“I didn’t realize the Messiah complex was contagious.”
Team Prison has resumed its debate about leaving the prison or staying to fight. The tense discussion is made more difficult by the presence of Merle, who has threatened or tried to kill at least half of the people present at one point or another (though he insists it was just business).
“That truck through the fence thing? That’s just him ringin’ the doorbell.” Like him or not, Merle understands the Governor and how he operates; if handled properly he could be a great asset, but for now he’s still an irritant. The group is low on food and ammunition and stressed from the recent attack, but Hershel calls Rick out on his recent temper tantrums. As Rick goes out to search for GOV’s sentries and snipers, Carl joins him. His words are a hard thing from a son to a father, “You should stop…. being the leader. Let Hershel and Daryl handle things.” Though Carl softens it with a note of concern, Rick is floored by his son’s advice.
“Adolescence is a 20th century invention.” Philip urges Milton when he balks at arming ‘children’ and turning them into soldiers. When Andrea confronts GOV about the prison attack he insists he went ‘to negotiate,’ but Rick’s people fired on him. She wants to see them, to smooth things over instead of arming the entire town like he’s planning. “If you go to that prison, stay there.”
Boot camp mentality aside, Woodbury is changing. Gone are the glossy storefronts and manicured lawns, the summer picnics and illusions of safety. Windows are boarded up, people are strained, and everyone even seems to be dressing in drab, practical clothing. Playtime is over, and Andrea is horrified to see what looks like assault training. “You’re supposed to be teaching people to defend themselves, not raising an army.” But those loyal to GOV believe these are one and the same. They don’t see what Andrea sees: “Woodbury is an armed camp with child soldiers.”
Though Glenn is working Rick to get Merle ejected, Rick reluctantly acknowledges Merle’s usefulness. As the man sits duct taping a bayonet to his stump, Hershel joins him for some amputee-on-amputee bonding. Merle’s dismal observation that you “Can’t put a price on anything anymore,” is a stark contrast to what follows: Hershel’s discovered a bible and is returning to his faith, so he quotes a verse and Merle is able to match his quoting. While it’s not a far reach for Merle to be a religious type, it is surprising to hear what he misses from Woodbury is the library.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
This is obviously very literal, given it’s two amputees discussing how it was a choice between limbs and lives, but what does it say about GOV? Has the loss of his eye given him a new lease on life as it has for Merle and Hershel, and if it has, is the part he’s thrown away his compassion and empathy? He isn’t trying to give Woodbury a sense of normalcy anymore. Instead, his townspeople are fodder for his war. In a subsequent Woodbury scene, GOV rips off his bandage and covers his destroyed eye with an eyepatch instead, in a moment that takes him from invalid to villain-cliche.
Carol tries reasoning with Daryl about his relationship with his brother. She points out how far Daryl has come on his own and without Merle to hold him back, and both look at the prison around him and laugh at the irony of it all.
Andrea thinks she’s convinced Milton to help her sneak out, but he’s still following Phil’s instructions (reluctantly; he fears a trap when told to help Andrea). Wearing his duct tape jacket, he helps Andrea make her own ‘pet’ by removing a walker’s arms and jaw like Michonne did. In the woods they meet Tyreese and company, who are relieved to hear of Woodbury and all too eager to help.
Michonne passes the time exercising. Merle talks at her to ‘clear the air,’ insisting he was only carrying out orders ‘like the Gestapo.’ With vague sincerity, he adds, “Done a lot of things I ain’t proud of, before and after.” Merle now seems more opportunistic than outright ruthless. On watch, Carl and Maggie recognize Andrea approaching. In efficient formation, the prison team crosses the yard. Rick is reluctant to let Andrea in without knowing if she’s alone. He searches and disarms her as Michonne glowers, then he welcomes Andrea back.
She wonders after the dead. Shane, Lori, T-Dog. It’s a lot to process at once, and she tries to convey she’s not Rick’s enemy. She might be on the cusp of the truth; when the group is standoffish and unwilling to let her return, she glares at Michonne and asks what she’s told them. This might be the funniest line in the show to date, as Michonne hasn’t strung three words together and has in fact said way less than she should have given the circumstances. Andrea blindly insists there’s room at Woodbury but Merle scoffs at the notion.
