“This rage is gonna get you killed.”
The group is divided into three camps; in addition to the prison and Woodbury, the Dixon brothers have splintered off on their own, to make their bickering hillbilly way through the woods.
Rick is still losing his mind. Michonne watches as he chases Lori’s phantom to the gravesite, then runs right out the gate. Glenn and Carl are mapping the prison trying to identify weak spots and prepare for attach. Glenn is clearly still high on angry adrenaline. Michonne finally speaks up about the fishtanks of heads, and agrees to try and assassinate the Governor with Glenn. Hershel speaks up in Rick’s absence, and they argue the cons of staying vs. running. With a newborn and an amputee, Glenn argues running is impossible. He agrees not to run but to fortify, then realizes no one is on watch as Maggie stalks off. This pits his new responsibility against his need to see if Maggie is alright.
Woodbury has run out of picnics. The Governor compliments Andrea’s speech as “Exactly what these people needed to hear…. I thought this place would be something else, something better. But I wasn’t up to the challenge. I screwed it up. I’ve done some terrible things. I’m not fit to lead. But you are.” He wants Andrea to lead while he gets himself back together, playing on Andrea’s need to be needed; while the prison might be full of her friends, Woodbury is filled with people who depend on her for survival. He leaves her to make her choice, sneaking up on Milton as he tries to meditate. As Philip goes on about how he counts on Milton it seems he’s not giving Andrea the reins, but rather consolidating power and setting her up as a benevolent figurehead so he can do all the dirty work he wants.
Almost immediately, Andrea asks around for information and finds Milton and the wall patrol reluctant to answer her questions. Milton hedges, claiming GOV is on a supply run, and Andrea isn’t stupid enough to believe him. Is anyone? And if GOV and his heavies aren’t on a supply run, then where are they?
Glenn and Carl are finding fortifying the prison problematic. Glenn wants to take Maggie to scout the far side of the prison and they finally get to the heart of the distance between them.
Glenn: Are we gonna talk about this? Maggie, you need to talk about this.
Maggie: I do, or you do? What do you want me to say? You want me to say he made me get naked and stand in front of him….
Glenn: Did he…?
Maggie: Rape me? No. Do you feel better?
In the end she sends him away, insisting he got his answer, though the conversation hasn’t cleared anything up. On a catwalk Carol and Axel are strengthening defenses and Axel passes the time telling her how he got arrested for robbing a store with a water pistol but still got busted for armed robbery. He confesses he doesn’t know how to use his gun, and when Carol breaks it down for him he charms, “You’re quite a lady.”
Merle and Daryl are in the woods and the reunion honeymoon is already over as the pair argues over everything. Daryl is torn when Merle insists the Governor will strike hard at the prison, but follows along. They debate directions. “I may have lost my hand, but you lost your sense of direction.” Merle tries to make it into a bet and Daryl grumbles, “Why’s everything gotta be a competition with you?” But their bickering is distracted by noises Merle claims is a “couple ‘coons makin’ love sweet love,” while Daryl insists it’s a baby (is it a baby, or is Daryl full of remorse for leaving Lil Asskicker?). They see a group in trouble on the bridge.
Merle is disinclined to help. “Why? I aint wasting my bullets for a couple strangers that ain’t never cooked me a meal.” Daryl leaps in to save the day against tough odds, while Merle just watches. He jumps in eventually, more for the thrill of the kill than any sense of brotherhood, as evidenced by his immediate dismissal of the people they saved as ‘beaners.’ He begins digging through their car to take his own token of their gratitude and Daryl points his bow at him. “I know you’re not talking to me, brother.” They leave the family behind, framed by a sign for Yellow Jacket Creek that proves Daryl was right about where they are and Merle was wrong.
This physical showdown brings their issues to a head at last. “I went back for you. You weren’t there. I didn’t cut off your hand, neither. You did that. Way before they locked you up on that roof. And you asked for it.” Merle scoffs about Rick and the camp, announcing he and Daryl planned to “rob that camp blind” in season 1 before they were split up. Daryl calls Merle “a simple-minded piece of shit,” and in the scuffle Merle rips Daryl’s denim vest off. With Daryl’s scars revealed, the argument comes back to Merle leaving Daryl as a boy. It’s hard to believe Merle’s tone of remorse over what he’s done as anything more than manipulation, especially when it’s peppered with racial slurs. Daryl corrects that Glenn is Korean rather than Chinese, and storms off through the woods. “I may be the one walking away, but you’re the one that’s leaving. Again.”
