The Walking Dead Review Archive

THE WALKING DEAD – EPISODE 1: PILOT (DIRECTORS CUT)

Reviewed by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun | Written and Directed by Frank Darabont

Based on the Robert Kirkman created comic, The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors led by police officer Rick Grimes in search of a safe place to live after a zombie apocalypse. And so it begins… Yes, one of the most eagerly awaited TV shows finally arrives in the UK. Was it worth the wait? Yes. Does the finished product justify the hype? Hell yes!

The Walking Dead starts as it means to go on with an awesome opening scene that sees Andrew Lincoln’s Officer Grimes blow away a zombie-child, for all intents and purposes laying down the ground rules for what is to follow. It’s almost like in that one scene Frank Darabont and co. are saying “Forget everything you know about television because you’ve never seen television like this before!” And they’d be right.

I’m not going to go into detail about the plot in this review because I don’t want to spoil the episode for those like me that haven’t read the comic (yes, I ashamed to admit that it’s one comic I have never had the pleasure of reading), but suffice to say this first episode marks the series as the premiere show on television today… There I’ve said it. The Walking Dead is THE best show on TV. Period.

But why is The Walking Dead so good? There’s only one answer for that. Frank Darabont. Episode one is both written and directed by Darabont, and you can tell. There have been many big-name movie directors who’ve turned their hand to directing television in the past, but on those occasions it has always seemed like their vision has been compromised for television – both in scale, scope and budget. But not here. Here Frank Darabont has made a pilot episode that has all the hallmarks of his critically acclaimed movies – there’s an epicness to every shot, and Darabont makes some bold directorial choices, especially considering this is television, with a number of overhead crane shots that wouldn’t look out of place in the grandest of Hollywood blockbusters. That’s what’s key to why The Walking Dead for me is now the best show on television – there’s has been NO COMPROMISE in bringing this comic to the television, well none that shows on the screen at least.

But it’s not all down to Darabont – yes he wrote the teleplay and yes he directs it like a Hollywood movie, but there’s also a GREAT cast at work in this episode. I’ll freely admit I have never been a fan of Andrew Lincoln. Well until now that is. I don’t know what happened to Lincoln between the last time I saw him (in the ITV series Afterlife) and here, but his performance literally blew me away. From the moment his character awakes from his coma that has seen him sleep through the zombie apocalypse, to the final scene on the streets of Atlanta, Lincoln’s performance was truly mesmerising. But whilst the first episode is all about Lincoln’s Rick Grimes, there are two superb guest stars – fellow Brit actor Lennie James as Morgan Jones and Adrian Kali Turner as his son Duane. Their brief appearance – bringing Grimes’ up to speed on what has happened while he’s been ‘asleep’ – has an incredibly touching emotion core that I won’t spoil here, but lets just say James matches Lincoln beat for beat and brings the same sort of gravitas to this role as he has done to many of his other television appearances.

Seriously, I could go on and on and on about the cast, the direction and the awesomeness of the show overall, but that would make for a ridiculously long review, however… I can’t finish this review without mentioning the superb score by Bear McCreary. Like everything else about this extended “Directors Cut” pilot episode of The Walking Dead, McCreary’s score is spot on – a balance of extended periods of silence, eerie dramatics,and a understated grandiosity that matches Darabont’s epic direction perfectly. As for the closing music – Wang Chung’s “Space Junk” – well that’s just sublime.

For me, watching The Walking Dead really does feel like watching something special. This truly is event television.

THE WALKING DEAD – EPISODE 1+2 (COMIC COMPARISON)

Reviewed by Andrew James

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun | Episode 1 – Written and Directed by Frank Darabont, Episode 2 – Written by Frank Darabont | Directed by Michelle MacLaren

This is less of a review and more of a comparison between The Walking Dead comic book and television show, I say television show, but like Phil I consider the directors cut of episode one more of a short film.

Episode 1 covers the first issue of the comic book series, but with a lot more back-story and an expanded story, both of these things, in my eyes, make the show superior to the comic. For example, the scene where Rick is shot is only 1 page of 6 panels in the comic, a very short scene, the next panel is of Rick waking up in the hospital, and by page 7 he is being attacked by his first zombie. This is probably due to the fact that a new comic book, especially one in black and white, has to make a big splash and gain an audience VERY fast to survive in today’s market place. Darabont has been able to expand these key moments, ramping up the tension and giving the audience delayed gratification.

Now we are introduced to Ricks partner Shane, Rick discusses with him his marriage problems and they share a few laughs, then a call comes in to stop a car full of criminals and they’re all business. Darabont turns 6 panels into a
brilliant introduction, not only for Rick and Shane, but also for a future zombie. Seeds are planted that help explain a developing love triangle, Lori thinks Rick is closed off and feels unloved, whereas in the comic Lori describes her and Rick’s relationship as perfect. This works with the later development of Lori’s affair, from the one night stand with an obsessive Shane in the comics, to the passionate relationship shown on the screen.

Darabont really ramps up the worry the viewer feels for Rick by keeping him in his hospital gown until he meets with Morgan and son Duane, the environment really shows signs of civilisation’s struggle to survive, it looks like a war has been fought against the undead horde with military helicopters parked on the tarmac, bodies piled high in the back of trucks, belongings litter the pavement, and buildings are blackened by fire. When watching you get a real sense of the chaos that unfolded while Rick was in his coma.

The main touch points in the comic are there in the first episode, Ricks horseback entry to Atlanta, his being saved by Glenn, Carl’s Science Dog T-shirt, but they are expanded upon (with the exception of the Science Dog T-shirt I’m afraid) or changed slightly. Some plot points are introduced earlier than in the comic and we are introduced Lori, Carl, Andrea, Dale and the other survivors a bit earlier. New characters, exclusive to the TV show, are also introduced, including the dislikable Merle Dixon, played by the excellent Michael Rooker; I get the feeling that a lot of these new characters are future zombie food. You can already see by Episode 2 that the TV show and comic book will be separate entities.

I can’t wait to see more of The Walking Dead, and I’m gutted that the first season in only 6 episodes. The first episode had me flashing back to playing Left 4 Dead on the 360, specifically the abandoned hospital from the “No Mercy” campaign and the car alarms attracting the zombie horde, a nice touch not included in the comics. One scene that did have me chuckling for the wrong reason, is when Rick, played by British actor Andrew Lincoln, pedals a bike to his house – a scene common to fans of Lincoln’s previous British series Teachers.

THE WALKING DEAD – EPISODE 2: GUTS

Reviewed by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun | Written by Frank Darabont | Directed by Michelle MacLaren

This second episode of The Walking Dead sees the introduction of the rag tag bunch of survivors whom Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes will eventually lead in search of a safe place to live after the zombie apocalypse. It also sees some major deviation from the original comic upon which the series is based – namely the introduction of Michael Rooker’s character, the dislikable Merle Dixon, and the earlier-than-in-the-comics introduction of some of the survivors, including Lori, Carl, Andrea, and Dale. Episode two is also heavily influenced by George Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead (as was the comic), with our group of survivors holed up in a department store.

