Throughout the third season of The Walking Dead, several of our writers will be on a weekly rotation giving their thoughts of the most recent episode. As always, be aware of spoilers.
Since this is my first go at recapping TWD allow me to take a moment to share my feelings on the show in general. Anyone who listens to The Waiver Wire’s podcast, “Short Commercial Break”, know that my co-host and I have some issues with The Walking Dead. It’s a runaway cable hit and eats up ratings with the determination of a room full of walkers, and a scroll down your Facebook news feed will likely reveal tons of chatter about each week’s episode. Still, I have a problem with its wooden characters and uncertain direction. Those problems derailed season 2, one of the more disappointing sophomore seasons in recent memory, and it almost convinced me to give up on the show for good. Then Season 3 came roaring to life by ditching the endless meditations on civilization on a farm, delivered by shallow one-note archetypes, in favor of gruesome action, gore and tension. Sure, the season has held on to some of its bad habits (we learned more about T-Dawg in the forced pontifications leading up to and following his death than we did during any of the previous hours of television) but the implied transformation in the group over the unseen winter between seasons has payed sweeping dividends as characters like Darryl, Carol and Glenn grew some teeth and their world weary efficiency is both good storytelling and entertaining in an action sense.
This week’s episode was a relatively strong one (and a great setup) which was a relief after the previous episode “Hounded” had me afraid that TWD had returned to its lifeless ways via illogical writing (why the hell would they go after Michonne?) and attempts to tell the audience they should relate to the folks at the prison instead of showing us they’re worth caring about. ”When the Dead Come Knocking” served as a lead in to a confrontation between the prison gang and the good people of Woodbury (ironic that the former group are the good guys here) but the highlight of the episode was a spellbinding sequence in which Glenn, duct taped to a chair, was left alone in a room with a walker. The scene was visceral and intimate and stripped the show down to something primal; Just the sort of thing that is often missing from TWD. It was all part a series of interrogation scenes in which the continually underwhelming Merle tries to beat the location of the group out of Glenn. The interrogation itself was nothing to write home about but the toughness Glenn showed spoke to how close the group became in between seasons. Glenn was more willing to get beaten to death than give up the group and his showdown with the loose walker was an impressive feat of physical acting by Steven Yeun. The other half of the investigation was a creepy exchange between The Governor and Maggie. After making her strip down and with the threat of rape looming Maggie says, “Do whatever you’re gonna do.” Again, this sort of writing gives us a window into the group dynamic (it comes up later when Darryl responds to Rick’s thanks with “that’s what we do”) and it’s showing over telling, the foundation of all good writing. David Morrissey’s take on the Governor is hard to pin down. He’s not as physically menacing as the writer’s seem to want him to be and he comes off as creepy and manipulative rather than downright evil (something fans of the comic series expect from the character) but that creepiness sort of works. I, for one, am excited to see how he responds to the prison group and hope that he’s fleshed out a bit more. He’s become a bit repetitive as a character but the upcoming confrontation could be a great place to see what sort of man he really is.
While we’re on the topic of the Governor we should take a minute to mourn the death of Andrea’s time as an interesting character. Sure she put a knife into the head of Milton’s experimental walker (a scene which was refreshing change from the onslaught of hopelessness) but her relationship with Woodbury’s would-be king has brought her right back to the sulky, post-suicidal sharpshooter from Season 2. She doesn’t have much to do in the relative calm of the town and it’s a shame considering the first few episodes had given her new life. Alas, poor Andrea…
Meanwhile at the prison, Michonne has staggered her way to the group’s front door, baby formula in tow. After a little action Rick does a strange good cop/bad cop routine before getting some basic information (sans rape threats) and Hershel got to work patching up everybody’s favorite post-apocalyptic samurai. Eventually they set off to take Glenn and Maggie back stopping for a needless scene with the world’s most oblivious drunk (it’s beyond implausible that there could be a drunken man living in this cabin unaware of the outside world) and eventually making another nifty getaway. It’s all building up for something of a war between the two groups and I, for one, am excited to see the result. The Walking Dead isn’t perfect but it’s bounced back (mostly) from a weak episode an continued Season 3′s positive trends. The mid season finale is set to be a big bloody showdown that pays off a lot of plotlines so here’s to hoping to also pays off with some genuine character moments.