Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Walking Dead: "Prey"

War is a-comin’. And with three episodes of The Walking Dead left, it was pretty clear about 10 minutes into “Prey” that the structure will be watching Woodbury mobilize, then next week’s will be watching the prison folk get ready (I guarantee a crossover moment where we see Rick at his post hearing Andrea get muffled again), and the final episode will be the showdown itself.

This episode was very Andrea-centric, and to be honest, I was pretty darn convinced she was going to be killed. (Seeing Laurie Holden on teasers for The Talking Dead made me think it even more, since they always seem to have the actors on that show after they were killed off TWD.) The flashback to Andrea with Michonne also made me think this was it; what better way to kill off a character than gain our sympathies from the get-go?

But no, instead she becomes the Governor’s “prey” for the entire episode, trying to elude him with insincere smiles in Woodbury, then mouthing off to Tyrese that the Governor is batshit insane (why did she think the Guv wouldn’t come after her when she said that, knowing how loyal Tyrese and his crew are?! God, Andrea, I’ve tried to make excuses for your behavior in recent weeks, but I gave up on you and your stupidity in that moment), and then actually outrunning him in a field (what?!) before being cornered by him in the ramshackle, um, whatever that place was (setting of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?!). And yet, every time, Andrea got away. One thing was certain in this episode: she’s pretty darn tough. She fights off three walkers in the woods, keeps hidden from Martinez and his group, outruns the Governor’s truck, and then — beautifully — outsmarts the Governor himself in the warehouse, staring at him with her face framed in broken glass as he’s almost overpowered by a room full of very hungry zombies who’ve been trapped upstairs for god knows how long.

But the face being framed by glass was merely foreshadowing, for, as she stands outside the prison, weakly waving to Rick, she’s nabbed from behind by the Governor, sneaked back into Woodbury, and set up in his medieval torture chair. I’m sure bits of broken glass will be the least of her worries very soon. No doubt, she wishes she were dead. In this final harrowing screen shot, of her stuck in the chair, looking frightened beyond anything she’s ever felt before, and suddenly the title of the episode has a double meaning. Pray, Andrea… it might be all you’ve got left.

Joshua: With so much of its runtime occupied by the cat-and-mouse game between Andrea and the Governor, this week's episode offered more straightforward thrills than we've been seeing in recent weeks, but it exchanged the carefully crafted interpersonal moments for lesser, more typical character beats in the process. And that's fine – I love a good suspenseful chase scene, too – but it isn't the kind of structure that leaves us with much to discuss. I also thought Andrea was marked for death from the outset, but considering the circumstances of her homecoming, now I'm practically certain of it. The fact that the Governor has kept her recapture hidden from everyone, including his trusted inner circle, heralds dark days for her, indeed.

I hate to be down on the girl when she's in such grave danger, but boy, did Andrea botch her  'awakening' here or what? One would think, considering how long it took her to clue in to Philip's psychosis in the first place, that she might take that fresh understanding as a hint to exercise special caution against haste and recklessness, that the mental image of all those shiny implements of torture might inspire her to be exceptionally careful in how she chose to escape it. But instead, what does she do? She simply walks right up to a gate in broad daylight, explains in detail why she's leaving and where she's going to those who guard it, and then she just runs off down the road, daring them to shoot her in the back. And really, WHAT THE BLINKING NEON HELL WAS SHE THINKING? Did she forget what happened when Michonne left the first time? Did she not believe that her departure, particularly when prefaced by such blatant antagonism (and, you know, the whole going-to-war-against-your-old-pals stuff in the offing), would warrant more specific attention? Truly, I think we have uncovered whole new cathedral-sized chambers in her shortsightnedness. And that, my friends, is really saying something.

