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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Walking Dead 3x07: When the Dead Come Knocking


In terms of plot progression, not a whole lot happened in this episode. Woodbury learned about Rick and company clearing out the prison, and the prison folk learned about Woodbury, but in terms of moving the overall narrative forward, that's about it. However, as the penultimate episode of the fall half of the season, the end result was an excellent exercise in increasing tension. With Rick, Daryl, Michonne and New T-Dog poised on the outside of Woodbury, with Glen and Maggie of no more use to the Governor on the inside, with Merle still a bastard but likely to choose his brother over the Governor, with Andrea still stupidly falling for what the Governor is selling, and with the Governor poised to take the prison for himself, the slack has been pulled tight, ready to explode next week. The ending, as the various players moved into position with the score pounding relentlessly, was one of the show's most ominous moments yet.

Other Thoughts
Even though this was, relative to this season, a slowdown episode, things still moved really fast: the decision to trust Michonne and mount a rescue operation could have, in previous seasons, required at least an episode or two of debate, whereas here it was handled in a matter of minutes.

Similarly, the whole confrontation between that hermit and the rescue party sped past with no real time to contemplate it, which is probably for the best (because seriously, what the hell was his deal?). On the hand, it can be viewed as a snapshot of this new world: everyone has a story, and here the story we've been following intersects with that hermit's (why he's living on his own, somehow ignorant of what's happened to the world), but ours takes precedence, so we never find out his deal, and the he gets killed (and eaten). On the other hand, it can be viewed as some pretty sloppy plotting ("Zombies! Run away! In here! There's someone there! He doesn't seem to get the state of the world! He's dead! Toss him out! And...resume") in the middle of an otherwise tight episode.

I'm also torn on the subject of Milton's test failing. It would have been nice if he'd been at least partially right, simply because that would suggest there could be more to the zombies then we've been led to believe, which would open the door to a possible change in the status quo of the zombiepoc. On the other hand, I really wanted to see him realize how wrong he was, and was glad when Andrea turned out to be right. In the end, the whole endeavor served to fully illustrate how, despite what they've achieved in Woodbury in terms of relative safety, the Governor and his peers still haven't quite grasped exactly what this new world is like. 

Rick taking away Michonne's sword and locking her up (briefly) seemed like a reasonable response to the sudden appearance of an unknown person, even one carrying baby formula. Squeezing her wound to get answers faster was far more troubling.

Glen is awesome. That is all.

On a show that's struggled in the past with its portrayal of women, I really wanted Maggie to not be the one to break. That said, words can't express how grateful I am that the Governor only threatened her with rape, and didn't actually take it that far. As presented, the scene was intense and terribly difficult to watch (in a "can't turn away" kind of way); had the Governor actually followed through on his threat, the whole thing would crossed into the realm of the exploitative and pointlessy-crass.

It's a little more understandable given the small amount of time that's passed and the fact that Michonne is naturally laconic, but I kinda want to call shenanigans on the fact that she never mentioned Merle or Andrea to Rick and company. "They were captured by this psychopath named Merle" seems like a pretty natural thing to say at some point.

The scene in which everyone reunited with Carol was excellent. Another rare moment of "win" for the characters, one I suspect everyone (the characters and the audience) needed heading into the finale.

The scene between Rick and Carl was also quite good, and we finally got a real name for Asskicker. Judith is, perhaps, a bit random (unless we find out Carl had some deep connection with his third grade teacher), but I can understand his desire to not want his sister to share her name with someone he's lost, and is a nice way to connect her with the world of the past, a world she'll never know.

I also like how both Michonne and the Governor are so impressed by what Rick and the group has accomplished in clearing out the prison, something Merle, even with all the Governor's resources, believed impossible. It helps underline just how effective they've become as a group, and makes it more believable that they could take on the Governor and survive (even though I don't expect much in the way of victory in that regard). 

Words can't express how much I want to see Merle and the Governor get their comeuppance, especially after the Glen and Maggie scenes in this episode, but I have the sinking sensation it won't be for awhile yet, it ever. I'm not predicting good things for Rick and company in the fall finale (I could see them maybe successfully rescue Glen and Maggie, but only because the Governor leads a chunk of his people to the prison and ends up taking it over and capturing everyone Rick left behind).

7 comments:

  1. I agree all in all a good episode. I am eagerly awaiting the mid season finale next week. Also what kind of a TV landscape do we live in where that is a thing now?

