You know the drill… spoilers ahead. Actually, the pic above is a bit more spoilery than I like to be, but damn, that’s a great pic!
Finishing up the first half of the third season of The Walking Dead, Made to Suffer brings Rick’s band of merry pranksters deep into Woodbury in order to rescue Glenn and Maggie, finds The Governor in a rather difficult position, and introduces us to a new group of survivors coming in through the back door of the prison… all in one breakneck hour. A fantastic episode capped with a cliffhanger (unless you watched the preview of the next half of the season where they actually spoil that which made the ending a cliffhanger… oops) that will have us fans slathering for answers over the next two months as we wait for the show’s February 10th. return.
Surprisingly, we open with a new group of survivors. I knew this character was going to be introduced, but I honestly expected this reveal to be the cliffhanger for the mid season finale… instead, we meet Tyreese (Chad Coleman), a fan favorite from the comic, and very much a favorite of mine, immediately… along with his sister Sasha (Soniqua Martin-Green), Allen, Donna, and their son Ben. Sadly, this new group is beset with zombies and are trying to escape when Donna gets bitten on the arm. Tyreese won’t leave her behind and makes for what appears to be a dilapidated ruin of a building… and in a pan out we see that it’s the other side of the prison! I guess they haven’t explored every part of the prison since this seems to be quite open and easily accessible to both the living and the undead alike.
We will return to Tyreese and his group soon enough… but seriously… Tyreese! I was thrilled to not just see him, but to see his hammer as well. I will cover more of this in my Comic vs. Show segment, but know this… I’m stoked for what his arrival means for the series!
Back in Woodbury, we begin to see what exactly Milton’s memory awareness tests on zombies are really all about… Penny. Through classical conditioning, The Governor is playing music and setting a scene for the benefit of his daughter… or rather, for his benefit… in order to train her to not attack, to be passive, to be his little girl again. Sadly, she shows much more interest in the bowl of human meat than she does her father, and he angrily puts the hood back over her head, puts the straight jacket back on, and shoves her back into her box.
Honestly, I felt for the man. One aspect of the direction they have been going with The Governor’s story line that I didn’t expect was that I actually feel for the guy. Sure, he’s a bad guy, and we get that in the first episode we meet him… but contrary to the comic, he is not a cookie cutter villain… there are shades of his humanity still there, we can begin to see exactly how and why he unravels, and shockingly, they have managed to humanize a character that easily could have come off as a mustache twirling baddie. The lines between “good guy” and “bad guy” are getting more and more blurry with each episode, and I couldn’t be happier.
Glenn and Maggie are still licking each other’s wound (figuratively… come on) when Glenn gets the bright idea to break the arm of the zombie still in the room after his chair-kwon-do action of the previous episode in order to get the sharpened ulna and radius for Maggie to use as a weapon. A scene both revolting and ingenious all at once! Have I mentioned that this episode was written by Robert Kirkman himself?
The Governor seems to be very aware of making sure Andrea never finds out what he is up to. She has no clue that he is holding Glenn and Maggie, he makes sure that she never sees Strike Force Delta a bit later in the episode, and he never lets on that anything beyond letting Michonne go happened… and for all of her idiocy up to this point, I don’t imagine he will be able to keep his charade up for too much longer.
In keeping with this plan, The Gov talks to Merle about using Daryl as an inside man in the prison and eventually allowing the prison to be overrun with the undead again with the hopes of saving face since Merle has stated that trying to clear it out would be impossible. You can’t keep order if people see the emperor has no clothes… and beyond brains and brutality, The Gov is a bit thread bare. He then tells Merle to toss Glenn and Maggie into the “screaming pits”. What the fuck is that!! Whatever it is… can’t be good.
Zed Squad 4, Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and red shirt Oscar, begin making their way into Woodbury based on Michonne’s recollections… yet she seems a bit more interested in getting to Phillip’s apartment as opposed to rescuing our resident love birds. They interrogate some hapless townsman, gag him, and continue on.