Regardless, she's caught, she's trussed, and she's in big, big trouble. I see a few different ways it can go from here, but almost none of them end well for the beleaguered Miss Andrea. Milton was/is certainly her biggest ally within Woodbury, but whether he was the one who set the fires at the pit or not, the Governor certainly thinks he did, and he'll likely be unable to roam freely about town any more, precluding any chance of a fortuitous discovery for the dental chair's first occupant. And I guess Cutty or his sister could stumble across her in there, but it seems doubtful. In fact, circumstances look so dire for Andrea at the moment that I find myself hoping he won't be able to torture her too much for fear of her screams giving their position away. But that town's so screwed up, I'm not even sure disembodied shrieking from the very walls would rouse any suspicion.

Nikki: I’m fairly certain it was Milton who set the fires at the pits, because Martinez and crew don’t talk to Milton, and there’s no way he would have known about the fires if he hadn’t set them himself. I was fairly certain it was him even as they were being set. Milton really annoyed me in this episode, too, to be frank. Andrea had her shot, and he grabbed the gun from her and refused to let her take it. No, she didn’t take her chance when she could have, when the Governor was sleeping, but now she’s certain he’s completely nutters, and so she sets up the shot. And we’ve seen Andrea shoot before: she’s pretty amazing. But Milton grabs the gun. Whatever happens to Andrea from this point on, Milton’s got her blood on his hands.

I’m wondering if we’re going to be privy to the torture scenes at all (knowing this show = yes; I’m hoping not so much… I couldn’t have been the only woman who shuddered when they panned across his torture instruments and there’s a certain gynecological implement lying there) but if next week is at the prison, what will we see of Andrea’s fate? It’ll probably be kept secret until the finale in two more weeks.

Speaking of Andrea’s shortsightedness (we’re both coming down hard on her this week, eh? Hard not to…) I was really surprised that when she was walking through Leatherface’s den, there were all these spiked instruments of death just hanging on the wall and she didn’t grab a single one of them. And the Governor wasn’t exactly sneaking up on her, either; he was dragging his shovel around so she’d know exactly where he was at all times. But I really loved that scene (hence me mentioning it again!) and it was one of the most tense and suspenseful long scenes we’ve seen on the show to date. I have to add, also, that when the Governor whistled while he was searching for Andrea, all I could think was… How Omar of him!

I mentioned briefly the opening scene of Andrea and Michonne, and I’d like to return to that. I guessed earlier in the season that the two jawless zombie puppies on leashes were actually her brothers, and I’m pretty sure that is correct now. However, I thought they were brothers that she cared about, and her words this week — “They deserved what they got. They weren’t human to begin with” — make the whole thing sound more nefarious. Brothers? Uncles? A father and a brother? Did they sexually abuse her? It certainly sounds like it was something personal. She keeps them on leashes to punish them for what they did to her, and despite saying earlier in the seasons that walkers are nothing but pieces of meat, her actions with them belie that statement: for her, they still retain the essence of who they once were.

Now compare that scene to the later one with the Governor. Milton knows that the Governor has lost his mind, but he tries to talk some sense into him about the whole Michonne deal. He knows he’s after Michonne for revenge, and the Governor gets right in Milton’s face and demands to know if he believes there’s still a morsel of the human being left in the walker. Milton says yes, and for the Governor, it’s cut and dry: Michonne. Killed. His. Daughter. Milton objects, “Whether that was Penny or not, it’s done. It doesn’t matter.” The Governor leans in and hisses, “It’s ALL that matters.”

The Governor used to be a human being. Then he became a power-hungry monster. But now? He’s a parent out for revenge. And that’s the most dangerous type of person you can come up against.

Joshua: Sometimes, like during last week's lengthy convo with Rick, it seems like the Governor is relatively lucid and in control. But other times I could swear we're just about to walk in on him making belts and handbags out of human skin. The look on his face as he tested those chains during the opening was the scariest thing I saw in this episode, largely because of how serene it was. Anyone calmed by the promise of such extreme sadism and perversity begs a label much stronger than 'crazy.'

