I know last week I complained about the war not starting yet. You could say I prayed for it to start? (See what I did there? Lame episode title pun, I know) I forgot the episode count, and remembered as soon as we started with this week’s episode that there’d still be some time left before the war begins. The difference between last week’s drawn out “chat” for the terms and this week’s episode is the movement in the action. If you think about it on simple terms, the episode took place literally in one day, just like last week’s. However, by playing up the usual tropes of the horror genre, I found myself far more engaged with The Walking Dead this week.
We are presented again with very isolated action – Tyreese and Sasha navigating the politics of their group within pre-war Woodbury, and the Andrea/Milton/Governor tension as the Governor prepares for his true intentions of envoking war upon the prison. The camera tricks and suspense typical of the horror genre are employed in both of the arcs to highlight the inner evil of the Governor and Woodbury.
For Tyreese and Sasha, they approach their integration into Woodbury with a certain degree of rightful suspicion. Though they have no proof, you can tell in the way they look and pause to examine the little blips (i.e. Andrea’s panicked need to leave, the pit of walkers as a war tactic) that they sense something isn’t totally right in Woodbury. Allen and Ben become disgruntled by Tyreese and Sasha’s more careful approach to the way of life in Woodbury – clearly, they’ve latched onto the idea of staying in a community, and don’t want to risk getting kicked out. This new group splinters off in the same way Michonne and Andrea did. Allen and Ben take Andrea’s attitude and embrace Woodbury; the main difference though is their taste for war and answering to more angered instincts. Allen and Ben have always been on the other side of the line since we’ve known them this season – a little rougher on the edges, a little edgier in general. Their inclination to follow the Governor should be disturbing for the viewers. If and when the Governor’s true nature is revealed to this group, will Allen and Ben stick with the Governor or leave?
As far as building suspense, the tension and energy in every scene where there was that potential for Tyreese and Sasha to see the truth played brilliantly, from the moment they let Andrea leave the gates of Woodbury. As they talk to the Governor, we cut to glimmers in the Governor’s eye – it keeps us guessing how he is going to deal with Tyreese and Sasha, if he thinks they’re too close to the truth. The dramatic irony of the viewer watching the Governor manipulate the truth to keep them further from the truth also added to the movement and tone and excitement of the episode. I’d rather see this sort of wordplay from the Governor than him shooting the breeze with Rick any day.
And then, of course, there’s Milton and Andrea. Every scene where they come so close to the Governor plays out like a true horror movie, and it is here we get loads of visual confirmation of the depth of the Governor’s evilness. From the toolkit he sets out for his hidden torture chamber, to the ominous whistling, The Walking Dead builds up the true potential of the Governor’s power. The cat and mouse chase for Andrea and the Governor in that warehouse was also so brilliantly done, I couldn’t look away. Every turn of the corner was another opportunity that Andrea squeaked by, until she unleashed the walkers piled up by the staircase. The tiny victory for her felt well earned, especially after how much build up there was to get to that point. Even the disappointing twist of the Governor pinning down Andrea just outside the prison gates was an excellent execution of a horror genre trope – the hero misses a golden opportunity by just one second.
The mood around Milton also feels much more ominous, and he’s emerged as a far more interesting character now that he is turning against the Governor. He shows Andrea the torture chamber as motivation to get her to escape while she can. His inability to lie to the Governor about revealing the true plan to Andrea also plays well to further victimize Milton in a situation where he is trapped and potentially doomed in his position. The scene of the burning of the zombie pit is shot and edited in a particular way to leave the viewer wondering if Tyreese or Milton is the culprit. That final moment between Milton and the Governor where the Governor confronts Milton is well written with the subtlety and subtext of fear as any good horror movie would be.
Again, this was clearly another stall episode. But I’m happy to see The Walking Dead play out like a horror show as opposed to the soap opera it can tend to be. With two more episodes left, the war has to be starting now. The stakes have been raised high yet again, with Andrea, Rick, and Michonne’s fates left hanging in the balance.