Friday, November 30, 2012

The Walking Dead: "When the Dead Come Knocking"

Welcome back to this week’s Walking Dead recap, as always with my co-host Joshua Winstead. I apologize for the lateness of this post. Between me having a bad head cold and Josh being buried in work deadlines, we weren't sure we'd get it out at all. But we're hoping to get this Sunday's post out either Monday or early Tuesday. 

In the last week before the “mid-season finale” (god, I’ve come to loathe that empty phrase), Rick has magically regained his sanity, Merle is starting to lose his, Glenn proves himself to be TRULY BADASS, and Maggie is forced to strip in a humiliating way.

But let’s start with Glenn, because that scene had me on edge. Merle remembers Glenn as the scared little boy who may have been the one to find Rick and bring him into the fold in the first place, but he was always scared and barely able to handle the walkers on his own. He was super smart, but figured out how to handle the zombies from a distance.

No more.

After Glenn refuses to budge one inch as Merle is torturing him to give up the location of the others, Merle first beats his face into a pulp (with Maggie listening the entire time… an admittedly brilliant tactic, since I was certain she was going to break long before she did) and then brings in a walker and sets it upon Glenn, whose arms are duct-taped to a chair. Now, at first my husband and I were watching with about the same glee as the Governor’s people watched the zombie cage match a few episodes ago (making me a total hypocrite for talking about the audience the way I did), saying, “Come on, Glenn, Buffy found herself in a situation like this once! Turn the chair around, smash the legs and then run backwards to use them as a stake, you can do it!!” Glenn looked like a goner for part of this scene, but I knew he’d make it (while he might seem like he’s on the edge of the action, I still feel like he’s pretty central to it). And when he finally smashed the chair so completely that his arms were free, he gouged the walker in the eye with the piece of wood still attached to his arm — ironically, turning his arm into the same sort of weapon that Merle’s now is.

Maggie, on the other hand, was at first handled with kid gloves by the Governor, who entered the room and was extremely polite before telling her in no uncertain terms to take her top and bra off. He is SO hard to read that even Maggie didn’t know what to do. Did he mean to rape her? Was he going to get off on it? Was he just trying to humiliate her? What the Governor ultimately seemed to want to do is strip her down to the point where she’s completely vulnerable, and as he paraded her back into Glenn’s room, Glenn took one look at her and we could tell he was thinking the worst (especially when the Governor started hugging and kissing her face to calm her down, and she reacted like she was going to be sick).

And then, surprisingly, in that moment it was Maggie who finally gave up the location, not Glenn. It would have made sense for Glenn to do it, but maybe deep down he knew if he had done it, she’d never forgive him for giving up the location of her father. Only she could do that, and in a moment she decided Hershel still has a fighting chance with the others at his side, but if they shot Glenn, that would be the end of both of them.

Whew. And that was only a small part of this week’s episode. There’s so much else to cover. Josh, where would you like to start?

Josh: I'd like to start by WATCHING NEXT WEEK'S EPISODE RIGHT NOW PLEASE. I don't know about you, but 'When the Dead Come Knocking' felt very much like the first hour of a two-part episode to me, not in the sense that it was light on content but rather maddeningly short on resolve. All the interrogation scenes with Glenn and Maggie this week were terrific, as you said, tying my stomach in knots and giving both of these characters an opportunity to shine in the worst possible circumstances. Glenn's brawl with the walker while strapped to a chair was one of the highlights of the season for me so far, and its resolution gratifying for so many reasons, not only justifying Glenn's decision to stay mum in a thrilling, visceral way but also proving both to Merle and to himself that he is far from the guy our bayonet-fisted sadist used to know, once upon a quarry.

And Maggie... poor Maggie. Her visit with the Governor fortunately fell short of being needlessly exploitative, but his actions were plenty sufficient to prove that Philip is every bit the sick twist we've suspected, and above no means of psychological torture to reach his desired goal. Maggie's response was agonizing but tough as nails, and it's no wonder she caved so quickly when she was finally reunited with Glenn, only to see a gun put to his head. The big problem with her confession in my mind is that it surrenders the biggest reason Merle and the Governor had to keep them alive. After what they've been through, they'll certainly never agree to (and probably wouldn't even be candidates for) citizenship, and considering what they know of the Governor's fallacious benevolence, their prospects are dire, to say the least. Short of trying to use them as a bargaining chip with the unknown force at the prison, the Woodburians have no more use for the prisoners. Just keeping them hostage, especially with Andrea roaming around, is a lot more dangerous than risking reprisal from Rick et al by simply disappearing them and being done with it. But maybe the rescue team will begin their assault before it's too late; I'd hate to see either of them wind up in the feed trough for those toothless arena walkers.

