If you haven’t seen this episode, don’t read this. I will spoil the crap out of it… and I give you this warning free of charge… and you didn’t have to cook me a meal or fellatiate my piece (that is a Merle reference… please… no emails… I’m not insinuating anything).
It was the best of times… it was the worst of times… and The Walking Dead has become a tale of two cities… and no one has exemplified that concept more than Andrea, and this episode brings that fact into sharp focus.
Although I was complaining about pacing issues with the mid-season premiere, I’m happy to say those problems have been ironed out quite well… and after a wonderfully adrenaline pumping episode last week, we get a much more contemplative and quiet episode in this latest episode, I Ain’t a Judas.
Quick side note: I usually watch the 6:00 PM east coast feed on Sundays so I can watch it later if I want. Because of the Oscars airing at the same time, I didn’t watch it until the normal 9:00 PM west coast time… and frankly, I was about a bottle of red wine into the evening while watching this episode. There may be a detail or two that I’m fuzzy on… just wanted to point that out. Be kind…
For some of you, these more talk-centric episodes drive you nuts… you want non-stop zombie killing action. For others, myself included, we appreciate the calmer character driven episodes as something needed to help build tension as well as being given the time to understand and invest in these people we are meant to care about. If it were all one or the other, there would be no tension… but by mixing up the tone and dynamics from episode to episode, we get that flow and the necessary flux needed for some solid storytelling, and between the previous episode and this, I believe we are building to something fantastic.
Andrea, as a character, has for many comic readers been an issue. We don’t recognize her as the Andrea we know… but that could be said for Carol, the Governor, Michonne, etc. What we are reacting to is the fact that Andrea has always been a fan favorite in the comic… (slight spoilers for non-comic readers… but it’s a moot point really) she is a bad-ass sharpshooter, she is in love with Dale, and has never even considered being disloyal to Rick and the group (yes, I know she bailed with Dale at a critical point… but she came back dammit).
I don’t have a problem with the writers of The Walking Dead changing aspects of the comics… but for those of us who are fans of Andrea in particular, her handling on the show has been a major disappointment. We don’t like our Andrea to be so gullible and disloyal… but it is what it is, and I’m here to review the episode, not my expectations… but I wonder whether or not these changes occasionally get in the way of the storytelling itself… have they painted themselves into a corner with this person and is there any way to turn things around for her? Robert Kirkman created an incredible world and character driven zombie survival story… is moving too far from the source material a good idea? (*cough* CDC *cough*)
The episode begins with a familiar sight… our gang standing around yelling at each other. Hershel wants to leave the prison before everything falls to shit, and both Rick and Glenn are having none of that. Even Merle chimes in and points out the pointlessness of leaving… The Governor wouldn’t let that happen. Rick tries to just walk away, his new go-to way of dealing with problems, and Hershel finally raises his voice to Rick in what may be the understatement of the week, telling Rick that he is “slipping”. I think it’s fair to say he has slipped, slid, and face planted into wackoville.
Carl follows his dad outside to look out at the undead scenery and, in what may be my favorite scene of the episode, has a quick little heart to heart with dear ol’ dad and informs him that he may want to consider stepping down and letting Hershel and Daryl handle things for a while. Rick doesn’t respond, but my take away from this is that Rick is now getting his grip again… no one wants their child to see them as incapable, and Carl basically just gave his father a vote of no confidence.
In Woodbury, we find The Governor building an army. He has 20 able bodied people… six who aren’t quite able, but can hold a gun… and nine children, or as The Gov would have us see it, men and women… because adolescence is so 20th century (which, for the record, is 100% accurate… heartless, but accurate). Andrea, who apparently has blinders on or is so taken by Phillip’s charms that she can’t see his insanity flag waving high, is uncomfortable with the notion of an army, so she suggests going to the prison to negotiate a peace. Gov doesn’t cotton to that, and tells her that if she goes there, she can stay.
For whatever reason… and honestly, I can’t think of a single one… Andrea decides to confide in Milton and enlists his help in sneaking out of Woodbury in order to set up her Camp David Accords. Milton, who I have been less than lukewarm towards, gives his best performance to date when ratting her out to The Gov. Pirate Phil (I dig the eye patch) decides to allow Milton to help her, knowing that his little stoolie will report back. This scene was fantastic… the fear Milton has of The Governor becomes palpable… Milton realizes how unhinged Phillip has become, but without him, Milton wouldn’t last a night in this world. Their dynamic is becoming a joy to watch.
If Andrea picked up anything from Michonne during their travels, it was benefit of having a pet zombie. She meets with Milton in the woods, grabs a fine specimen of walker-meat… hacks of it’s arms, and in the best zombie scene of the night, curb stomps it’s teeth out and probably dislocates it’s jaw. Unable to grab, unable to bite… she now has an instant travelling companion.
