Walking Dead, S3:E13, “Arrow on the Doorpost”

“This fight, it’s a failure of leadership.”


At Andrea’s request, Rick and the Governor meet at a neutral location–a feed barn somewhere between Woodbury and the prison. Hershel is driving the car with the aid of a false limb (and by limb I mean accessorized with firearm… fireleg?), and Daryl is sweeping the surrounding area for traps. A table and pair of chairs are in the center of the barn, illuminated like an interrogation room or a boxing ring, and as the Governor enters Rick draws his gun. He doesn’t shoot, but also doesn’t remove his weapon, even when Philip says, “I’m gonna remove my weapon to show I mean to negotiate in good faith. I’d like you to do the same. May I?” Though he’s asking Rick for permission, there’s no question GOV still has the upper hand. Rick holsters his gun but won’t remove it, and the camera shows GOV has one taped to the table anyway. The negotiations have begun with lies.

Outside, Daryl confers with Hershel; the situation feels wrong, so he tells Hershel to keep the car running. A truck arrives with Andrea, Milton, and GOV’s new favorite goon since Merle left, Martinez. Andrea is stunned to learn Phil is already inside, that she isn’t being included in her own diplomatic summit. She jumps in, pleading with them to “save the bullets for the real threats.” This is the first time she’s seen Rick and GOV in the same room, to come face-to-face with their harsh differences.

At the prison, the remaining group is arming to the teeth and stashing ammunition around the prison in case anyone gets pinned down. Merle suggests they go after the Governor, to kill him. The others refuse, and Glenn insists it’s not the right move, and that he can’t risk putting the others in the crossfire. Glenn’s word is final; he is taking his leadership role in the absence of Rick, Daryl and Hershel seriously, and so does everyone but Merle.

Rick proposes the river as a boundary, with the Prison taking one side and Woodbury the other. GOV brushes off Andrea’s concerns by saying she has no place in this discussion, and says he’s only interested in Rick’s surrender. Then he sends Andrea away because the men are talking. Andrea is stunned and upset, but storms out and Martinez shuts the door. Rick challenges GOV’s title and Phil deflects, “That’s their term, not mine.”

Rick mounts an interrogation of GOV’s judgment, specifically his feelings for Merle. GOV acknowledges that Merle is “a wildcard, but is effective,” and also “gets the dirty jobs done.”  He challenges the Governor’s authority, “You’re the town drunk who knocked over my fence and ripped up my yard. Nothing more.” Phil returns fire with a personal attack, saying Andrea told him Shane might be the father of Rick’s daughter. He implies Rick might not be able to recognize the devil beside him, to which Rick replies, “Oh I see him, alright.”

When this doesn’t rattle Rick, GOV switches tactics and brings out a bottle of whiskey.

Outside, the underlings are on edge. Milton refers to the prison raid as a battle. “Somebody’s got to keep a record of what we’ve gone through. It’ll be part of our history.” Before the sides can argue terminology, walkers arrive. It turns into a kill contest between Daryl and Martinez, and each sufficiently impresses the other with his mettle. Daryl offers a cigarette he’s just found, Martinez prefers menthols, and Daryl calls him a douchebag, then suddenly male bonding. In proof the undead apocalypse hasn’t changed the basics, they nod, “This is a joke, right? They ain’t gonna work anything out. They’ll do their little dance,” and not accomplish anything. This doesn’t change their loyalty.

Meanwhile, Milton is asking about Hershel’s amputation, and gets very personal. “I’m not showing you my leg… I just met you. You could buy me a drink first.” They laugh, breaking some of the tension outside while things remain terse in the barn. GOV asks if Rick is prepared to destroy everything he’s built and see his loved ones killed, as that’s what will happen if he doesn’t surrender. Rick doesn’t bite, so GOV changes tactics again by sharing a story from before the undead apocalypse, designed to generate kinship (or at very least vague sympathy) over the loss of his wife. He watches Rick drink the whiskey, evaluating the success of his efforts.