Now, about that rescue effort: is it just me, or does this operation seem half-baked? They've done no reconnaissance whatsoever, are undermanned and outgunned, and really have nothing on their side but the element of surprise. We know from Andrea's “training” on the wall that their soldiers aren't as capable as they might think, but their sheer numbers are enough to make me very worried. Add in the as-yet-unknown variables of Andrea's discovery and Daryl's inevitable reunion with Merle, and this fly-by-night mission begins to take on an unmistakable air of tragedy.

What do you think, Nikki?

Nikki: “Tragedy” could very well be the theme of next week’s episode. I agree that they seem woefully unprepared, and they had Michonne right there and didn’t even pump her for information. In fact, when she started to speak, Rick hit her in the leg, Daryl practically poked her face with the arrow coming out of the crossbow, and both of them swore at her and treated her like garbage. Even though she was opening up to them — and trusting them, despite them treating her worse than the Governor did at first (AND taking her sword to boot) — far more than she’d ever trusted anyone in Woodbury. And why was that? Michonne isn’t stupid; she knows this is Andrea’s former tribe, I’m certain of it. Andrea probably described each one of them to Michonne. If she didn’t know who they were, she would have continued on her way and patched herself up alone (she’s fiercely independent and probably didn’t need anyone’s help to fix her leg up). Or, if she thought she DID need the help, she would have hobbled to the prison and gotten it. But she wouldn’t have dragged along the baby formula, which is quite heavy. She told Rick and Daryl a few things about Woodbury, and that their friends had been captured. But because, for lack of a better word, they acted like a pair of dicks to her, she didn’t tell them, “And oh, by the way, the head of security is this redneck pig with one arm named Merle. And… funny thing… he blames YOU GUYS for losing that arm! Know anything about that?”

It’s like she decided, “OK, for Andrea’s sake, I’ll give them the basics and hand over this formula and tell them where to find their friends. But… I’ll leave out the fact that big angry brother is in that camp. Wouldn’t want to ruin that surprise.”

We thought the reveal was going to be this week, but obviously they’re building that one up until next. I really REALLY hope they don’t hold it out until the end as a cliffhanger. I want to see the fallout now. (And you’re right, it will feel like the second part of a two-parter.)

And what of Andrea? She seems to have casually fallen into a routine of, “Hey honey, I’m home!” even though the old life is still very much a part of her (see: jamming her knife into the head of Mr. Coleman). What do you think of her this week?

Josh: Andrea still feels like something of a narrative means to an end to me. I enjoyed her scenes with Milton this week as he further tested his theories on trace consciousness with the gentle, determined euthanasia of Mr. Coleman. The sequence was filled with great touches, from the singing bowl to the inclusion of Jo Stafford's “It Could Happen To You” playing throughout, providing a nice counterpoint to their true purpose (and the title of which was a clever nod to the same). In fact, I think Milton's storyline in general, and the interest in more deeply examining the scientific aspects of the plague, has been a great addition to this season.

However, it hasn't proven much beyond the notion that he and the Governor are rather deluded in their views. Obviously the Governor's feelings for his zombified daughter are influencing his interest, and I would assume there is something yet unspoken in Milton's history that affects him similarly. Andrea's previous experience waiting by Amy's side until her sister turned, though unbeknownst to the Governor, gives her special insight into the situation, and hopefully her actions to save Milton's life will bond the two of them rather than drive him away in disgust. But other than that subjective experience, she really could have been anybody with a knife.

If nothing else, Andrea's presence in Woodbury has provided the writers a good way to keep the audience involved in those aspects of the story this year, revealing the larger truth slowly, and at least somewhat through her eyes. But of course we know the ugliest bits, whereas Andrea is still largely oblivious to the Governor's dark heart. My fear is that his veiled nature will only be revealed to her after she has sided with him in some awful, immutable fashion, once she has already made some terrible mistake that she can't take back. The blindness of her actions thus far seem to be servicing just that kind of dire eventuality, and I think it may finally break her if it comes to that.