Taking off immediately from the end of the first episode, Guts sees Rick helped out of his tank situation by the series’ comedy relief Glenn. But it’s a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, as Rick must contend with zombies on the attack from the outside and the racist, bigoted Merle Dixon on the attack from the inside! Of the newly-introduced cast it’s Michael Rooker as Dixon and Steven Yuen as Glenn who really stand out, each character at opposite ends of humanities spectrum – Glenn is the friendly everyman who uses humour to stave off the god-awful situation he’s in; whilst Dixon is the type of character who revels in it, seeking to use the situation for his advantage. The addition of Merle Dixon to the Walking Dead universe adds a very human villain to the proceedings – unlike zombies, Dixon is a very unpredictable “monster” and one that brings an added air of danger for our group of survivors.

This episode of The Walking Dead carries its heart on its sleeve with a title as explicit as Guts, and it doesn’t let viewers down, there are guts-a-plenty throughout this episode, especially in the ripped-from-the-comic scene (pictured above) in which Glenn and Rick have to disguise themselves as zombies to pass through the zombie horde to get their hands on a truck to rescue the rest of the survivors – its gross, funny and warped and utterly, utterly superb!

So after the explosive first episode, does the second episode of The Walking Dead live up to the hype? Dumb question – of course it does! Guts is another great episode in what for me is THE premiere horror series on television.

THE WALKING DEAD – EPISODE 3: TELL IT TO THE FROGS

Reviewed by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun | Written by Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee, Jack LoGuidice | Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton

As with episode two, this episode of The Walking Dead immediately follows on from the end of the previous as Rick and the gang drive out of Atlanta and to the survivors camp along with Glenn in his noisier than all hell sports car. From here on in, episode three slows things down – at least for the first half of the episode – as Rick finally meets up with the rest of the survivors, including his wife and son, as his best friend and former partner Shane, who just happens to have been having a post zombie-apocalypse affair with Rick’s wife Lori. The first meeting of Rick and his family is a really touching moment and is most definitely the highlight of the series so far – and that’s despite my love of gore!

Tell It To The Frogs then spends it time establishing what life is like at the survivors camp, introducing us the to key characters in the series, before taking a cue from the comic and heading back to Atlanta as Rick and a group of survivors try to rescue the despicable Merle Dixon, who they left on a rooftop in the last episode, and grab the bag of weapons that Rick lost in his pre-tank scuffle with the zombie horde in episode one – which is the closest this episode comes to the original comic (they headed back to Atlanta to a gun shop in the comic).

Episode three also sees the introduction of Merle Dixon’s brother, who is the driving force behind the return to Atlanta and like Merle he’s not the most pleasant of characters, although he’s a damn sight more likeable thanks to the excellent performance of Norman Reedus – even if he isn’t really supposed to be…

It seems that by the third episode of The Walking Dead the TV version is both headed in a different direction and delibrately much more slower paced than the comic book source. Tell It To The Frogs seems to be the series’ low-point, the slow pace actually works against the narrative – with a lot of time spent ponitificating and contemplating rather than doing which, compared to the first two episodes, is a little disappointing, especially considering the series only has a 6 episode order. If the series continues at this slow a pace then I can see a lot of frustrated viewers, myself included!

THE WALKING DEAD – EPISODE 4: VATOS

Reviewed by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun | Written by Robert Kirkman | Directed by Johan Renck

Well we’re past the halfway mark of the first season and it’s time for Robert Kirkman, aka the creator of The Walking Dead, to step forward with an episode from his very hand and one the features the least material taken from the original source comic – with this episode it’s almost as if the series is saying “yes, this may be The Walking Dead, but its not The Walking Dead you’re used to.”

It looks like my fears about the series’ slow pace following episode three were unfounded -Vatos picks up the pace nicely, continuing on from Tell It To The Frogs, with our hero Rick (along with his small cadre of survivors) still in Atlanta trying to get a hold of the bag of guns he left behind in the very first episode, only with a slight complication… another group of survivors!

Vatos, like the previous episode, spends a fair amount of time on character development, but unlike the previous episode it’s not at the expense of the action and the pacing – showing just how much of a handle Kirkman has on the universe he created, striking a perfect balance between story, character and action in much the same way as the comic. And whilst Vatos does have a lot in common with the original comic in the aforementioned terms, where is does differ – wildly I may add – is in the introduction of the second group of survivors in Atlanta. It’s an interesting idea, and one that may pay off way down the line in this television iteration – but for now, in this episode, the new characters and the situation that leads from their introduction is certainly used to great effect, showing us just the type of leader Rick Grimes is, and will be.

And as our cadre of heroes deal with the situation in Atlanta there’s another situation building back at base camp as tensions, insecurities and instabilities come to the fore and the survivors begin to crack emotionally and mentally – and as the series goes on I can only see this coming to the fore even more, really giving the television iteration of The Walking Dead an emotional human core.

Whilst the story in this episode does divert from the comic for the most part, it doesn’t take long for it to come back to the source material for a shocking and suitably gory denouement that leaves our core group of survivors reeling… Suffice to say that, like all good horror, in The Walking Dead no one is safe!

THE WALKING DEAD – 2×01: WHAT LIES AHEAD

Reviewed by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Ardeth Bey (aka Frank Darabont) | Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton

The first hour-long (without advertisements) episode of the new season opens with Lincoln’s Rick Grimes lamenting on what had happened at the end of last season and what lies ahead for the band of survivors as they journey from Atlanta and the unhelpful CDC to Fort Benning. It’s a pretty cool way to bring people up to speed on what they may have missed and remind fans what happened previously.

No sooner have the gang got on the road to Fort Benning than they face an epic battle with an army of “walkers” and for the first twenty-odd minutes of this episode there is no let up, in either action or tension – it’s kind of exhausting to watch. One thing that did grab my attention during all the zombie action is that this season the effects from the guys at KNB look even more gruesome, with some superbly grisly zombie make-up. And of course by now our heroes know that only damage to the brain will do anything to stop a zombie – so you know what that means, head explosions and eye gouging a-plenty!

Like the first season, once the action slows we’re back to the character-based machinations and a focus on the tense relationships between the survivors including the shows core Rick/Lori/Shane love triangle. This episode also sees some rather good interplay between Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus – the shows two very different, yet eerily similar alpha males – as they search for a missing member of their posse. It also deals with the fallout of what happened last season with a much more sombre tone to proceedings and a real over-arcing feeling of despair running throughout. Which isn’t helped by the episodes final scene…

Compared to the opening episode of the first season, What Lies Ahead looks and feels less grand, and more like a regular weekly episode than a season premiere – and maybe that’s a good thing? Once The Walking Dead hits syndication in the US and the episodes are shown back to back, it should really feel like one long televisual epic.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×01 – SEED

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Glen Mazzara | Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson

A common complaint of season two of The Walking Dead, was that it was just too damn slow. People grew agitatingly frustrated with the search for Sophia and Shane’s increasing sociopathic behavior. Personally, I enjoyed the “country pacing.” I love a good slow burn. But, The Walking Dead was a show finding itself, especially given it was the first full season at 13 episodes. Not to mention, there was a changing of the guards from intial series developer Frank Darabont onto new christened showrunner Glen Mazzara. It seems like it a very monumental deck stacked against it, no? And yet, in the last half of the season, it came back a revved up monster. All the slow pacing was burning hot and burning fast. It ended on an uncertain note, with Rick taking leadership of the survivors after the massacre at Hershel’s farm. He was in a shakier place than ever after killing his longtime friend, Shane and losing most of the people he was trying in vain to protect. But, for the fans of the graphic novel, it also showed that it was heading back to the modus operandi of adaptation. With the introduction of Michonne, the sword wielding zombie killer and a brief glimpse of Woodbury Prison, it got the palates of many, many fans drooling.

