If you have not seen this episode, read no further… there be spoilers ahead. If you ignore this warning, it’s all on you, man… all on you…
If you have been following my reviews of The Walking Dead throughout the third season, you may have noticed that I skipped last week’s episode, The Suicide King. I wouldn’t say it was a completely conscious decision to skip the review… but the episode did little to inspire any written words. To put it mildly, I was not amused. I realize there will always be a few episodes of any show that require characters and story lines to breathe a bit and to transition from one over-wrought dramatic moment to the next… but as a mid-season opener, I found The Suicide King to be a major disappointment… couple that with the knowledge that during the mid-season break we got news that Glen Mazzara had been released as show runner for the fourth season, and my expectations and curiosity as to why this happened were higher than normal… and the episode was a total disappointment on all counts.
Jump ahead one week… and wow… what an improvement, and what a pleasure to be back to writing something (my apologies to those of you who have been wonderfully dedicated readers of this little chunk of internet real estate… my life has been a bit tumultuous lately and writing has not been a major priority… sorry). I had some early news that this episode was overly talky and not very good… now I’m having to question the judgement of the person who wrote the review that bitched about Home. I think some people watch The Walking Dead with the sole intent of hating it… I don’t get that.
So… what makes Home so much better than The Suicide King? I would have to begin with pacing. Something about the pacing of The Suicide King felt wrong… felt stilted in favor of advancing some story lines while ignoring the flow of that overall story. Home, on the other hand, seemed to have a better flow, and a better arc altogether. I don’t know exactly where the fault in this lies, whether it is the writer or the director that could be held responsible for dropping that particular ball… but regardless, the ball has been picked up and played to intense perfection.
The episode begins with Rick still wandering the grounds of the prison in his hallucinatory haze after having seen the ghost of his dead wife Lori in her wedding dress, and continuing to not just see her, but begin chasing after her out of the gates and into the surrounding forest. I like the fact that the writers have seen fit to continue his downward spiral into super-bat-shit territory. One quick line from The Suicide King puts many things into perspective, specifically the fact that it has been less than a week since Judith was born, and Lori being a lovely, hairy snack. Which means the whole of season three thus far can’t be more than two weeks… and there is no way someone in Rick’s condition would be mentally sound after everything that has happened. Sure, we as fans want to see our confident badass Rick back, but in this story, as in life, we have to be patient with those who have been through such traumas, and kudos must be given to the writers for realizing this fact and not giving him some miraculous recovery.
I like the little touch of having Michonne watching Rick interacting with ghost Lori outside the fence… all she can see is him stroking the air in front of his face. Always good to see events from a different perspective. Sadly, every perspective of Rick now is nothing but cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs. I was hoping she would have seen him stroking the face of a zombie… oh well.
Back in Woodbury, The Governor has a heart-felt conversation with Andrea about her great (?) speech she gave rallying the residents of Woodbury who were panicked and trying to leave and discussed abdicating his position and putting her in charge. Unfortunately for Andrea, she is unaware that he doesn’t seem to have much of a heart, so therefore, everything he said was nothing but a pile of bullshit. I can’t say I’m wild about Andrea’s development in the series… is anyone really that naive and stupid?
There are a few other Woodbury related events… a conversation with Milton where he seems to be testing his loyalty, and eventually Andrea asking a woman on the wall, Karen, where The Gov is. She’s told by Milton that he is out on a supply run. She doesn’t seem to buy it… but who knows with her. She seems to be willing to believe all sorts of crap.
The biggest event of The Suicide King, in my opinion, was the departure of Daryl from the Scooby gang in favor of his dickhead of a brother, Merle. The decision makes sense… but damn, I was hoping for something better from Daryl, and Home delivered the better I was looking for. After a discussion regarding quantity of squirrel for a decent meal, the brothers Dixon hear a baby crying… Merle just chocks it up to raccoons mating (why would he know that sound?), Daryl heeds the call (I realize this happens later in the episode, but whatever… I’m going to discuss it now).
What the brothers Dixon find is a Mexican family being attacked on a bridge… a mother and baby trapped inside a car, and two men shooting atop another car as zombies attack from all sides, and quickly running out of ammunition. After they help kill the rest of the undead, with one spectacular head squishing moment, Merle gets right back into his asshole racist self and begins terrorizing this family and searching for some food in their car, or as he puts it, an enchilada. Daryl is not the same man he was when Merle last saw him, and puts his crossbow to the back of Merle’s head and forces him away from the family and implores them to just leave, which they do.
