For a second there (or 35 minutes), didn't it seem like we were going to get one of those slow-burning, dialogue and meaningful-gaze-heavy installments of The Walking Dead? When the episode began with a three-minute-long cold open of Rick staring at a vision of Lori in a wedding dress (something I still very much hate, but more on that later), and continued with Hershel dropping wisdom bombs on the Grimes Gang, I never suspected that it would end with the best, most nerve-wracking action sequence we've seen on the show thus far — much better than the raid of Woodbury we saw last fall. But TWD still manages to — time and again — completely knock my socks off, though I morbidly wanted someone else to die besides Axel, the last man standing from the cafeteria squad. Oh well.
Something else that surprised me: that we only had one episode of Merle and Daryl wandering the Southeast countryside before Daryl called it quits and ran right back to the prison gang. Luckily, we got to hear him shout "He's Korean!" in defiant response to Merle, who had inaccurately called Glenn Chinese, before their return. If Merle had a post-zombie-apocalypse Twitter account, his Tweets would show up on @YesYoureRacist for sure. But Merle doesn't have a Twitter account. That's absurd.
But anyway, yes — we started with a long shot of Rick, who has completely lost it at this point, gazing out the gates at a vision of Sarah Wayne Callies in a gorgeous and very slimming (though she's already slim) old-fashioned wedding dress. Jesus.
One of the many reasons why the show killed Lori (besides the fact that she died in the comics) was that Lori was one part of the show that was not working. She was a boring and unlikeable character, who has since been replaced with much more likable ones (hi, Maggie). We enjoyed approximately four episodes without her before her return, in this ridiculous plot line that will hopefully end now that Rick is officially a general in the war against the Governor.
I'm okay with the fact that Rick — who has if not the weight of the world, then the weight of several good, innocent people on his arguably unqualified shoulders — losing his s***. I would have lost my s*** day one. I would have been holed up in my apartment with my cats and all of the drugs I was too smart to try back when I had hope, so I would be too high to know what was happening to me once the Walkers took over New York City and ate my face off. Or I would have shot myself once my TV shut off. Yes, that's exactly what I would have done. But Rick, as I've said before, needs to be a hero. And since so many people have died, many from Rick's own gun (or general bad decision making), he can't be the hero anymore.
No one except Daryl Dixon gets to be the hero in this universe, and Rick Grimes is no Daryl Dixon. He has too much doubt. He second-guesses his own decisions. So, yes, he's gone nuts. But we A, don't need Sarah Wayne Callies' bothersome presence to drill this obvious point in, and B, will go completely nuts with him if the show doesn't either turn him around or get really ballsy and kill him, because if I wanted to witness the slow, horrific mental deterioration of a formerly productive human being I'd re-read The Bell Jar. And guess what, AP high school English teacher? No one wants to re-read The Bell Jar.
But Rick, who probably isn't the book-reading type, wandered outside of the prison in a Lori-inspired daze for the entire episode anyway, until Hershel came outside to knock some sense into him and talk about how he was worried about Glenn. Maybe if Rick would worry about Glenn, it would knock him off his insanity path and give him something to do. But no. Rick wouldn't come back in and join the rest of the Grimes Gang, which was looking frighteningly pathetic for most of the episode.
Hershel, Beth, Maggie, Carl, Baby Asskicker, Carol the Flirtacious, Axel, and Ragey Glenn do not a formidable opponent make. That group would be dead in two days. But Rick would not come in and be their leader, because he was waiting for something. He couldn't tell Hershel what that something was, because even he didn't know. I personally think it was Godot. Luckily, it ended up being the Governor and a Kamikaze van full of walkers.
Maybe it should have been obvious that the attack was coming, as Milton and the good (terrible) people of Woodbury would not tell Andrea where her lover had gone. Maybe that awkward interchange between Milton and Andrea should have told me something. But, thankfully, it didn't.
I'm glad that I was surprised. All I got from Woodbury was that the Governor seemed much more dangerously stable this week, and that he had it in him to kill Andrea, because he did not trust where her loyalties lied. I also thought that maybe, on his "hunt", he would run into the Dixon brothers. I forgot, as I said last week, that the entire American Southeast as presented on The Walking Dead is the same size as Disneyland. Or, sorry, Universal Studios. But despite the implausibility of the Gov finding their location that quickly, I'm happy that he did — Walking Dead has a good pace established now, and his attack will have lasting consequences.
Next: Daryl Meets Baby, Part 2
But before we get to that final bloodbath, let's talk about the episode's 3 hottest couples: Daryl and Merle, Glenn and Maggie, and (ugh) Carol and Axel. The Dixon brothers seemed to have gotten absolutely nowhere since last week, and of course they couldn't come to an agreement on which direction to run to, because there was absolutely nowhere to go.
Merle is a still a huge prick with a vendetta against the Grimes Gang, so he was thrilled to have the one on one time, largely because it was making Daryl miserable. Daryl was yearning for the exotic luxuries he found in the prison — food, a pot to piss in, and a lack of a homicidal mad man brother — and of course, Merle used Daryl's declaration of common sense as a chance to torture him for being a pussy.