We get a brief break from this tension as we return to the prison to find Axel chatting it up with Beth and asking her age. He gets a bit excited when he hears that she is 17, you follow me? This causes Carl to descend on them as a protective young man is wont to do when he feels threatened by an encroaching potential mate… one more piece of maturation for our little alpha male. Thankfully, Carol intercedes before Carl shoots him in the face and we get some of the more hilarious bits of dialogue all season. Axel is bummed there aren’t many women in the group… and Carol’s obviously a lesbian (as he points to the hair as evidence of this “fact”)! She dispels this self created myth, he seems encouraged by this news, and she quickly dispels any further fantasies he may be having. Axel hasn’t had much in the way of dialogue or story arc so far, but everything he’s said has been music to my ears… I love that goofy bastard!
Merle and another red shirt, Warren, go to collect Glenn and Maggie (they need a contracted name… Gleggie or Magglen… maybe MagGlen will work). Glenn attacks, Merle puts him down quickly, Maggie thrusts that broken arm through Warren’s throat (man… everyone is turning into straight up murderers), turns Warren’s gun on Merle, and a Mexican standoff is born. Merle let off a bunch of gun fire before having a gun turned on him… but Martinez shows up and takes MagGlen captive again.
That gun fire at least allows Rick and Co. to know where they need to be… and the rescue mission is on. This is where shit goes crazy… using flash bang grenades, they manage to get MagGlen while at the same time Michonne just ups and disappears causing Rick to question whether or not she led them into a trap. MagGlen confess to having spilled the beans about the prison, and Daryl wants to stay and get his big bro Merle. The Governor, knowing that a battle is on, gives his guards a “shoot to kill” order and tells the rest of Woodbury to take refuge in their homes… and makes double sure that Andrea is nowhere to be seen during the battle. I imagine seeing Rick and Michonne might tip her off that something isn’t right. Then again, this is Andrea… I’m not sure a neon sign that says “cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs” over Phillip’s head with an arrow pointing to him would be enough of a sign.
My favorite scene of the episode happens back in the prison. After hearing some screams that don’t sound like walkers coming from the back of the prison, Carl steps up to investigate. Hershel tries to stop him, but Carl points out that he wouldn’t question his dad going out… so Hershel let’s him pass. That’s the first testicle to drop. He then proceeds to head down those darkened prison hall armed with his silenced pistol and a flashlight. He comes upon Tyreese and his group fighting off some walkers (hammer flailing away!), takes some out with a few well placed head shots, and leads them all to safety… then behind bars! Yes, little Carl locks them up for safety reasons… just like dear old dad would… and when questioned about this, answers very calmly and demands respect, and with one simple sentence, “You heard the man.”, Tyreese delivers all the respect Carl demands. Second testicle dropped right there.
Sadly, Donna dies there in the prison… Carl offers to shoot her for them, you know… once you shoot your mom in the head, everything else is easy. They decline his kind (?) offer.
I really loved that scene. The way Carl does what he believes is best for his group, the very mature and in control grasp of what he has to do, and the greatness of a huge man such as Tyreese giving deference to a thirteen year old boy… granted, an armed to the teeth thirteen year old boy wearing a kick ass hat… but a thirteen year old none the less. The way we saw Tyreese argue with his sister to not just let Donna die and the way he knows when not to argue is a fantastic introduction to what I’m sure will be an amazing character. As for Allen and Ben… let’s just say that those, and Donna’s name are familiar to us comic readers… they were in the original camp… but I don’t know how they will fit in here, or if their story arcs will remain. Again, I’ll get into that in my Comic vs. Show segment.
The proverbial fan is still being hit with a ton of shit in Woodbury… a whole lot of gunfire going on… and Andrea is being a bit naughty by getting her gun out and shooting back. She sees one of the offending interlopers, but only sees Oscar, someone who she doesn’t know. Rick starts hallucinating, believing he sees Shane, causing him to pause, and getting Oscar shot. Yeah… Oscar is dead. Funny thing… T-Dog dies just as Oscar joins the group… now Oscar dies just as Tyreese joins the group. Is there a clause in the contract for this show that states they can only have one large black man on the show at any given time? Seems a bit odd to me… Rick decides to get the hell out of there… tells Daryl to follow him…
As for that hallucination… Rick is still a bit off his rocker and obviously dealing with some sort of guilt or post traumatic stress syndrome. How ever you look at it, Rick isn’t quite up to snuff in the sanity department. I welcome this… it would be nonsensical to believe that someone who is going so deep down the rabbit hole of wacky is suddenly A-OK after a phone call from crazytown. This shit would require years of therapy…
Michonne made her way to The Governor’s apartment and sits, waiting for the man to arrive. This is a bit of a problem for me… has he done enough evil from Michonne’s point of view to actually justify sitting in his house waiting to ambush and murder the man? I don’t quite understand her reasoning behind this action… yes, he’s not a good guy and has a weird tank full of zombie heads… and sure he sent Merle out to kill you… and… well, OK… maybe that’s reason enough.
