In the direct aftermath of the Governor’s unwelcome party, which left Axel dead, and ended with a van loaded full of walkers smashing through the outermost gates and putting a severe damper on the good thing the group had with the prison, our protagonists debate what to do next.
Even Merle advocates beating a hasty retreat before a second assault, although that ship may have sailed, with no way to know what sort of sentries or cordon the Governor may have placed around the area.
The prison is rapidly becoming just that: if the Governor gets the place surrounded with his superior numbers, they’ll be trapped.
Hershel finally steps up and gives Rick a figurative slap across the face, reminding the troubled leader that whatever he’s going through internally, he was the one who stated this wasn’t a democracy. It’s time to “get his head together” and do something beyond wander around in a haze chasing visions of his dead wife.
While Rick takes a moment to check the perimeter — and perhaps try to digest Hershel’s sentiments — Carl voices his opinion that maybe it’s time the Ricktatorship be overthrown, and his father should relinquish command to one of the others.
A few miles away, in the idyllic post-apocalyptic villa of Woodbury, the Governor and his nebbish number one, Milton, do a little human resource work, sussing out just how superior their numbers actually are.
When the figures of potential able-bodied combatants come up a little short, the Governor orders that the minimum service age be lowered to thirteen, skewing the odds, at least statistically, in their favor.
Andrea bursts in and confronts her Despot-With-Benefits about his little soiree at the prison and his reneging on the promise that he wouldn’t retaliate, announcing that she’s going over to try to negotiate a cease-fire with her old friends.
The Governor matter-of-factly tells her if she’s going to the prison, she should just stay there.
Andrea stomps out, just in time to find Martinez attempting to conscript an asthmatic teen against the consternation of his mother. Andrea’s attempt at intervention fall on deaf ears: what the Governor wants, the Governor gets.
Nearby, supplies and weapons are unloaded from canvas-covered military vehicles.
War seems inevitable.
Back at the prison, the group attempts to strategize, only to be distracted by internal conflict over Merle’s presence.
Glenn goes for Rick’s emotional jugular, telling him he wouldn’t expect Rick to have to shack up with Shane after Shane tried to kill him.
Double ouch, but Rick holds his ground — he has to after Merle and Daryl saved his bacon at the climax of the Governor’s chaos last episode — and Hershel reminds everyone that Merle could be an asset, albeit a unpredicatble one. Whatever Merle’s done in the past, he’s loyal to his brother, and that loyalty will keep him on their side.
Hershel backs up his faith in Merle by having a surprising one-on-one sit down, where we learn not only can the elder Dixon quote scripture, but he misses Woodbury’s ‘damn fine library’.
Interesting turn, making Merle more than a one-dimensional good ol’ boy caricature.
In Woodbury, the Governor surveys his troops, and magnanimously allows an elderly woman with arthritis not to have to serve in his personal SS. Noah, the young man from earlier, however, is expected to do his duty.
Andrea, witnessing the exchange, is clearly disgusted.
Carol and Daryl spend a quiet moment at the prison (I hadn’t noticed until a second viewing that no one, not even Carol, who seemed to be warming up to him, spent more than an on-screen second mourning Axel’s death . . . he might have been a latecomer to the group, but he was trusted enough under the circumstances, and it seems out of place, even during a crisis), when Carol very gently suggests that Merle could very well drag Daryl down, and advises him not to let that happen.
Back in Woodbury, Andrea decides to make her move, asking Milton to cover for her while she reunites with the old gang and tries to curb any further hostilities. Milton wants no part of it, but Andrea’s not giving him much of an opt-out, and not realizing exactly where Milt’s loyalties really lie (or perhaps, who he fears most).
The Governor examines his ruined eye before donning an eyepatch to receive Milton and his traitorous turn, as Milton gets the go-ahead to let Andrea sneak away on her little mission of state.
What I enjoy most about David Morrisey’s fantastic turn as the Governor is the way the character really works so much better than the original comic book incarnation.
This Philip Blake isn’t some post-apocalyptic gunslinger who has managed to gain trust and control of a large group of terrified individuals by simply being the only somewhat rational one in the room who isn’t filling his shorts at the prospect of living in a world full of ambulatory dead.
He’s far more insidious than that: he and Rick are essentially cut from the same bolt of cloth in many ways, and you can almost see how their roles could have been reversed, had Rick lost Carl and Lori much earlier on. This isn’t to downplay Rick’s much stronger moral core — Philip, let’s face it, would’ve probably slit Shane’s throat in his sleep (quite possibly Lori’s too) — but the parallels between the two are interesting to watch play out.
Next comes the most unexpected — at least for me — turn of the episode. As Andrea and Milton prep a walker to use as Michonne did, to ward off attention from other zombies by hacking off its arms and removing its teeth — Tyresse and his quartet stumble on them.
