The Walking Dead Review Episode 13: Arrow On The Doorpost

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Or, like the old Frankie Goes to Hollywood song: “When two tribes go to war.”

(Waits while everyone under the age of thirty Googles that . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . and go.)

Andrea, also known by her more traditional Native American title as Sleeps-With-Sociopaths, mediates a sit down between the Governor and Rick to discuss some way to not turn either Woodbury or the prison into a bullet-ridden all-you-can-devour buffet for the undead hordes on both of their doorsteps.

As you might expect, the meeting of the minds doesn’t go well, and — spoiler alert — ends with neither side making any real concession to the other.

Which almost leads to shrugging one’s shoulders and saying what exactly was the point of the episode?

Well, to keep us on the edge of our seat, and it did that *very* well.

No one was buying the idea of Rick and the Governor shaking hands and hashing out differences, but we were all waiting for the backstab to come, starting with the Governor showing up ‘early’ and unexpectedly in slight violation of whatever agreement they had, as clear way of rattling Rick’s cage.

I don’t recall any episode of the series so far having such a feel of exquisite, building tension, and few, overall, were as well-constructed.  The cutaways to the gang left back at the prison, and a brief kerfluffle between Glenn and Merle ending up with rolling around on the floor (boys, pre- or post-apocalypse, will be boys), really were just filler to extend the meet and stretch it out to fill almost the entire running length of the show, and it was an excellent move.

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There was absolutely no reason for the two leaders to come face-to-face other than to size each other up and try to psyche each other out.  Rick’s not guileless when it comes to being a leader.  Even just setting foot in close proximity  of the psychopath was risking a lot (and I’m kind of surprised he didn’t have someone try to scout the area a little more thoroughly in his own version of violating the agreement just to be safe, although I guess the options were limited, as each Glenn, Maggie, Merle and Michonne have clearly expressed a desire to kill the Governor on-sight).

Rick, however, has no choice.

Personal risk aside, he knows deep down how this is all going to end, and at least when the survivors of the showdown look at him after burying their dead, it won’t be to ask him why he hadn’t at least tried to broker a deal and prevent it.

In the end, though, the Governor walked away the victor, getting under Rick’s skin with the offer of a permanent cease-fire if he’ll just be a pal and hand Michonne over.

I loved how Rick remained stoic the entire time, because frankly, I’d have been trying to push Phil’s buttons back for the whole “that’s maybe not your infant daughter because your wife was trying to repopulate the Earth with your best friend, but you’re a noble widower nonetheless” remark.

But to have Rick sweat even a single bead over whether or not there was any sort of genuine truth that they’d leave the prison gang be if they handed up Michonne on a platter seemed foolish.

Meanwhile, a giant lightbulb, visible probably from low orbit, goes off over Andrea’s head as she realizes that she’s picked the wrong side and lets out a mournful little sob, which made me want to pick up a rusty machete and hurl it at the screen.

Apparently the fact that her one-eyed faux pirate Pookie Bear-in-Chief essentially molested Maggie didn’t quite register on her until that very moment.  Somehow, that was Merle’s fault, even after being TOLD that while she was visiting the prison.

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Again, this is just poor handling of an otherwise fascinating character arc: Andrea is being treated more of less like a plot puppet that’s forced to do and say whatever the writers need to move the story in a certain direction.  That would be fine for a lesser, secondary character that hasn’t been there since the beginning.

Andrea professes to be a pacifist, wanting to avoid any further bloodshed, but she’s all too willing to ignore the facts laid out at her feet by people who have no reason to lie to her, and the conclusion that the best way to achieve peace is a bullet through her boyfriend’s brain.

I support the idea that Andrea is more attracted to the idea of a semblance of civilization, as well as her newfound importance as the apple of the eye of the man who is making that possible, and willing to look the other way at some of the things that might need to happen to keep that status quo.

That’s actually a great progression, especially given that she had very nearly died from illness living like a scavenger while on the road — it does place her in a grey area that you could almost sympathize with, even though we know the Governor is bad news.