Hershel tries to reason with Glenn. “I can’t just sit on my hands.” It’s clear he feels powerless after what’s happened to Maggie; he has failed to protect someone close to him, and while she might not blame him, Glenn definitely blames himself. Even Hershel’s reassurance, “She’s one of the two people most precious to me in the world. I trust you with her life. I still do,” isn’t enough to calm him. “With Daryl gone and Rick wandering crazytown, I’m the next in charge.” Glenn bolts off in a truck.
Rick has gone to crazytown, wandering in the trees outside the prison. The woods whisper something that sounds like his name, and Hershel hobbles to the fence to try and talk sense into him. “We need you now more than ever.” Rick begins to come around. “I saw something. Lori… I’m seeing Lori. Look, I know it’s not really her, but there’s got to be a reason. It’s got to mean something.” Michonne is still watching him from the prison yard. Carol and Axel are still together, and he observes, “In here I seen plenty of dudes crack. Not me. I got on better on the inside. There were rules. Life was more simple.”
Before Carol can express amusement at his charm, she’s covered in his blood and Axel is shot down. With everyone scattered in the prison and Carol exposed, she has no choice but use Axel’s body as a meatshield. Goodbye, Mustache. We barely knew ye. There’s a scramble; in spite of making preparations, the prison group is caught entirely unaware. GOV is gleefully wasting rounds in a show of force, and how did that guy get up into the tower unnoticed? And it’s a good thing Rick took an assault rifle on his vision quest with him.
The sounds of a truck could be salvation, meaning either the return of Glenn or maybe even Daryl. The delivery truck crashes the gate and drops a fuck. ton. of. walkers. into the middle of the prison yard. Hershel is already down in the tall grass to avoid gunfire, Rick is out of ammunition, and shit is real. By using walkers as a weapon instead of just, you know, weapons, GOV is winning at combat. He leaves, pleased with the chaos he’s caused.
Michonne gets katana-happy, wiping out half the walkers with grace. Maggie kills the tower gunman but the sound of battle has drawn more walkers outside. Rick is isolated and outnumbered, trying to fend off walkers with no weapons or help in sight. Glenn returns in the truck, collecting Hershel and Michonne. As a walker is about to bite Rick, an arrow pierces its skull. Daryl, followed by Merle, has returned and saved Rick’s ass.
This episode is everything I’ve ever wanted from this show. It was The Walking Dead at its finest, with that constant worried tension that comes from a show that doesn’t hesitate to kill off regular characters. It also makes up for how slow and developmental much of S3 has been thus far. It’s funny though, how the most prominent male figures in the prison group are all dealing with individual issues that have led to them being away from the core of the group; recall the first episodes of S3 and the organization with which the group attacked, then compare that to the chaos of tonight. While under attack they did the best they could and I think it’s a testament to how they’ve grown as individuals; people like Maggie, Beth, Carl and Carol don’t need Rick to teach them how to survive anymore. It was less effective than an organized defense would have been and that led to Axel’s death, but it could have been much worse.
Regarding the retaliation, Philip outright lied to Andrea about attacking the prison, presumably to buy himself the time to stage the attack without her discovering it. Andrea is still uncertain about her place in Woodbury and the world at large. Will she let the ego thrill of being ‘in charge’ blind her to the continuing atrocities GOV is committing? While it’s easy to imagine Rick won’t condone further retaliation on Woodbury, I don’t believe for a second that GOV is finished striking at the prison.
This was a great episode for most of the women. Maggie’s anger toward Glenn is pretty clearly because of how he is ignoring her feelings about what happened, and instead transferring his own onto her. Later, though, she helps Beth with the baby in a nice moment of proof that nurturing and killing do not need to be mutually exclusive. It’s a refreshing change from a show that has struggled to fit women especially into very narrowly defined gender roles. Likewise, Michonne has finally decided to talk and try to be a part of the group, and it doesn’t hinder her bad-assery at all. Carol seems to be warming to Axel now that he’s showing her the proper respect, though her resourcefulness leads to her literally hiding behind a man for protection. It’s sad because she was starting to like him, but his death effectively saved her life.
Meanwhile Merle has effectively rejoined the prison group, which should put some tension on an already strained dynamic. I feel we still haven’t seen the ultimate Dixon showdown, either; Merle is already back to goading Daryl about each little thing, and Daryl is beginning to realize he’s the one in the right. It’s obvious from how he helped the family on the bridge and expected nothing in return that if Daryl ever did conspire with Merle to rob the camp (instead of only being cowed by his older brother), he’s no longer that man.