”We don’t ever let our own turn. Ever.”
Good day, readers. I’ll be stepping in for Steve this week as things heat up in Woodbury, mostly between the sheets. There doesn’t seem to be much heat inside Rick’s head, though, as his madness grows chillier as it incorporates itself into his normal behavior.
The phone call ending last week’s episode was familiar to comic fans, and I was afraid the show would stray from the source material, and I’m still not sure it won’t later on. Rick’s caller won’t give any specific information, but says she’s part of a group, and everyone there is safe. Hesitant to his pleading to join groups, she says she’ll call back, which is so strange when all the facts are later considered. Rick tells Herschel about the call, but Herschel isn’t buying it, listening in on the dead telephone, and nodding understandably when Rick won’t allow Herschel to wait with him for the next call. Rick’s been through some shitty times, and doesn’t seem to possess the ability to externally cope with his problems. When they mystery caller asks about the people’s he’s killed, and about Lori’s death, Rick clams up before offering any information. At face value, he’s willing to risk gaining the others’ approval, and his own group’s possible safety, just so he won’t have to share his feelings.
It’s even harder for him to grasp the underlying consequences when the “people” on the other end of the line turn out to be Lori, and the other deceased members of their group, standing in as vocalizations for the guilt he feels over not patching things up with Lori. Or rather, for being able to admit to himself that things couldn’t ever really be patched up. The changes in their lives were too drastic and unending to fix all that was broken. He is only a man, after all.
When Rick finally takes the phone away from his ear, I couldn’t tell if he was just too pained to keep listening, or if he came to understand how insane it would be to take the advice of his own conscience through a telephone. This is why, to me, it was so strange for Rick’s brain to make him wait for hours in between phone calls, letting his faith and confidence grow beneath all the self-delusion. His actions also make me wonder if the phone calls are over, or if they’ll return, as they do in the comic, standing in as Rick’s emotional exposition. I hope for the latter, just with slightly subtler acting from Lincoln. Of course, maybe he only hung up because the reception was bad.
Let me get this Governor/Andrea business out of the way quickly, as it disgusts me. I’d prefer the Governor’s idealistic maniac from the comics, and Morrissey’s Southern Romeo just isn’t doing it for me, though his acting in general is pleasing. And while Holden’s portrayal of a “badass” was always weak to me, seeing her fall non-severed head-over-heels for “Call me Phillip when I’m not in the office,” is just torture. They share whiskey and talk about how much she actually really did enjoy watching grown men fight. He takes her away from wall-guarding duties when she jumps the wall to kill a walker after another’s crossbow couldn’t do the trick, but then he lets his own guard down and she jumps his walls, so to speak.
This was a real piece of conversation between the two. “Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we may die,” dictates the Governor. “I’m not planning on dying,” says Andrea. “Me neither. It just happens,” the Governor retorts. And Andrea replies, “Other things happen,” which is the lamest form of verbal foreplay I’ve ever heard. My only hope for this storyline is if Andrea’s arc replaces Michonne’s from the comic, which Steve pondered last week. It would tamper with character dynamics, but I simply cannot bear to watch these two be cutesy week after week.
This week’s laughs and blood spatter come mostly from Merle and Michonne, as per usual. Merle leads a four-man group out to hunt Michonne, who leaves them a “biter-gram,” as Merle puts it, in the form of two piles of walker body parts forming the word “Go,” and a walker’s back. ‘Go back.” Get it? She then takes them by surprise and kills two, leaving Merle and Neil Gargulio, the fearsome-turned-fearless other guy, though her leg is grazed by a bullet. This scene ends, sadly, on Merle saying a line that I’m pretty sure Michael Rooker has used in some shitty action movie before: “Are we having fun yet?” Not as sickening as Andrea and The Gov’s wordplay, but close.
It isn’t long before they battle again, this time interrupted by walkers. A great visual when Michonne slices open a walker’s stomach, and its guts leak all over her. Neil saves Merle from certain death, and how does Merle repay him? By shooting him in the head because he wants to continue the chase. Merle thinks Michonne’s injuries are enough to ensure her quick death, and sees no reason to continue following her. When Neil shows the slightest bit of hesitance at lying to the Governor about her fate, Merle ends the debate with bullets.
Merle tells his fib to the Governor, interrupting he and Andrea mid-grody, and though he is displeased to learn that Michonne’s head and sword were not taken, he’s intrigued by Merle’s other news.
Glenn and Maggie go on a lovers’ ammo-and-baby formula run. They arrive at the first destination, watched by Michonne, interfering with nothing from afar. Of course, Merle is also in this same area, and after a brief, unsuccessful plea asking Glenn and Maggie to bring him back to his brother, he pulls a hidden gun and holds Maggie at gunpoint. He forces Glenn to drive them back to Woodbury, and I wonder if his intentions were ever to go see his brother. The governor is intrigued that Merle has found more of Andrea’s group, but we don’t get to see what he has in store for them just yet.
At first, Merle’s avoidance of memorizing Neil’s last name was funny, then annoying, and then it became tolerable again, in that order of appearance. It’s too on the nose, sure, but it’s a good way of telling the audience that Merle cares only about what’s in Merle’s sightline. As soon as somebody shows resistance towards reaching Merle’s goal, they became useless. I mean, we already knew this, but still. It’s obviously going to become the driving factor behind his outcome in whatever conflict is coming.
For the first time ever, my favorite moment of a Walking Dead episode came from Carl – yes, Carl - both for the moment’s dark bluntness, and for Carl upending the show’s most masculine character. Daryl talks about the death of his mother, who was fond of getting drunk and smoking in bed. Daryl remembers getting on his bike and chasing the fire-truck sirens, confused to find everyone looking at him when he arrived at the burning remains of his childhood home. He said it didn’t feel real. Then Carl matter-of-factly says, “I shot my mom.” I couldn’t help but laugh, as it was the perfect comeback to Daryl’s literary take, further worsened by Carl plainly stating, “It was real.” I like that Carl wasn’t saying it in defiance; though he’s having to do extremely mature duties, his impetuousness is still relative to his age. Sorry to take your place and compliment Carl all at the same time, Steve. I couldn’t have known.
Daryl, Carl and Oscar patrol the halls for walkers. It’s a fun moment when Oscar gets excited over finding soft footwear, and even better when a walker suddenly appears behind them, and everyone unloads a weapon on it. Daryl finds Carol’s knife in its neck, and later, just when you’re wondering if “inspiring search parties” is something that runs in Carol’s family, Daryl finds her in a cell, almost killing her in the process. She appears to be okay, beyond some future night terrors.
This season’s dual storylines may become one soon, as Michonne discovers and exploits the zombie’s predator-by-smell approach, and uses the guts splayed across her clothes as olfactory camouflage. She eventually finds her way to the prison, where a confused Rick sees her standing at the fence among a horde of walkers. She holds the supplies Glenn and Maggie were going for. I’m sure Rick thinks it’s a figment of his imagination, but we’ll have to see how he handles it next week, when recap duties fall back into the proper hands.