Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ten Things I Loved This Week


I would urge everyone to try to come up with 10 things that made you really happy in the week. What I've found is I'm starting to find them everywhere, and come Sunday morning I can't think of how to narrow it down. The little things are there if you just look for them. Try leaving your 10 favourite things as a comment below!

1. So many people changing their Facebook profile picture to this symbol in support of marriage equality:

And then in the hours and days that followed, showing that we are all equal, but unique and different:

2. Cadbury Mini Eggs. So, so good.

3. I'm working on a TV book with a husband and wife team and we were discussing one scene of an episode. Dale and I interpreted it one way, and Ensley another, and he emailed me and said, "I'm pretty sure I'm right on this one (because, after all, I'm Ensley)..." I am STILL laughing over that email. Might be the funniest argument an author has ever made to me.

4. Doctor Who returned this week and the episode was SO good. And having watched so much Classic Who in the past few months, I have so much more DW history in my head while watching it, which really changes the way I see everything.

5. Watching my kids hunt for Easter eggs this morning around our house. Even though my older daughter is 8, and is starting to question the veracity of this here bunny (she told me last night she wanted to sleep in our bed so we'd have to stay in there with her, and prove that we weren't actually the bunny) she ran around the house with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm she's had every other year.

6. My daughter has a diving coach who is particularly strict and in the past few weeks has become somewhat bullying, yelling at her every time the dive isn't perfect and telling her, "There is a FIVE-YEAR-OLD OVER THERE who is BETTER THAN YOU!! How do you feel about THAT?!" As I've watched my daughter's self-confidence drain over the past few weeks, I decided we would finally have to make a decision and pull her out. This woman might coach the team — the provincial champions the last 8 years running — but she can't treat little kids like that. But when we talked to my daughter she said no, she knows she can do this, and she WILL get that coach on her side. And then she strode out to her lesson and by the end was getting pats on the back and applause from the teacher. My awe has no bounds when it comes to that little girl.

7. On Wednesday I had my 5yo son at home for the day (he's in all-day, every-other-day kindergarten) and we went out to a book store in the morning, then grabbed a quick lunch together, and then went to see a matinee. Just me and my little man. And he was so giddy and excited and loved being on his own rather than having his older sister there with him. It was such a lovely day.

8. THIS:

I actually watched it last week, but ran out of numbers in my previous top 10. But seeing as I've watched it three more times this week (laughing so much my sides hurt) I just had to post it. And when my brother was over yesterday, we found this, done by the same guy, and I was probably laughing just as hard:

Also worth watching:

9. Having spring weather later in the week... and no forecasts of snow to follow. (Yet.)

10. And finally, my son lost a Skylander figure that he'd never had a chance to use in the game. Over the past four months, I have scoured every... inch... of this house to no avail. Back in January I actually said to my husband, "I bet that thing is outside under the snow somewhere. We are going to find it in the spring." (And then I continued to look everywhere for it.) Yesterday my son was outside and I heard through the open window this very loud shriek, followed by, "MOMMY!! MOMMY!!" and he came flying through the door... holding the Skylander. Very dirty and worse for the wear, and with water trapped below his feet (where the computer microchip is). I washed it off, dried it, put it on the portal... and it WORKED. I couldn't believe it. The search is finally over. ;)

So what made you happy this week?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

#4 & #5: Skellig and My Name Is Mina by David Almond

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 25 books this year, and then said I'd post on mine, and you had to tell me yours. I've fallen woefully behind in actually posting, although I'm happy to say I'm up to 11 in the actual reading. I'm going to cheat a bit with this post and pull these two books together, even though I read My Name Is Mina first (it was #4) and Skellig was actually #10. However, in order to recommend them to you properly, I want to recommend them in the right order. I read both of these aloud to my 8-year-old daughter, and we read Mina first because it had actually been a Christmas present to her from my brother. Then, standing in the library one day, we found Skellig and read it. The books were meant to be read the other way round, so that's how I'll suggest them to you.

