Warning: Spoilers there be below.
After a herky-jerky, uneven midseason opener, The Walking Dead returns immediately to form in ‘Home’.
Rick’s hallucinations of Lori worsen, leaving him all but totally helpless and wandering in a fugue outside the prison walls, while the group can do nothing but watch and nervously bite their collective lip.
What do you do, anyway, when your leader is armed and, as Glenn puts it later in the episode, ‘wandering Crazytown’ and apt to waving said gun menacingly in the direction of anyone nearby?
Rick’s mania is a welcome departure from the original comic saga, where it manifested itself solely in terms of talking with Lori on the phone he secretly carried with him (also, not until later in the story, since Lori’s death was bumped forward slightly in the show’s continuity).
There’s good reason for the addition — as fantastic of a job as Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard do in the comic, there’s simply no way for that medium to capture the sort of stellar, tortured performance that Andrew Lincoln brings to the role on-screen. This episode is, by far, his best work in the series as a whole.
Meanwhile, back in Woodbury,
ol’ Gauze-Eye the Governor approaches Andrea, hat in hand, with an apology for his despotic tendencies, and an offer to willingly step down from office and let her lead.
No need for a coup, then, if he’s willing to give up the throne. Of course, just because he claims to abdicate his power means Andrea’s going to be anything but a public figurehead, as he immediately reaches out to his science nerd right-hand-man Milton and orders him to keep a close eye on Andrea.
Probably a bit tough for the Guv to do so, seeing as he’s down one . . .
Out in the woods, Merle and Daryl get some quality bro-time as they try to rustle up some squirrel (Daryl, as we know, prefers his rare) and in a deft bit of writing, we get an idea of the bond the two very disparate brothers share: a childhood of abuse that had Merle fleeing home and leaving the younger Daryl behind, lest he ‘kill the old man’.
It also illustrates one of the key stylistic marks of The Walking Dead: not falling back on flashbacks to make for an easy way to establish character. The comic has always, from the start, kept the story rooted in a linear forward motion, and the show has, with one exception of a pre-apocalypse scene with Lori in Season 2, followed suit.
I always found this interesting, because showing the past in context with current events is a simple, easy device to establish characterization, which Kirkman takes off the table, always keeping the clock ticking and going forward.
Even though there has been times when looking back would make sense, it does give a very specific vibe to The Walking Dead and creatively challenges the writers to get across salient points without simply cutting away to past events.
Flashbacks can lead to padding out a story and can break the tension, allowing the audience a degree of safety. A huge part of the allure to TWD is the sense that at any given moment, without so much as a single frame’s worth of foreshadowing, something completely awful and game-changing can happen, so you blink at your own peril. Keeping the audience suffering from as much anxiety as the characters themselves is a key tactic that disabling flashbacks completely empowers.
Over at the prison, Glenn steps up to take charge — realizing that the prison may not really be the haven they thought it would be, as structural damage and some sort of breach in the catacombs underneath means both walkers and Woodburyians can fairly easily penetrate their sanctum — and makes the decision to put an end to the threat of retaliation by the Governor by getting Michonne to agree to infiltrate Woodbury under the cover of night and assassinate him.
Hershel, for one, doesn’t applaud the plan, not only on moral grounds, but simply with the reasoning that Glenn is still too emotionally raw from being a prisoner-of-war and that rage and need for vengeance is going to quite simply get him killed.
This is an interesting impasse, one of those moments where the uncomfortable does make sense. The group has tried to maintain some semblance of a code of conduct, but the farther along they go, and the more dire the situations become, the survival instinct is going to need to override concepts of right and wrong.
They didn’t ask for a confrontation with the citizenry of Woodbury, but now the drums are beating and further conflict seems inevitable — and with a baby to protect, they absolutely cannot afford to lose the prison they’ve already sacrificed so much to hold.
Glenn, in being all gung-ho and accepting the mantle of at least temporary leadership while Rick is out beating the bushes and chasing phantoms just beyond the barbed wire fences, is also neglecting to come to terms with what happened to Maggie, who underwent a very different sort of torture, as the Governor humiliated and debased her by forcing her to strip in front of him in order to save Glenn’s life.
It doesn’t appear the experience is going to bode well for their relationship, one of the few bright spots in an endlessly dreary and hopelessly grey sky.
Back to the woods and the Dixon brothers, as they encounter a family, complete with screaming infant of their own, trapped by walkers on a bridge. Without help, they’re zombie chow, and Merle, of course, is all to willing to drawl SOL and leave them to their fate.
Daryl, however, intervenes and we get a classic badass undead slaughter scene, as he puts down several zombies, with only a single shot fired the entire time by Merle, who is all-too-willing to help himself to spoils of supplies from the terrified Hispanic family’s vehicle. They don’t even seem to speak English, which to Merle, is all the more reason to do it.
His little brother dissuades his looting with a menacing crossbow aimed at his back, leading to a shouting match between the two, and possibly one of the biggest bombshells to date: the revelation that had Merle not gotten himself cuffed to a pipe on the Atlanta rooftop at the beginning of the series, he and Daryl had plans to rob the camp of survivors and make off like bandits in the night.
All Daryl can really offer up in defense is a terse, “Didn’t happen,” before decided that he’s had enough of wandering aimlessly in the woods and announcing he’s returning to the prison, with a reluctant Merle in tow.
You can bet this little tidbit will come into play in the future, if Merle needs a way to make his little bro lose face in front of his friends.
The climax of the episode is one of the more jaw-agape sequences of the series to date, as the Governor exacts his pound of flesh with a surprise ambush on the prison that leaves Axel with a bullet in his head (and leave a blood-splattered Carol forced to use his corpse as cover from gunfire), Rick trapped on the outside of the fence, exchanging bursts with Martinez while the noise draws stray walkers to him like a freshly severed arm on a stick.
As a coup de grace, a van crashes through the gate, completely destroying it seemingly beyond repair and unless there happens to be an abandoned Home Depot somewhere in the immediate vicinity, permanently obliterates the security of the facility.
Just to rub salt in the wound, the motorcyle-hemleted driver of the van leaps out and opens a ramp on the back of the van, which is full of zombies that clamor out into the prison yard to help cover the Governor’s retreat.
Rick, surrounded by the undead and out of ammo, resorting to pistol-whipping walkers, seems doomed until the Dixons arrive in the nick of time and save the sherrif’s bacon. Rick’s alive — but now, unfortunately, in Merle’s debt, which all but assures his safe haven in the prison, surely much to the consternation of Glenn and Michonne.
Before we’ve even got a chance to catch our breath, the episode ends, with the tantalizing prospect of much conflict for our protagonists, both interior and exterior, in the immediate future.
Thanks for stopping by Public Domain!
I’d like to take this chance to apologize slightly for things being a little slower around here than they have been, but like that poor fellow above, I’ve been torn between trying to keep posts flowing here every couple of days and getting a number of other projects up off the ground, which include everything from delving headfirst into learning CSS to get a webcomic up off the ground, developing and writing the first script for a new comic, and doing some initial design and conceptual work on a card game project with a couple of talented artists and graphic designers that otherwise has to remain top-secret for now. And working a full-time day job on top of all that . . .
I’m not egotistical enough to think that anyone’s day hinges on new content here, but I do really appreciate the support and interest in this weird little corner of cyberspace so far, and I do feel bad that I’m not getting enough stuff in the pipeline.
Hopefully I can get some better organization and time-management going and get things on a more even keel (read: sleep less, more coffee) soon.
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