A number of plot points will inevitably be revealed in the course of these writings. My intent is to review this program from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community, but, to do that effectively, some things have to be explained in greater detail than I might normally prefer in a review. As a result, spoilers will follow. You have been warned. In truth, you might more accurately describe these posts as in-depth discussions of certain aspects of each episode with an emphasis on how the character's actions might be applicable in a real-life societal collapse. I hope you enjoy.
Before I begin, I need to say right up-front that this particular episode offers very little by way of the kinds of survivalist details that I usually discuss in these posts, being mostly heavy on character development. Several subplots are interweaved together, giving us some insight into what's going through the heads of the characters and what motivates them.
I'm also going to be trying something new this week for those of you who have already watched the show and would like to bypass all of the play-by-play: I'm going to BOLD the text that pertains to any discussion of Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist stuff, so it'll be easy to skim down. Let me know if you like that idea in the Comments section.
The episode opens with Merle and three other men from Woodbury tracking Michonne through the woods upon orders from the Governor. She is aware of their pursuit as well, leaving them a grisly message to turn back the way they came. Needless to say, Merle isn't the type to give up that easy, though. As he scans the woods and calls out to his quarry, pistol in hand, she suddenly drops from the trees and dispatches two of her four pursuers with quick efficiency and extreme prejudice. She escapes, but takes a gunshot wound to the leg from Merle.
Not gonna lie: her jumping out of a tree to land in the clearing among the hostiles was a bit corny for my liking. It was like something out of a cheap, direct-to-video martial-arts flick.
Merle and his one remaining side-kick continue on, continuing to have run-ins with Michonne and Walkers drawn-in by all the noise. Later, Merle decides to go back, arguing that, since Michonne is heading into what they refer to as the Red Zone, she's as good as dead anyway. The other guy wants to continue and refuses to lie to the Governor and say that they killed her, so Merle blows his head off.
As for the folks at the prison, the story there picks-up right where last week's installment left-off: Rick on the mysterious phone call that jarred him from his nearly catatonic Walker-punishing rampage. It is the voice of a young woman who is unwilling to give Rick any identifying information about her or where she is, except to say that it's somewhere safe (good OPSEC!). Rick asks if her group might be willing to take he and his people in, swearing that they will be useful members of their community. She answers that it may be possible, but that she needs to clear things with her group first. Rick asks for the responsibility to make his case by talking directly to the decision-makers and pleads that he and his people are "dying here;" she says she'll call back in two hours and hangs-up.
If you're smart -- and, since you're reading blogs about Prepping and Survivalism, I'm going to assume you are -- you've already lent some thought to forming a survival group for when TEOTWAWKI lands in our lap. If you're smart *AND* proactive, you've already laid some groundwork toward that goal as well. The fact is that surviving alone is harder than surviving with others. True, more people means you'll require more resources, but having extra people also means extra hands to help acquire those resources, either through foraging, hunting, or gardening. Plus, how do you ever intend to sleep without the knowledge that someone else is on-guard?
Good survival groups are built around people with useful knowledge and skillsets and who are willing to work hard. That's what Rick is trying to use above to convince the other group to take them in. Just off the top of my head, I can list the fact that they are, pretty-much, all experienced shooters now (except for the convicts, and both of them are useful for manual labor); Axel is mechanically-inclined; Rick has law-enforcement experience; Daryl is a life-long hunter; and Hershel is a veritable goldmine, being both a farmer as well as Veterinarian (next best thing to an M.D.). That is just to give you an idea of what kind of things I'm referring to and the kinds of skills you need to be fomenting now in order to increase your worth to survival groups, if you haven't already gotten yourself setup with some like-minded friends or family members for WTSHTF.
My situation as an FYI example: I own a 3-story, 100+ year-old home with 2 separate basements (lots of storage) on 5.5 acres, bordered by wooded (railroad-owned) land on two sides and situated on a hilltop (no flooding). It's moderately isolated and features gravity-fed toilets (they'll flush as long as there's water to pour in them). There's a year-round freshwater spring on the property a short walk from the house, and I installed a wood-burning stove as a heat source that isn't dependent on grid power. We only actively use the first-floor as living space, so there's plenty of room to spare. The people I have selected know to pack-up and head my way in an emergency; and they know to place priority status on packing non-perishable food, weapons, ammunition, batteries, candles, hand-tools, sleeping-bags and other camping equipment, etc. I *AM* my group's safe haven, and, while I still can, I am amassing a survival library and learning how to garden from seed; preserve foodstuffs by canning; homebrew mead, wine, and beer; and other useful skills. Future plans include one or more greenhouses and, hopefully, a chicken coop on the property. Others in my group include military vets, experienced hunters, a life-long mechanic, a Registered Nurse and a Certified Nurse's Assistant. I'm currently working on both a Physician's Assistant and a trained, active Paramedic. You get the idea.
