We begin with a group of survivors hacking their way through zombie-clogged woods. Except instead of familiar faces, we see new ones. There’s an African-American man named Tyreese who seems nice and calm and on top of things, not that that will probably matter much. My first thought, unfortunately, is that Tyreese will soon die or not be allowed to speak or tell us anything about himself and I’m hoping I’m wrong because the show is in serious need of breaking that pattern.
Tyreese is with four others. Three of them appear to be a family — a mom, dad, and teenage son. I’d swap any of them in for anyone on our regular crew (you can just insert “Except for Daryl” into any sentence where I say something like that). You might think that’s unfair, but they really do seem like a much better lot of human beings. They like each other. Tyreese appears to be their leader, which would be unheard of in our camp. When the mom gets bitten on the arm, the gang decides it’d be best for her horrified son if they tried to keep her alive as long as they could, instead of asking him to shoot her immediately in the head.
They walk for a bit before coming across everyone’s favorite hangout, the Prison. Since the show has never told us what went on in its world for the eight months in between the two seasons, I’m just going to have to assume that the handful of human survivors spent that time walking around in circles, looking at the ground. Otherwise how do you explain how it took all of them so long to discover this hulking sanctuary? That prison is so conveniently located, real estate brokers would be renaming neighborhoods around it just so people could feel like they lived there too. Maybe some of those zombies are other people who happened upon it and didn’t make it but again, the fact that Tyreese’s crew were able to just walk in makes it seem not nearly as hard to penetrate as the Governor makes it seem. Or as safe as Rick hoped it would be.
Speaking of the Governor, Andrea’s all doing up her hair in the mirror, not realizing that it’s the head itself that turns her man on, not what’s on top of it. She’s in a hurry, though, because she promised Milton that she’d help him cremate Mr. Coleman’s body. Somehow Andrea has become the Mr. Furley of Woodbury, the go-to person for anything that has to get fixed. It’s confusing to me why she is deemed more competent than the dozens of extras who have lived in the town longer and appear to spend all their time strolling. They like to laugh too, in a sparkly way and also to chant, when filled with blood lust. But really, strolling is their bag.
Granted, the people of Woodbury don’t have the best track record when it comes to security. Maggie and Glenn are still being kept captive. Glenn does a cool trick where he fashions weapons out of cracked zombie bones. (Good thing Carl wasn’t there. He would’ve been flooded with remorse that he hadn’t done that to his mom too.) Maggie manages to shiv one of the guards but she and Glenn are outnumbered. The Governor wants Merle to take them to what I think is the “screamer pits.” It’s hard to make out and we never actually see them and in any case, I think they’re just a fancy way of saying, “Keep telling them you’re going to kill them long enough for them to escape or get rescued.”
Rick and the gang have walked the couple miles to the outskirts of the town, most likely killing a few more innocent people in their homes and emptying cartons of baby formula onto the road along the way. Even in the darkness, you can make out Michonne’s fixed glare. Everyone’s being super-mean to her, by the way, threatening to cut her loose and telling her how useless she is even though she showed up with food for them out of her own free will, tolerated being locked into a jail cell, and then led them not only to their captured people but also to an entire town full of French-pressed coffee and hope for the future of humanity. But of course, Rick knows best which is why he showed up without a plan and then mumbles something about downsizing which I swear I thought meant he was going to either shoot the prisoner dude then and there or snap all their weapons in half over his knee, that’s how little faith I have in his leadership abilities at this point. They get lucky, though, because it turns out someone left the door unlocked in the Andy Griffith Reunion set and so they can just enter the town through there. And here I’m afraid I’m going to have to do a little recap of last week’s recap. Because, guys, all that chaos that happened next, I totally called it:
“I’m hoping that when the standoff does happen, the show doesn’t cut corners too much. It’d be nice if it really did come down to a battle between good and bad intentions, and whether those even matter in an apocalypse, instead of just a messy gunfight where you can barely tell what is happening.”
I know you guys think I am too harsh on this show but that whole rescue operation didn’t even make any sense. Rick and his crew were just crouch-walking through the town, in plain sight. That town is one street long and yet none of those extras managed to spot them. The only way I can wrap my head around it at all is by returning to the Three’s Company analogy from earlier, where Andrea is still Mr. Furley and the Governor is Jack trying to keep her from seeing a girl he has in his bed.
