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.
This, the eight episode and mid-season finale of the 3rd season, begins with unfamiliar faces. A small group of survivors are beset by Walkers in the woods. This group is led by a man named Tyreese, who I'm told is a major character in the comic books.
One of this group is bitten as they attempt to make their way toward some towers that Tyreese saw through the trees in the distance. As they approach a ruined building that will hopefully provide them with some shelter, Tyreese's sister Sasha wants to leave the wounded woman behind, but Tyreese takes pity; they all know that she will not survive and will have to be put down when she reanimates, but Tyreese can see that her husband and son are not yet ready to let her go. They enter the ruin, which, as the camera pans out, we can see is actually a back way into the bowels of the prison complex commandeered by Rick's people.
By the way, at this point, it's worth mentioning that the prison must have already seen its share of strife: where they enter, a good portion of brick wall as well as part of a building is crashed in as though it's been hit by artillery shells.
Later, the noise of Tyreese's people fighting Walkers inside the prison alerts those left behind to the presence of intruders. Carl goes to investigate, despite Hershel trying to keep him from it, saying only "My father would go." The boy saves them from being overrun and leads them to a safe area, then unceremoniously locks them in. He's made sure they're safe, but also exhibited good OPSEC by confining them away from his people until he can be sure they're not a threat.
One quick note: I've talked a lot about OPSEC, going back to the early days of me doing these reviews, but I just realized that I might have failed to define that term. Most of you reading this blog probably already know this, but, just in case some are unaware, OPSEC is a military term that means Operational Security.
More and more, we see young Carl stepping-up and acting mature beyond his years. In fact, he seems to be becoming a leader among people who are all his elders. Even Tyreese seems to recognize this, referring to the prison being his house and calling Carl a man with no sense at all that he's only being placating or ironic. It's like he really sees it in him.
There's also a comical bit with Axel doing a very bad job at flirting with Beth, as a jealous and hostile Carl looks on. He's been in jail with no access to women, recognizes that Maggie is with Glenn, and thinks Carol is a lesbian because of her buzz-cut hairdo; needless to say, he feels like his choices are limited. Carol sets him straight, and, at last report, the two of them were off together in a guard-tower. I smell romance a' brewin'.
In Woodbury, Andrea seems to be settling in to the idea of a community. She is going to help Milton cremate the remains of the old man from last week, and tells the Governor that the people who surround him aren't just there only for protection, but also for mutual support to help them get through what the world has become.
Again, here is another lesson for us. The fact is that humans are social animals; we don't do well when we're alone, especially from a psychological perspective. That urge to be around others and to be a part of something larger than herself is precisely why Andrea didn't want to go off with only Michonne for company. She seems to be blind to all of the things that are wrong with Woodbury, but, in my opinion, that is at least partially because she doesn't want to see the faults. After all those months on the run, she desperately wants to be somewhere she can call home. Whether your community is large or simply a retreat group of 10 or 12 people, community is a very important part of our collective well-being.
After she's gone, we see him bring little Penny back out of her cage/closet. He plays kiddy music and sings to her, attempting to rekindle some kind of connection, even though it's quite obvious that she's concerned only with ripping his face off and eating it. At the very least, she simply stares at a bowl of meat that he has there to feed her, paying to attention whatsoever to him. As bad as he is, I can't help but be a little sad for the Governor during these scenes.
Speaking of evil that the Governor has done, Glenn and Maggie (now clothed in Glenn's shirt) talk in their basement cell about the irony of spending months running from Walkers, only to have forgotten about the terrible things human beings do to each other. To me, that has sort of been the theme of this season so far: that, perhaps, the Walkers aren't the most dangerous threat in the world.
This is also a lesson to which each of us should be paying close attention. I talk a lot here on the blog about the thin veneer of lawful, polite society that only just barely covers the boiling cauldron of anarchy that is mankind's nature. Sometimes cracks appear in that veneer, showing us the truth of how things would really be if we were to simply remove the threat of having to pay for one's actions by going to jail, etc.. Something that all of us need to wrap our heads around is that, in any lengthy societal disruption, the predators among us will inevitably rear their ugly heads, and it will be up to us private citizens as sovereign individuals to defend ourselves from them.
In a crazy-sick MacGyver moment, Glenn then removed the rotted arm from the Walker he previously killed in order to fashion weapons for each of them out of the bones of its forearm. That, I gotta just say, was damn ingenious.
Outside Woodbury, Rick, Daryl, Oscar, and Michonne are right where they were at the end of the last episode, staring at the fortified wall, and, ostensibly, trying to figure out their best avenue of attack. Suddenly, Michonne scampers off, leaving the others worried that she's led them into a trap. As it turns out, though, she's just really bad at the whole communication thing, as she returns a few moments later encouraging them to follow her.
She leads them into Woodbury through the back of the infirmary building, and the four of them discuss where to look for their people with Michonne pushing for them to start with the Governor's apartment/residence. Their movement is seen from the street and a man comes to roust them, thinking they are residents attempting to break curfew and get into some mischief. They capture and question him, but, realizing that he knows nothing, they bind him with zip-tie cuffs, gag, and knock him out cold.
Meanwhile, the Governor discusses the prison situation with Merle, and makes clear his intentions to take out Rick's group quietly and allow the Walkers to retake the facility. Merle, of course, is concerned, because that group includes his little brother. The Governor posits that they should turn Daryl and use him as their inside-man, promising Merle that no harm will come to him. Regarding Glenn and Maggie, the Governor worries that Andrea will eventually get wind of their incarceration and torture if they remain any longer, and so he orders Merle to take them to the "screamer pits." To be honest, I have no idea what he's speaking of, but it simply cannot be good.