We're given the impression that Milton has known the Governor for a long time, perhaps even before the Whatever-Happened happened, but certainly before Penny's re-release at the point of Michonne's sword. So if the Governor's clarity is just an act, and an ephemeral one at that, then how can Milton continue to doubt? How can he see what he sees and hear what he hears and still think the man has any rational capacity left? Is it willful ignorance? Misguided loyalty? Puppy love? Some combination thereof? As the two of them spoke about the pit fires near the episode's end, I couldn't help but wonder if Milton had set them fully conscious of the idea that he would be caught, as if he were deliberately testing their relationship, like a child feeling out their parents' boundaries. There's a certain logic to it, but somehow it must have escaped his attention that this parent spanks. With bullets.

Then again, maybe poor Milton is just ready to be done with it all. Maybe the guilt over hitching his wagon to a Stygian horse is simply more than he can bear, and he'd rather have it be the end of him than face the possibility that he's been facilitating torture and casual genocide and heaven knows what else behind his back. He's certainly done his share of damage already, however willingly, from ruining Andrea's shot through the blinds to being the Governor's snitch (and a terrible, terrible liar, which is almost the same thing). I sure hope he can find a way to help Andrea in some way, but it doesn't look like he'll be around long enough to benefit anyone much.

Speaking of being marked for death: your thinking with regard to Andrea's fate was perfectly in line with mine, inasmuch as my instincts also tell me we won't see what becomes of her until the finale. And really, I hope not. (Some men know what a speculum looks like, too, and were shuddering right along with you.) This show loves its gore, to be certain, but the shock value of presenting only the aftermath of Andrea's treatment would be hard to beat, particularly when used in the context of a season finale. And at this point, I can't think of another way to garner audience sympathy for her; it's no secret that her stay in Woodbury has done little to endear her to the viewership, despite the best efforts of certain soft-hearted tv bloggers.

Nikki: Sigh. I tried. But she just insists on continuing her dumbassery, so I’m moving on. (And you’re right; I’m sure most men knew what the speculum was, but the women shudder because we’ve had them used on us in annual exams that are tantamount to torture, so my shiver was a combination of my mind going to the worst possible place, combined with, “Oh my god, how will I ever be able to have that exam again?!”)

Let’s talk about Tyrese and his gang. I can never remember their names, but I just adore Tyrese. After this season, I’m diving into the comics once and for all, because fans had been talking about him and how amazing his character is for years. So I was excited to see him, and he didn’t disappoint. He was truly treated terribly by Rick and the prison folk (he respected and understood their reasons for locking him and his people in a cage, but Rick’s behavior was unforgiveable) so it’s understandable that he went to the Governor’s side when he realized the Governor’s enemy was the same prick who had treated him so badly at the prison. But Tyrese is a smart man, and unlike Milton and Andrea, he’s starting to see the signs and is quickly piecing together that the Governor Is Not A Nice Man. Thank god ONE character on this show has some sense.

What will be interesting in the war, as we discussed last week, is how people could change sides during the battle itself. The only downside to all of it: while my husband has officially had his fill of this storyline, I love the character of the Governor and his complexities, and wish he wouldn’t go. But someone has to, and I doubt it’ll be Rick and his compadres.

Joshua: Excepting their de facto leader, Tyrese's group haven't been referred to by name with any kind of regularity, so it's understandable you wouldn't have them straight yet. (And since I'm the one who called him 'Cutty' earlier and failed to notice until re-reading just a moment ago, I don't think you have anything to feel bad about.) A quick Wikipedia check enables me to refresh all our memories: his sister is Sasha, and the abrasive father & son are Allen and Ben, respectively.

Unlike the more wholesale imports from the source material, the character of Tyrese from the comics and the one from the show are largely incomparable, aside from sharing superficial details like their name, ethnicity and general levelheadedness. The comic's Tyrese is largely defined by his relationship with his daughter, and secondarily by her relationship with her boyfriend, to such a degree that it drives most every aspect of his arc. This Tyrese has the benefit of no such restrictive framing, so his character and what they choose to do with him is wide open.