Skellig is written by British author David Almond, about a boy named Michael who moves to a new home immediately after his mother has given birth to a premature baby girl, and there are complications. As he tries to adjust to a new community, being further away from his school chums, and two parents who are so on edge and stressed-out over the life-threateningly precarious position their daughter is in, he begins to spend more and more time alone, eventually wandering into the broken-down garage in the back lane way... only to find a man in there, hunched over, eating bugs and telling him to go away. Michael runs out, but can't believe what he saw: was it real?

In the meantime he meets Mina, a strange girl across the street who is home-schooled by her mother, finds beauty in everything in the world, sits in trees to write journal entries, and who pulls Michael in to her way of seeing things. He is fascinated by her (despite his school chums teasing him for befriending the weird girl), and finally takes her to the garage to see if she can also see this hobo, to determine if he's real. And what they discover changes the course of the novel, and their lives.

This book has been extraordinarily successful, and was made into a movie with Tim Roth in 2009 (if you see pictures of Roth in the movie, it immediately gives away the big surprise of who the man in the garage really is). We read the 10th anniversary edition of the book, and in an afterword, Almond talks about how his favourite character in the book is, in fact, Mina, and that he's begun writing down possible journal entries of her, and trying to get into her head more. He muses that maybe he'll turn it into something.

And that something was eventually My Name Is Mina. This book is actually a prequel to Skellig (so, technically, you could read it in the same order as we did), where Mina talks about the death of her father, what happened in her school that pushed her into being home-schooled, how owls hoot, how to find bones inside bird pellets, you name it. Written in a unique epistolary fashion, Mina moves in and out of first and third person (third when she wants to tell you something about herself that's difficult, so to create distance she switches voices) and through it, you truly fall in love with this incredible little girl. She watches a new boy and his pregnant mother and father scouting out the house across the street, and one day near the end hears him being called Michael. And then suddenly the mom isn't pregnant anymore, and there seems to be trauma. She doesn't know why.

If you had read Skellig first, these scenes would have been very exciting, because Almond is bringing his faithful fans of Skellig up to the beginning of that novel. Having read it the other way around, we were just curious about who the family is and wondering why she kept talking about them all the time, assuming she'd just become friends with the boy.

The main reason why I would recommend you read them in their publication order is because Mina is meant to be a mystery to Michael and to the reader in Skellig. But by the time we'd read My Name Is Mina we knew absolutely everything about her, and there was no mystery at all. That said, My Name Is Mina was our favourite of the two, and Skellig is a WONDERFUL book that I would highly recommend to anyone.

OK, your turn. What were your fourth and fifth books you read this year? (Or, if you're to that yet, what recommendations could you give to others of books similar to these?)

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Walking Dead: "This Sorrowful Life"

Our apologies for the lateness of this post! First, our schedules simply didn't match up at all this week (so when I'd complete a section, Josh was busy the rest of the day, and then he'd complete a section and I wouldn't be online). Second, my husband grabbed my computer one day, wiped it and upgraded my Mac's operating system to the latest version, and now I can no longer cut and paste anything and it drops the wireless signal every 3.2 seconds. So that's been fun.

Aside from all that, welcome to the (very late) rundown of the penultimate episode of this Walking Dead season, "This Sorrowful Life" (which is no doubt a tongue-in-cheek reference to This Life, the British TV show that made Andrew Lincoln famous.) But before we get to the episode (Josh will begin this week, make sure you check this out, an amazing comparison between The Walking Dead and Toy Story, showing how similar this horrorfest is to one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Oh, and this:

Josh: Early on in “This Sorrowful Life,” as Merle is searching around the prison for something to get him stoned, he comes across Carol, and they have a conversation about conciliation that is one of my favorite pieces of writing from the show thus far. She begins prodding him about his loyalty, acting the casual instigator, and it's obvious he's impressed by the fearlessness of her character, a quality he recognizes as distinctly different from the Carol he knew back in the camp at the quarry, all those months ago. And he says so: “You don't seem scared of nothin' any more.”