Nikki: Now that I’m trying to think of another topic, I realize we’ve covered the main points of this week’s episode. So I’ll just point out a few things that were highlights for me:

-Merle hearing of T-Dog’s death and saying, “I hope he went slow.” Ouch.
-I didn’t write down who said it, but at one point someone asks for “Water and a towel.” And I misheard it (I blame the cold) and said to my husband, “Water and Nutella?!”
-Somehow in a zombie apocalypse Andrea has a perfectly fitted thong and an absolutely white bra.
-In that scene where the guys are emptying their trunk and there’s a walker lumbering up the road behind them, they completely ignore her. And, oddly, I felt sorry for her. Here’s her big chance to be all badass and scary, and they look at her like she’s nothing. I hope she wasn’t a wallflower in her previous life, because that would suck even more.
-I loved that the Governor is really upset to hear that 10 people took the prison, and that it was his original target to set up Woodbury but he’d been advised there was no way they could take it.
-That pounding heartbeat-like music that played at the end made the situation even more tense, and it was perfect.

And you, Josh? Any final thoughts for you?

Josh: I neglected to mention that strange interlude with the crazy dead dog guy in the cabin out in the woods, which I thought played as completely needless save illustrating to Rick and his team that Michonne isn't above killing the living when necessary (and maybe that animals are unaffected by the plague, not that we wouldn't have otherwise seen a zombie squirrel or something by now). Also, I heard that the American broadcast immediately followed those nasty final shots of the zombie mob devouring the poor lunatic with an ill-timed ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is kind of hilarious. Still, I thought the whole sequence felt really off the wall and out of step with the rest of the episode.

There were also several lovely character moments scattered throughout, my favorite of which was Daryl's reveal that he'd found Carol, dehydrated but very much alive. It hadn't occurred to me that she knew nothing about Lori until it played out, and the sweet, sad, mostly wordless way they conveyed it, mostly in looks between Carol, Rick and Carl, broke my heart all over again. I was glad that Rick and Carl got a moment alone together as well before Rick headed off on the rescue mission. The father-son relationship that develops between the two of them is bound to be a significant part of the rest of the series, and I thought their conversation here, with Rick entrusting Carl to keep the others safe in his absence, then accepting Carl's thoughtful suggestion of a name for the baby, was a good next step.

The last came between Rick and Daryl on their walk to Woodbury, with Rick acknowledging “I know what you did for me” while he was working through the emotional fallout of Lori's death, and Daryl's straightforward “That's what we do” in response. It was a minor exchange in the grand scheme of things, but it spoke volumes about the way the dynamic between the two of them has developed. We discussed Daryl's position in the group at length last week in anticipation of his finding out Merle is still alive, and this was a great reminder of exactly what's at stake.

And I think we have to assume that revelation is on its way in this weekend's episode, as I can't imagine they can infiltrate Woodbury without encountering Merle at some point. Whatever happens next will likely determine the course of the rest of this season. With the deck stacked so heavily against Rick and his ragtag group of survivors, I'd say the outlook was grim at best.

Be safe out there, everyone. We'll see you next week.


SenexMacdonald said...

@Josh stated: "Daryl's reveal that he'd found Carol, dehydrated but very much alive. It hadn't occurred to me that she knew nothing about Lori until it played out, and the sweet, sad, mostly wordless way they conveyed it, mostly in looks between Carol, Rick and Carl, broke my heart all over again."

I completely agree with this. I also teared up when Carol realized what had happened. The (mostly) silence of this revelation spoke volumes. Great work from all the cast on this. The moment Rick spent with Carl covered a lot of unspoken things in a short span but seemed to bring some peace to them both. Loved this. :)

Jeff said...

I really enjoyed the irony in the way Michonne was treated by Rick - they did exactly what The Governor did to her. Kept her sword, locked her up, and the not-too-subtle "you're not going anywhere", which is exactly what she hated about being in Woodbury.

Efthymia said...

I have spent the entire episode and the days following it worrying about Glenn -I don't want him to die!!!!! A friend of mine believes he's safe since they've killed off a major character (Lori) very recently, but I'm not reassured. And the "mid-season finale" title, stupid as it may be, makes me think that something huge (and because of the nature of the show, probably in a negative way) is going to happen and we'll spend the next couple of months going crazy.

As much as I love Michonne, Rick & co. weren't exactly to blame for their behaviour: she sat there with a scowl on her face saying the least bit possible, showing more suspicion than friendliness, making them uncomfortable and unsure about her.