Which is terrific, as I'm in complete agreement that he's awesome, and I hope he sticks around for a while. If there is one thing that the events of this season have made very clear, it's that Rick needs a second – if not a co-leader as such, then at least someone who can share some of the pressures of responsibility. It should be Hershel, but even with both legs (and a magic shotgun) he's better as counsel than commando. Daryl, though plenty savvy, is just the opposite (and likely wouldn't be interested in a leadership position anyway). Carol would add great perspective but might still prove too hesitant to deliver the kind of unilateral decisiveness the position would demand (but then again, maybe not; she's my current second choice). And Glenn isn't really cut out to act as authority figure, regardless of who backs him up. Tyrese seems a logical choice; he just needs to be in the right place at the right time. And the place he's in right now is absolutely wrong.

Let's hope it doesn't prove to be dead wrong. Because considering the circumstances of the coming conflict, I'd say bloodshed is absolutely assured. The only question is, how much will be enough?

Bits & Bobs:

• During the sequence in the warehouse: I loved the creepy, dispassionate way that the Governor kept idly striking at the heads of the fallen zombies with that shovel, like a kid burning ants with a magnifying glass. Morrissey was so amazing this week (and I'll miss him, too).

• Speaking of whom: is anyone else a little surprised by the Governor's confidence that Rick will accept the terms of his deal? Pretty cocky, man. And possibly delusional. But if they elect to doublecross his doublecross, as I've recommended [they should really be reading us, don't you think?], then that arrogance should prove advantageous as well.

• Understanding that it makes no difference at all: what the heck was that black thing the Governor had used to gag Andrea when we see her all tied up in the chair at the end? Looked like a single cup from a bra. Which I wouldn't put past him, actually.

• I got all excited when I realized we were starting off with a flashback because I thought, hey! We're finally going to find out who was shooting at them from the outrigger! Alas, no such luck.

Two more to go, gang. Fasten your seatbelts.


Efthymia said...

When she wants to, Andrea can be pretty awesome...

Well, this episode reassured me that my heart works fine, since I didn't suffer a heart attack from all the tension.

I was sure that the Governor killed Andrea outside the prison, and that when the others went out to meet him in the next or last episode they would find her body, and in that moment I realised that I don't really want Andrea to die.
All season long, if you had asked me whom I wouldn't mind being killed off (or even whom I actually wished dead on occasion), my answer would have been Andrea, without hesitation. But, despite her 2-seasons-long stupidity, I don't think I'm ready to lose her.
And now there's promise of death in the last couple of episodes by the people involved in the show, and I don't want anyone to die! (well, except for the Woodbury people, duh!)
Hershel seems the easiest choice because, however likeable, he's old and one-legged, but I believe this is exactly why it won't be him. And the one I would probably care the least about losing at this point is Rick, but since this is kind of HIS show, I seriously doubt he will be the one to go.
If it's either Glenn or Michonne, I'll quit the show!

Jessica said...

some people like to throw around Lost referenes like they're going out of style... this one, however, made me actually laugh out loud! To you, I bow Ms. Stafford!

• I got all excited when I realized we were starting off with a flashback because I thought, hey! We're finally going to find out who was shooting at them from the outrigger! Alas, no such luck.

Nikki Stafford said...

Jessica: That line was indeed brilliant, but it is Mr. Joshua Winstead you should be bowing to. Come over here beside me, where I bow to him every week. ;)

(That line made me laugh out loud, too!!)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Philip was holding his arm funny when he got back - I think he was bit.

But maybe it was a werewolf. Spinoff!

yourblindspot said...

Efthymia: I don't want anyone to go, either! Despite how frustrated I've found a lot of Andrea's arc this year, I still want her around, if not just to see her redeem herself. I'm like Nikki -- I don't even want the Governor dead. But I think we'd better steel ourselves for the worst. We all got off light in last year's finale; I have the feeling they're gonna make it hurt this season.

Colleen: Wow, I totally missed him holding the arm. What a twist that would be! (And I would watch every episode of a Werewolf Governor spinoff, without question.)

Jessica & Nikki: You flatter so! I wholeheartedly approve. (And thank you both. But really, Nikki, let's remember which one of us has a shelf of published works and hard-earned awards, and which has only a sad file drawer of rejection letters stained with liquor and tears.)