In the yard, Andrea and Michonne finally have it out. “I could see it. That you were under his spell from the moment you laid eyes on him…. You chose a warm bed over a friend.” Michonne is frank but far less vicious than she could be, even as she explains she went back to expose GOV intentionally because she knew it would hurt Andrea. She points out that if Andrea had come with her, Merle would have been sent to kill them both.
After this reminder that GOV won’t let people leave once they’ve found Woodbury, Tyreese is being given the royal treatment. When Tyreese mentions the prison, GOV squashes Milton’s eager questions, keeping up his genial and benevolent illusion to set them at ease. Unlike with Michonne and Andrea, they are not locked in, and he maintains the pretense that they can leave whenever they wish. The trigger-happy pair are eager to turn on Rick, and Tyreese is earnest in his desire to earn his keep.
Carol tells Andrea how Shane died. Just when it seems Andrea is realizing her terrible judgment she replies, “Rick’s become cold. Unsteady.” Carol deflects, telling her to go back to Woodbury, bang GOV, then kill him when he’s all sexed up and unguarded. They give Andrea a car for a safer trip home, and after a long moment of silent digestion Rick returns her weapons and tells her to be careful.
Andrea returns to GOV. “They’re broken, living in horrible conditions.” Woodbury still has ceiling fans, cold drinks, hot showers and electricity, so the prison must seem primitive by comparison. She says she came back on her own and hugs him; maybe she’s considering Carol’s advice.
Rick is holding his baby (and for once not blithering insanity because of it). Beth begins singing “Hold On,” and though she doesn’t seem at a glance like she’d be a big Tom Waits fan, it made me like her more. During the musical number, Rick plans to take Michonne and Carl out hunting, leaving the prison–and Merle–in Daryl’s care.
Andrea wakes naked and holds a knife over GOV, but doesn’t follow through on Carol’s advice, instead staring out the window.
In case you missed it, this episode wants you to think about religion. All the talk of Judases and Messiahs and bible verses drive the point home without subtlety. Does the idea of god and organized religion still hold up in the undead apocalypse? Is faith more important because it’s harder to have in the face of such horror, or is faith pointless because it allows people to rely less on themselves and accept consequences for their actions? If the Marxist notion that religion is the opiate of the masses is true, will it dull the senses or simply calm the pain?
Also, it once again pits Philip and Rick against one another in a war of saviors; Phil wants to be the leader, the man in charge, while Rick has almost been burdened with the responsibility of it. Like Jesus before him, there are times when he’s willing to surrender the job, to give it up in favor of something that causes him less pain, but he’s stuck with it. And if Rick is Jesus, then who is Judas, the loyal follower who thought Jesus was in over his head and was trying to help? Carl? Whether it was the right decision or not, Carl confronted his father and questioned his leadership. While he certainly didn’t mean it as a betrayal, it’s reasonable that Rick might see it as one.
Michonne’s jab about Andrea adopting Philip’s Messiah complex rings hollow, though; while Rick has always had an altruistic drive to be in charge, wanting to help and protect, Andrea historically has cared more about proving her own worth to others. She doesn’t care about rescue as much as she wants to be the one doing the rescuing; it’s about the means to her, rather than the end itself. Andrea has always wanted to be the Big Damn Hero. She gets antsy when life goes too smoothly because she can’t reinforce her worth. But she abandoned Michonne in favor of Woodbury and defies GOV by going to the prison, so maybe she’s the true betrayer here.
Then there’s the possibility that Merle will sell out Rick, the Governor, or everyone as it suits him, simply because there’s profit in it. Regardless of who is doing the betraying, it implies a countdown clock on the Woodbury-Prison conflict, suggesting there’s not much time left before the final showdown in which at least one of the Messiah-types is sacrificed for the greater good. Both Rick and Phil are a bit unhinged in their unique ways; perhaps they are the offending limbs that must be cut off to save the rest of their groups from damnation.
Also, Tom Waits.
*This isn’t the same version as the one quoted in the show, but I cared more about finding Tom Waits videos than bible quotes. I’m sure you’re surprised.
- Walking Dead S3:E10, “Home” (fissionerror.wordpress.com)
- Walking Dead, S3:E9, “The Suicide King” Mid-Season Resume (fissionerror.wordpress.com)
- The Walking Dead: 3.10 – “Home” (grizzlybomb.com)
- The Walking Dead: S3E11 ‘I Ain’t a Judas’ (lefthandhorror.com)