She sits… waits… begins to hear some scratching noises coming from his bedroom. Now this scene had me on my feet and feeling very very nervous, just an incredibly paced and well played moment. She goes to Penny’s cage, opens the cage to see a hooded child, calls her forward, released the chain, and removes the hood… horrifying! The tenderness Michonne shows towards what she assumed to be a captive human child recalls how tender she was when we first met her with Andrea. Under that scowls and brutal warrior woman exterior, she is a caring and loving person who is obviously aghast at what she has found. For all the superhero like qualities she has exhibited thus far in the show, there is an evident kindness to her that we are only getting hints of… or perhaps, the actress Danai Gurira is simply so kind that she can’t hide it. Either way, this scene dripped with tension.
Before Michonne can take out this little biter, Phillip shows up and pleads for his daughter’s life. Again, I felt for the man. David Morrissey has brought such depth and nuance to the character that I’m shocked at how much I find my self sympathizing with The Governor. If I thought Andrew Lincoln should win an Emmy or Golden Globe for the scene where he learns of Lori’s death, Morrissey should be in contention for this scene… because ultimately, The Gov’s pleas fall on deaf ears as Michonne skewers Penny through the head. Oddly heartbreaking.
Why weep when you can fight? And The Gov and Michonne have it out in a big way… strangling one another, knocking over the zombiequarium, brutal fisticuffs, and Michonne… about to die at the hands of The Governor, grabs onto a shard of broken glass from one of the fish tanks and stabs him in the eye! Ugh!!
Andrea appears just as she is about to take him out and another showdown ensues… between Andrea and Michonne. Complete confusion… that is the only way to describe Andrea in this moment… Michonne lowers her sword and Andrea lets her pass… and she looks around at the devastation… at Phillip with a hunk of glass sticking out of his eye, cradling his dead zombie daughter, a snapping head at her feet from the zombiequarium…
Doc Stevens cleans up The Gov’s eye, Andrea questions him about what she saw… hopefully she is finally having some doubts… Michonne meets up with Rick and the gang stating that she wasn’t a spy and that they still need her, and The Governor makes a speech to the townsfolk from the fighting arena… a speech about terrorists out to destroy them and the need for protection and ultimately, puts the blame square onto Merle… and proceeds to bring out a hooded Daryl, the first meeting of the brothers’ Dixon since Merle’s disappearance, and for us the viewers, the first time other than a hallucination that we have seen the two actors together… and Andrea looking on, perhaps putting the pieces together.
So there you have it… the mid season finale of the third season of The Walking Dead. Did it live up to your expectations? What were you hoping to see? What was missing? For me, it was an incredible hour of television and an amazing cap to the best first half of a season yet. I’m sure there are many who will complain that it didn’t have the same kick in the groin moment as last season’s mid finale reveal of Sophia in the barn… but I believe that episode had that particular kick due to the desire for something… anything… to happen. This season is different… this season opened fast and continued at that pace giving us brief moments of respite. There seemed to be fewer zombie moments in this episode… but that seems germane to a season who’s tag line is: Fight the Dead, Fear the Living.
Now all we have to do is to wait… wait until February 10th. to find out the fates of Daryl and Merle and to speculate on what will happen with Rick and The Governor finally come face to face. There are a host of things I am going to discuss in my Comic vs. Show post… but that will have to wait until later this week… for now… I bid you farewell and hope that you will continue reading between now and February. Also, “like” my fan page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @mrblahg. I realize there are some who are here for nothing more than The Walking Dead… stick around for a while, check out some movie reviews, maybe a game review or two… whatever you do, enjoy.
Edit: 12/4/12 – Being the moron that I am, I misspelled Tyreese many times throughout this and previous posts. Thanks to Grace for pointing this out to me… I’ve only read the comics 9 or 10 times through, how should I know how to spell a name I’ve seen thousands of times!
Excuse me sir… I think you have something in your eye,
Cornelius J. Blahg