But the writers just haven’t emphasized this enough, making her decisions and logic seemingly flighty and with no sense of consistent reason.  It’s not like they haven’t had enough space or time to do so with a much longer season.  I’m wondering if the fact that there were more episodes meant that the writers were rushed and didn’t have enough time to step back and look at what they were assembling.

Personally, I’m not looking for any sort of redemption, I’d just like her to go, because at this point the whole thing is botched enough that having her stick around is just going to be pathos over her ‘betraying’ the group and a constant reminder of how poorly that was set up.

The group dynamic *needs* to have one black sheep, one character you kind of love to hate: let it be Merle — who, at this point, is still a largely blank slate waiting to be filled in — and let’s have done with Blondie.

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On the bright side, we did get some decent Daryl-time in this episode, and I really have to marvel at how well that character, who is completely original and not in any way tied to the comics, is evolving.  Daryl really is a sort of manchild that has some sort of arrested emotional development because of his tragic life and an overbearing older brother that he’s constantly got to make excuses for.

I don’t mean that in a negative way at all — it’s something that’s very ‘real’ and sets him apart from the group’s other resident badass, Michonne.  But just watching him over the course of this season, and especially since Merle has been brought back in, you can see where he has, at times, a kid-like quality to his actions and demeanor that makes him so much more than a chopper-riding hillbilly.

It’s easy to write off the bit with he and Martinez trying to one-up one another while defending the perimeter from zombies and showing off as pure testosterone-fueled machismo, but it’s more subtle things, like his simple response to Martinez when the man reveals he lost his wife and children to the walkers.

“Sucks. ”

I’m really liking it, and Norman Reedus is a fantastic actor for not just going a more one-dimensional, lowest-common-denominator route with a character that could easily be a caricature.  I’m hoping now Merle stays around, because Michael Rooker is great in his role, too, and because those two have no basis in the comics, they really do add a lot to the show because they consistently add an element of unpredictability even when the writers choose to stick closely to the original print story.

And I can’t believe I’ve come to a ‘Save Merle and Kill Andrea’ platform, but there it is.

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Last but not least, Maggie and Glenn get over the post-torture POW hump in their relationship by . . . well, hump being the operative word there, when they were supposed to be standing watch.

Really?

At any given moment, they could be ambushed — their leader is off-site, and if there was ever a better time to mess with the prisoners, it’s when their general is at least slightly off-the-board.  Glenn and Maggie can’t have some degree of self-control and actually watch to make sure snipers aren’t moving into position to drop them all if something goes down at the meeting?  Sure the prison is sort of surrounded by the dead and that’s a nice buffer, but they know that there are ways around that if someone has big enough cojones (and doesn’t mind scaling a tree with a slung rifle while covered in zombie chum).

And on top of that breach in protocol, you’re letting Michonne and Merle unsupervised with only Carl, Beth, and Carol to break them up.

Listen, I understand the idea of impending doom and wanting to enjoy what time you have left, but come on.

I’m certainly not taking the writers to task for this, though: it’s actually a nice touch, to show that our protagonists aren’t infallible.

And a nice bit of irony that Glenn wanted to wear the big boy leader pants with Merle, but he seems to have an issue with keeping said pants up.

— mal

shamble on the walking dead review critic zombies public domain blog meme

shamble on the walking dead review critic zombies public domain blog

shamble on the walking dead review critic zombies public domain blog meme

Thanks for stopping by Public Domain!  For more zombie mania, you can scope out past installments of Shamble On right here, and there’s other film and comic book reviews in Atomic Critic.

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1 Comment

  1. “Arrow on the Doorpost” was a good episode. I enjoyed Rick and the Governor’s interactions. This was some of the best writing of the show. Looking forward to see how everything turns out.

    On a picky note, there have been countless times throughout the series where Rick and the group have been super aware of not making unnecessary noise to avoid waking, for lack of better words, the zombies. At the end of last season, we saw what a helicopter and a gunshot can do to the zombie masses. So it seems like Daryl would ditch the rumbling motorcycle. There’s nothing more grating on the ears than a chopper blazing down the road. I know riding the motorcycle is supposed to build upon his outsider-like character, but he’s become a little less of a loner this season. It’s time to ditch the chopper!


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