“I'm not,” she answers.

“You're a late bloomer.”

“Maybe you are, too.”

In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. The minute I started sympathizing with Merle several episodes back, right away I should have identified it as clever groundwork and figured out what the writers were up to. But I didn't; they got me again, and they got me good. The folks behind The Walking Dead had an uphill battle accomplishing the redemption of Merle Dixon, but as far as I'm concerned, they nailed it, from beginning to end.

Raise a glass, friends. Let's get this wake started.

Nikki: Remember, long long ago, probably, oh, two weeks ago or something, when we all would have danced the dance of joy and happiness to see Merle’s rotting one-armed corpse on the ground? Those days are no more. Where the writers were careful not to make him turn over as a completely sympathetic character — which would have been one-dimensional and not satisfying at all — we saw him as a person in this episode. In my notes I’ve written at the very beginning, “Wait… Merle’s giving morality advice to Rick? Hath hell frozen over?!” It’s not Hershel’s dour stare that changes Rick’s mind, but the fact that Merle, the man who everyone would like to think lacks a heart, said that turning over Michonne is something even he couldn’t do.

And then he tries to do it. I don’t actually believe he ever intended to do it. He hadn’t thought it all the way through. Yes, when he first grabbed her he perhaps thought this would get him in with the Governor. But then he thought of his brother and what he would think (thanks to Michonne putting that little kernel into his head). And then he realized what he was running from and what he was running to. But listening to him at the beginning of the episode, talking to Rick and telling him what the Governor would actually do (killing isn’t something that would happen right away), we knew that he knew it wasn’t the thing to do. After that conversation, when he tricked and nabbed Michonne, part of me thought he was actually removing her from the prison until cooler heads prevailed. But it took the reminder of Daryl, and what his little brother would think of him, to make him stop and let Michonne out of the car.

And then… then he goes to the shack, and proves that Rick is wrong: they WERE coming fully armed, they WERE going to kill every last one of them, and Merle instead shows them for what they really are, and saves all their lives in the process. With a knife stuck to his arm and a gun in his other hand, he takes out half of the Governor’s already paltry army, almost takes out the Guv himself, and then dies at the Governor’s hand. And even that, watching Merle finally meet the other end of a gun, didn’t upset me. Merle has done terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad things in his time, and it’s hard to forgive all of that because he’s become that sort of funny, silly racist uncle at the prison that makes you uncomfortable but you just love the big guy anyway.

No, it’s Daryl finding his brother. I just keep forgetting that they turn when they’re killed. I didn’t even think of Merle as a walker, I thought Daryl would find him. And boy, he found him all right. Eating the flesh of another dead human being before that person could get up and walk (okay, for nitpick purposes, he died AFTER all of those people, so technically they should have been feasting on him but let’s let that one slide!). Daryl says his brother’s name, as if — like the Governor — he believes somewhere in there is the brother who loved him. And for a split second, WE begin to believe it too, when Merle stands up and begins lumbering towards him. But no, he’s a flesh-eating monster, and like Carl, Daryl has to destroy his loved one to stop him from going any further. And by the time he’s done, he’s stabbed Merle in the head repeatedly, for abandoning him, for becoming such a prick, for endangering his friends, and, most of all, for dying just as Daryl was beginning to get to know him. THAT is the moment where Merle’s death hit home, and where this episode was raised to the operatic level it achieved. Best episode of the season.

Josh: Hands down. And maybe – maybe – my favorite of the series thus far. I feel that way for many reasons, at the forefront being the masterful way it addresses all the fundamental questions not just of the season but the series as a whole: what gives us our humanity, and what constitutes an ally, a family, a home. How the way we treat others defines us. Rick said it best: “I couldn't sacrifice one of us for the greater good, because we are the greater good. We're the reason we are still here... not me.”