Thankfully, finally, Daryl stood up to his Chris Brown: when Merle reminded him that (gasp) they were originally going to rob the Grimes Gang 1.0 back when they were in Atlanta, Daryl got fightin' mad. The boys started tusslin', and a fall revealed Daryl's lovely back muscles and several hideous scars from years of fatherly abuse. Merle was all, "I didn't know, bro" and Daryl was all "yes you did, that's why you left so you didn't have to face it," so this was basically like a 20-year overdue five minute long group therapy session in the woods, with a monumental breakthrough and our voyeuristic eyes acting as therapist. But (un?) fortunately, this was the end of In Treatment With the Dixon Brothers (until next week), because Daryl then heard the one sound he can never resist: a baby crying. With that, Daryl sprung into action.
A group of Mexican survivors with a baby were facing a walker attack on a bridge, and this group is completely doomed, because their versions of Rick and Daryl somehow haven't figured out yet that you need to shoot for the brain. Daryl came in with his crossbow and effortlessly killed the s*** out of every walker that crossed his path and saved the baby, but the TWD crew knows that there is such thing as too much of a good thing so they didn't have him hold this one.
Sorry, ladies. Merle ran in and wanted to rob the Mexicrew, but Saint Daryl of Dixon stopped him. They don't make em like that anymore ladies, emiright?
Daryl becoming a man in the Georgian woods was a big event, but Glenn and Maggie have even more psychological torment to work through. Maggie, who pre-Woodbury was very happy to act as one of the group's warriors, now seems to be digressing into a different role.
What the Governor did back at Woodbury humiliated her and diminished much of her inner strength — it's obvious to everyone who is watching (Beth, Glenn, Hershel), but she spent most of the episode acting like it was no big deal, and she just wanted to move past it. On the other end of the spectrum, Glenn had gone a bit mad with revenge, and just wouldn't let it go. He wanted to run to Woodbury, kill the Governor, and have everything back the way it was.
But Maggie is a victim of sexual assault now, so it's going to be quite some time before things get back to the way they were (if ever, which is doubtful on this show). Glenn's intentions throughout the episode — mainly when he wanted her to talk about it, to find out once in for all what happened in that room — were by no means bad, or even unexpected.
He was hurt by the attack too, just in a completely different way — he loves Maggie and what happened to her is clearly making him feel powerless, but he's not the one who was sexually violated, so he's going to have to deal with Maggie's emotional process and back off a bit if it's going to work. Or maybe, since life in this universe is terrible and it's a blessing for Maggie to have him, she'll get over it and start shagging him in the water tower again. We'll see. Either way, rage-y Glenn took off to get the Governor, but his trip was tragically cut short.
Then there's Carol and Axel. I like Carol, I really do. I just think she's capable of more than they're giving her. All she's done so far is get beat up, freak out over a lost kid, mourn that lost kid, and pine over Daryl. Her flirtation with Axel was likely just a means for us to feel like Axel was finally becoming a member of the crew before his head was blown off — Mazzara, you tease! — but it still felt forced. I know they're in a "last man on Earth" sort of situation, but I in no way buy that Carol would be attracted to Axel, after she's already scolded him for hitting on Beth. Plus, Tyreese is single and just a cell block away. Think about your choices, Carol.
So Carol and Axel had this exchange about the adorable fake robbery that got Axel locked up and temporarily saved his life, then BAM — a shot through the head ended things for our mustachioed friend. The Governor and his merry band of mercenaries were outside the prison gates, with sniper guns and automatics and — well, I know nothing about guns, but they were loud and scary, and almost shot Rick in the head like five times.
This was the first shootout on Walking Deadin some time where I actually felt physically nervous, and thought that we'd lose a major character at the blink of an eye. It was well-shot and well-choreographed, and the fact that the Gov was taking on the dregs of the Gang — since Rick was bananas, Maggie was sad, and Glenn and Daryl were gone — had me terrified for these B-level Grimes Gang members.
Then things just got vicious, and the show once again showed us how much better the Governor is at war-plots than Rick Grimes. Rick spent the day chasing after a dead lady, the Governor put a hoard of Walkers into a van and had his man drive it through the gates to quite literally give em' hell.
The Gang did what they could, but Rick quickly ran out of ammo and was cornered by 3 walkers. Luckily, there's some sort of psychic bat signal that allows St. Daryl of Dixon to sense trouble from miles away, so he, Merle, and Michonne saved him from an inglorious death. Then Glenn drove back and killed a bunch of em' with Michonne and her glorious katana, and managed to drive back to the prison safely... just without Rick, Merle or Daryl. The Governor and his men had driven away (again, for now), but not without leaving a s***-ton of zombies between Rick, the Dixons, and safety.
And you know what? I'm okay with that. Because the official Walking Dead punishment for being lame and boring the 12-million-strong audience by walking around and talking to a ghost for half a season is time spent with Merle Dixon, the most un-killable guy in Georgia, the wettest of wet blankets, and star of Saw 17.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC (2)]
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