The TV Box: The Walking Dead, S3E13: Arrow on the Doorpost

The Governor will see you now

If you have not seen this episode, read no further.  This will spoil you like a month old container of milk.

I was not overly fond of Arrow on the Doorpost after my first viewing… but allowing the episode to breathe in my head a bit, I believe it to be much stronger of an episode than my initial reaction.  I foundit to be a bit scattered as opposed to the previous episode, Clear, which I loved for it’s laser focus… then on reflection, I realized this episode was quite focused… with a few odd deviations.

First of all, there seems to be some mystery as to the meaning of the title, Arrow on the Doorpost.  I think (pure speculation here) it is a signal of war.  In Assassin’s Creed III (I can’t believe something in that horrible game is becoming useful) the protagonist plants a tomahawk into a column at his front door saying that it is a Native American tradition to put a weapon at your door to be removed once a particular war was completed.  I believe this meeting signaled just that… the beginning of war.  Negotiations have broken down… now it’s time to fight.

Again, I think the show is going to great lengths to show us the parallels and the differences between the two groups and the men leading them.  This time we not only see the two leaders finally come face to face, and see their very different manners and approaches to problems, but we also get opportunities to see members of each community side by side… and realize how they are all pawns in some larger, ultimately pointless, power-play.

Like the third season premiere, the cold open is largely silent.  Rick, Daryl, and Hershel arrive at an old feed store… Rick and Daryl secure the building while Hershel adjusts the two guns strapped to his leg stump under his pant leg.  When The Governor slides out from the shadows, raising his hands to show that he is unarmed, the only words spoken to Rick… who is now inside the store while the other two wait outside, are “We have a lot to talk about.”  A perfect open…

Throughout this episode, we basically get three locations that we return to… inside the store where Rick and The Gov are meeting, outside the store where the minions wait, and the prison.  Perhaps I should discuss each location as opposed to talking about everything as it happened in the show.

Let’s start with the prison, since very little actually happens.  In the alpha team’s absence, Glenn is taking charge and gathering all the weapons they gained in the previous episode, while Merle is doing his best to leave the prison in order to cover his brother’s back during the summit.  He first tries to argue with Glenn, making the case that they could use all their new weaponry to attack first, knowing that The Governor is a sneaky bastard… the doesn’t sway loyal Glenn, who points out that he could get people killed.  Merle then goes for option B, fighting with Glenn… which amounts to a silly scuffle that is ended thanks to Beth showing up with a gun shot in the air.  Finally, he tries to sway Michonne… why in the hell would he think she would agree to do anything with him?  Then again… she smiled.  In The Walking Dead, that’s considered character development.

Beyond that, the prison offers us one other scene… Maggie and Glenn ditching their guard duty in favor of some good ol’ fashioned sex on a concrete floor.  Nice to see these two youngin’s reconciled and pitching woo…

Outside the store, we have four, then eventually five, characters hanging and getting to know one another.  Daryl and Hershel were the first two… followed by the arrival of Andrea, Martinez, and Milton.  Andrea is surprised to know that Phillip has already arrived (he has obviously seen The Godfather, so he arrived early to plant a gun under the negotiating table) and proceeds to enter the store, where we eventually find out that she set this meeting up, and summarily gets kicked out of said meeting.

Git out!

Hershel and Milton sit around discussing Hershel’s amputation and leg stump… Milton asks to see it… Hershel declines, saying that Milton should have bought him a drink first.  A moment of very welcome levity, and an opportunity for both characters to smile and share a laugh.  Of course, I wonder if Hershel would have been more amenable to showing off his stump if it weren’t for the two guns strapped to it.

Eventually, Andrea asks Hershel about what The Governor did to Maggie.  He doesn’t elaborate on the subject beyond telling Andrea, “He’s a sick man.”  Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Daryl and Martinez get the most to do in this episode and have the most fun doing it.  The moment the Woodbury gang arrive, Daryl makes a crack about Milton being a butler, prompting Martinez to tell him to shut his mouth.  Martinez was right… Daryl was being a bit of a dick.  Then again, Daryl had just been put into an arena with his brother in a death match by the Woodbury folks, I can imagine him not being too fond of any of them… particularly Martinez who assisted in the fight arrangements.

Action Daryl

When some walkers approach, and the two men don’t jump into immediate action, Andrea takes matters into her own hands and plunges her knife into a jelly-soft zombie skull (why are the zombie heads getting so soft?), prompting the guys to begin a zombie killing competition… Martinez with a baseball bat (nice touch having him twirl the bat like a pro) and Daryl with his requisite crossbow and throwing knife.  Some great moments between the men… wonderful banter, gruesome kills, and again… some levity.

After finding a pack of smokes in the shirt pocket of one of the zombies, they share a cigarette and bond over the fact that it doesn’t matter what happens today, nothing will change, and in the end… they will be shooting at one another soon enough.  History repeats itself… even when there is common ground.

Now on to the main event… the summit of the two leaders.  In the sweaty corner… just returned from Crazyville and ready to make a deal, Rick Grimes.  In the cool and collected corner… the one-eyed sociopath, Phillip Blake… aka The Governor.  The majority of the episode revolves around these two men as they hash out the future ahead of them.  Rick comes with a map, willing to divide the land between them with a promise of leaving one another alone.  The Gov simply states that he wants nothing but Rick’s surrender.  So much for negotiating.

Talks don’t break down quite yet… The Governor tries a few more things to get Rick to sway his way.  He first blames Merle for the atrocities committed on Glenn and Maggie… Rick won’t have any of that.  He then offers whiskey… Rick has some of that.  Then, Philip hits below the belt by bringing up the fact that Rick had been cuckolded and is raising another man’s child as his own.  Nice pillow talk Andrea.  Rick doesn’t fall for it.  The Gov proceeds to point out that he knows about all the new weapons, followed by a touching tale about the death of his wife prior to the outbreak, finally he bares his skewered eye hole and demands that Rick hand over Michonne, and all will be forgiven.

Nothing appears to fluster Rick.  He listens patiently as The Governor attempts tactic after tactic, and offers up his own barrage of one line quips.  If this episode has one thing great going for it, it is the number of hilarious and on the nose one liners that are sprinkled throughout.  After hearing his final demand for Michonne, the men part ways with an agreement to meet at a later date in order for Rick to either hand over Michonne… or not.

Arrow on the Doorstep ends with both parties arriving at their respective homes… Rick explains to the group that war is on, never even mentioning that he could end it all by handing over Michonne.  In a private conversation with Hershel, Rick expresses doubt.  If he turns over one person, he could save all their lives… but he doesn’t trust The Gov to keep his word, and asks for Hershel’s help in convincing him not to turn her over.

The Governor makes it clear that he will wipe out everyone who comes to deliver Michonne and will kill everyone else.  Milton is bothered by this… and the first inklings of doubt with regards to The Governor’s methods creeps in.  Milton states that it would be a slaughter to do that… Phillip agrees, but points out that it won’t be for them.

A well paced and very well executed episode that is leading us closer and closer to the inevitable war brewing between these two zombie-world-powers, Arrow on the Doorpost brings us to a pivot point… that point of no return, and our first meeting of two men who have been metaphorical circling one another all season.

Three more episodes left for season 3… what will next week bring?  And how many of our cast will remain at the end?

Chekov’s guns untouched… plot hole, subterfuge, or meant to obfuscate?  Discuss,
Cornelius J. Blahg 

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