My biggest complaint of the premiere, and it’s a very small one, is that we begin the season after an undetermined amount of time. Obviously, it’s been quite some time since Lori’s pregnancy has advanced drastically. I like that the group has obviously flourished under Rick’s leadership. They’re tactical and effiecent in killing zombies. They use silencers on their pistols. Even Carl is taking out walkers left and right. That wordless cold open to the episode where they all clear out the farmhouse, tells everything about the group’s growing stress. You can feel the sweat beading off of Andrew Lincoln’s forehead. And it never gets old to me, that you can slowly hear the main title music creeping into the foreground. Also, they’ve changed the title sequence with iconic images from season two, so it gives you that sense of remembering the journey.

The great setpiece of the group destroying all the walkers in the prison yard was great. It was an amazingly shot setpiece by Ernest Dickerson, and shows that all the characters who seemingly get the short shrift when it comes to characterization have suddenly gotten a fair shake of it. This is especially true during the campfire scene that happens later in the episode when they all sit around and ponder their next steps. the script starts to give them shading and depth that they never got during the prolonged stay at Hershel’s farm. I love the nice beat between Carol and Daryl. It was quiet and tender. Another nice, quiet moment was with Hershel’s daughters singing, “Parting Glass,” by the campfire. And Lori has been toned down from her almost Gemma-esque heights in season two. When she casually suggests that Rick rest and relax, it’s gentle coaxing and not at all bracing, because Rick is definitely the frayed nerve of the group.

Another character who unfortunately gets the short shrift is fan favorite Michonne. She was last seen saving Andrea from an onslaught of walkers. They’ve clearly established a rapport over the time we last saw them and Michonne is even playing mother bird to Andrea who has a cold or other undetermined illness. Michonne is quite the effective badass and will be a fan favorite of the show and the make-up on her zombie “pets” is quite nice. I hope they dial Andrea back because last season she became a grating character. They only give Michonne in sporadic bits now but as the season goes on she’ll be full fledged and front and center.

Let’s talk about that prison. Yes, it’s obviously just a couple of redressed sets in regards to that cellblock but damn, that exterior is impressive for a cable budget. I like that they’ve started to differentiate the zombies, like the heavily armored ones they encounter in the prison. I also enjoy that they’ve started using hand to hand combat rather than just an unending amount of ammunition. It’s easy to see that Woodbury Prison could be a safe haven for the wary travelers. Rick sums it up. Shelter, food, ammunition and a place for Lori to give birth. It’s all too good and you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when it does, poor Hershel gets the short shrift of things. He gets bitten on the leg and my thought process equals Rick’s in the long run. Go for the leg! It’s great when you and the characters have the same mindset. It gives it that sense of realism and reminds me of George A. Romero’s ”Day of the Dead.” And if things couldn’t be made any worse, they encounter prisoners still inside the prison. And as I have read the comics, I know that the prisoners can mean bad news. If they follow the path laid out by Kirkman that is.

They’ve also upped the gore ante in the premiere, and it’s especially nice that’s it’s practical effects by longtime greats Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. There were some gross out gags in the premiere, especially with the zombies face getting peeled off and with Hershel’s leg getting chopped off. It’s crazy to see that on a show that is watched by millions particularly with Hershel’s amputation. It’s a damn gruesome scene made all the more effective by Andrew Lincoln and Scott Wilson demanding performances.

What does this mean for Rick and the gang? Will they survive this new and very human encounter? Will Hershel survive at all? It was a great premiere and I appreciate the new world order that Glen Mazzara brings as he settles into his first full season as showrunner. I’m very excited to see what happens next but they upped the stakes majorly.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×02 – SICK

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Nichole Beattie | Directed by Bill Gierhart

If there’s one thing that you can take away from the world of The Walking Dead, it’s that the world doesn’t care if you’re a nice guy or a bad guy or a kindly old doctor. It will chew you up and spit you out. And so, you find yourself with two choices, fight or flight. But, what if that wasn’t a possibility? Hell, what if that wasn’t even an iota of a possibility? Do you roll over and take it lying down? No. You push back and that’s what our scrappy band of heroes have to find themselves doing at the outset of this week’s episode,”Sick.” And as we learned at the end of the episode, Rick is more than willing to protect his own from dangers, living and dead. I’m very interested to see how they begin to handle Rick’s slide into madness because he seemed to be headed that way on a one-way train and Andrew Lincoln continues to impress very well.

Rick’s behavior towards the seemingly hostile prisoners whom were left over from way back when the outbreak began, was more than apt. It reminded me of the behavior of the characters in Dawn of the Dead. This is our sanctuary and why would you want to trust the people who were locked up for being violent psychopaths? And even when Rick makes a deal with the prisoners, food and sanctuary, and all they’ve got to do is stay out of each others way, the criminals don’t find that too good a deal. Rick, Daryl and T-Dogg even try in vain to teach them about this new enemy and how to stop them. Of course, these men are newly initiated to the whole new world order. After all, dead ain’t dead, anymore.

It was fairly easy to see that things would escalate very quickly when one of the prisoners, Tiny gets bitten and he gets ruthlessly cut down by one of his own. And when that same fellow tosses a zombie at Rick during a battle to get the men during the cellblock, and responds, “shit happens,” there’s where it sets in. Doesn’t that sum it up quite well? You know what I didn’t expect? Rick to bury the machete into the prisoners head. That shocked me quite well. I also didn’t expect him to chase another one of the prisoners out into the yard and leave him to be ripped apart by zombies. Rick’s development as a character is what keeps fueling my fire in this show. I mean, he killed his friend and is collapsing mentally from the outright stress of the situation. It’s more than understandable given the circumstances. I just hope that Rick leaving the two prisoners alone in the cellblock won’t be something that comes back to bite him or anyone else in the ass in the long run. It could turn sinister very quickly, because no one knows anyone’s motivations, good or bad.

I loved all of the stuff with Hershel being bedridden after he lost his foot in the last episode. It hit all the right dramatic notes and allowed for the story to take a breather when mixed in with all the prisoner stuff. I love that Carol is being given something to do since even when Sophia was missing, she didn’t have anything to do but fret and complain about no one searching for her daughter. Here, she’s the backup for Hershel, and the scenes of her training to perform a cesarean section on a zombie showed that the show is taking it from a realistic approach this time around. Hershel’s daughters weren’t given too much to do but worry and fret but really, is there anything else that they should be doing? The only time I rolled my eyes is when Lori chastises Carl for going off alone and subsquently finding medical supplies. I mean, if he shows to be fully capable of handiling himself, why chew him out? It didn’t make sense to me.

Sadly, there was no appearance from Michonne or Andrea and honestly, her appearance in the premiere amounted to a brief cameo. Let’s hope that next week, we’ll get a proper introduction. All in all, I really enjoyed this week’s episode. It felt liked it was paced faster, even as it clung to one location for the whole episode and did a fine job of keeping you emotionally invested.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×03 – WALK WITH ME

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Evan T. Reilly | Directed by Guy Ferland

When The Walking Dead premiered, there were some comparisons to the ultimate fan favorite series, Lost. It’s very easy to see where those comparisons could arise from but for the most part of the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, they eskewed a fractured narrative for more straightforward storytelling. But once, Glen Mazzara got his hooks into the meat and bones of the series, he must’ve decided that he wanted to try something different, and that’s the course of order for ‘Walk With Me.’ I like this form of storytelling because it allows for the story proper to take a breather and not stretch it out for an unbelivable amount of time ala the Hershel’s farm arc. It also allows for other stories to come into the foreground so that we can meet new and interesting characters and reintrouduce old ones as well.

