmly” converse inside the warehouse, the “henchmen” snipe at each other outside the doors. Andrea stares blankly into space, contemplating her options.
When they hear oncoming walkers, Andrea, Daryl, and Martinez go to work. Martinez and Daryl engage in a pissing contest while Andrea marches in and gets going. She shakes her head at the two of them before smashing a walker’s head. Suddenly, the writers are trying to play her like she’s frustrated with all this testosterone, when in reality it’s her own shortsightedness, her own stubbornness and denial, that brought everyone here in the first place. As always, her scheme got away from her.
Meanwhile, at the prison, it’s another episode of Everybody Hates Merle. The elder Dixon brother tries to convince Glenn, Maggie, and Michonne that they need to attack the Governor. “Your dad’s head could be on a pike real soon,” he says to Carl. Merle gathers weapons and tries to attack the Governor on his own, but the combined force of Glenn, Maggie, and Michonne put the kibosh on his little hero mission.
The Governor and Rick snark at each other for a few more minutes, until the Governor mentions Judith’s parentage. At this point, it feels like Shane and Lori have been dead for ages, and it’s a nice reminder of just how shoddy Rick’s emotional situation is. “Didn’t you ever misjudge someone?” the Governor asks Rick, knowing perfectly well the answer. “Andrea told me about your baby, how she could be your partner’s. You’re caring for her anyway, and I respect that. You’re taking responsibility for being unable to see the devil beside you,” he says, with a tiny grin.
Outside, the henchmen and the advisers settle into an almost-comfortable routine. Daryl smokes a cigarette and talks to Martinez, who begins to actually grow a personality. The two share a sullen moment together, representing the hard-but-secretly-sort-of-soft killers. Across the way, Milton and Hershel sit amiably next to each other and converse. They represent science, compassion, and thoughtfulness on both sides. Milton’s totally fascinated by Hershel’s stump and how it got to be. “I’m not showing you my leg,” Hershel says, slightly disgusted. “At least buy me a drink first!” Milton isn’t quite sure how to respond to a joke at first, but when the two share a laugh you begin to realize they’re actually quite similar. Andrea looks up from her stupor long enough to ask Hershel, and to show genuine concern for, what happened with Maggie. “I can’t go back there,” she says desperately after Hershel tells her how sick the Governor is. “You’re family, you belong with us,” he assures Andrea. But it isn’t that simple.
Inside, the Gov tells Rick the details of hearing about his wife’s death in a car accident. She left him a voicemail asking him to call her on the day she died, but he didn’t have a chance. “I sat there clutchin’ that phone thinkin’, what did she want? Just to check in? Ask me to pick something up for dinner?” Once he realizes his story has affected Rick (dead wife, phantom phone calls, etc.), a smug smile crosses his lips briefly. He’s got the upper hand in inhumanity, that’s for sure. (On another note, it’s odd to hear a character refer to something as mundane as “voicemails” in this universe.)
Back inside the prison’s walls, Merl and Michonne display a fun rapport. He claims to be an assassin “when he needs to be,” and she rightfully asks why he let her go. “Musta been seduced by your sterling personality,” he says with utmost sarcasm and disdain. He asks Michonne, the other potential rogue agent, if she’ll go with him to get the Governor. She, though, has a newly built loyalty to Rick and Carl, and tells him where he can stick it, more or less.
Maggie finally extends a hand to Glenn, giving them an opportunity to talk. Talking leads to touching, though, and touching leads to sex. Understandably, Glenn can’t get aroused with the walkers “watching,” so they give up on watching for intruders and retreat into a storage compartment to have dirty, sweaty sex on the cement floor. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the two of them interact in a loving way, and it’s nice to have their relationship back. Unfortunately, this kind of love can’t exist long in such a brutal world; I kept expecting one of them to get shot in the head, and I fear one of them will die or be severely injured by the end of the season.
Rick negotiates with the Governor, who reveals that (of course) he only wants Michonne. Our fearless leader offers a hypothetical question: “If I give you Michonne, how do I know you’ll keep your word?” The Gov gives him two days to think over the offer. After establishing similarities and a cool understanding between the lesser members of each faction, everyone gets back in their cars to leave. The henchmen and advisers exchange tense glances through open car windows as the vehicles move away in a yin yang pattern. (This seems pointed – Woodbury and the prison are inextricably intertwined now, perversely relying on one another.)
Shortly after arriving back in Woodbury, the Gov lets Milton in on his master plan, which of course is to kill everyone but Michonne. As he tells Martinez happily, in a few days they’ll bring everyone around and it’ll be a perfect way to end everything! He explains that this is obviously the “best way to avoid a slaughter.” Showing some backbone for once despite his deeply rooted fear of the Governor, Milton says, “That is a slaughter.”
The show’s soundtrack has changed in the last few episodes, and this is no exception. There’s a soft crooner on the soundtrack as the Governor and Andrea dance around each other, then as Rick avoids telling his people what the terms are. “He wants the prison, he wants us gone,” he tells the prison posse. “We’re going to war.” It’s clear he’s chosen a battle over sacrificing Michonne, as we expected him to do. Afterward, though, he asks Hershel if he’s willing to sacrifice his daughters’ lives for her. “Why would you tell me this?” Hershel wonders, and it’s a good question. “I’m hoping you can talk me out of it,” Rick reveals. And cut.
This episode was a slow fizzle as opposed to last week’s uncomfortable burn. I realize the season’s End of Days is coming up, but this episode slowed the season’s roll to a point of inertia. Hopefully the writers can pick it up again next week.