Well, the softer side of Merle Dixon theory we sort of maybe entertained over the last few weeks has officially been been debunked. Merle spent the majority of tonight's episode physically torturing Glenn like a violent, redneck Carrie Matheson, while the stoic torturee's poor girlfriend listened in terror from next door. What was his reasoning? Hell, I don't know. I get why he's still mad about being stranded on that rooftop and left to die two seasons ago, but tonight was another brutal reminder of how easily (and disturbingly) humanity can be switched off in the Walking Dead universe.
We saw this a few times: First, there was Mr. Coleman, the old geezer who passed away in Woodbury on Milton's experimental table. I don't know about you, but for a brief second I almost thought that Milton's research would lead to something — that there could be a sliver of hope in this show's horrific, depressing landscape. But no, Andrea was right. Despite Milton's firm belief that humanity could be maintained during the zombie transformation period, Coleman lunged like a man 60 years his junior as soon as he got a sniff of human flesh. Then Andrea stabbed him in the head, because, well, that's what you have to do if you want to survive that in that hellhole. Stab grandpa in the head. Is it worth it?
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From Maggie's perspective — if she didn't have that sexy, torture-defying boyfriend — I'd say no. Merle exerting his physical influence on Glenn was nerve-wracking, but ultimately something we've seen a million times before. But when the Governor used his own torture tricks on Maggie — making her strip, then silently threatening rape if she didn't give up the Grimes Gang's location — was horrifying. We already knew that the Gov had adopted some sort of God complex after the zombpocalypse, but this was the first time we saw him actually — apathetically — using his power to completely, soullessly dominate another human being. And God, she was strong. She was so strong.
When Maggie finally gave up, Glenn's death — not her own sexual safety — being her impetus, he "comforted" her in the same way he did Andrea, his "real girlfriend", seconds later. It was vomit-inducing, and a sad reminder of what can happen when a previously governed society is torn apart, then left to pick up the pieces using their own rules. Humanity can be sick. Those who previously lived their lives on the bottom rung — like the Gov, Milton, Merle, and arguably someone like Lost's John Locke, or all of those crazy French people in A Tale of Two Cities — can give in to impulses that were previously unimaginable, and thrive utilizing the absolute most depraved parts of themselves. The Walking Dead largely ignored this dilemma for two whole seasons (unless you count Shane, who comparatively wasn't that bad of a guy), and now we have a much better show because of it. Humans fighting zombies can get boring, but humans having to rebuild a society without rules will never stop being horrifically awesome.
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What's great is that we're thinking
right now — thinking of the lines that have been crossed on this show, and how the f*** we personally would draw them if we were in the same position. We know that it was okay for Michonne to kill the crazy dude in the shack (because his screaming would have given up our heroes), and for Rick to kill the inmates, because they would have hurt his family. Andrea stabbing grandpa was also okay, because he would have killed Milton first. And Merle torturing Glenn for information was bad, even though you could maybe argue that he was also somehow protecting his
clan. But the Governor's actions were despicable, because even in a world where you shoot your mom in the head sometimes, sexual violence is never okay.
There — those are my lines. But for other people, they wouldn't be the same. And that's the problem for the Grimes Gang, whenever they happen upon a newcomer — you can never be too cautious, because you don't know what moral code a newcomer subscribes to when they're not forced to abide by commonly accepted rules. They might still value human life and be a Hershel, or they could decapitate you and put your head in an aquarium like a Governor. Obviously this is not what Michonne did when she came across the Grimes Gang, but let's back up, because I'm sort of confused by her actions tonight.
So, while things were pretty terrible tonight over in Woodbury, they were (temporarily) looking up in prison. Carol was back, Axel and Oscar were being grandfathered in, and the baby formerly known as Sophia-Carol-Andrea-Amy-Jackie-Patricia-Lori was given a name — Judith, after Carl's old elementary school teacher. Like, of course Carl was hot for teacher. Also, Rick and Carl finally had "the talk" — no, not about sex with Carl's burgeoning gal pal Beth. The other talk. The one you give your kid after he's forced to shoot his mother in the head after a baby is ripped out of her belly with a knife. My folks waited a while for that one. Everyone was basically happier than they'd been in weeks, until Michonne entered the game to further screw things up.
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I was happy to see Carl fight to save her — it looked like Rick was willing to give her up, which is honestly kind of understandable given his track record with strangers. And it proved that maybe Carl isn't always terrible. But then Rick did save her, and while he didn't exactly give her the Four Seasons, he offered her food and shelter and enough good will to make her talk more than she did, which was pretty much not at all. I know the producers of the show want a super dramatic reunion next week when Rick and Daryl happen upon Merle and Andrea, but why wouldn't Michonne tell them that they were there? Wouldn't knowing more about the threat that awaits them help the Gang's chance for survival when they storm the beach at Woodbury next week? I know Michonne isn't a fan of opening up to people, and isn't huge on trust, but I think she's smart enough to know (especially after 8 months of Andrea's stories) that the Grimes Gang aren't the worst folks to align with, and that it would help them to know that Andrea was still alive before they made their move. It's understandable that she'd be hesitant to trust Daryl after spending some quality time with Merle, but her total silence was somewhat baffling. Sorry.
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But all in all, it was another fantastic, thought-provoking episode, and it set the stage for a killer midseason finale next week. Can Carl save the prison from the wrath of Woodbury? Will Daryl do the right thing when he reunites with Merle? Will Andrea finally realize that the Governor is a psychopath, or will some much needed sex be enough to pull her to the dark side? Also, doesn't she have a great backside? I must go to the gym. Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
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