This week, we were properly allowed time to visit with Michonne and Andrea, and we actually hear Michonne’s name rather than just knowing it previously based on the graphic novel. They were only briefly introduced in the season premiere and were never heard from again. We get a little bit better of an idea of what they got up to for those seven months apart from the rest of the gang, even if we still don’t know all of the details exactly. We really don’t get the full picture of their relationship but I like how they’ve formed Andrea’s character. She’s not as annoying as she was angling to be during season two. She has a quieter pace to her and frankly, it’s for the best. I also enjoyed how reticent they made Michonne. She’s not one to open up frequently and chime in with the conversation. I like a character written like that and Danai Gurira plays it well.

The terrifying cold open of the helicopter crashing leads into a quiet introduction of one of the most legendary characters known to readers of The Walking Dead. The Governor. David Morrisey plays the role rather well. You aren’t sure if he’s good or bad, and playing the character in that particular shade of gray allows for a character to make viewers uneasy. At first, we don’t know what to make of him. He’s genial and offers up freedom in his little slice of happiness, Woodbury. It’s a nice, quiet town, with an almost ‘Arcadia’ feel to it. However, when The Governor kills the soldiers at the meeting point, he’s dropped into the black just as quick. I’m not sure what to make of him, especially when faced with his terrifying wall of zombie heads. What kind of man is he? I’m glad that they’ve decided to explore this character, because as the old zombie movie adage goes, the zombies aren’t the monsters, we are. And man, we are introduced to a pretty scary bad guy right now.

I also need to mention that I haven’t read any of the comics past the prison arc, and frankly I’m a little dusty at that, so I don’t know too much of The Governor’s shenanigans or what he’s aiming to do, but right now, it doesn’t seem good. They keep him ambiguous, and you don’t know what to make of him. Hell, we don’t even know his name. I did like his scene with Andrea at the end but it still keeps him guarded all the same.

We were also reintroduced to our old racist friend, Merle. He seems to have adapted to the zombie world quite well, and is even sporting an “Evil Dead” – esque weapon for his amputated limb. Merle seems to have lightened up a bit, but they’ve still kept him retaining his edge. It’s not going to end pretty if he sees Rick Grimes again, but again they keep the lines blurred. I honestly don’t know what they’ll do from here. He’s working for The Governor in some unknown capacity but he’s working with a scientist, who seems to be studying the bodies for some purpose. It reminded me of Day of the Dead actually. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end quite that way.

We didn’t see any of Rick Grimes and his prison gang, but that’s fine. The show isn’t as insular, it’s an open world. We see all the characters pass through it and it’s very exciting to see just what happens when the two separate groups finally link up. And keeping that Lost thread, it didn’t end good. It was very violent. And really, isn’t that all we ask for? Glen Mazzara and his writers are three for three at this point and if they keep up this tradition, they’ll be looking at a damn fine season of television.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×04 – KILLER WITHIN

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Sang Kyu Kim | Directed by Guy Ferland

Death has been hunting our fair travelers since the show began, quite literally. The reek of death surrounds them every single day and they were road wary as the season began. They found the prison, and behind those walls, they found sanctuary. Or so it seems, I guess. The irony that they’re not as safe trapped behind walls as they are on the road, with no walls, is downright troubling. But, tired and beaten has done things to them. They’ve been torn down and fought to stay strong. The prison represented something, it represented hope. But, right from the get-go, things started falling apart. And now, things are beaten and broken far beyind repair.

The episode fractured the narrative unlike last week. I found the Woodbury stuff a little weaker than last week, simply because we now know that The Governor is clearly a character not to be trusted. I mean, we know not to trust him, but to Andrea; she sees something in him. What that is, we certainly don’t know yet. But, we get a charming figure, whom clearly has something up his sleeve. It’s easy to fall under his sway, and he and Andrea get a quiet moment together. It’s Michonne, who acts suspect towards him, and the problem with that is, she’s going to end up in a whole lot of trouble. Michonne wisely wants to move on, and Andrea wants to stay. I also don’t get why Andrea would tell Merle where the group is. Yes, he wants to find his brother sure, but he also wants to kill Rick or the others. It’s just not a smart move, like staying in Woodbury. Something still stinks there.

The real narrative crux of the episode, lies physically and emotionally, with our group in the prison. It was quite the pulled twist that Andrew, the prisoner left for dead in the yard was the culprit behind unlocking the gates and turning the zombies on Rick’s gang. It turned into a damn bloodbath. It was quite the terrifying setpiece with Rick and company fighting the walkers inside the prison yard. It’s actually kind of upsetting that they cut back and forth between the two storylines, because it’s like working up to a slow boil and then removing it from the burner. It would’ve been easy for Hershel to be the easy death, but nope, he proved to be quite the nimble fighter. Yes, T-Dawg was always a background foot soldier for most of the scenes, but at least he got a nice fight to the death, saving Carol’s life, or so we seem to think. I like Carol’s evolution and hopefully she didn’t meet an unseen death. It’s nice that the prisoner, I’m not sure they gave him a name, saved Rick’s life. I wasn’t certain he was going to kill Rick, but hey you never known.

Look, it’s sad that Rick was the intial reason why all of this happened. He was so driven to secure the prison at any risk whatsoever. And look what it got him. Death. Lots of death. It was atypical that all the undue stress would cause Lori to go into labor, the thing I didn’t expect? Lori to die during labor. Now, that was unexpected. It was even more hurtful that Carl had to shoot her. Or at least so we’re led to believe. It’s a dark point for Carl. He’s a kid thrust into adulthood without the courtesy of having a childhood. He killed Shane, and now whatever will become of his mother. That final scene, with Rick in the yard, seeing the baby and his son distraught hurt like hell. Man, I haven’t shed tears since the series premiere but whew, that killed me. Andrew Lincoln has been turning out a stellar performance all season thus far, but his reaction to the birth of the baby, and Lori’s death was outstanding. I was left speechless.

We’re four episodes in, and only three with the prison gang and we’re already mourning losses left and right. After this episode, things are broken down, up and around. It’s a powerful episode, shoehorned around some awkward scenes getting to know our fair Governor. Still, the final moments were a stunner and definitely the watermark for the season thus far.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×05 – SAY THE WORD

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Angela Kang | Directed by Gregory Nicotero

Like last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, the narrative was fractured between the two camps. And like last week, it was a mixed bag. However, it was directed quite well by ace special effects artist Greg Nicotero. He handled the quiet scenes rather well, like the scene where Maggie and Daryl stalk through the abandoned day care in search of some well-needed formula to save the newborn thrust into this harsh world.  Not surprisingly, he also handled the plethora of gore scenes, and there are quite the lot in this episode. From Michonne slaying the captive biters in The Governor’s hideaway area, to Rick going full gonzo in the prison with just an axe and nothing to lose. It was at least paced and plotted a lot better versus the overall intensity of last week’s episode.