Back to the story: Rick is soon seen briefly returning to check on his people (especially Carl), all cleaned-up and changed into clothes that aren't covered in gore. He reports having cleared-out the area of the prison around the boiler (where Lori died), but refuses offers of assistance in removing the bodies. Apparently, he isn't wanting anybody around during his phone negotiations. Also, he doesn't even ask about the baby.
He verifies with Daryl that everyone has a gun and a knife, but Daryl informs him that ammunition is an issue. In response, Glenn and Maggie announce that they're planning a foraging run, having found an old phone book that lists some likely places where they might be able to find both ammunition and more canned/powdered baby formula. Also, Daryl reports that the generator shack is clear and that Axel is working on getting things running for use in an emergency.
Two things: weren't the generators working fine just yesterday (episode 4) when they killed the saboteur Andrew and shut them down on purpose? And, obviously Axel and Oscar are now part of the group, as I previously predicted would happen; Oscar is right there, sharing a meal with them all when Rick walks in.
Daryl also reports the intention to continue clearing more of the lower-levels as well (good perimeter security!) We later follow Daryl and some others on these forays, during which he finds signs of Carol's passing and, eventually, locates Carol herself. She is alive, but exhausted, and Daryl carries her to safety. Also, Daryl shares a bit of a big-brotherly moment with Carl.
Later, we also see Michonne nearly run into Glenn and Maggie at an abandoned shopping center where they are foraging (something we'll all be doing one day). She keeps her distance, however. Merle, on the other hand, approaches from the opposite direction.
Recognizing Glenn, Merle seems friendly, asking about his brother Daryl; things go south, however, when Glenn refuses to take him back to their hidey-hole at the prison, offering instead to send Daryl to meet with him (good OPSEC!). Merle ends-up taking Maggie hostage and forcing Glenn to drive them to Woodbury, all of which is witnessed by Michonne.
I've got to say that I still don't understand how they let him get the drop on them when they both had their handguns trained on him.
In Woodbury, Andrea professes were wish to stay in Woodbury as a contributing member of the community, volunteering to work guard-duty on the wall so as to maintain her proficiency with a weapon (training!). Her start is a rocky one: she is assigned to learn the use of the bow from a young woman, but breaks the rules and jumps the barricade to kill a Walker hand-to-hand after her instructor's first two tries fail to take it out. She is eventually brought before the Governor, and admits that she really enjoyed the fights from the previous episode. They later bond further and end-up in bed together.
Merle later lies to the Governor, claiming to have killed Michonne and lost all three of the other men in the party, and presenting him with Glenn and Maggie as prisoners. He tells the Governor that they must be set-up pretty well by the looks of them and that he will get the location from them.
I smell an ugly interrogation brewing in Woodbury next week. :/
Regarding the phone calls Rick is receiving, they seem to be probing areas that he himself is sensitive to talk about. In all, he speaks to four individuals, but it turns-out that it's all in his head: the voices are his own mind talking to him in the form of his dead wife (the final call) as well as Amy, Jim, and Jacqui, all of whom died back in season 1. In my opinion, this is Rick's way of dealing with everything that he has experienced, but, strictly-speaking, it does represent a mental disconnect; a break from reality, no matter how brief.
Different people handle stress in different ways, and some are unable to effectively handle it at all. We live in the most highly-medicated culture ever to exist on this planet, a certain percentage of which includes psychotics and schizophrenics who are only able to walk the streets thanks to modern medicine and Big Pharma. Just decades ago, these people would have been locked-away in asylums; now, they're standing next to us on the street -- what do you imagine is going to occur in a SHTF scenario when their crazy pills runs out? On the decidedly less dramatic hand, we will also have to contend with depressive personalities and folks who suffer from severe anxiety disorders, currently held in-check via medication. Look for suicides to sky-rocket in frequency. The fact is that stress-related mental issues and breakdowns, such as Rick's in this episode, are something that we may all be forced to deal with eventually.
After his "spell" passes, Rick returns to the group and finally holds his daughter, whose name we still don't know, by the way. Later, Michonne arrives at the prison, carrying the foraged supplies dropped by Glenn and Maggie. She had overheard them talking about the prison and headed there after they were taken, I assume by following highway signs.
It should be interesting to see Daryl's reaction next week to the news that, not only is his brother alive, but Merle has kidnapped two of his friends.
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]