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After keeping a steadily escalating pace all season, Walking Dead decided to take a moment to let its protagonist go crazy. The result is an episode that felt mostly like it was just killing time in order to get to the final moments when our two gangs, who have thus far been leading separate story lines, finally convene.
The idea of Rick snapping is a fine one in itself. After everything this group has seen, it feels inevitable that it would happen to someone. The execution was less than stellar. In retrospect, it was foolish to think that something as minor as death could put an end to all those “we have to talk” non-conversations between Lori and Rick that ate up so much of last season. This show can be downright OCD when it comes to returning to certain plot points, while lopping off other more compelling ones (cough, Morgan) as though they were nothing more than a zombie-bitten appendage. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked that this final one happened through any means necessary, which in this case was over the crackling lines of a magic telephone.
Last week it seemed dangerous, narratively, to have Rick lose his mind, since how do you come back from that? Which is why his breakdown ultimately felt like such filler. By the end of this episode, Rick had found closure with his dead wife and, judging by the purposeful look on his face as he strode toward the prison gates in that last scene with Michonne (I’d know that jaw clench anywhere), he was back to being the group’s leader. A disproportionately tidy resolution considering the messy times he and his group are living in. On the bright side, I’m sure the actors who played Amy and Jim appreciated the voice-over work.
Down the street, the Governor is tying up some loose ends himself. He’s dispatched Merle and a team of inconsistent extras to go after Michonne, which frees him up to focus on some new moves. I feel guilty sometimes when I write about the women on this show that I’m adding to the female-character bashing that goes on in general, but I have to say, I find the Governor’s reciprocated crush on Andrea even less believable than Rick’s phone. It’s not a physical thing or, fortunately, a matter of her being too henpecking, a trait that so many women characters get saddled with. It’s that smugness that she hasn’t been able to shake since last season. And I’d be saying the same thing about anyone (except Daryl) from the original group that the Governor might try to woo, male or female. I know that courting Andrea is part of a greater strategy to take down Rick and crew, but that makes me wonder why he’d even bother caring about any of them at all, other than as a minor annoyance. If he isn’t daunted by a military troop literally driving tanks, why would a ragtag crew of emaciated people pose a threat? It’s like the Governor has been told somehow, like us, that he’s the villain and Rick’s the hero and now he’s bracing for their showdown.
There’s a lot of cleaning house going on in this episode, led by two brothers. Merle in the woods, hunting Michonne; Daryl, Carl, and the new guy Oscar (whose name I had to just look up on IMDb) trolling through the now almost completely zombie-free prison. If Merle killing that dude Neil was supposed to make me feel something, I’m worried, because my heart was a cold stone during those scenes. If we’re going to declare me a sociopath, though, then we’re going to have to allow that that guy was a schizophrenic. He left the Walking Dead world an entirely different character than he entered it, two scenes before, what with the going from being the guy who could barely stand the sight of a zombie corpse to being the one who insisted on continuing, even after Merle called the pursuit off.
After commiserating with Carl about how bad it feels to lose your mom, Daryl discovers his surrogate mother, Carol, blacked out in one of the cells. I’m actually not sure why she would be in that extreme state, since she wasn’t bitten and it’s only been a few hours, it seems, and so it can’t be starvation, but okay, we’ll let that one slide. I’m glad Carol is alive, I really am; it just feels like an unnecessary use of limited time to have had her go missing in the first place.
Glenn and Maggie go on their daily shopping spree. This time there’s not only baby formula on their list but food and ammo. Again, if you remember the whole reason they were so excited to find the prison, it was because they hoped it would have these very things that they’d failed to find anywhere else during the seven months they’d been wandering. Maggie and Glenn find everything but the ammo. To make up for that, Maggie wants Glenn to grab a stuffed animal for the baby. If Rick has his telephone and Hershel has his doctor’s bag, Glenn and Maggie have found their magical amulet now too: the bottomless general store.
A place as special as that is bound to emit some sort of powerful signal that can be felt but not heard. That’s the only way I can explain how both Merle and Michonne end up in the same parking lot at the same time. Michonne hides while Merle pretends to surrender to Maggie and Glenn. They don’t fall for it, but it doesn’t matter; he outmaneuvers them anyway and takes them hostage, back to the town. You’d think he would’ve wanted to stop at the magical store first. He probably could’ve found a new hand inside that place.
Michonne overhears Glenn and Maggie talking about the prison and eventually is able to make her way there. I picture a wide open field with the town entrance on one end and the prison on the other, and so she just walked right instead of left. When she arrives at the prison gates, she’s covered in zombie guts and so is able to walk freely among the undead. Remember how Glenn and Rick discovered that trick in season one and then promptly abandoned it, in favor of letting most of their loved ones die? That was some leadership in action right there.
Two episodes to go before the break, and as sloppily as I feel the merger happened, it does seem like the right time for the two groups to be meeting up. Especially since the show clearly has exhausted its options when it comes to depicting prison life. The town still seems ripe with possibilities to me, but you can already feel the scope narrowing. Instead of fleshing out the backstories of some of our new, more interesting characters like Michonne or the scientist guy, the show seems like it’s now getting into battle mode. Which surely means we’re in for more fighting, although probably not of the talking variety.
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