So, where would you rather be — stuck in Cell Block C with Carl and Hershel's smelly stump, or the dystopian postmodern Dharmaville set up by the Governor, his brainless gun thugs, and those creepy Stepford Wives? I never thought I'd choose hanging out with Carl over anything, ever, but after seeing aquariums stuffed with zombie-heads, I'm going to go with option A. At least it has Daryl.
Before we dive too deep into this madcap episode, I want to throw some theories out there: First, I think that the two plot lines are not running simultaneously, time-wise, and that it's still Merle watching the Grimes Gang from the prison yard. You could see from his conversations with the Gov that Merle still deeply loved (in his Merle way) and wanted to find his little brother, which seemed to be their main reason for keeping the ladies around. The other theory, and the other reason I think they want to keep Michonndrea around, is the 28 Days Later tactic — they want their fertile wombs. If that's the case, I think they picked the wrong girls.
One of the many, many reasons why Season 3 is infinitely better than its predecessors is that not only has it has cut out much of the soapy relationship mumbo-jumbo that populated 1 and 2, but it's added in the deeply human moral issues that would naturally accompany any zombie apocalypse — when normal human beings have to become killers overnight, their biggest issues usually won't be related to extramarital affairs. We've seen Rick grappling with the moral ambiguities of human-on-human violence, and whether killing other men makes him a bad person. (One of the only Rick-Lori dialogues I've ever truly enjoyed was during last week's episode, where she assured him that he was still a good man.) Now we're seeing the opposite end of the spectrum — a man who does not begrudgingly kill for a greater good. The Governor seems to have developed some sort of sociopathic God complex, (I mean, he literally said "We will rise again") and the sweet family photo on his mantle suggests that he wasn't always the type of guy that keeps aquariums full of decapitated heads.
But let's go back to the beginning: Thank God that helicopter crashed — even though it resulted in the half-man who is officially this year's Well Walker — because if it hadn't, Andrea would probably have been a goner. We knew it would either be her constant puking or the rumbling of Michonne's Walker-pets that would attract the Gov and his men's attention, and it said a whole lot (as we learned later) that Michonne would rather cleanly and quietly decapitate her Walker-friends than trust new people. (Michonne isn't really a talker, so her character exposition will probably be an "actions speak louder than words" type of deal.) But in the end it was the long-lost Merle that got them: "How's about a big old hug for your old pal Merle?" he said, with a s***-eating grin, and weaponry for a hand. I'm surprised Andrea fainted, because I would have thrown up again. Daryl got all the looks/charm in the family.
NEXT: Welcome to Woodbury, where the women are soft and the men are psychopaths.
The ladies' ride to Woodbury, seen from Andrea's sickly perspective, was dark and foreboding, and I loved the Nightmare Before Christmas-esque "Warning Walker" hanging from a tree. Too bad it didn't sing! Laurie Holden's acting in the sickbed scene with Merle was stellar, as she tried to quietly quell his anger towards the Grimes Gang and get him on her side. Even better was Michonne's silent scowl, which she pretty much maintained throughout the entire episode. Though Merle obviously still hates Rick (and T-Dog, right?), he seemed giddy at the prospect of Andrea being in his debt, and, of course, having a lead on Daryl. Another key moment in this scene was the Governor telling the ladies the same truth Rick told the Gang seven months ago, that everyone becomes a Walker when they die. Wonder how he figured that out?
The next day was such a stark contrast to the night before, it was almost eerie. Scratch that, it was totally eerie. The town (pop. 73) could have been a Norman Rockwell painting, and all of the women wore these pretty, floral dresses that made them look more Revolution than Walking Dead. You could tell right away that the women in Woodbury have a much different role than the women in the Grimes Gang, who are equals. "Those men put their lives at risk every night to protect this town," said the pretty brunette tasked with showing Michonndrea the town.
The only guy we met this episode who didn't seem like a total prick was the town scientist, who does experiments on Walkers because he thinks that they might have some recollection of who they once were. God, that would be awful. He learned that Michonne's pets (whose heads were kept alive) became docile once their arms and jaws were removed, and we learned over a nice breakfast that the same Walkers somehow protected the gals over the last several months. This eventually led to an awkward conversation between Michonndrea, when Andrea confronted her pal for not telling her the story of her pets, or letting her know anything else about her, really. Michonne definitely doesn't seem like the "sharing" type, which is a welcome relief after two years with the Grimes Gang.
Now, to the main(ish) event: We knew something was off about the Governor the whole episode, and his conversation with the helicopter's pilot — the crash's only survivor — seemed too good to be true. The Gov literally waved the white flag as he approached the pilot's friends on the highway, offered them a safe haven, then had his men ambush and brutally slaughter them for their weapons. My guess? The Governor's God complex, and his adorable little town, has no room for additional alpha males. If that were a group of women, things probably would have gone a lot differently.
When the Gov and co. got back to town, he addressed his disciples from up high, spreading lies about the men having already been attacked by Walkers. "We'll honor their sacrifice, but not take what we have here for granted," he said. The only ones who didn't seem to buy into this load of crap were Michonne, and the scientist. Michonne (wisely) wanted to get the f*** out of Dodge, but Andrea was definitely walking right into the Governor's trap. At one point, it even seemed like she was flirting with him. First Shane, and now Governor? Daddy. Issues. The fact that he refused to tell Andrea, or anyone else, his real name should have been a huge indication that he was insane, but Andrea didn't seem to mind.
We ended with a peek at the Governor's homestead: Not only was there the aforementioned family photo and secret room full of decapitated heads — which now included the poor helicopter pilot, natch — there was also a woman passed out in his bed, who may or may not have had a stump for an arm. I rewound and freeze-framed that sucker several times, but still couldn't tell. It looked stumpy to me.
So, what did you think of the episode? I loved this introduction to the Governor/Woodbury, and Michonndrea getting their own episode. There was way too much information to process to merit cuts to the Grimes Gang. But seeing how Merle reacts to the info on their whereabouts should be a thrill (and so should the inevitable Merle/Daryl reunion), and I can't wait to slowly unravel the mystery that is Woodbury. The pacing of Season 3, to date, has been stellar.
Oh, and finally — what is in that tea?!
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: AMC]
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