We’ll start with the Woodbury action. The Governor has some skeletons (zombies) in his closet. He’s keeping a small zombie girl and pampering her as the episode opens. He’s also got some sick idea of entertainment, as he collects zombies and has people fighting with the zombies as the ring for an arena type event. We know he has darkness and is clearly capable of doing very bad things, but as he isn’t as straight up evil, we still don’t much about him other than what small information we’ve been told. I’m glad the writers are treating him as a slow burn arc, because too much of him can be, well too much.

Michonne is a character shrouded in a vast amount of mystery. We know little to nothing about her, except that for eight months, she and Andrea were in the thick of it. However, her thinly veiled suspicion of The Governor was apparent from the get-go. She never for one second trusted whom The Governor was, or allowed herself to be taken in by the mystique of what Woodbury offers. Now, she knows something is suspect about The Governor, as do we. But, if you have suspicions about a man being dangerous, do you snoop around in top secret areas or in his private quarters? No, you don’t. It took the events of two and a half episodes for Michonne to abscond out into the world all alone. That’s crazy fast, even in the world of television. Her distrust of The Governor is almost played out on a highlight reel of suspicious glares.

Now, at least Andrea’s half of the story was easier to digest because as she said to Michonne, this is the dream, a scintillating oasis on the middle of a disgusting dead desert. At least, she finally started to get that Michonne was pretty astute in her paranoia at the end of the episode. It’s frustrating that they won’t speak to each other and just say what’s going on in their lives and why they need to move on. Andrea’s a stubborn character but this time, she’s actually in the right. Honestly, what did Michonne and Andrea talk about in those eight months? Definitely not trust. But, Andrea’s growing dread at realizing she’s made a huge mistake was well warranted.

Now, the prison stuff was not as active as last week, but still was handled fairly well. I wish they would’ve stayed with the story a little bit more because it was still more compelling. It picks up immeidiately where we left off last week. I liked that they made that decision because it gave us the sense of not having a breather. There were still quiet moments like Hershel and Glenn sharing a nice moment after he starting digging graves and burying more friends. They were at such odds when they first met, and to see them holding hands was touching. No pun intended.  My only gripe, did we even see Carol die, or did they even find a body? They have a grave, and Daryl places a cherokee rose on her grave, a callback to an earlier season two episode. If she’s dead, that would be a shame. They really started to fill that character out in a major way.

But, the real showstopper and the big buildup was everything involving Rick Grimes. Honestly, he’s the most compelling character on the show and the real shining example of how to translate the darkness of a written character to straight up flesh and blood. His arc in the last few episodes of season two, and in the beginning of season three has been stunning. He’s handled it all believably and beautifully frankly. Andrew Lincoln has perfected the thousand yard stare and his wordless performance was amazing, it was so animalistic. As he cut through the swath of zombies in the prison, a dwindling fear rose in my gut. When he reached the boiler room, and we didn’t see Lori’s corpse, it felt like a stone in my gut. We saw. or at least were led to believe that a roaming zombie had consumed Lori’s body.

But, the last moments of the episode is where we jump out of the plane sans parachute. Rick has decimated the zombies that we’ve been led to believe has eaten his estranged wife’s corpse. Then, almost jarringly, a phone begins ringing. This is the shocker. This is the big leap. Is this phone, this phantom phone meant to be an example of Rick’s growing insanity? Or is this something that’s here and real and in the now? We don’t hear the other end of the line, but it’s either good news, or … well, it can’t be good.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×06 – HOUNDED

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard | Directed by Daniel Attias

How do you handle stress?

Stress can be this growing, cancerous thing that eats at you and never lets go. It’s the monster in the closet, the thing under your bed. It’s easy to cope with it, maybe. You count down from ten, or smoke a cigarette. But, if you are really at the breaking point, you find other ways to cope. You let the thing that caused all problems manifest in you. You cause your own suffering, you force penance on yourself. This is the centerpiece of this week’s episode and another damn fine showcase for Andrew Lincoln.

If Andrew Lincoln doesn’t get an Emmy for this season, someone deserves to eat their shoe. Ever since Lori’s death, he has continually done amazing, subtle work showing Rick’s growing insanity. As a matter of fact, this whole episode was about coping with stress and just matter of factly, breaking down. The phone call that he received at the end of last week’s episode could’ve been the beacon for hope our group needed. And for a moment, it sure as hell seemed that way. But, as they causally started revealing more and more about their sanctuary, the curtains began drawing more and more. It really took a moment to see exactly what was happening here. It had been so long since I had heard Amy, Jim or Jacqui’s voices that I just plain didn’t remember what they sounded like. As a matter of fact, this season is a very big reminder of what the show was and how far it’s come since Frank Darabont was running the show.

But, seeing Rick collapse internally is a great deal of pathos and emotion for the show. The slow burn arc of his character has been one I’ve relished in and loved. Yes, it’s easy to think that all the killing of undead and living would be something to easily swallow when the world around you is collapsing all the same, but he’s human. He’s fallible all the same as we are. And he generally, stays out of the way of most of the others in the group, except for a nice moment with Hershel, who had some warm and fuzzy moments all on his own. But, seeing Rick break down on the phone with Lori at the end, saying all the things he always wanted to say to her, but never got the chance to do, was fantastic. And once Rick got cleaned up and dressed down, one hopes that he’s better inside and out. He is able to hopefully move on, holding Lori’s baby and feeling that warmth again. And with the appearance of Michonne at the end, here’s hoping that he feels salvation is right around the corner, because sometimes while the hits keep coming, sometimes they stop too.

Briefly, I wanted to discuss Daryl and Carl’s moments together because if it’s one thing they’ve done right, it’s change Daryl for the better. It’s a transition similar to Sawyer from Lost, and that was a damn major change. His story about his mother being burned up in her bed was a great monologue all on it’s own, and even more so, his feelings about losing Carol. I would’ve been pissed frankly, if they’d killed her off offscreen, but it wasn’t to be. She’s still there and kicking and that’s great because they’ve even been filling her character out just as much as anyone else. I’m just glad she’s back, because her subtle relationship with Daryl is a nice change of pace for the both of them.

I didn’t particularly enjoy how fast The Governor and Andrea fell into each other’s arms and into bed. Wasn’t it just last week that she was feeling slightly skeptical of The Governor’s zombie arena and now, she’s saying she liked it? She doesn’t even worry about Michonne for a moment, and just last week her longtime companion absconded from their most sacred of havens. With The Governor and Andrea hooking up,  it seemed too easy, too fast of them to rush the characters together in a way that didn’t feel natural at all. Yes, it was apparent from jump street, they were going to be getting together, but too soon for me. I will say that Laurie Holden and David Morrissey ooze charisma and it’s especially on show in their nice conversation in the garden. But, this only serves to show that the two of them getting together could cause strife down the road.