Michonne, meanwhile, has discovered the Governor’s man cave. She mistakes Penny for a kidnapped child and unchains her before taking off her hood and revealing her little Linda Blair face. The Governor walks in just as she’s about to slice off Penny’s head and he begs her not to, which is very reminiscent of Hershel and Shane last season. If we’re supposed to be on Michonne’s side in this scene, I think the show did her a real disservice by reducing her to nothing more than a whirling dervish of rage. The Governor may have shown a dark side last week but at least, through his relationship Penny, we can see where and why that darkness began.
Michonne drives his sword through Penny’s skull and then puts a piece of fish tank glass through the Governor’s eye. She’s about to finish him off but Andrea appears, having safely been able to make it through all the gunfire without once spotting any of her old friends. She spots the broken fish tanks and remembers the time she was in The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Those really were the salad days.
At the prison, the sort of hick prisoner guy is making what does seem like some inappropriate comments to Beth. It’s hard to tell if it’s him being creepy or the show, once again, being the most awkward adolescent ever when it comes to anything remotely sexual. Hershel says he’s sprinkled some magic crystals into the baby formula so it’ll last a month but Carl says he’ll go to the mall at the end of the week and just pick up some more.
Carl tells that Baby Third Grade Teacher is the only family he has left. Then they hear some screaming and Carl wants to go see what’s up. Beth tells him not to but he says his dad would, which is definitely true. Rick Grimes never passed up an opportunity to get away from his family. His sheriff’s cap seems to be equipped with pith helmet lights now. He finds the Bizzaro version of himself along with Tyreese and the rest crew fighting some zombies and he tells them he’ll help if they follow him. The Bizarro Lori dies and Carl, hilariously, pulls out his gun. The others look on, horrified and at first I think it’s because they’re shocked by how quickly this punk kid wants to shoot their loved one’s skull in but then Tyreese takes out a HAMMER and covers the mom’s face and is all, “We take care of our own.” Carl, disappointed that he doesn’t get to do it himself, puts his gun back in its little holster and then locks his new friends up in the cell. “We are terrible to other human beings around here,” he basically says, “I’d be happy to pick up some DVDs for you, though, on my next supply run.”
Everyone escapes from the town except for the prisoner guy (shocker) and Daryl, and it’s unclear whether he chose to stay and look for Merle or was captured. Before heading back to the prison, Rick yells at Michonne one more time and she has to convince him to let her come back and probably have to bunk between two zombie corpses. That glass she inserted completely into the Governor’s eye didn’t leave nearly as nasty of a wound as it seemed like it would. I mean I’m sure he’s blind in it and all but just a couple sheets of paper towels take care of it, infection-wise. It’s also the cheapest Two Face from the Batman movie Halloween costume I’ve ever seen. Merle comes in and asks what happened and the Governor does his best impression. Now that Penny’s gone, I guess we’ll be seeing no more Pretend Mr. Nice Guy from him.
I thought maybe he’d take the night to rest before fully outing himself as a villain, but no, fresh from his eye exam, the Governor has assembled his extras around him. He tells them that they were attacked by terrorists and that one of them was captured. It’s Daryl! And the Governor is blaming Merle for everything, since they’re brothers. The extras go crazy. They’ve been given lines! They start shouting that the Governor should kill Daryl. This goes on for a while, at least a minute. The music builds and builds. It’s brother versus brother. Considering it would be way too self-destructive if this show actually killed off Daryl, some of the suspense was missing for me. I’m sure Michonne will show up, slice open a fog machine, and all three will escape. Only to return to the prison for an hour in order to form a huddle and agree to return to take down the town.
Last season’s problem was that the crew stayed in one place for too long. After what was such a promising start, the new problem is that it can’t seem to keep its characters still. Lost did the same thing starting around its third season. So many treks back and forth from the camp on the beach to the side of the island where the Others lived. Unlike Hershel’s farmhouse (and the prison) Woodbury seems full of story expanding potential and I would’ve loved to have seen more character development among its residents. My main focus is now with Tyreese and his group, who went an entire episode without being in any way annoying. I also like that they seem to have preserved an element of compassion that both Rick and the Governor have lost, while managing to survive just as long. Maybe it’s time to try a little tenderness when it comes to dealing with the unlikable character problem that this show can’t shake. Instead of just applying that advice to the splintering of zombie bones.