Everyone has their own buddy this week except Andrea. She’s left sitting on a curb, bummed that no one but me noticed that she curled her hair for this very special day. And she and I can’t be friends since (1) she’s a fictional character and (2) we would get along terribly. She would hate how much I slouch, and I wouldn’t be able to hold my tongue when she asked me, for the thousandth time, whether or not she should kill her boyfriend.
It was Andrea who arranged the sit-down between the Governor and Rick. At first Rick seems to be on to the Governor’s habit of saying one thing while meaning another. The Governor claims he just wants to talk. He puts down his weapons in a show of good faith. Rick isn’t buying it and he holds onto his, which turns out to be a savvy move since we soon see that the Governor has strapped a gun to his side of the table. Not that he uses it. That would be asking too much of a transitional episode. It’d be like complaining that your building’s lobby didn’t come with a fridge. Unless, of course, it turned out that you lived in that lobby, after being led to believe it was a television show with basic narrative devices (like forward movement).
Gradually, though, Rick’s fake civil-servant act begins to fail him. He begins to believe what he is being told. The Governor talks about losing his wife in a car accident, before the virus hit: “I sat there holding that phone knowing I would never see her again.” Rick stares numbly into space, commiserating, remembering when he last spoke to his own wife. Then the Governor mentions the last voice mail that his wife left, all it said was to call her back, so now he’ll never know what she wanted. At this Rick is confused. The Governor’s wife said to call her back, and so why hasn’t he? Doesn’t Woodbury have a magic dead-people telephone, too? Is that why he wants the prison so badly? So he can check his messages? Will his old password still work? Do magic phones employ the traditional pound-key system?
While all this is getting sorted out, Milton and Hershel are outside recognizing kindred big brain spirits in each other. Hershel takes a genuine interest in Milton’s research. Milton’s really into Hershel’s stump. He’s fascinated that there’s a way to survive after getting bit. You can practically see the thought bubble he’s having of all the tests he would run on Hershel if they were back at the lab. He wants to know why Hershel didn’t bleed out, and Hershel says it’s because he had good people around him. “Doctors,” asks Milton. “No, we learned by trial and error,” says Hershel. He’s a doctor, though, so why didn’t he say that he’d been giving his people medical tips (“When performing emergency C-sections, it’s important to panic and act as rashly as possible")? He could’ve at least answered that he was a doctor. I’m not bringing this up to nitpick but to raise a question about strategy. I’m wondering if he intentionally didn’t tell Milton he was a doctor because he would be seen as an asset then and the Governor might want him in Woodbury. Woodbury already has a doctor, but they could maybe always use more. Now that I’m typing this out, it feels less likely that this was on purpose but I’m still going to throw it out there. At this point in the episode, I so dearly wanted to believe that someone on Rick’s crew (such as its smartest member) knew how to play the long game.
Even so, these scenes between Hershel and Milton, and then the ones between Daryl and Martinez, were good. They gestured at something complicated: the contradictions of war. No one really knows what they’re fighting about, or at least they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Under different circumstances, Milton and Hershel would’ve been peers. Daryl and Martinez are both decent, laid-back guys who would have a better time hanging out together than with most the people they’ve sworn allegiance to. And yet, because of the nature of their arbitrary war, they’re enemies. Like last week’s episode, watching these scenes made me feel a little frustrated. It’s not that I’m rooting for this show to stay bad; I just need it to, like Hershel said, choose a side. And like Andrea’s choice, the answer about which of the two options to go with (bad versus good) seems obvious. Unless her motivations are purely practical. It would be hard to give up, like, all the patchwork quilts you could ever want in favor of a hard metal prison bunk.
At the prison, Merle wants to crash the meeting and take the Governor out. I watched most of those scenes while checking my e-mail because come on, how many more times are they going to do this to us? Does everyone on this show have ADD? Can they not stick to a plan for even one episode? And I say this while also agreeing with Merle that they should have ambushed the Governor while they had a chance. It’s not reasoning that I had a problem with. It’s that he didn’t think of it a half-hour before when Rick and Hershel and Daryl took off for that feed shack, which you know was just down the road because the state of Georgia consists of three blocks, one patch of woods, and one field.
Merle wants Michonne to help him kill the Governor. He says Rick’s crew don’t have a chance against a one-eyed, sort of dumpy middle-aged dude and his army of arthritic amateurs. “They’re not killers,” Merle says. “Glenn is. And Maggie. And Carl put down his own mother.” Merle gives her a look like, Lady, please, I put my own mother down before baby teeth fell out. Michonne says that she’s choosing Rick over Merle, which is kind of a no-brainer considering Merle was a monster to her up until three episodes ago. Also, Glenn and Maggie have sex. At first it’s scary because it seems like a zombie’s going to either stick a rotting hand under the gate they pulled down or attack a new minority character that Carl found hiding out in the library while Glenn and Maggie have their guards down. But then nothing happens and you realize that the scene is because the show finally figured out that, uh, viewers don’t watch three seasons of a show about sweaty people trapped in close quarters in the hopes that there won’t be any sex.
The Governor gives Rick a choice, because that’s the show’s theme now (where are those month-after abortion pills when you need them). He will either storm the prison and kill everyone in it or he will leave them in peace provided Rick gives him the one thing he wants: Michonne. In the background is a sign that reads “A fresh new approach to poultry nutrition,” which the show must have hung there as way of saying, “Look at how quaint people used to be, all believing that fresh and new was better for them than stagnant and repetitive.” The Governor removes his eye patch for effect, and Rick must have made the mistake of staring into the empty socket instead of the Governor’s good eye, searching the abyss for the truth because otherwise I don’t know how he failed to understand that the Governor was playing him. The Governor wants to kills everyone but Michonne. I mean, I’m sure he wants to kill her, too, but that will be next season, at the very end; for now he wants Rick and his crew.
Rick gathers up Daryl and Hershel and they car-commercial their way back to the prison while an on-point wrap-up song (“Whoa shadow, what you got in store for me?”) fills up most of the final ten minutes for the third episode in a row. Rick tells his people that they need to get ready, they’re going to war. Then he takes Hershel outside and tells him that he was just kidding about that war stuff, the Governor really just wants the woman who got Hershel’s daughter back for him. Hershel asks Rick why he’s telling him this. “I’m hoping you’ll talk me out of it,” says Rick. “Well, I could think of about ten better plans off the top of my head, but they’re so efficient that they would only fill the pre-opening-credits segment next week while the Governor’s offer takes up at least two whole episodes.” Rick gives him a look like, That, old timer, was exactly what I was afraid of.