“All this running from walkers… You forget what people do. What they’ve always done.”
Walking Dead’s mid-season finale, the much anticipated conflict between Team Prison and Woodbury, might have been packed with smoke, bullets, and chaos, but delivered a much lower body count than my unofficial twitter-polling anticipated.
The sounds of screaming underscore five strangers fleeing walkers in the woods. Donna, the woman having hysterics, gets bit in short order and honestly it’s a wonder she has survived this long in the undead apocalypse at large. Her husband and son are reasonably devastated, but the couple with them is torn between practicality and humanity; Sasha wants to leave Donna behind, while Tyreese is unwilling to sacrifice her.
As Andrea primps she sees a family photo; she bears an uncanny resemblance to Phillip’s wife, but puts it aside when the Governor cuddles her. He treats her like she’s delicate, and at her insistence on helping Milton cremate Mr. Coleman, he muses that Woodbury and its people are starting to grow on her. When she’s gone he retreats to his creepy sanctuary and uncages Penny. His singing is reminiscent of Milton’s attempts at memory-retention, but Penny remains wild. He screams at her then seems horrified, perhaps by his loss of cool, or by the realization that there’s really nobody home in his daughter.
Glenn has given Maggie his shirt. As she affirms that GOV really didn’t hurt her, they comfort each other. Glenn rips bones from the walker Merle set on him to use as weapons; with each episode Glenn becomes more resourceful, proving that he’s a true survivor willing to do whatever it takes.
Michonne leaves ‘Team Prison’ like a lone wolf and almost gets shot by the edgy Daryl, Rick and Oscar when she returns from a quick reconnaissance. There’s a power struggle between Rick and Michonne; he doesn’t trust her, especially when she can’t pinpoint precisely where Maggie and Glenn are being held. They catch a man looking for curfew stragglers and zip-tie him for questioning.
GOV scoffs at Merle’s idea to move Woodbury to the prison. “People love it here because it feels like what was.” He wants to make Daryl their inside man, to wave a white flag like they did when they ambushed the National Guard survivors, then kill Rick’s group. He tells Merle to take Maggie and Glenn to the ‘screaming pits’ so Andrea can’t stumble across them. This goes poorly; Maggie stabs a man in the throat with the walker arm bones as Glenn wrestles Merle, then she points a gun at Merle. Reinforcements arrive and the tables turn again. Gunfire attracts Rick’s group and they close in on the captives, using smoke grenades for cover. They rescue Maggie and Glenn tidily, but are then faced with escaping Woodbury on high alert.
Amidst rising panic, GOV tries to keep Andrea away from the chaos lest she recognize people. He urges ‘civilians’ to stay inside, lock doors, and keep lights off. GOV claims a perimeter breach, setting patrols for ‘terrorists’ and telling his soldiers not to take chances, to shoot to kill. Andrea’s mutinous; she wants to be the cowboy. “You want me to do house calls? Make sure everyone’s tucked in?” He plays it off, insisting he needs someone with authority, and she relents.
Glenn tells Daryl Merle was responsible, and apologizes to Rick for giving up the prison. Daryl has an abrupt break from the cool collected man he’s become, eager to find his brother. Rick’s scene with Daryl is a mirror of the conversation between GOV and Merle from “When the Dead Come Knocking,” asserting loyalty to the group first and his brother second.
With more smoke bombs for cover, they try to sneak out. Andrea sees an intruder, but conveniently it’s Oscar, the only one she wouldn’t recognize. Daryl lays down cover fire so the others can escape; he wants to linger in hopes of seeing Merle. In slow motion, Rick sees (or does he? Crazypants!) a man that looks like Shane shoot Oscar. Rick pulls his other gun and kills the man, and as Maggie delivers a headshot to Oscar they shout to Daryl that it’s time to go.
Michonne has set up in GOV’s place, sitting with katana drawn and waiting. She hears a noise and bursts into GOV’s creeper cave. Even she’s stunned by the wall of heads, but hears Penny rattling around. In spite of the obvious walker sounds Michonne softens, dropping her weapon and comforting what she thinks is a child, even unleashing Penny before pulling off the head-bag. Sympathy turns to revulsion but before she can kill Penny the Governor appears, pleading. He takes Michonne in stride considering Merle said he killed her, and removes his gun, “There’s no need for her to suffer.”
“She doesn’t have needs.”
“Don’t hurt my little girl. Please.”
Michonne’s face is priceless. Shock, disgust… Then she kills Penny. GOV goes ballistic and they wrestle, smashing into walls and aquariums, choking and biting. The walker heads are still chomping. Michonne can’t reach her katana and settles for a shard of glass, stabbing Phillip in the eye. Midway through the killing blow she comes face-to-face with Andrea. “What have you done?”
Thank you, queen of stupid questions. Let’s talk about your boyfriend instead of the fishtanks of walker heads or his dead daughter. Michonne, looking as though she never imagined facing down Andrea at sword-point, backs off. GOV cries over his daughter, and Andrea sees the disembodied heads amidst the rubble. Revelation?
Wait for it. Wait for it…
She goes to comfort Phillip.
