For the first time since the launch of the show, we are focusing entirely on another group of survivors, and our regulars don't appear at all. Which means that we finally get to see what's going on with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Andrea (Laurie Holden). Oh, and the "pets."
Things aren't looking good for Andrea. Her fever's high, she's puking all the time, and could drop dead very soon if they don't find medical help. The question is, if they find help, do they want to accept it?
Ha! That's not really the question! They do find help, at gunpoint, and have to accept it!
And the hand on the gun is a familiar hand. Hint, hint: There's only one hand!
Yes, that's right. Merle (Michael Rooker) is back! And he's still a douchebag! Although he's a bit more restrained this time around, thanks in large part to having a place in the pecking order of the community of Woodbury. Rooker puts on an acting clinic this week, playing Merle with a depth that was missing his first time around. Sure, some of that may just be coming from the internal conflict of playing subservient to the Big Boss, but damn if he didn't make every scene he was about as tense as humanly possible.
And speaking of the Big Boss, this week we finally got to meet a character that most fans of the comics were salivating for: The Governor (David Morrissey).
This is a very different Governor from what many were probably expecting. In the comics, he was a sadistic madman, but Morrissey is playing a Governor much more early in his development. This is a man who is making hard choices, pulling people together, and keeping them safe. He's not entirely sane, but for now that edge is under control, only coming out in controlled bursts of somewhat justified violence.
For most of the episode, anyway. [If you haven't watched the episode yet, you might want to quit reading here.]
That final scene was pretty disturbing, as the Governor sits sipping his Scotch in front of a wall of aquariums – each with a zombie head or two floating in dirty yellow water. Still "living" zombie heads. Morrissey plays the scene with a nice subtlety, giving us a glimpse of a man who may actually realize how fucked up this scene is, but is pushing through with it anyway.
What really makes the episode, though, is how the Governor's rule over Woodbury plays as a parallel version of our heroes' community at the prison. After the brutal and efficient way Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and T-Dog (IronE Singleton) handled the threat to their group last week, it's not too much of a stretch to see the Governor's justification for taking out the stranded soldiers this week. It was preemptive, for sure, but I don't know that I'd be comfortable allowing a group of armed men into my city with no guarantees that they wouldn't decide that a coup would be the best thing for everybody.
I think that, in combination with the scenes between the Governor and his science-flunky Milton (Dallas Roberts) gives us a much more interesting Governor than what we had in the comics. We might get that madman before everything is said and done, but I like seeing him in transition – especially since right now, he's not too terribly far removed morally and ethically from Rick, who has already slid over into a place not too terribly far removed from Shane.
This is creating a pretty daunting sense of inevitability about how living in this new world is forcing changes in some basic concepts of right and wrong.
And that's why I watch this show.
The zombies are an added bonus.
The only real shortcomings with this episode go back to the way Andrea and Michonne are being written. Laurie Holden is doing a fine job with what she's given, but I wish she wasn't so desperate to snuggle up with whoever has the biggest swagger. Hopefully this is a development from her earlier representation and her apologies to Merle and flirtations with the Governor have more complicated motivations than just capitulation and subservience.
A sense of security would be a powerful attraction, though, I admit.
Michonne is being written in such a starkly contrasting way that Danai Gurira is even more limited in what she can do with the role. Standing around glaring doesn't do the character any favors and for a character that is, so far, mostly defined by her actions, that's deadly. Although, her willingness to sacrifice her "pets" when it was absolutely necessary, and then her reactions when later questioned about them gave fans something to hold on to. Hopefully this will lead to scenarios that give her more to do.
It's nice that they're not just immediately dispelling her mystique, but I want more.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.