Since the Governor made his offer, I'd been very pragmatic in my analysis of the situation, focusing on the legitimacy of the deal and figuring the outcome would hinge on whether or not they trusted him to keep his word. The writers, however, wisely kept Rick's reasoning – and Hershel's, and Daryl's, and Merle's – solely about the act itself, about the moral and emotional implications as opposed to any more tangible fallout. And of course that is exactly as it should be; if one can't shoulder the psychological ramifications of such a devil's bargain, then nothing else matters.

I loved the sequence with Hershel reading to the girls from the Bible as Rick dug through the trash, looking for the wire to use for Michonne's bonds. The selection he chose was Psalm 91, the so-called 'Psalm of Protection,' and therefore relevant for obvious reasons, but I found its use particularly poignant due to a different Biblical congruity. Psalm 91 was the same Old Testament text that the devil quoted to Jesus during His temptation in the wilderness, attempting to corrupt His integrity, to convince Him to sacrifice His righteousness for pacification. The parallel is undeniable, even before Rick's vision of Lori appears like an angel above his shoulder, sun framing her head in a halo of light, to give him the final push in the right direction. “You're not there,” he says – to her, to himself – but she was, too. Just not in body, and not up on that fence-lined walkway. Somewhere closer. Where all those whom we've lost linger on, the place inside us where they'll always be waiting when we need them.

Nikki: Well put! I, too, thought that entire montage of events was beautifully executed, with Hershel’s verse the perfect backing soundtrack. I wasn’t sure how far they were going to take the Lori thing, but this episode brought it all around. The entire time, she’s haunted him like a demon: taunting him on the phone, standing above him silent in a harlot’s gown, standing just outside the fence, luring him to the walkers… but that just didn’t make sense. Why was she that person? Turns out, it’s all in the interpretation. She was appearing to him at his lowest moments, and he thought it was to drag him down further. But, not to go all “Footprints” on us all here, in fact she was appearing in the times when he needed her most, and she was trying to be a sign to him, a sign that everything was OK, that he’s a good person, and that he’ll lead his flock to safety. As he quickly devolved into madness this season, he was losing sight of the person Lori once was to him. And only this episode, when he was about to do something that went entirely against his character, did he stop, look up at her, and see her for what she is. Not in an ethereal gown, not a disembodied voice on the phone, but Lori, in her plaid shirt and white tank top and jeans, carrying her baby. He felt her watching him, and smiling at him, telling him to go with his gut, and not do this thing.

That scene then led to the scene of Rick giving his counter speech to last season’s, “This is NOT a democracy!” speech. Instead, he’s been through the ringer, and knows that maybe this group doesn’t require one leader, but an advisory committee. He’ll still lead, but not alone. Only when they speak to each other do they figure out how to do the right thing. “I’m not your Governor,” he says flatly.

The dictatorship is over.

Let’s move over to Glenn and Maggie. Despite being the most unique acquisition of an engagement ring EVER (or, as my friend Colleen put it on her Facebook page, “Well that gave a whole new meaning to People’s Jewellers”), the proposal that followed was probably the sweetest moment of the season. Trapped in a prison surrounded by zombies, Glenn found a way to get the ring, get the father’s blessing, and get the girl to say yes. People will be talking about the finger slicing for years to come, but this quiet, subtle moment was there to remind us that maybe life can go on. Lori gave birth, but she had to die in the process. Somehow Glenn managed to do this the old-fashioned way, as if the world wasn’t coming to a sudden and horrible end. I absolutely loved that.

Of course, over at the shack, we were reminded of how much had changed when the batshit crazy Governor bit off Merle the same two fingers that Glenn had sliced off the zombie. And then you shudder, the romantic moment is over, and you do a quick salute and say, “Yeah. Good luck with that, kids.” But it was a lovely moment nonetheless.