Another issue I had with the episode, partially speaking, is the subplot with Merle and Michonne. We just start off with them going after her, with no apparent precursor explaining why. I guess in sussing out the finer details of it, The Governor really doesn’t let anyone leave but, we aren’t really able to glean that information from the proceedings. We just move along with the story. I liked all of the bits of business with Merle and his ragged band of hunters on their quest to kill Michonne. Merle’s inability to pronounce the newbie hunter’s name was a good character beat, and when Merle shoots him and kills him, my heart did skip a beat. It allows for Merle to beat defined and not just the racist, blank slate we met back in season one. He’s been away for a very long time, and it would’ve been easy to keep him the way he was but, the writers have been molding him a little better. However, until he becomes less than the Governor’s hunting hound dog, he’ll still be confined character-wise. I hope they let him off the leash soon enough. Now, I had almost forgotten that Merle had known Glenn from their days stranded on the rooftop of that department store. With him kidnapping both Glenn and Maggie, this causes a kink in the plan and allows for a swapping of characters and plots. We don’t really get to see exactly what happens to them once they arrive in Woodbury, but I imagine that something bad will happen so very, very soon. And here’s to hoping that they don’t end up as heads-in-a-jar.

This plot doesn’t give us too much of character elements in the way of Michonne however, this continues to remain frustrating overall. We know nothing about her, but that she continues to be a really efficient killing machine, and has no qualms about killing the warm bodied people around her as well. This sub-plot is where the oodles of gore roll into the episode. The crimson flows as smoothly as her blade cuts down the swath of zombies and hunters after her. There was a nice callback to season one’s standout episode, ‘Guts,’ when Michonne was showered on the outside with insides of a walker and makes her way through all the zombies, without the hassle of the rain that plagued Rick and Glenn all those months ago. I liked that she managed to follow the yellow brick road paved with zombies, and brought the much needed baby formula to the prison at the episode’s end. It was a more defining moment for her than she’s really been given this season. Maybe the real secret of Michonne, is that she’s a passionate fighter but so very reticent to speak. Her not saving Glenn and Maggie while a frustrating moment, especially given her taking out of two armed men earlier, was better off in the end because what good would getting killed do for anyone. She could be a great character if they start to give her something more than just broad sketches.

Things are moving along quite nicely, the burners are getting turned up if you will. But, they still have some minor tweaking to do before they break for the winter. It’s a sixteen episode season, and if they’re cutting in half we should be stopping  in two more episodes. So, that means one thing to me, things are going to batshit crazy in just a short amount of time.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×07 – WHEN THE DEAD COME KNOCKING

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Frank Renzulli | Directed by Dan Sackheim

It seems that the screws are turning and turning as this mid-season approaches us. You can see the stormclouds gathering and all the pieces moving into place. Fortunately, the writers have made it so that everything this season thus far, hasn’t felt like a brutal slog compared to last season. Everything that occurs and is occuring is a result of controlled pacing and much more defined storytelling. It’s quite amazing really.

This week, things between Woodbury and the prison meshed a lot better than they have as of late. That’s to be expected because all of the prison action is centered around watching a damn fine actor give the performance straight from the depths of a broken psyche. Andrew Lincoln has excelled so far this season, it’s eerie. He was always one of the strongest actors on the series, and Lori’s untimely death has triggered something in the character that just crackles in the show. I was happy that Michonne uttered more than five words and allowed for even an iota of character that she hasn’t been given in the episodes she’s appeared in. Now, that’s not to say she’s a bad actress. After all, Danai Gurira gives good glower. The problem is, she’s an empty cipher. A character spoken of, but not spoken of. When they trespassed in the shack, and she killed the vagrant, it gave her a ruthlessness that she’s not shown as of yet. It felt a little eye-rolly when she was reticient when she landed on Rick’s doorstep, but look where she came from. At least by the episode’s end, she’d opened up in a way the show hasn’t let her.

There was several subdued moments throughout the episode that really reinforced the drama. First, there was the scene between Rick and Carl where they finally give the little baby a name that suits way better than Lil’ Asskicker. Carl remembering his schoolteacher and using her name for the baby was a damn fine and quiet moment in a episode full of gutwrenching suspense. I also particularly liked the scene where they also reintroduced Carol back into the team. Her evolution this season has been so astronomical that it was nice that they didn’t just give her the axe unseen from our eyes. It was odd though that she showed more emotion towards the newborn than she did all throughout season two when they had the massive hunt for Sophia. It’s just another reminder of where the show’s been and how far it’s come.

The Woodbury side of the episode is where things got cooking pretty damned quick. Merle really zipped into the episode with full gale force. He’s always been the unstable monster and he’s going off the deep end slowly and most certainly. His brute tactics when torturing Glenn shows exactly what kind of place this is, and is a big fat indicator of just why Michonne was right to cut bait and run. Merle is always a monsterous racist and he’s never more terrifying when he’s menacing Glenn, and ultimately siccing a zombie onto him. At least Glenn proves to be ever so resourceful in fighting off the zombie (manacled to a chair, no less!). Andrea’s story was a brief sojourn into just what the good doctor of Woodbury intends to do with the corpses. His ‘Day of the Dead’ esque experiments were pretty nifty even if it’s something that will take time to master the art of. It fits that Andrea would be the one to assist with this particular task. She did see her sister re-animate all those months ago. Sometimes, you get the short shrift on a story as big as this one is but, she was still saddled with a pretty nifty sub-plot nonetheless.

Now, what kind of man is The Governor? He seems gentile and very eager to please. However, like the famous Mayor Wilkins, underneath all the sunshine and Skittles lies darkness. During his interrogation of Maggie Greene, I felt a damned knot in my stomach that would not abate. It was a particularly stressful moment and one that prevented loss of breathing. Did I think he was going to rape Maggie? It was a big old possibility. They’ve kind of amped up The Governor from when we met him, but it’s very clear that he’s always been suppressing the darkness. And one thing is for damn sure, he isn’t happy that there are others out there living their lives without him having control over them. His xenophobia of these band of outlaws is going to lead to a big bloody confrontation. And when he asks Merle at the episode’s end, “Where do you stand?,” it comes as the loaded question it is. Same goes for Andrea. Each group doesn’t know the other is alive, and that my friends makes for some fun.

One episode to go. The penultimate episode to the mid-season finale is setting up some big fires. Let’s hope they don’t flame out, before the inferno gets it’s ravaging done. I’m interested to see where the remaining nine episodes will go, they’ve set this one up so that it could function as a finale proper. It’s very, very stunning work.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×08 – MADE TO SUFFER

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Robert Kirkman | Directed by Bill Gierhart

It’s all about ghosts, isn’t it?

Everybody in ‘Made to Suffer’ sees a ghost in some form or another. For instance, look at Daryl seeing the long lost brother he thought was dead on that rooftop in Atlanta. He’s seeing him face to face for the first time on the series, outside of dream sequences, that is. Or, Rick in the hazy shade of battle in the middle of Woodbury. In the fog of war, he sees Shane, the man he killed out of self-defense. He’s shaken off all the hallucinations that he was suffering from after the shock of losing Lori. But, his brief pause in battle causes another soldier to fall, this time it’s Oscar. And The Governor, the sick sad man. He’s been stowing his daughter away in a cage feeding her and treating her as if she were another living, breathing spirit and not the reanimated biter that he has quested after to rid his sanctuary of. He’s clinging on to her like a desperate man, and like all of the people running into their ghosts, whether physical or mental, it’s broken them by the end of it all.

