So far this year, the Walking Dead has been a bit of a cluster. Characters are acting out of, well, character – acting illogically, reacting far out of proportion with instigating events, or directly in conflict with their own stated intentions.
That said, this past week gave us a good dose of what we come to AMC to see: good, old fashioned zombie killing. The battle between the Governor and Rick’s group has been brewing all season long, and it finally sets off in a hail of gunfire. But before we get to that, we have a lot of story to cover.
Rick is prowling around the woods outside the prison, having imaginary conversations with his dead wife, and nobody seems really to notice or care that much. Only Glen calls it what it is – a trip to crazy town.
Daryl is off in the wilderness with Merle, and the chasm of ethics between the two is growing cumbersome. Their moral compasses are proverbially pointing in opposite directions, but their kinship ties them together. The last episode ended with Rick refusing to allow Merle into the group, forcing Daryl to choose between them. Daryl of course chooses his brother – the brother he has spent the whole of the last two seasons thinking was dead. Despite Merle’s questionable character, no one could expect Daryl to abandon him again.
The power of the group is teetering on the edge of a knife. With Daryl gone and Rick steadfastly refusing to allow Tyreese and his crew to join their ranks, they are left with only two and half men to defend it (Glen, Rick and Carl … and for once, Rick is the one-half, his mind being 50% gone). They are growing only more vulnerable, and the Governor is bringing all the muscle Woodbury can spare to take them out.
Andrea is finally starting to see her way out of her sex-haze and realize what a bag of crazy the Governor is (because, you know, him trying to kill her best friend was not at all telling). Being so easily flattered by his insistence that she take over when he “abdicates”, she realizes too late that the Gov has left Woodbury.
Meanwhile, Glen convinces Michonne to take a preemptive strike against the Mayor – leaving the prison to attack him back at Woodbury. It’s a valiant effort by a young man trying to fill the emptying shoes of their erstwhile leader, Rick, but a misguided one. Maggie, psychologically scarred by her ordeal in Woodbury, is no longer a participating member of the group’s defense. That leaves only Glen, Michonne, Carl and Carol as able-bodied defenders. Despite these facts, which Glen himself acknowledges, he decides to abandon the prison and head off toward Woodbury.
Daryl and Merle’s conflict comes to a head when they come upon a caravan of Spanish-speaking refugees overcome by walkers. Daryl’s moral code dictates that he save them, but Merle’s mercenary attitude won’t let him get involved unless he can get something out of it. Daryl has to literally turn his crossbow on his brother to get him to back away from the caravan.
Back at the prison, Hershel limply attempts to draw Rick back onto safe ground – until the Governor’s arrival on the scene sends them into defense mode. The Governor and his men drive up and open fire – taking out Axel almost immediately. The group is splintered and must take cover: Rick hiding in the tall grass, Carol using Axel’s body as protection. Just as the Governor has the group on the ropes, he pulls his coup d’etat: an armored van drives through the gates and releases a cadre of walkers into the prison’s inner grounds.
With victory in his hands, the Governor inexplicably pulls back his forces and retreats back to Woodbury. The group is able to take out the walkers and jerry rig the hobbled gates shut. Merle and Daryl arrive to lend their strength to Rick’s aid, and Glen drives back into the compound to rescue Hershel and Carl.
It’s a lucky break for the group, and an infuriating choice by the Governor. Intent as the show is to drag out every story line, the showdown between Woodbury and the group could not be completed in just one meeting – no, we’ll have to squeeze this out over several more weeks.
At least the group has been reassembled , plus a few extra: Michonne, Merle and Tyreese’s crew will soon be accepted into the fold — the group needs them to provide defense against the Governor (and now that Axel is gone, they need a few minor characters to be free deaths).
Rick is still wavering on the edges of sanity, and I truly wonder if he’ll ever be coming back to full strength. After all, Glen is stepping up, and we still have yet to meet the full brunt of Tyreese. Could this be the sheriff’s last season? Taking bets now….