    Regarding Maggie and her encounter with the governor, last week when her and Glenn got taken back to Woodbury I was terrified for her because I know what happens to the person that they end up taking in the comics. Without getting too graphic lets just say that the show held back quite a bit. It is one of the scenes that the governor was involved in that I was wondering just how far they would take it. The other will probably be coming up if they go that route. People who have read the comic will know exactly what I am referring to.

    Do you watch the Talking Dead afterwards? I thought that this week was a pretty good one. The girl who plays Shirley on Community whose name I am to lazy to look up mentioned that it was interesting how in a show that has been as disturbing as this one has on so many levels takes a scene like Maggie's to really creep people out and get them uncomfortable.

    Is it just me or does the governor seem to have more up his sleeve than he has been letting on? I know it's pretty obvious that he is nuts and he is most likely doing the research to try and cure his daughter but it seems like there is something else he is plotting. The way he talked about going out to the jail had something to it like he was interested in more than it's resources. I have just gotten a weird vibe off of him that seems to be more than just his obvious craziness. It might be me just reading into it too much though. Either way the actor is doing an amazing job with his portrayal.

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  2. Yeah it was a good episode. I can only hope the rest of this season, and the seasons following, will continue on in this vein.

    I love Carl now. I totally believed that he could take care of the group at the prison, and be their leader, even though he's, like, 12.

    We were also pissed that Maggie broke. I started off the episode more or less stating "Don't you fricking tell them anything, Maggie" and then she did, and all it really took was a gun pointed at Glenn. I mean, come on, they're going to kill you as soon as they get what they want. Also, just fucking lie. Instead of blurting out "prison" blurt out "walmart" and then say you have "23" people. How would they know until they go verify what you said?
    And girl, when a man is threatening to rape you, don't stand their covering your boobs. It just shows him you're afraid.

    And yeah, we were irritated that Michonne didn't mention Merle or Andrea. She has to know this is the group Andrea came from, because Andrea said Michonne knew everything about her, and yet she didn't say antyhing, which is stupid and just jeopardizes the whole rescue attempt.

    I really want the Govenor to die soon. I want him dead more than Merle, because Merle is what he is. The Govenor needs to be taken down a peg or all of them.

    And Andrea is still blah and boring.

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  3. oh, i also wanted to say that i am also very worried about Rick's group, and i'll actually be pretty pissed if anyone else dies, because i'm so tired of good guys dying this season. Let's have a bit of break from it, before it become tedious and loses all impact

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  4. @Phantomas: Also what kind of a TV landscape do we live in where that is a thing now?

    One in which the traditional network model is being upended, but still has enough pull to keep things from making sense (and where network execs have realized they can advertise the hell out of a midseason finale, whereas for awhile there, they just happened with little fanfare).

    By which I mean, I'm fine with the idea that serialized shows need a set broadcasting schedule, and you can't just toss 22 new episodes randomly into 40 odd weeks of programming and expect to keep an audience these days, but shows and networks need to let go of the past even more and just air all their episodes in one run, like 24 eventually learned how to do and how the premium channels do it, instead of sticking to the outdated Fall/Spring model that has us watching half a season of a show in one year and half in another.

    Rant over...

    The girl who plays Shirley on Community whose name I am to lazy to look up mentioned that it was interesting how in a show that has been as disturbing as this one has on so many levels takes a scene like Maggie's to really creep people out and get them uncomfortable.

    Yvette Nicole Brown (I follow her on Twitter), and she's right. I think it's case of the evil we know (rape) vs. the evil imagined (zombies), no matter how well executed the imagined evil is.

    Is it just me or does the governor seem to have more up his sleeve than he has been letting on?

    I've definitely been getting that vibe. Even with Andrea, I felt like he was insistent that she stay for some reason, whereas he cared less about Michonne. Obviously, now it seems like he just wanted to bone her, but that still feels like less of a reason than his manipulation of Andrea warranted, if that makes sense.

    Sadly, it's probably just us reading too much into it, though.

    @Sarah: I love Carl now.

    Right? That might be the best, fastest rehabilitation of an annoying TV character in history.

    Also, just fucking lie. Instead of blurting out "prison" blurt out "walmart" and then say you have "23" people. How would they know until they go verify what you said?