There wasn’t too much going on at the prison this week, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t anything interesting at all to mention. it’s all about buildup and that’s something that this season’s been really good at handling. The script by Robert Kirkman did a great job of intermingling and interweaving all the strands of plot between the prison and the folks of Woodbury that season three has been setting up. Hell, they’ve even managed to introduce some new characters familiar to readers everywhere, Tyreese. He doesn’t get too much to do in the episode proper but they still give him more characterization than they ever afforded T-Dogg in two whole seasons. His group however, didn’t say too much, I’m not even aware of the group members’ names other than Tyreese. But, they end up at the prison and fortunately afforded sanctuary from newly minted badass Carl Grimes. the trajectory of Carl from youngling to gunslinger like his father is quite terrific. Carl even hears his own ghosts when he runs into the darkness to find Tyreese’s group. He stops by the boiler room and coupled with the woman’s cries, is reminded ever so slightly of his mother’s recent death. It’s a briefly quiet moment but one of definite note. As for the other prison stories, I felt rather skeevy when Axel attempted to hit on Hershel’s daughter, and he then called Carol out, matter of factly, on her sexual orientation. I love what they’ve done for Carol’s character and to see her strengthen up and give Axel whatfor in the end, was quite the triumph.

It was very easy to see that they were going to build up a massive confrontation between the group in the prison and the citizens of Woodbury. The show is very reminiscent of the late, great ‘Lost’ in that way. It was heart - and gutwrenching storytelling going down. It was absolutely expected that the collision of groups was to be a massively bloody battle on both fronts. Glenn still proves to be an appropriate badass when need be, as he shatters the corpse’s arm and utilizes the bones inside for weapons. It was so disgusting and so appropriate for the proceedings. And even seeing Maggie kill one of the guards shows that the group has been pushed farther than they’ve ever been before and violence is a necessity.

There were still some problems that the writers have run into, and that they’re trying to fix. Namely, Michonne. We still don’t know who she is. Or why she has such a massive hatemonger for The Governor. If they explained that she has some sort of Spidey Sense for his dark shenanigans, then her distrust would be warranted, but as such he never gave her such a reason for the distrust. And really, the only reason she discovers his wall o’heads and zombie daughter is because she breaks into his apartment and tries to kill him. It was a pretty suspenseful battle though and even though both characters are major players, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they killed either one of them. I totally get the distrust Rick and company have towards her because really she’s given them no reason to believe she’s on the level given her disappearance. But, hopefully they’ll start to retcon her because I can’t handle a mute killer with no motivation. She’s a shark swimming around waiting for blood.

Now, The Governor has made a turn. He’s lost it all. He’s gotten his eye destroyed and his dignity taken away from him. He’s clearly not the man his people think he is. His makeshift eyepatch makes him out to be a Snake Plissken type and at the end when he blames Merle for his shortcomings and throws them together to battle it out Thunderdome-style, he’s becomes a monster. A neat monster, an efficient one. If he were a different man, he would’ve left the people outside of him home alone. He is the tyrant of this former world. Seeing all his people crying out for the blood of their fallen was a thundering wartorn moment. He’s made a declaration and he is going guns blazing against those who threatened him. And frankly, seeing him beaten and pissed off was amazing. I cannot wait to see where they bring this war. If everyone was on one side or another in this battle, things were made clear by the end. Maybe sides will change when we come back? Who knows at this point? All the black and white of what Merle was doing, or what Andrea thought was right by the Governor has turned gray. He’s burned his bridges and he’s got an army at his side. It’s quite amazing.

Well, they’ve left it rather appropriately for the mid-season finale and by February, things will be tense enough for the lot of us. I hope they fix a few things, ahem Michonne but otherwise, it was a solid mid-season finale for a damn solid season.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×09 – THE SUICIDE KING

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Evan T. Reilly | Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

In the first few minutes of ‘The Suicide King,’ the momentum of the mid-season finale is kept up dropping us right in the middle of the battle between the brothers, and still leaving us in the midst of Rick’s altogether successful rescue mission for the Woodbury captives. It’s quite the intense scene, all the fog of war and people and zombies being gunned down. There was no way that the brothers Dixon were going to kill each other, regardless of whatever sides either brother is on. But, after all of it is said and done, it becomes quiter and focused inwards. Everybody takes a breather, and the show is better for it. It’s all run concurrent with the idea of family running throughout the veins of the episode. It’s practically coded in the DNA.

First, there’s Merle and Daryl. The brothers had spent almost all of this time apart, over a season and a half, and now that they finally meet – they’re put at each others throats. And irregardless of whether Daryl is a White Hat and Merle is The Governor’s flunky, they care for each other deeply. Now, the stuff with the group where they weigh the pros and cons of Merle joining them at the prison felt weighty and logistical. And when all the fever pitch of all the arguing finally hits the foreseeable peak, Rick mercifully hits Merle with his revolver. There couldn’t have been a more joyous moment than Merle getting smacked down, right? Because sometimes Merle’s cocky swagger is just too much. He can’t join the group again, he’s buried himself too far underground for that so the only real answer is for Merle and Daryl to leave. But, no one will even entertain the idea that Merle and Daryl are going to leave and wander alone throughout the land. I mean, Daryl is the fan favorite of the show, and Merle is the everloving idea of danger, and the group at the prison needs this danger lurking around, so why in God’s name would anyone think that they would send them away so soon, even if we never see them after they leave.

In Woodbury, since everything that could go, has gone wrong, there’s an exciting and dangerous charge rolling through the inhabitants. The fear of the outside world looms larger, and the solace that the residents felt underneath the quiet murmur of the town has been destroyed. This scary and violent outburst brings a liveliness to the proceedings and for once, it isn’t The Governor and Merle causing strife. But even with the threat of zombies now breaking in and killing the residents, the citizens look towards the man who created the oasis in the middle of the desert. And the greatest thing they’ve done is make The Governor even more withdrawn than usual. In the cold open to the episode, David Morrissey radiated seething hate stalking through the mists of the gas grenades, and his speech to Andrea just shows that he’s quite the scary force to be reckoned with. It’s a bit like Randall Flagg losing it all after being attacked where it hits hardest – his home. The great thing is, they play him like a wounded animal that will strike back, although the residents of the town getting ready to abandon ship happened a little too fast. Yes, they have an absentee leader but all they going to just run into the wild like that?

The good thing about all the prison stuff is that they’ve given everyone definition, or in Rick’s case, redefinition. Like Beth leaping forward as the potential surrogate mother for Judith, or Axel starting up as the resident prison cook or Hershel as prison medic, everyone has their place. Glenn’s stealth arc is to be protector of Maggie, even for those who’ve read the novels previously, and his impassioned speech to Rick and Maggie about how the group is his family, which is all the more believable after the quite effective retcon the writers have pulled off this season. Yes, they’re finally adding characters from the novels, but aside from Tyreese and Sasha, the other two prisoners just serve as shifty fellows all but eager to murder innocents for a little shelter. It is nice that they do plead with Rick for the safety and security of the prison, because there really isn’t any reason to shuttle them off, they’ve showed no danger aside from the two guys in the group all but threatening the life of an infant, a young adult and women.

As for Rick, his arc throughout the whole series has been one fraught with excellence. Just look at Andrew Lincoln’s wordless performance after Lori’s death. Beautiful work there. But, his thousand yard stare after getting to his prison, his home was chilling. And when they revealed that he’s seeing someone, a ghostly specter, this makes things all the more interesting. Because, it’s clearly a figment of his imagination, but the stirring case of Rick’s psychosis is amazing, and Lincoln plays it so strongly, it works.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×10 – HOME

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Nichole Beattie | Directed by Seith Mann

“Home” was a strong comeback compared to last week’s mid-season premiere in that it upped the ante in many powerful ways. It was a quieter episode but an episode that balanced things a little more evenly and allowed for much more investment in the characters. And then hell breaks loose. It provides for a narrative that makes the viewers feel uneasy and that works so strongly in the show’s favor.