I have to be honest, when Rick told them to ‘get out’, I had assumed they’d gone back into lockdown in the prison, and with all the confusion of the last episode, we just hadn’t gotten around to checking in on them yet, not that they’d actually been expelled.
That was sloppy storytelling to not have at least some moment between Hershel and Tyresse, where Hershel tried to apologize, or where he asked them to stay until he could talk to Rick further, and Ty refused, not wanting to put his daughter in a cell where she’d be an easy target for a gun-toting ‘leader’ who was visibly losing his marbles.
As it is, though, putting Tyresse on the opposing team, with every reason to trust and back the Governor in the struggle against the prison crew, is delicious tension.
(And not to be too down, but the SFX in this scene were a disappointment, given the usual top-notch job — exactly why Greg Nicotero chose to use an obvious animatronic model with jerky, fake head motion in the arm-chopping scene doesn’t make sense. Not than I’ve won an Emmy or anything for visual effects, but I’d have just had a fake arm on a human actor. It was really jarring and really ended up being a buzzkill to the otherwise visceral goings-on.)
Meanwhile, Merle attempts to clear the air between he and Michonne. It was just ‘business’, he claims.
Michonne’s clearly not buying it . . . but it’s hard to tell, as Michonne seems to have exactly one expression — glower with enough intensity to melt steel.
Don’t get me wrong; I think Danai Gurira is a fine actress — but they need to give Michonne something to actually emote beyond just quiet spooky badassery.
(Also, another glossed over moment — apparently now that the situation is dire enough to allow Merle membership in the fraternity, Rick’s not going to apologize for threatening to bounce her? And she’s not going to hold that against him?)
And then we finally get to the real meat of the episode: Andrea’s reunion with the group, which is about as friendly and heartwarming as a gloveless body cavity search by someone with badly calloused hands.
Andrea is incredulous as she can’t understand why they won’t view her as anything but a potential spy . . . and I’m still having some issues with how even meeting face-to-face with her friends, Andrea seems so completely oblivious that she’s on the wrong side.
It comes off as contrived, a grossly out-of-character, illogical path that has to be there in order to move the plot in a particular direction. Andrea’s not stupid, and she’s the one character from the comic that I don’t think is handled well in the show.
Part of that is the necessarily deviation from the print storylines — Dale’s gone, and as such, there was never the unlikely romance between he and Andrea. Looking back over the show’s arcs, she *does* have a track record of poor decisions: almost committing suicide at the CDC, hooking up with Shane when it was completely clear by that point he was coming undone.
I get wanting to keep the unwitting innocents in Woodbury alive, but really, she can’t get her head out of her panties long enough to see ‘Philip’ for what he actually is?
She gets angry because they’re treating her like the ‘odd man out’, but she’s still seemingly clinging to the fact that maybe Philly Baby is telling the truth and her pals did actually act as aggressors and open fire first?
The only thing that I’m holding out for here is the eventual realization (and resulting pathos) that comes from perhaps the real underlying logic behind her behavior: it has nothing to do with her ‘friends’ in Woodbury as much as it does her desire to have some semblance of civilization.
Seeing Andrea inside the prison, freshly showered and stylishly dressed while the others are disheveled, dirty, and marinating in their own sweat was a great visual contrast, and the brief and terse solo conversation between Michonne and Andrea strongly alludes to that direction.
Things are not going to turn out remotely well, and when Andrea does come to grips that she sold her soul for a hot bath, clean clothes, and a good wine-fueled lay in a soft bed, she’s going to be VERY, very sorry. That will be a good, juicy character arc.
But if she’s going to keep being just plain errant and poorly written, just thrown around like a deus ex machina ragdoll . . . I like Laurie Holden and all, but it’s time to put Andrea out of her misery.
Before Andrea returns to Woodbury, Carol gives her the suggestion of being a literal femme fatale: get the Governor exhausted and asleep (yeah, like she’s got to be told to do that), then take him out when he least expects it.
If she truly wants to end this, it’s the only way: Rick has made it clear they’ll keep butting heads until one side or the other is wiped out, that there will be no truces or cease-fires.
While Andrea makes her way back, and Beth regales the downtrodden group in the darkened prison with a song, Rick lays out his next step to Daryl and Hershel — he’s taking Michonne and Carl and they’re going shopping for some serious firepower.
The episode ends with a nude Andrea, hovering in shadow, holding a knife near Philip’s throat as he sleeps . . . then backing off.
Ten bucks says his good eye was open the whole time, and come Sunday, Blondie’s going to get a bitter taste of what the Governor is really capable of, then dropped unceremoniously on the prison’s doorstep.
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