“We’re not gonna hurt you, unless you try something stupid first.”
“When the Dead Come Knocking” picks up where “Hounded” left off.
Merle is conducting a menacing interrogation. After trying reason, guilt, and pleasantries, Merle alludes to Maggie. He calls her the ‘farmer’s daughter,’ an echo of Glenn’s own words in S2. Merle grudgingly admits, “You’re the sneaky one. The one with nerve. You don’t scare easy, do you?” And in spite of being duct-taped to a chair with Merle’s bayonet arm right under his nose, Glenn doesn’t break. Maggie, in an adjoining room, quietly panics over the sounds of torture.
Rick and Michonne are still mid-staredown. Her bleeding wound smells human, and the walkers turn on her. As Carl joins Rick, Rick faces a choice: to be Old Rick and rescue Michonne, or New Rick who leaves her for dead. Michonne, blacking out from her gunshot, is quickly becoming overwhelmed, and father and son go to her aid. Rick has learned, though, and won’t take Michonne into the cellblock with the others.
When she comes to she reaches for the katana. He kicks it away, tries to set her at ease by explaining he’s keeping her katana, and she’s locked in ‘safe.’ “I didn’t ask for your help,” she growls, and he replies that it doesn’t matter, and he can’t let her leave. After her escape from The Governor, she naturally feels a way about this.
Daryl takes Rick to the cellblock, where the group shares a tearful reunion with Carol. Joy at her return is dampened by her realization that Lori has died. The togetherness and honest emotion here, witnessed through the bars by Michonne, might be all that shifts her reluctance in favor of the prison group.
Andrea and GOV are interrupted post-coitus by Milton. There’s a bit of fan-service with a flash of Andrea’s ass as she’s dressing, and when GOV tells her he needs her she assumes he means sexually. Astoundingly, she’s wrong.
Michonne reveals Maggie and Glenn have been taken. Rick and Daryl try to threaten information out of her, but their team intimidation has no impact on Michonne; she tells them they can find their missing members themselves. Rick calms and tries reason, and Michonne responds in kind. She describes The Governor as a “pretty boy, charming, Jim Jones type,” and says while Woodbury is impenetrable to walkers, there are spots they could infiltrate.
Merle calls Rick Officer Friendly, a joke from S1:E2 when Rick left Merle on the roof in Atlanta, in case people have forgotten Rick is/was a cop. Glenn’s unshakeable faith that Rick will come for them is touching. In the midst of bluffing their numbers, though, he makes the mistake of including Andrea. Merle knows he’s lying. Glenn hasn’t mentioned new additions or the ones Merle would assume to be weak, like badass Carol.
As Hershel stitches Michonne, Daryl, Axel, Beth, and Oscar volunteer to join Rick’s rescue mission. Rick and Carl talk man-to-man, further evidence of Carl as an adult in the group, and Carl surprises a laugh from Rick over Daryl calling the baby “Little Ass Kicker.” They name the girl Judith after Carl’s 3rd grade teacher (relevance?), and as Daryl endearingly tells Carol to stay safe, she replies, “Nine lives, remember?” The group splits up, always ominous.
GOV leaves Andrea with Milton at Mr. Coleman’s sickbed, thanking the dying man, “You’re doing us a great service.”
Milton performs a ritual with a singing bowl and a record player, engaging Coleman in some Pavlovian conditioning as he tests the man’s memory with simple questions. Coleman whispers to Milton, who relates it as a request to continue the song while they wait.
Merle menaces Glenn with a walker. “You’re a pretty big snack for this fella but you know what they say. He’s gonna be hungry again in an hour.” Glenn is resourceful, trying to survive and find a weapon. He breaks the chair (easier than ripping duct tape binding him to it), and manages to stab the walker. There’s a wild howl as the camera pulls back.
Milt explains. After Coleman passes they’ll do trace memory tests again, and Andrea will “end the subject’s reanimated state.” He sips tea; the record and singing bowl are “cues that will hopefully linger in his unconscious mind.” Andrea is skeptical, especially when she discovers Milton has been isolated from the world of walkers. He, like the bow huntress on the wall in “Hounded,” has no real concept of walkers, what they’re capable of, or how they’re devoid of humanity.
