This week’s installment of The Walking Dead was another character building episode in anticipation of the Prison vs Woodbury war. I’ve already heard some conflicting opinions from fellow fans about how this episode and last week’s fared. The main issue here is that this episode was another deliberate step to prolong the actual start of this long-built up battle between the two camps. We’ve been building up to this moment for the majority of this portion of the season – we started with a bang, seeing the end of the ambush through to the aftermath of the initial attack. Each “coming up” segment has definitely led me to believe (as I’m sure other viewers, too – damn those tricks they pull out in the edit!) that the war was DEFINITELY gonna start next week. The tension-filled stand-off between the Governor and Rick ended with a rather anticlimactic result, but the one good thing is the stakes are now set, and not just for the Governor and Rick.
Rick has Hershel and Daryl accompany him to a meeting orchestrated by Andrea on “mutual” territory between the two camps. We’re treated to a lot of wonderful visuals here – overhead views of the location, excellent lighting inside that creepy shed, the slow tilt to the Governor’s hidden gun taped against the table. However, this scene leaves something to be desired. If the scene played out straight, without cutting away to Andrea, Daryl and Martinez (the Governor’s lead sharp shooter, if you will), Herhsel and Milton, and the prison, it would feel very tiresome. I get it – this was opportunity for the Governor to work his magic, his manipulative tricks (hey, let’s get Rick drunk on whiskey), but it felt like we were waiting for that ultimatum to come for far too long. Long story short, the Governor’s motives become disgustingly clear as his only demand (for now) is to surrender Michonne to him.
As that long journey to the simple ultimatum plays out, we see a lot of interesting chemistry developing among characters who were previously on opposite sides of the line. One of these odd couples waiting ever so patiently outside the creep-shack are Martinez and and Daryl, who hiss at each other like angry cats (or growl at each other like angry dogs – whichever metaphor you prefer) until they are called to action to ward off walkers. The brilliant thing about this interaction is the mutual acknowledgment that it is possible for them to cohabitate peacefully in this universe. Their zombie-killing spree played like a perfect jazz band improvisation – their minimal communication to one another made for a smooth execution. As they smoke together from a pack of forgotten cigarettes, they break the ice, while heightening the tension with their new and mutual understanding of one another’s instinct to survive.
Back in the prison, we see Meryl and Michonne meet on much more peaceful terms, as he tries to egg people on to just raid the meeting and kill the Governor. He levels with her and shows a more focused side to the rest of the Grimes camp – he knows the Governor must be quashed. (Again, we are still unsure of his true motives but at least he’s playing nice) Though Michonne ultimately turns down his offer to sneak off for a sneak attack, the ice between them has started to melt here. The other amazing thing about Meryl this episode is the possibility that for once, he could be right in what he thinks should be done. There have been a number of golden opportunities to end the Governor’s reign up to this point – could this have been a missed opportunity? If anyone understands the Governor and his ways, it’s Meryl. Maybe everyone should be paying a little more attention to him.
The not-so odd pairing of the group was Hershel and Milton. These are the two men most eager to survive with as little collateral damage as possible, and their hearts tend to be in the right place. Milton is fascinated by Hershel’s ability to survive post-amputation. His awkward but “scientific” request becomes a laughing point for the two. What we really see here is Milton gaining greater recognition of what else is out there. His desire to preserve what’s happening for later historical purposes is a precursor to his growing doubts once he decodes the Governor’s plan to just kill the Grimes camp, whether he abides by the ultimatum or not. We know he’s finally seeing that the Governor’s intentions are no longer pure, and that what he wants is actually what Andrea wants – for everyone to just leave everyone be.
Lastly, there’s Andrea. Again, she is disempowered when the Governor kicks her out of the meeting. Hershel reminds her that once the impending battle starts, whatever side she falls on becomes final. The look on her face as she talks to the Governor upon returning to Woodbury is a sign, I think, that she’s finally seeing his evil side at its capacity.
And loose ends on the episode: I’m not a prude, but the Glenn and Maggie sex scene was a bit excessive. It’s great that they finally settled their differences, but I’d have hoped for something a little more tasteful. I almost felt like I was watching True Blood instead of The Walking Dead. And of course, the heavily soundtracked ending – the song was great, but it was a red herring to the real sticking point in the end – Rick revealing his doubts about going to war for the sake of protecting Michonne.
If anything, we raised the stakes this week and drew a connection between last week’s episode and the war to come. It’s rare a decent, sound-minded human would say this, but my fingers are crossed this damn war starts next week.