As she prepares to leave, who should appear… Tyreese, Sasha, Allen, and Ben… fresh from the prison and swinging his hammer. Milton decides to take them back to Woodbury, they will make fine new soldiers in their underwhelming army, and Andrea continues on to the prison… leading her new pet via pole.
In the prison, Glenn tries to get everyone to just give Merle back to The Governor, thinking that may satiate his blood lust… and Merle tries to play nice with Michonne and get her to let bygones be bygones. Giving Merle to The Gov would do nothing but either get Merle killed (which I’m sure Glenn wouldn’t mind) or allow Merle to join in Phil’s army. Either way… pointless. As for Michonne forgiving Merle… puh-lease. That’s simply not going to happen. (if it does though… I will be the first one to say, oops)
Now this is where things get interesting… we’ve been waiting to see Andrea and the Rick gang meet up again since the beginning of the season… and here she comes walking up to the prison with a walker in tow. If she thought she might get a warm reception… she was wrong. Rick immediately pushes her up against the fence and searches through her belongings… she has sided with the enemy, therefore, she can’t be trusted… and I think it’s fair to say that Rick has a few trust issues going on.
Once inside, we get the notion of what I referenced before… a tale of two cities. In one, Andrea can be clean, well rested, and have a notion of civilization… in the other, Andrea can see people for whom filth, madness, and desperation are the norm. In one city, she is lied to… in the other, she is told the truth. In one city are those who have invited her into bed, yet kept her at arm’s length… in the other, she was a member of a family that she betrayed, yet is still welcomed to a certain degree (let’s not include Rick into that final equation). In one city she disapproves of a child army… in the other, she sees the most bad-ass child soldier of all time (my apologies to all those scary little child soldiers in Africa… I’m sure some of you are much more bad-ass… and honestly, you all scare the shit out of me).
Rick tries to enlist Andrea’s help in getting into Woodbury, but she refuses. She and Michonne have a great conversation, and Michonne lays it out there… Andrea chose a warm bad over friendship, and the reason for her going after The Governor boiled down to nothing more than the desire to hurt Andrea. This may be the most regarding Michonne’s character we’ve received thus far… there is something remarkably petty, and incredibly human, about that motivation… to kill a man in order to hurt someone who hurt you, because ultimately, Andrea’s betrayal of Michonne simply hurt. Michonne’s best non-katana wielding moment in the show so far.
At this point, everything boils down to further conversations meant to mine information and inform us of what’s going on in everyone’s head. In Woodbury, The Governor puts on the friendly act for Tyreese and company and manages to discover that they just came from the prison and Rick, the leader, is nuts. Allen and Ben seem all too eager to assist in taking Rick down… Tyreese seems willing, but at least appeared to be a tad conflicted with the idea of fighting… or perhaps that was wishful thinking on my part.
I said it last week… I’ll say it again… Melissa McBride, Carol, has been delivering some of the best performances of the show… period. This episode finds her planting the seed of murder into Andrea’s mind… give The Gov she best night of his life, then kill him in his sleep… spare the bloodshed he will cause. Damn… Carol is getting dark… and it’s fantastic!
Every scene with Andrea in the prison was well done… her discovery of the deaths of Shane, Lori, and T-Dog were great… her realization of Rick’s internal death was short, but effective… but it’s the distance felt between her and her former friends/family that hit home the best. For as much a part of this group that she was… she chose that warm bed, and now she may be paying for that decision in ways she never conceived of. Bottom line… people will be dying soon… and she can’t broker a peace.
Rick, who is now obviously returning to his humanity, gives her a car and a gun and sends her on her way back to Woodbury… back to The Governor. She gets back and reports everything to Phillip… but she’s a bit surprised to hear that he now knows of Rick. How did he know that name?
The episode finishes up with another song from Beth… this time a Tom Waits song, Hold On… and as Rick talks about going out on a run with Michonne and Carl (I’m guessing Michonne is on his good list now), we go back to a nude Andrea standing over a very sleepy and satisfied Gov with a knife in hand. Does she take Carol’s advice? No… she spares his life… but her mind is certainly far from made up.
Is this episode the seed of Andrea’s redemption? I hope so… but who knows how all the cards will play out. Who will survive to the end of season three? I think that is the question we should all begin asking. There may be an attempt at peace going on with one person… but that desire seems to be held by no one but Andrea… and probably Hershel. War is coming…
Overall… I really loved this episode. Nothing really changed much, but the story has progressed, and the pieces are being set. There are five more episode left of season three… how much further will our “heroes” be pushed?
I haven’t done a Comic vs. Show segment yet for the second half of the third season… not sure that I will for this one either. There is very little to compare directly and it would be little more than picking out small elements from the comic used in random order and trying to guess how they will reconcile those elements into the whole. I may end up having to do more of a final recap at the end of the season to see how all these pieces fit together… right now it feels like a jigsaw puzzle with no edges and missing a few pieces. Patience… I was told it’s a virtue.
American History Z,
Cornelius J. Blahg