Meanwhile back at the prison, Beth is caring for baby Judith. Axel chats her up in an uncomfortable way; even if she’s seventeen she seems so young, and Carol pulls Axel aside for a talk about trying to ‘repopulate’ with Beth. He shrugs it off as slim pickings; after all Maggie is with Glenn and Carol is a lesbian. She looks torn between amusement, confusion, and irritation as she sets him straight (pun!), and when he realizes her short hair doesn’t make her gay he grins. “Interesting.” No, no it’s not. Sweet Carol burn.
Later, screams echo through the prison. Carl and Hershel debate who will investigate, but Carl wins, “My father would go.” He finds the new survivors in a dire situation, and they’re stunned to see him. He urges them to safety.
Donna dies. Carl offers to finish her, but Tyreese refuses. “We take care of our own.” As he prepares to smash Donna’s skull with a hammer, Carl locks them in. “This room is secure. You’ll be safe.” Sasha panics but Tyreese calms her, calling Carl a man. “This is the best we’ve had it in weeks. His house.” Tyreese is clearly another strong leader, aware of his responsibilities and the order of things.
Beth looks conflicted. “Shouldn’t we help them?”
“I did.” Carl finally gets it. In season 2 watching him steal guns and taunt walkers, I never thought he’d make it this far. But he’s been burdened with heavy choices and responsibility this season, and is rising to each occasion.
After the doctor, Andrea gets down to the important questions. She asks why Michonne was there, then finally about the fishtanks and Penny. GOV’s explanation is fair, even if it glosses over the psychotic elements of his office. “I made myself look at them… to prepare me for the horrors outside.” Milton and Merle rush in. When Merle announces the attackers made it over the wall, Phillip’s one eye looks murderous.
Outside Woodbury, Rick and the others wait for Daryl. Michonne returns, and the reception isn’t warm. Accusatory, Rick takes her katana, but she wants to stay with the group now. She explains that whether they go back to the prison or head in to find Daryl, they’ll need her. Faced with her sudden desperation, Rick looks skeptical.
Woodbury is assembled at the walker fight ring from “Say the Word.” The Governor walks out like a battered leader, but has a rallying speech in his pocket.
What can I say? Hasn’t been a night like this since the walls were completed, and I thought we were past it. Past the days when we all sat huddled, scared in front of the TV during the early days of the outbreak. The fear we all felt then… We felt it again tonight. I failed you. I promised to keep you safe. Hell, look at me. I should tell you that we’ll be okay. That we’re safe. That tomorrow we’ll bury our dead and endure, bur I can’t, because I’m afraid. Afraid of the terrorists…. who want what we have and are trying to destroy us.
Terrorists. Like any good politician, he makes a move to unite his people against the threat of a mysterious ‘other,’ but needs one final piece to cement Woodbury’s bloodlust. He sells Merle Dixon as the sacrificial lamb, stripping him of his bayonet and accusing him of being the ‘man on the inside’ (like he wanted to make Daryl). With the crowd howling, he reveals Daryl. The brothers come face to face for the first time in almost a year. Ominous, the Governor intones, “You wanted your brother. Now you got him.”
The non-stop action wasn’t without nuance; this was the first time Michonne expressed much of anything outside suspicion and ruthlessness. Her back story with Andrea is still unexplained, and her sudden need to stay with Rick is curious at least. Rick’s back-and-forth indecision suggests he’s still in transition between Ricktatorship and Officer Friendly; he’s struggling to find a workable balance, unable to trust his gut any longer.Tyreese’s arrival and his nod to taking care of his own raises to mind whether he’ll fall in harmoniously with the established pecking order or will try to seize power; he’s used to being in charge, but also seems kindhearted and sensible.
Daryl’s loyalties between the group and blood have been tested; with Daryl being the consummate survivor, likely he only got captured because some part of him wanted to. His showdown with Merle ought to be epic, but if the Governor is forcing them to fight to the death in an arranged circumstance instead of it happening organically as a result of character differences, the show will have missed the golden opportunity to let three seasons of Daryl’s development set its own conflict with Merle.
Carol’s dismissal of
Mustache Axel is badass; even without him calling her a lesbian, Carol doesn’t have to settle just because the world has ended. Maggie’s rebound from her horrifying interrogation is perfect; in spite of spilling the location of the prison she has remained strong.
And Andrea… Andrea… If she buys GOV’s story about Daryl and company being a terrorist, I think she’s gone beyond redemption. I’ve been known to make some poor choices in the name of sex and I can forgive her Shane, but this is ridiculous. Between that and her continued insistence of shooting first and asking questions later, this girl has got to get it together. Thank god for Carol and Maggie, man, proof that women can still be strong and capable without being trigger-fingered idiots, and can still get theirs without being led around by their genitals. I’m hoping for more of the same from Sasha, though her hard pragmatism about Donna makes me worry we’re getting another Lori.
Share with me your feels!
Quick note: For the Mid-season break I’ll be running through S1, trying to see the episodes with fresh eyes, and also examining them in the greater framework of the season. If you’ve got Netflix or the DVDs, follow along!
- Walking Dead, S3:E7 “When the Dead Come Knocking”
- Walking Dead, S3:E6, “Hounded”
- Walking Dead S3:E5, “Say the Word”
- Walking Dead, S3:E4 “Killer Within”
- Walking Dead, S3:E3, “Walk With Me”
- Walking Dead S3:E2, “Sick”
- Walking Dead S3:E1, “Seed”