If you’ve read my previous article that argues that characters are the heart of fiction then you will understand what I mean when I say that this episode has a big enough heart to feed a hundred walkers and have some sinewy muscle left over.
So much happens.
There are several story threads that intertwine and interlock around each other in this episode so I think it will be beneficial if I cover them separately, to do them proper justice, before coming back to the climatic coalescence at the end.
Merle and Daryl
This was the most exciting and interesting story line, because we got to see the way in which these two brothers behave around and towards each other. We can see that Daryl has always been the underdog and Merle the leader. We see this through the way in which Merle tries to assert his dominance—for example when he nonchalantly attempts to ransack the car—and through this attempted assertion we also see how Daryl has grown as a character.
No longer is he just going to accept Merle’s belligerent behaviour, but he is going to stand up for himself and be his own man. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t watched it, but there are two key moments—the first being when Daryl overtly defies Merle and the second being when they acknowledged something from their past time with the camp—that show the emotional transformation that Daryl has undergone. He is no longer the racist subservient little brother that Merle seems to assume he would have remained, but the heroic soldier that we and Rick have grown to love.
Saying that, we also see Merle show some flicker of emotion that instantly gives him more depth as a character; it comes at a point when the violent nature of their father is implied through dialogue and scars on Daryl’s back. We can see the shadows of tears begin to form around Merle’s eyes as he remembers the horror that he presumably experienced as a child. This also explains to the audience why he might be the way that he is, but this emotion is kept realistic, restrained, and the real Merle never completely escapes us. He remains a wisecracking racist, but now he has the hitherto unseen emotional depth that causes us to view him in a slightly different light, without going too far and causing us to empathise or sympathise with him.
This story line was exceptional. The acting, writing, and pace were all perfect. I cannot praise it enough.
Glenn and Maggie
This story line was very interesting, if not as encapsulating as Merle’s and Daryl’s. We see the most innate of human connections (love) start to wane under the pressure of the turbulent world in which these two people live.
Because of the abnormal environment of their relationship, all of their problems are raised to a zenith that would be rarely seen in a pre-apocalyptic world. Not only does Maggie have to come to terms with what nearly happened to her, but she has to do that whilst enduring the constant fear of death, for herself or someone she loves. It’s the same for Glenn, but he perhaps has it worse because he has to deal with the anger that he feels at feeling powerless and inadequate; he wants to help her but he can’t. This was perfectly portrayed in the scene where Glenn tried to comfort her, only to be met with rebuke.
This story line was very well done and added efficiently to the emotional tempest that permeated throughout this episode.
This has to be the weirdest and, from a narrative perspective, most pointless storyline of the episode.
I don’t find Rick’s madness to be interesting or to serve any purpose other than to hyperbolise his grief for his wife; I also find it slightly unbelievable. Rick is a strong character. He has endured and led through countless horrors and has killed countless people and walkers. That he would completely crumble seems very unlikely. I can imagine him going slightly insane (maybe hearing the fragment of a whisper or something) or getting angry, but to have full on hallucinations is going too far. Not only that; in this episode Rick’s madness leads nowhere. All he does is wonder around for a little bit outside the gates, waiting for the episode to end.
The only justification I can see for this is that he needed, for the story to work, to be outside the gates when the episode climaxed, but this could have surely been achieved in a more effective way than metamorphosing him into an inmate of Arkham Asylum.
This insanity thing is waning a little now. Rick needs to recover and deal with his grief normally. This story line was the weakest by far.
The Governor and Andrea
This is the last story line that I consider to be integral in the functionality of this episode. Andrea and The Governor are, or were, lovers. This is very important for this episode, as Andrea is going through a stage in which she must decide where her allegiances lie.
This is shown through a key conversation between her and The Governor; he makes a request of her that implies that he respects her greatly. She doesn’t seem to relish this greatly, but neither does she outright confront The Governor about his malicious nature. She seems to want to work within the town, rather than flee and reconvene with her friends.
This adds to the tension of the episode, as the viewer is constantly thinking about or questioning Andrea’s actions. We don’t understand why she is still in the town. Does she love The Governor? Does she care about the people? Does she resent the others for leaving her? Does she loathe the idea of becoming subservient to Rick again, or aspire to live up to The Governor’s expectations? All of these questions make the story satisfying.
As for The Governor himself, in this episode we see the contemptuous nature of him exposed more and more. In one scene he intimidates someone to spy on Andrea for him and in another he does something that is destined to make every fan view him as beyond redemption. He is a scumbag; that is what this episode tells us above all else, and what’s worse is that he has Andrea trapped in his web, and she doesn’t even know it.
This is a solid storyline that, although in this episode wasn’t fully fleshed out, promises to lead to something interesting.
I can’t detail exactly what happens at the end, as that would be unfair, but I can promise you that you will not be disappointed.
It excellently shows the brutality of human nature. It reinforces the main message that every good piece of zombie fiction should carry: the humans are the true evil, not the zombies.
I wish I could say more about the ending, but I will not ruin it for anyone. All I can say is that it was the best part of the episode.
This episode was very good, if coming ever-so-slightly short of greatness. Merle and Daryl took the lead, with Maggie and Glenn waking in their shadow. Andrea and The Governor were a little further behind but still in sight, and Rick was off somewhere, out of sight, sat in a pile of his own vomit and muttering incoherently to himself about God knows what.
Overall this episode gets a 7.
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