Previously on The Walking Dead, Mrs. Jenna does a fine job explaining some bad juju.
After last week, have there ever been two TV characters I want to see die more than The Governor and Merle? Other than Matlock, I think not. Now, seeing as tonight’s aptly named episode, “Made To Suffer,” is the mid-season finale, I wasn’t counting on watching either of these two nutjobs bite the dust. But man, they came close. Only it’s TV, and as we know, in TV when the bad guy lives, about half the time it’s due to sheer stupidity on the good guy’s part.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. One of the things this season’s done well are cold opens, and last night’s was a doozy. Rain. Screams. A walker. More walkers. Tyreese (!, for fans of the comics). More newbs. Tyreese’s band fights off some walkers, but one is bitten, which is not good. Then they find the prison, which is both good and not good for them. The screaming lady keeps on screaming, and Carl hears her; he helps them fight off the walkers, and even offers to shoot the bitten lady in the head. Such a considerate young man. His dad would be proud, even more so when Carl locks Tyreese’s group behind bars until he can figure out just what to do about them.
Speaking of Carl’s dad, where’s Rick? Long story. It starts with Andrea – she looks pretty, but I get the sense that she doesn’t feel pretty. Perhaps it has something to do with her new boyfriend, Philip – you know him as The Governor. He has a collection of zombie heads and he keeps his zombie daughter in a cage attached to a chain. Andrea is making herself into the worst Desperate Housewife ever: screwing the crazy mayor and helping his crazy scientist friend conduct pointless experiments on the newly dead. She’s oblivious to the fact that Pleasantville absolutely isn’t: just next door, in fact, Glenn and Maggie are locked up, recovering from their nightmarish ordeals with Merle and The Gov. Glenn has come up with an ingenious plan to use dead walker bones as shivs and stab the guards when they least expect it. Geez, Maggie don’t just sit there and watch; give Glenn a hand. Oh, wait, he got one.
Rick, meanwhile, is leading a rescue party to the gates of Woodbury, you know, the one with the spotlights and all of the guys with guns and bows. Fortunately, Michonne knows a secret entrance to the compound, and the group enters secretly, until some guy sees them moving around inside the building. The team quickly dispatches him, and we’re reminded that a winter spent fighting walkers has turned Rick and his group into a bunch of serious badasses. And then all hell breaks loose. Maggie and Glenn make their move, with Maggie even managing to stab a guy in the neck with her zombie-shank before the two are subdued, bags placed over their heads, and marched into another room to be shot. But! Rick’s team hears the gunshots and goes in like Navy SEALs, popping flash-bangs and tear gas and shooting some guys, successfully freeing Glenn and Maggie from their guards.
“Shooting Some Guys” could have been this episode’s title, for that’s pretty much what Rick and his team do over the course of the back 30. Killing the dead makes them pretty darned good at killing the living, and all of those months on the run having to fight for their survival really seem to pay off. (Those of you who are inclined to think that there’s no way Rick’s Expendables could’ve shot their way out of Woodbury, recall the nice bit of foreshadowing with Andrea and Archer Girl, who claims to be a great shot – “my dad wanted me to be an Olympian” – and then proceeds to hit everything but the walker that’s 15 yards away from her. Civilization has made The Gov’s people soft, and his “soldiers” are little more than ill-trained bullies.) But, in keeping with the show’s tradition of having bad things happen to characters who wander off at inopportune moments, Michonne and Daryl separate from the group and run into trouble.
Michonne heads over to The Gov’s place (heh – heads over), where she sits and waits for him and practices her Michonne Face. She hears a noise and goes into The Gov’s mancave, where she sees his version of SeaWorld. Then she does what anyone who’s spent months surviving a zombie outbreak by traveling around with two chained walkers would do – opens up the door to the scary dark cage and unlocks the person chained up inside without first removing the person’s hood to see if that person is a chained walker. Even The Gov can’t believe it, but he recovers quickly and begs Michonne not to kill his daughter, which technically she doesn’t, since his daughter is already dead. This prompts a pretty gnarly fight in which Michonne shoves a piece of glass into The Gov’s eye, so she and comic geeks who want the TV Gov to look more like The Comic Book Gov both end up winning. Then in comes Andrea, who doesn’t bat an eye at all the zombie heads and re-dead Penny because hey, it’s just guys and their guy stuff. Daryl, meanwhile, offers to be the last man out and hold off the Woodbury troops, and gets separated. (Oscar, meanwhile, gets dead. INSERT T-DOG JOKE HERE.) Michonne rejoins the group; Rick’s not sure if he can trust her, but Michonne convinces him that he needs her, because apparently she can swat bullets out of the air with her sword. During their escape, the group has one more madcap adventure involving a guy who apparently slept through the entire zombie outbreak. He also gets dead. And eaten. And yet I still feel worse about his dog.
And so the first half of the show’s best season yet draws to an ominous close. The Governor’s not happy; he gathers the Woodburians and tells them that “terrorists” have disrupted their way of life, drawing them back into the days where they lived in fear. “I failed,” he admits. “I promised to keep you safe.” The buck stops here, right? Not quite. Because then The Gov blames Merle for bringing the “terrorists” into Woodbury, and while he’s technically correct – none of this would’ve happened had Merle not kidnapped Glenn and Maggie – dick move, dangling your bro like that, Gov. And then he brings out Andrea and puts her next to Merle because she had Michonne in her sights and just let her go. Oh, wait, he doesn’t do that, for some reason.1 And then he brings out another prisoner. It’s Daryl. “You wanted your brother,” The Gov sneers. “You got him.” Thus we take a break until February, not knowing whether Daryl or Merle or both will be executed.2 Curse you, AMC!
1I believe the reason that The Gov lets Andrea get away with letting Michonne go is that he’s banging Andrea. I could be mistaken.
2Unless, of course, you watched the previews immediately following the episode.Why can’t this show’s previews be completely indecipherable and totally irrelevant, like Mad Men‘s? Curse you, AMC!