The dynamics at play in this scene, and the scene that follows is fantastic. An abused younger brother standing up to his abusive (and abused) older brother in order to do what is right… and realizing that home is no longer with his kin, but instead with those that have become his family by virtue of having experienced such horrors together and having survived… and having done so as a family unit of sorts, something Merle has never experienced, or as Daryl would probably see it, something he has never allowed himself to experience by virtue of being such a constant cock-knocker.
Merle realizes that he can’t follow Daryl back to the prison… he is poison… but Daryl continues on… back home.
Back home, a.k.a. the prison, Glenn and Maggie are having a few problems. He can’t get over whatever was done to her by The Gov, and she can’t seem to get over his personalizing what happened to her onto himself… or something like that. Honestly, whatever they are going through isn’t entirely clear… but hey, love is complicated and people do stupid weird things when they are in love and hurting. They get a pass.
Unfortunately, Glenn is being a bit of an idiot and wanting to exact revenge in every way his brain can muster… and in the process, trying to be a leader, and being overly impulsive at the same time. Hershel tries to talk him down, but he’s having none of it and storms out of the prison in a truck for no apparent reason. I feel for the guy… but I still want to dope slap him.
Maggie and Beth share a lovely scene with Judith… hopefully this is a sign of Maggie’s return to sanity.
Another lovely scene involves Axel and Carol prepping for battle on an elevated walkway. He fesses up to why he was in prison (armed robbery as opposed to pharmaceuticals as he previously stated) and opens up as to why life in prison worked so well for him. They seem remarkably cute together and Carol seems to finally be taking a shine to him. I have always liked Axel, whether it be on the show or the comic… bummer about what happens a bit later.
Hershel tries to talk Glenn down… no success… so he tries to chat it up with Rick through the fence. Honestly, this is yet another lovely quiet scene. I adore the calm beseeching of Hershel towards Rick… the gentle hand and the questions meant to feel around his mental state while at the same time attempting to bring him back into the fold, and back into a stable mindset. I wouldn’t say it worked, but it did bring something out of Rick to the point that he was able to admit his hallucinations, and hopefully the beginning of his rehabilitation. I don’t mind these quiet moments… and I am very much enjoying Andrew Lincoln’s performance. I know many people feel his acting to be a bit over the top in his display of insanity… but who are we to judge what a man would be going through with such pressures on him? I feel for the guy… and Scott Wilson’s easy going demeanor is such an amazing foil to Rick cray-cray… I loved the hell out of this scene.
In another example of the adorable chemistry between Carol and Axel, they enjoy a nice chat about his brother… and then a shot rings out and Axel’s map gets sprayed all over Carol’s face, and we see The Governor lowering his rifle from just outside the prison gates. All hell breaks loose as The Governor and his men begin an assault on everyone… and everyone is spread out throughout the prison grounds and in the case of Glenn and Rick, outside the grounds.
Gunfire, gunfire, gunfire, poor Axel becomes a dead human shield for Carol, and a bread truck plows through two outer gates and dumps out a good number of zombies into the prison (rather into the outer grounds, but close enough). Total chaos as everyone inside scrambles, Martinez takes aim at Rick, and a mystery woman (?) in a motorcycle helmet, who was driving the truck, runs all over the place trying to avoid Michonne… plus, someone from Woodbury made it to one of the guard towers. I don’t know how they did that, but he is a sniper and is pinning everyone down.
The Governor, for his part, just stands next to his truck shooting away and never flinching. A nice contrast in crazy… Rick is all sweaty and mumbley… The Gov is all calm and murderous. Michonne begins playing some more Fruit Ninja, and Rick finds himself fighting off two walkers with no ammunition… only to have a crossbow bolt appear through the head of one of Rick’s attacking zeds. Daryl has returned… and yes, Merle is with him, and he assisted in saving Rick.
In the end, the battle is over… The Gov and his surviving men hightail it back to Woodbury, but this was obviously not an attack meant to take over the prison… this was feeling around the edges a bit, seeing where the weaknesses are, seeing the capabilities of the enemy. But in the end, our group of survivors are all back together again… even Glenn and Maggie seem to have healed somewhat… now if only we can find out what happened to Tyreese and his group. Rick could use a few extra people at this point…
My overall takeaway from this episode? Pity this wasn’t the mid-season premiere. I thought this was an incredibly well balanced and paced episode with a number of fantastic acting opportunities given to many of our principle characters. Carol, who was a total wet blanket throughout seasons one and two, is now one of my favorite characters… I must give Melissa McBride some serious accolades. Plus, Michael Rooker is doing a remarkable job as Merle… he may be an asshole, but he’s playing a spectacular asshole, and again… credit where credit is due.
I’m very much looking forward to next week’s episode… I Ain’t a Judas.
RIP Axel… we hardly knew you… you follow me?
Cornelius J. Blahg