I'm counting myself lucky. Two good episodes in a row. It was almost too much to hope for after the disaster that were some of the episodes after the hiatus. But really, I loved the idea of this episode. The Governor and Rick sit down to talk, and there's not really much going on besides that. The writers managed to make this showdown that's not really one real tense from the get-go. The episode starts with a cold opener, with Rick, Daryl and Hershel (of all people) securing an old warehouse with rusty silos. Suddenly, Rick walks into the Governor who's already here. Obviously, they are here to parley, but the viewers weren't aware, so the rolling titles come as some sort of relief. Neither is the Governor a Lori-esque vision of Rick's demented mind, nor will the threat end rather anti-climactic here.
From now on, the episode is broken into three parts: Rick and the Governor facing off, their respective goon squads outside the warehouse (and Andrea in between) and the gang at the prison. The writers cleverly chose to include any character with a name in the Governor's party, so there is no need for a fourth part in Woodbury. This makes the whole episode very cohesive and structured, which is actually a very good thing indeed. Let's do them not chronologically but in digestable chunks of characters. Yummy.
The situation with Rick and the Governor is tense from the get-go. We don't have any clue as to what the Governor is up to, especially since he mimicks the charismatic leader (tm) we know from the early episodes and not the psychopathic killer turned out to be. When he removes his gun-belt and sits down, only to let the camera reveal a gun he taped to the table (stupid of Rick not to check the seat the Governor, who arrived before, chose for himself). We don't know what he intends, since there was no long talking it over with Milton (I finally remember his name) and Andrea beforehand. Wise decision there.
|Look into my eye, baby.|
It turns out that the Governor isn't really clear about what he wants, either. In the beginning, he kicks Andrea in the gut by demanding capitulation and throwing her out, only to pack out the whiskey and to talk about the death of his wife, which is a nice character piece. Rick stares at him with a healthy portion of mistrust all the time. At the end of the conversation, the Governor suddenly promises peace if they turn over Michonne. It's a complete 180 on his initial position and the tough talk about leaders he gave before, so if I were Rick, I would even be more distrustful, since what he says makes no fucking sense. Rich himself doesn't talk that much besides some initial cock-measurement. This only contributes to the tense atmosphere in a show where people usually talk too much, though.
Outside, we get two pairs of characters: Milton bonds with Hershel about taking notes for a history account of what's happening (really some foresight Milton's displaying here), and the two get along nicely. It will be at least a little punch if one of them (presumably Milton) dies, and the Walking Dead writers took their sweet time to acknowledge this. The inevitable war with Woodbury leaves no real casualties on the Woodbury side, because there are no characters beside the Governor. This episode fixes it. The evil henchmen Latino (tm) also gets some characterization as he bonds with Daryl over some competitive zombie-slaughter.
|Because nothing like it when chips, beer and football aren't available.|
Turns out that the Latino's wife dies in the initial outbreak, and he takes it personally, enjoying the killing of zombies. Not exactly Shakespeare or anything, but it works to give him some relatable background. What works even better in this character dynamic is their smoking together after they killed the zombies. In that moment, they really are two soliders in a war they don't understand but are compelled to fight. Both even agree that the talks are bullshit and that no lasting peace will come out of it, accepting their fate like the fatalistic soldiers of World War I. It would not surprise me at all when Daryl kills the Latino guy (tm) himself. Had they only started giving these guys some personality earlier!
|Not him, the other one.|
Let's get to the fifth wheel of the four guys out there, Andrea. After being kicked out by the Governor and Rick alike, it has become clear to her that she doesn't belong in either camp, having finally gotten around to see the Governor for what he is at least in some way. That's also where the most annoying bit of the episode happens: when Andrea asks Hershel directly what the Governor did to Maggie, instead of telling her something along the lines of "he raped her" he just responds with a lame "he's a sick man". That feels so "Lost", I can't start to describe it. Andrea is begging Hershel for a reason to break with the Governor, and instead of giving her one that has the added benefit of being true, Hershel just pulls a not-from-this-world-saint and adds to her confusion by telling her that she belongs to the family, but must decide now. Great job.
I have the feeling that the writers really want to save Andrea as a character. This is a good thing because they fucked up two characters already and let them die rather uninspired (Dale and Lori). I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. When Andrea decides to return with the Governor, it's not entirely clear (yet) whether she will fight him from the inside or get back into the fold. I'd think the former, so she might have an interesting and redeeming arc, perhaps even killing him herself. Let's see how this plays out. In other news, in the prison, not much happens. Glenn took control again but does a better job this time, and Merle proves himself to be a dick again. He cries out that "my brother is out there!" and demands to go and fuck up the meeting, which the others luckily decline.
|Not exactly a great thinker.|
Merle, in his usual restrained ways, then attacks Glenn to get past by him and threatens to stab him dead until he is beaten up by the rest of the gang. Why they just let him go after that (where he promptly tries to stir up Michonne, who inexplicably doesn't firmly deny him) and don't simply lock him in a cell is besides me. It's not like the guy could be trusted, and he just tried to stab Glenn, who shrugs it off as "business as usual", which seems rather dickish. But besides that, they did a great job on Glenn, who really seems to be altered by the experiences for the first time. And yeah, that's it in the prison, basically. The episode ends with both Rick and the Governor declaring that they won't honor the two days they agreed on to think about and instead want to take a shot at the other because there's no peace with both Rick and the Governor. Rick lies to the others about what the Governor really said (to scare them into submission, as he confesses to Hershel) and tortures himself about whether giving up Michonne would be worth the peace. Pondering that thougt, we leave him.
See you next week.