Merle mentions to GOV both Glenn and Andrea saying Rick went back to try and save him; perhaps his faith in the Governor is shaken. GOV pulls a knife, freeing Maggie’s arms before asking permission to sit. He plays the reasonable man. “We’ll take you back to your people, explain this is all a misunderstanding.” The manners vanish when she won’t cooperate; when Maggie refuses to take off her shirt he threatens to bring her Glenn’s hand.
With a creepy stare he straightens, stands, removes his weapons and walks behind her. Maggie is visibly disgusted and upset by his touch, and he slams her face down on the table. “You do whatever you’re gonna do, and go to hell.”
Rick thanks Daryl for taking care of things while he was
unhinged grieving. “I know what you did for me, for my baby.” Daryl shrugs it off, “It’s what we do,” as Michonne eavesdrops. They move into formation to take on some walkers, but the large horde has the group on the run. They find a boarded-up shelter, complete with dead dog. “I guess Lassie went home.” Rick wakes a sleeping man, who threatens to call the cops. “I am a cop.” Then instead of reaching for his badge, Officer Friendly goes for the crazed man’s gun, almost getting Daryl shot as he wrestles it away. Michonne kills the man; his screams are drawing more walkers. Daryl scoffs, “Remember the Alamo?” But using the fresh kill as a feeding diversion, the group escapes out a back door.
Milton’s experiment is failing. He removes Coleman’s restraints, and Andrea has her knife prepared. The man lunges and Andrea stabs the walker in the head without hesitation. Milton shudders. “I think I’d like to record my findings while they’re fresh.”
GOV leads a still-shirtless Maggie to a combative Glenn (still wielding part of his chair), using their love to make them give up the camp. When a gun is pointed at Glenn, Maggie weakens at last and tells them about the prison. The Governor ‘comforts’ her before pushing her to Glenn. The prison, it turns out, is “deep in the red zone” first referenced in the last episode, and GOV notes, “This group with your brother at its core has done something you told me couldn’t be done.” Perhaps he means penetrating the red zone, perhaps clearing the prison. More importantly, he notes, “Blood is blood. Makes me wonder where your loyalties lie.” After a moment’s hesitation (and a cut to Daryl), Merle picks Woodbury, and his sincerity is questionable.
Team Prison is outside Woodbury, watching the patrol group. Andrea glances toward the wall on her way to GOV’s room, where she helps herself to some whiskey and hollow comfort; The Governor is not pleased with Milton’s results. His performative attempt to comfort Maggie was more enthusiastic than his vacant-eyed soothing of Andrea.
Michonne, with her quick transition from Woodbury to the prison, gauges Rick’s similarities and differences with the Governor. Initially they seem the same: both have hunkered down and fortified a location, have some shrewd men to help with the dirty work, and want to take her weapon in the guise of keeping her safe. As she spends time with them, though, it’s already clear she doesn’t feel the same misgivings about Rick as a leader. He returned her weapon, and she’s paying careful attention to everything he says/does, getting a feel for the man. Rick is on the level, even if he doesn’t always make the best decisions (like almost getting Daryl shot), while The Governor is utterly Machiavellian, with his ends justifying any means.
Whether it is a matter of different torturers or of different subjects, Maggie’s interrogation is noticeably more sexualized than Glenn’s. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a tactical difference between heavy-handed grunt Merle and cunning schemer GOV; Merle’s desire is physical domination, while The Governor needs to manipulate and control. He’s realized that the emotional impact of a threat can be more effective than its physical realization. Still, several men have been questioned or threatened through the three seasons of The Walking Dead, and none of them were shirtless. It does form a stark contrast between Rick and GOV once more, though; Rick and Daryl used the same tactics earlier witnessed with the prisoners to question Michonne, while the Governor dangles the possibility of rape over Maggie.
Will the mid-season finale finally reveal the secret behind Woodbury’s conspicuous drinking and tonight’s Jim Jones allusion, or will it all be a red herring? Will Beth, as the least-developed surviving character, be the new red shirt? Will Daryl and Merle finally come face-to-face, bayonet-to-crossbow? Will we find out why anyone cares about Carl’s 3rd grade teacher?