Josh: Glenn's tearful speech as he asked Hershel's blessing was great as well. In particular, his astute acknowledgement of the way that the state of the world had rendered such long-term symbolic commitments relatively pointless but that he felt the need to do it regardless, just because “I want her to know,” was so sweet and perfect and exactly what any father would want to hear. Their exchange also contrasted splendidly with the actual proposal, as Glenn didn't speak at all, and didn't need to; Maggie's simple 'yes' was the only dialogue necessary. (On a related note, I am somewhat surprised to find that the upcoming finale episode is not titled 'A Wedding and Four Funerals.')

As you said, the ringbearer (ringbiter?) wasn't the only party to lose fingers this week. Despite the degree of atonement Merle earned by foiling the Governor's ambush, he's still said and done enough terrible things that his eleventh-hour heroism would have felt unbalanced if he hadn't gone out hard. And hard he went, with an absolutely brutal hand to hand fight between he and the Governor. Excuse the pun. Philip, who seems to be growing more deranged by the hour at this point, acted positively feral here, not only in the savage (and more than a little symbolic) way he crunched Merle's digits free and then spat them aside, but in every aspect of his behavior during their struggle. In fact, I'm pretty sure I heard him snarl like a dog at one point. Though it wasn't expressly implied, I'd guess that the intensity of the Governor's anger stemmed in large part from the simple ruination of his trade-off trap; the discovery that it was his old first mate Merle doing the ruining was just indignation icing on the fury cake.

But frankly, I still don't think he should have expected anything else. We've discussed more than once in recent weeks the Governor's brash overconfidence in the effectiveness of this scheme, in his own ability to come across as genuine and sincere even to people who don't know him. Philip certainly possesses a certain animal magnetism, but charisma notwithstanding, you'd have to be either incredibly desperate or woefully uninformed to think that an offer like that, under those strained circumstances, held any legitimacy whatsoever. Rick's desperation (as well as what I believe was an earnest desire to resolve their differences without further bloodshed – excepting Michonne, of course) almost ended them, but against all odds, Merle Dixon saved the day.

So, then, the question becomes what happens now. The Governor is furious, liable to attack at any time now, and in any way. In spite of the fact that she's returned to the prison, Michonne must be viewed a compromised asset at this point, considering she now knows how close they came to turning her over to save themselves. As for Daryl, there's no telling in what kind of mental state this loss will leave him; whether he's functional and focused or reckless and raging, they'll need him back quickly, and ready to think quickly. All things considered, will the sheriff and his prison posse even have the manpower they need for their defense, or will this require some last-minute, outside-the-box strategizing acrobatics? I know what I would do, but I haven't a clue what they're planning.

What do you think, Nikki?

Nikki: Agreed; when the Governor bit off Merle’s fingers, my husband said, “Wow. He’s completely insane now.” And what’s interesting, as you and I have noted in previous installments, is that if you look at both the Governor and Rick, you see a parallel: One man lost his wife before the apocalypse and had to be a single parent when the zombies first rose… a single parent who failed to keep his daughter safe. At that moment his sanity began to unravel further (one assumes there was a slight snap when the apocalypse happened so soon after the death of his beloved wife). He put his daughter in a cage and set about trying to become a powerful man, recruiting scientists to come up with a cure for her while putting together a town of which he was in control.

Now look at Rick. When the zombies hit, he was incapacitated, in a hospital, not knowing what was happening. And somehow the zombies just… left him alone. He awoke alone in a complete nightmare, his wife and child gone. He decided to go it alone, not knowing what the hell was happening or where his family was or if they even existed. And when he found them, it was like he got his life back. Where the Governor just lost one thing after another, Rick had a moment in there where he got some of it back, and it pulled him back from the brink of insanity. But then he found out his wife and Shane had been together. And she was pregnant and it could be his, or it could be hers. And when he killed his former best friend/cuckolder, his insanity began to unravel. He shunned his wife, declared the group a dictatorship, and began ruling with an iron fist. The Governor wasn’t as open about what was happening: while Woodbury was a dictatorship, the people were led to believe they actually had a say.