    Exactly! Princess Leia knew that (not that it worked out for Alderaan, but it was boned anyway). It buys you time while they check it out, and even if they find out you're lying, what are they going to do? Kill you more for it?

    The Govenor needs to be taken down a peg or all of them.

    Seriously. I want him to get some comeuppance SO BAD.

    Let's have a bit of break from it, before it become tedious and loses all impact

    Agreed. The last thing I want is for this to be a show where you just watch to see who dies next, and it was dangerously close to slipping in that direction for awhile there. I hope it can continue to pull out of that dive.

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  5. Your writeup deserves a lot more by way of comment than me simply agreeing with what you said, but you said it so well, time is tight, and I do agree with just about every point you raised.

    To be specific for example: Glen, Milton's test, WTF cabin guy, how the story isn't about WTF cabin guy, how far the Governor took things, not wanting Maggie to break but understanding it, Michonne not so much as mentioning Andrea purely for plot suspense, and most especially how great it was that the Woodbury PTB were so impressed that Rick's group had cleared the prison.

    My one bit to add is that not only was it nice to see the group welcome Carol back in such a heartfelt way, it was smart for the show to let us see Michonne watch that. It really felt like a comparison was being drawn, unspoken, between how the Stepford veneer of Woodbury is so patently creepy, a dark underbelly lurking beneath its tightly wound civilization, and how Rick's group is in a way that I'm sure Michonne understands doing everything that it can to survive in a much more roughshod fashion but with genuine bonding and humanity at the core.

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  6. @Phantomas: Also what kind of a TV landscape do we live in where that is a thing now?

    Ha! I made a similar remark in a comment on Friday's Last Week in TV.

    @Sarah: Also, just fucking lie.

    Why do more characters who should know better not do that?

    Granted, I've never actually been under pressure in a situation like this, but still.

    @Teebore: I think it's case of the evil we know (rape) vs. the evil imagined (zombies), no matter how well executed the imagined evil is.

    You (and Ms. Brown and Sarah) are right. In a way it's the, or a, flip side of and/or corollary to the idea we've discussed of how a series — TV, comics, whatever — can take greater liberties with its own clearly fictional fantastic stuff (like Superman flying) but loses a smart audience much sooner if it doesn't get real-world stuff right when we know how it should work (like The Daily Planet operating the way a newspaper should or not).

    @Teebore: Even with Andrea, I felt like he was insistent that she stay for some reason, whereas he cared less about Michonne. Obviously, now it seems like he just wanted to bone her, but that still feels like less of a reason than his manipulation of Andrea warranted, if that makes sense.

    Definitely... I'm with you guys on the vibe that there are more shoes to drop, even beyond the science experiments and lying to the general public about the sorties and keeping his daughter around. I also think that it's not so much that he cared less about Michonne than that he knew he couldn't control her. Andrea is malleable enough to his charms and deception, at least as long as he genuinely shares just enough, that it's worth keeping her around to bone — be it just for fun or for, hell, repopulating the world in his image; Michonne would've been a fantastic asset if she weren't literally and metaphorically too much of risk to keep running off the reservation. I suspect that having someone who reads as pretty savvy and competent under the Governor's thumb goes across well in terms of perpetuating his mythology and general trust.

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  7. @Blam: It really felt like a comparison was being drawn, unspoken, between how the Stepford veneer of Woodbury is so patently creepy, a dark underbelly lurking beneath its tightly wound civilization, and how Rick's group is in a way that I'm sure Michonne understands doing everything that it can to survive in a much more roughshod fashion but with genuine bonding and humanity at the core.

    Well said. I obviously missed that, but now that you've pointed it out, I definitely think it was intentional.

    @Blam: Granted, I've never actually been under pressure in a situation like this, but still.

    That's probably the out I'd use, had I written this episode. That said (I'd say to myself), in this specific situation, it isn't like Maggie didn't have some time alone, under some pressure (she's a captive) but not a ton of immediate pressure (no one is directly harming or threatening yet) to realize that lying was her best option and to come up with a story that would be believable, so she didn't have to come up with on the spot when a gun is pointed at Glen's head.

    In a way it's the, or a, flip side of and/or corollary to the idea we've discussed of how a series ... can take greater liberties with its own clearly fictional fantastic stuff ... but loses a smart audience much sooner if it doesn't get real-world stuff right when we know how it should work

    Well said again.

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