When they go to retrieve Glenn and Maggie and do whatever dastardly thing is about to me done to them, they are ready with their bone weapons and kill one of Merle's guys. Shots are fired and general anarchy ensues, through which Rick and the others are able to blend in and head toward the sounds of commotion. They arrive just as Glenn and Maggie, having been subdued, are on their way to apparently be executed; they rescue them, using flash bangs and smoke grenades, but must still exfiltrate from the hostile territory of Woodbury.
As they hole-up momentarily in an abandoned building to get out of sight, Glenn and Maggie admit to breaking and telling about the prison as well as telling Daryl that Merle is alive and a member of the Governor's inner-circle and is the one responsible for Glenn's condition. Daryl wants to find Merle and parlay with him, brother to brother, but Rick convinces him that, despite what they say, Glenn and Maggie are in no shape for a fight, and that he needs him to help him get them home safe. As this is going on, Michonne again disappears, making the others worry that they have been betrayed.
Using more smoke grenade to create concealment, they make a run for the main gate. During their escape, Otis is killed, Daryl becomes separated as he is laying-down covering fire, and Rick's sanity has another brief hiccup, as he hallucinates that one of Woodbury's defenders is actually Shane. It isn't until after he's killed the man that he sees his true face, and he is snapped out of his reverie by Maggie's frantic screaming. We see Rick, Glenn, and Maggie going over the wall, but how Daryl will make it out is unclear.
Throughout all of this drama, the Governor repeatedly thwarts Andrea's attempts to get involved in the defense, despite her extensive field experience. I believe his intentions in this are partially to keep her out of danger and also to keep her from discovering things he'd rather she did not know.
As it turns out, Michonne's purpose in disappearing (and, I assume, in trying previously to lead Rick et al. to the Governor's apartment) was to force a confrontation, during which she could kill the Governor. She intends to wait there in the dark for him to return, but a noise leads her to discover Penny, at first thinking she is simply an imprisoned child and than revolted to find that she is a Walker. Michonne prepares to behead her, but is interrupted by the Governor, who begins with his gun to hand but is quickly reduced to begging.
This showdown over Penny illustrates that having survived out in the zombified wilderness for as long or longer than most others, Michonne -- probably more so than anybody else at this point -- understands that Walkers are no longer people. Then, here she is, seeing such emotion being poured-out by the Governor, whose particular brand of evil she has already sniffed-out. He's beside himself, worried for the safety of his daughter, who Michonne knows is long-dead and the thing there before them is just a mindless beast.
Again, I can see an interesting parallel being drawn here. When we first met Michonne, she too had "pet" Walkers on chains. We don't know who they were, but dialogue between she and Andrea earlier in the season seemed to be heavily hinting at the idea that they were people she knew in life, perhaps even family of hers. When the time came, however, she was able to put them down -- to let go, which is something the Governor apparently cannot do.
Michonne puts Penny down, resulting in the Governor going berserk. In the ensuing melee, they nearly kill each other and the Governor loses his right eye (courtesy of a well-placed shard of broken glass). The fight is interrupted by Andrea, who cannot bring herself to shoot Michonne. After a tense standoff, Michonne simply walks out, inviting Andrea to shoot her in the back if she wishes, as the Governor cradles his long-dead daughter and weeps. This would seem to be the beginning of Andrea finally seeing the rot that underlies Woodbury and the Governor, as she is clearly shocked and appalled to witness his Walker head aquarium display.
On a side note, I believe that losing Penny represents the loss of the final shred of the Governor's residual humanity. In my opinion, the writers have done a very good job of portraying him as a character who started-out with noble intentions; began to come apart when Penny was turned (she was listed among Woodbury's dead, so the others must not have known he's been keeping her); and who has now gone completely around the bend to become a maniacal, dictatorial villain.
Regrouping outside the walls to try to wait for Daryl, Rick and the others soon encounter Michonne again, now battered and bloodied by her fight with the Governor. Rick disarms and questions her at gunpoint as to where she has been, bitter that she left them while they were fighting their way out and eluding to the idea that she has served her purpose and should leave. She argues that he still needs her, whether it be to help get everyone back to the prison safely or to go back into Woodbury for Daryl; the truth is in her eyes though -- Michonne needs Rick's group as much as they need her, and I think this is the first time she is realizing it herself. The pleading look on her face is unmistakable.
At a town meeting, the Governor talks of this night as being the worst for their community since the walls were completed. He he tells his people that they were attacked, not by Walkers this time, but rather by terrorists who want to destroy them and take what they have worked so hard to build. He then publicly accuses Merle of being an inside-man for the terrorists, one of whom is his brother, as Daryl is brought-out as a prisoner.
The Governor turning on Merle was a direct result of everything that went down with Michonne. She came back to try to kill the Governor because she knew he had sent Merle to track and kill her. The ensuing confrontation cost him his daughter (from his warped point-of-view) and his eye. In turn, Merle not only failed to kill her, but lied to the Governor, claiming to have succeeded. So, basically, he's putting Penny and his eye on Merle's tab.
The Governor then asks the assembled mob to pass judgement on the brothers, in reply to which he receives numerous calls that they should be killed. Andrea, only now seeing Daryl for the first time since the route at the farm (she previously had no idea who was attacking Woodbury and still does not know about the capture and torture of Maggie and Glenn), stands by shocked as the mob calls for blood.
This is where it ends; a cliff-hanger that will not be resolved until the show returns for the second half of the season on Sunday, 10 February, 2013.
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]