And then… Rick lost his wife. And became a single parent to not one, but two children, one he wasn’t even sure was his. He pulled away from the group, became unbalanced as they looked on, began shouting at invisible things in the dark and became the poster child for World of Crazy.

Meanwhile the Governor, still kidding himself (but having the added stress of KNOWING he was kidding himself), brushed his daughter’s matted hair lovingly each night while keeping her chained up in a small prison, watched her die at the hands of a woman he never trusted, who then turned and took out his eye for good measure. His people began seeing through his posturing, and he lost all kindness… and all hope. His main goal in life — to find a cure for his daughter — was useless now, and he gave that up to follow another one: the torture and murder of Michonne, and everyone associated with her.

And when the Governor showed up at the prison, shooting bullets willy-nilly in the air, and met with the other side at the shack, concocting schemes of mass slaughter, and basically showed Rick what happens when World of Crazy meets Evil Intentions, Rick pulled back from the brink, apologized, found his mind again, and became focused. The Governor, on the other hand, is completely, utterly, gone. I’m so happy that you described him as a feral animal with Merle because that is EXACTLY the word I had written in my own notes. And no, you didn’t imagine the snarl.

So now we go into the season finale with Rick being focused, the Governor’s army severely depleted and the Governor’s mind floating up Lunatic Creek, Andrea either dead or so tortured she, too, has lost her mind, the prison folk strengthened against the enemy, Merle dead, and Daryl (the strongest fighter in the prison folk) going into this battle with the same hellbent revenge the Governor’s been working with all season.

I cannot WAIT to see what happens.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ten Things I Loved This Week

Last week I started a new column on the blog, where I look back on the week in an effort to highlight the positive and find 10 things that made me happy. This was a particularly difficult and stressful week, so I've been really looking forward to writing this post!

1. Pomegranate and raspberry tea from Twinings. I've had a dozen cups of this, and I love it.

2. Getting a St. Patrick's Day card in the mail! I don't think I've ever gotten one before, and I was so excited. And inside was simply written, "I'm so glad you're my friend." Thank you, Rhonda. You totally made my week. xo

3. Getting a postcard in the mail! (What a great mail week I've had. I just LOVE getting things in the mail.) A dear friend of mine moved to Australia several years ago, and she sent me this postcard:

On the back, she explained that it was Uluru, a place of great healing, which Lost fans know from the season 2 episode, "S.O.S." (where you see Rose and Bernard going there in a flashback).

4. I am less than two weeks away from turning 40. And this week I've decided not to see that as one of those "gulp" moments in life, but as an adventure. Who knows what's up next?

5. Going to see Nick Cave in Toronto at Massey Hall. There was a children's choir on stage with him, and my brother leaned over and said, "Do you think they'll be singing backup on 'Stagger Lee'?" (If you don't find that as hilarious as I did, then go here and you'll see why. Make sure there are no children in the room.) The show was mindblowingly good.

6. The new Sigur Ros single. If the rest of the album (coming in June) is as good as this song, it will become my new favourite record.

7. Getting a new person hooked on Archer. First episode, and she loved it. YES.

8. Working on a chapter for Robert Smith?'s new Doctor Who book, Outside In 2, with partners in time Mark Askwith and Sam Maguilli. Our piece is filled with awesomeness, and we've truly discovered the power of three. (And... now you know what episode we're writing up.)

9. Last week HBO said I'd be getting the screeners for season 3 of Game of Thrones. By Friday at 5, I still didn't have them. Bit of a letdown... until the doorbell rang Saturday morning... and it was the FedEx guy. And for me, the first episode was as exciting as I'd hoped it would be.

10. Waking up this morning to my son whispering in my ear, "Good morning, Mommy. I love you more than anything." It really doesn't get any better than that.

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.