Glenn fortifies the prison. Merle prepares to go after Daryl with or without Glenn’s support, but tries to incite the others to come with him. Glenn and Merle wrestle down a flight of stairs and it takes Michonne and Maggie to wrestle them apart and Beth firing a pistol at the ceiling to get everyone’s attention.

Hershel approaches Andrea, who appears on the verge of tears after being rebuffed. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” she laments, then asks what happened with Maggie. Though she might be ready to hear and accept the truth at last, Hershel spares her the details. “He’s a sick man.” Andrea knows she can’t go back to Woodbury, and though Hershel calls her family, he acknowledges, “but if you join us, it’s settled.” The Governor doesn’t like to lose, and wouldn’t suffer Andrea’s desertion quietly.

GOV tries telling Rick that he never wanted this life for himself, though from his earlier parable about his younger, dumber boss it’s clear he always wanted great things for himself.  He reveals he’s been watching the prison and saw Rick returning with the cache of weapons they looted from Morgan in “Clear.” He makes one last appeal, “We can walk away. You have something that I want, one thing that makes this all alright.”

Rick won’t give him the prison and won’t leave it, but GOV peels off the eyepatch and says, “I want Michonne. Turn her over and this all goes away. Is she worth it? Is one woman worth all those lives at your prison?”

Merle is trying his case with his least-likely ally, Michonne. “You know I’m right. Folks here, they’re strong. They’re good fighters. They ain’t killers.” She points out he didn’t kill her and he jokes, “I must have been seduced by your sterling personality.” The momentary rapport, even if it’s nothing more than uniting against a common enemy, offers hope that both can integrate into the group and bury the hatchet somewhere other than each other’s backs.

Maggie meets Glenn on watch. The pair are still skirting awkwardness between them, and Glenn’s compliment of her chokehold quickly turns into an apology of how he acted after Woodbury. They reconcile and begin kissing but Glenn catches himself; it’s not that they’re supposed to be on watch, but that getting it up in front of walkers is too weird. They duck into a garage to make the bang.

“I don’t get it. You’ve obviously got big plans, like you’re the guy who’s gonna lick this thing, bring us back from the brink. So why waste it all on a two-bit vendetta?” Rick challenges, and GOV gives Rick two days to think about his proposal. As everyone climbs into cars to separate, Andrea stands in the middle, torn about where she belongs now. The groups return to their homes. Rick surveys the prison, while in Woodbury the Governor plans to trap the prison group at the feed barn and kill everyone but Michonne.

Milton: That is a slaughter.
Philip: Not at our end.

He tries to work back into Andrea’s good graces, thanking her, but isn’t willing to give her details about the terms they discussed. He’s got a jaunty bounce in his step, and either doesn’t notice Andrea’s new emotional distance or plain doesn’t care. Rick tells his group, “He wants the prison. He wants us gone. Dead. We’re going to war.” At first it seems he’s seen through GOV’s bullshit or is unwilling to sacrifice Michonne, but a later one-on-one with Hershel reveals he’s still considering everything. He presented it as he did to scare his people because they need to be scared to do what needs to be done, which is a very Governor-like attitude, but he also acknowledges Michonne has earned her place and hopes Hershel “can talk him out of it.”

Some scattered thoughts (I have a cold and I’m going to bed*):

  • History is written by the victors. The concept has been attributed to Winston Churchill, Machiavelli, and others, but the fact remains the same; you can’t write shit if you’re too dead to hold a pen. That Milton has thus far survived to write a history is because he’s a wormy kiss-ass with powerful friend.
  • The soldiers here have more in common with each other than they do with their respective leaders. This is pretty common in wars (especially civil wars, which is effectively what this is) from what I’ve read.
  • “This fight is a failure of leadership” Failing at leadership is Rick’s biggest fear.
  • The henchmen, the leaders, and the philosophers facing off.
  • If you want to read something coherent, Left Hand Horror or Sidekick Reviews will probably have something useful to say about the episode.

*You can’t catch my cold from reading this blog. Don’t hug me.

5 thoughts on “Walking Dead, S3:E13, “Arrow on the Doorpost”

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