The Walking Dead Review Episode 14: Prey

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

In which Andrea gets her comeuppance, and I find myself in the unusual circumstance of rooting for the bad guy.

And — in more than one instance — the titular ambulatory cadavers.

Although that cheering might not be totally without merit, in the Governor’s case, as it’s established to us exactly who we’re dealing with: not just a sociopathic post-apocalyptic politican who is largely a paper tiger, only good at barking orders and manipulating others do his dirty deeds.

Have to say, I’d vote for him.  Man knows how to get things done.

whistlewhileyoustalk

Going on a solo hunt to keep Andrea from tipping off her former compatriots, Philip Blake comes off that he may be no, scratch that — IS just as badass in a one-on-one situation as any of our heroes . . . and when the competitors for that title include Michonne and Daryl, that says a lot.

Without flogging a dead horse, I’m not Andrea’s biggest fan at this point, and I’ve had some criticisms of how her arc this season has played out, with logic often being given a hearty shove aside in order to make the plot work.

As far as I’m concerned, Andrea should’ve caught on to the folly of her ways much sooner, and her obliviousness to the situation really undermined her character as it’s been established in the thirty-plus episodes.  I don’t at all have a problem with the idea of one of the central characters being put through a moral wringer and choosing the relative safety of larger numbers and a well-defended base of operation rather than foraging in the wild.

It’s that said character can’t possibly have been that stupid and myopic to miss out on the trip-over-them-obviousness of the clues that the utopia wasn’t at all what it seemed.

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

Having said that, ‘Prey’ was a very nicely constructed episode, no matter which side of the Andrea debate you’re on.  Pro-Andrea, you got to see her snatch small victories and defy death several times as she makes a last-ditch effort at redemption to reach the prison unarmed and on foot to warn Rick that he’s walking into a trap when he and the Governor sit down for the next round of ‘peace’ talks.

First time, Richard got some whiskey.  Second time around, the only hospitality comes in the form of the sterling surgical implements a whistling Blake is cheerfully prepping.

(I’ll skirt a spoiler here, but you’d clearly be able to take a mixed group of viewers and tell which ones have read the comic based on their likely visible reaction to that brief yet juicy pause on a certain tool of that group and the implications of what might be repeated on-screen in the coming final two episodes: one of the comic’s all-time signature moments.)

For those of us on the other side of the fence that would be happy to see Blondie as a mid-afternoon zombie brunch, we got the delicious frustration of seeing her snatched from the grasp of the reaper time and again.

That’s a fascinating dynamic to have a story that works and is emotionally resonant both ways . . . even if those of us with the ‘Down With Andrea’ placards and signs got the last cheer as a bloodied Governor makes Andrea’s struggle all for naught literally in the final moments as she’s within spitting distance of her goal, dragging her back to his private torture chamber lair.

Irony: 100%

Sympathy: still 0%.

(And speaking of great writing and pacing: I was literally ready to jump off the couch when it seemed that Rick, in the crows nest of the prison guard tower, might accidentally mistake an exhausted Andrea stumbling out of the treeline for a walker and put a rifle round between her eyes.

Not sure I’d actually want *that* sort of closure, mind you, but damn if I didn’t enjoy it being dangled in front of me for a few tantalizing seconds.)

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

Outside of the Passion of the Andrea, we did get a welcome subplot furthering Tyresse’s character, and I’m liking what I’m seeing there. Particularly in the context of some of our protagonists allowing their humanity to slip from their grasp, which the tragic hitchhiker bit in ‘Clear’ a few episodes back so plainly slapped us in the face with.

Tyresse, to me, is being groomed for a very central role next season (assuming he does get to throw in with whatever’s left with of the prison gang) as the moral center of the group, backing up Hershel’s good Samaritan tendencies.  Ty’s been through the same horrific mulcher that they have, and he hasn’t yet fallen to whatever-it-takes spiritual decay, which brings up an excellent point: what’s the point of continued survival if you completely give up your humanity in the process?

And unlike Hershel, Ty can cut an imposing figure and get right in people’s faces to press a point.  If Merle hangs on to be the polar opposite, the epitome of a merciless ‘live to fight another day’ mentality, everyone will have a knit-capped, burly angel on one shoulder and a devilish, drawling black sheep on the other.

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

Last, but not least, one of the things that really stuck with me this episode was Milton’s somewhat throwaway line that even if the Governor was eliminated, that wouldn’t immediately make Woodbury a shiny, happy place, as Martinez would fill the void and he might even be worse, in a sense, a strongman with the guns on his side and little in the way of the diplomatic skills to smooth over the rough spots.

Blake is largely a sycophantic megalomaniac, but he wouldn’t be able to maintain his grasp on power without like-minded individuals willingly backing his plays.

bffsnomore

One of the things that has been doggedly bugging me throughout the season is how Woodbury has been portrayed as essentially a little slice of walled-off Mayberry RFD: life there is a little TOO good, and it almost taxes your suspension of disbelief — especially if you’ve read the comic and saw Woodbury as a more bleak, desolate, ramshackle outpost populated by people who, by and large, weren’t strong enough to survive on their own, and given the opportunity, would prey on each other to get a little more food or a little booze to deaden the pain of having watched the world end.

That portrayal made a lot more ‘sense’ in terms of logic.

That Woodbury was a darker place where that Governor had to be a more imposing, almost Darth Vader-like figure who could only keep everyone in line with threats of expulsion or being fodder in the gladiatorial games with the walkers, which in turn sapped more and more of their humanity, breaking down their resistance and taking them step by step further from the idea of civilization and society.

When reading the comic, you really couldn’t have cared less if Rick had been able to get his hands on a nuke and dropped it on them, slaughtering them wholesale.  Woodbury itself, not just the Governor, was the enemy, period.

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

By tweaking the story for the show and having a far more charismatic Governor who tried to maintain higher standards, it did bring new complications into play.  Yes, it wasn’t as ‘realistic’, perhaps, as a dark perversion of a rural American small town as shown in the original comics, but it does bring in new allegories, which is really the whole point of post-Romero zombie fiction, where the zombies aren’t evil boogeymen, but more a mindless force of nature, a catalyst that forces us to look at the humans and how they react to the end of civilization.

Milton’s theory of ‘well, yes, he’s bad but it could be worse, and in any case, it can’t be stopped now’ does touch on the point of the dangers of passivity, of accepting things as they are and not having the backbone to stand up and fight for change, and of willing to trade control of your own well-being to someone else for a semblance of safety.

It’s all well and good and ‘safe’ until the powers-that-be demand you do your part to fight to maintain your standard of living against an enemy that while potentially dangerous, you don’t really know or understand.

That’s the sort of theme that prods you into deeper thoughts than just, “oh, wasn’t that SFX cool and wasn’t that awesome to see someone take a katana to a walking corpse”, and that’s why I love this genre so much.

shamble on public domain blog the walking dead episode 14 prey zombies

In any case, ‘Prey’ was an excellent set up to the coming climax and end of the season.

Heroes, ultimately, have to have an antagonist that is able to meet them head-on, and match them blow-for-blow.  The Governor, thus far, has been more a psychological threat than a direct physical one, and taking the time to see just how far he is willing to go to further his agenda and how capable he, personally, brings a huge and welcome amount of menace to the coming showdown.

This was the relative — if tense — calm before the storm, and I expect the next two episodes to be nothing less than non-stop white-knuckle, blazing-gun, blood-spattered, jaw-dropping fury.

— mal

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