It was obvious that Daryl and Merle’s jaunt away from the group would be short-lived but it did wonders for elaborating on how strong Daryl’s become as a character and how Merle’s character is still stuck in his flaming racist mode since season one. We’ve been with Daryl since the beginning, and we saw nothing of Merle since he was stuck on the rooftop. He was the ghost hovering over the rest of the gang. But, the brothers had a bond irregardless and interestingly it showed the strength of how Norman Reedus sells the stark paradigm shift between the two. The scene where Daryl shows the scars of their father’s abuse bonds them and that becomes the tie that binds them. That’s smart. It gives them a past, and Norman Reedus’ performance in that scene gives him something more than the complete Sawyer-lite badass that he’s become. Yes, Daryl is the iconic figure nowadays but giving the hero a hurt past allows for some beautiful shading. Merle’s using the zombie outbreak as a means of selfishness, and Daryl’s becoming a hero. That’s the strength of the whole plot there. It’s where we get the bulk of the zombie action, and some big scenes of Fulci-esque gore.

The prison set scenes were great because it allowed for some nice character beats which in a show like this, are simply the meat and potatoes of the whole matter. We learned about just how deep The Governor’s attempted rape on Maggie cut her and Glenn, and how it pushes Glenn to react so violently towards The Governor. Glenn’s not thinking as clearly and it shows. Hershel’s wisened advice makes so much sense in the long run because the worst thing that anyone could do, is go off on a vengeful crusade. We’ve seen that those tend to end very badly. At least the exiled visitors are remembered, but it’s sad we didn’t get to see the tombs that they used to enter and exit the prison. It sounds so ominous and foreboding, it’s just a shame we didn’t get to visit at all.

The Woodbury scenes weren’t as prominent because of the loaded gun that was waiting to go off later in the episode, but still allowed enough to come through to show just what’s going down with The Governor. His distrust was always clear from the episode he was introduced in but now he’s shattered and nothing kills a man full of pride worse than a wounding attack. His facade is more cemented than ever, and his manipulatuve shenanigans give him a scarier edge. He’s not one to fool with and this episode shows it. He flat-out lies to Andrea about his reprecussions to the prison folk and has all his guards (and Milton) giving her the cold shoulder. His attack on the prison is brutal and to the point, and while it doesn’t drive a schism into Rick’s group, at least for now, he’s smart enough to know how to turn the screws in the worst way possible.

The siege at the prison was intense and dangerous. It was expertly handled and shot very well. It was edited tightly and allowed for risk to seep in. The zombies don’t provide a massive threat because they’re slow moving and only a real danger in groups. But, with the siege by the Governor, it gave it a real sense of danger that’s been lacking since ‘Killer Within.’ People are scarier because they know how to shoot guns and have a million motivations. Zombies eat people. It’s simple. But, cultivating a world of danger allows for the show to become unsettling and they cemented that with killing Axel. It’s shocking because of the out of nowhereness that precedes it. But again, The Governor is a scary dude and is willing to kill anyone unwilling to kowtow to him. The thing that hurts about Axel’s death is that they started to give him shading and depth to who he was before the so and so hit the fan. In those scenes detailing his past as a failed armed robber, he ingratiated himself deeply and really allowed for an idea of just how he could potentially fit in with the gang. But his death, even as insignificant as it is shows that there isn’t any mercy for anyone and it’s quite the shocker.

The most compelling material this season has been anything that involves Rick, and not just because Andrew Lincoln sells the hell out of everything he’s given. Not only that, he makes you believe that he’s seeing Lori, or that it’s means something akin to an ominous forebearing. Even if they don’t quite divulge why he’s seeing Lori, other than the deepening well of his damaged psyche. Hell, Rick only appears in the cold open, and then in the stunning finale but still leaves a brutal mark. The toll that being the leader of this group takes has left an ugly searing mark, and that drives all of it home. Hopefully, it’s all leading somewhere because Rick’s struggle is the reason for the season, and beautifully executed.  The thing of it all is, Rick is the most compelling character and has a true arc, and it’s a stunner.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×11 – I AIN’T A JUDAS

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Nichole Beattie | Directed by Seith Mann

‘I Ain’t A Judas,’ is about exactly what the title makes it out to be.

The greatest things the writers have done this season was to hold off the reunion between Andrea and the others in the prison gang. They’ve been separated into their two little worlds and off in their own tangential plots. But, the rot that’s festered between the two groups who’ve never actually met is strong and loud and the element of mistrust is there, screaming out loud. And the fact that Andrea is the thead that ties the two together isn’t a fact that’s lost on both leaders of the groups. But, the best thing about Andrea’s reunion with the group in the prison is that it isn’t a happy reunion that everyone expected. All they see her as, is a spy for The Governor, even when she repeatedly says she’s not and that leaves everything on uncertain ground. It’s also great that Andrea plays catch-up with all the hell that the prison gang has gone through in the past ten episodes and it’s a whopping doozy. Michonne actually saying more than a few words and calling Andrea out on falling for The Governor’s swaying power. is nice but a little too late. The writers haven’t decided whether or not they want her to be stoic or what, but with Andrea leaving her, it makes sense that she would shut down, but still there’s more there. The death of Shane and Lori, the birth of the baby and Hershel losing his leg. It’s like adding her into the fold and then removing her so she can go back and kill The Governor, even though she decides against it at the end of the episode, but there wasn’t any danger there because the finale is still long away.

The prison scenes were great because they’ve finally allowed for the others to call Rick out on his journey into madness. He’s very clearly losing his mind and is pushing himself too far and losing his grip with his housemates in the prison. And the best part is, it’s Carl that says it. It’s great that Carl is younger than all of them (save for Judith) but it hits Rick like a sucker punch when he tells him that he’s losing his grip. They’ve still done a good job of handling Rick’s descent into madness. This is where all the deep characterizations land, we’ve got Daryl and Hershel assuming leadership in lieu of Rick stepping down for a breather and Carol stepping up and telling Andrea to take charge and kill The Governor. There was that quiet, beautiful moment where Beth serenades the group in that dimly fire lit cellblock. Merle joining the group could’ve been a point that could’ve been used to tear the group apart but they’re trying to give him shading beyond racist right-hand man to The Governor, even having him apologize to Michonne for his dogged manhunt trying to kill her earlier. It’s a shade of gray that blooms throughout this show.

The thing about all the stuff in Woodbury is that it would’ve been better if we didn’t know The Governor was plotting on Andrea and using Milton as a spy. That would’ve been used better as a bomb later on down the road but as such we know that Milton is spying on her and that The Governor is keeping tabs on her. It makes sense in the grand scheme of things, she doesn’t trust him especially in lieu of the prison shootout last week and The Governor is one person to distrust everyone but himself.  It sets up the theme of betrayal all throughout. It was set up well that Tyreese and his group showed up and let Philip know that they’d been with Rick’s group in the prison but for Tyreese’s group to turn on Rick’s group seems done too fast, even though we knew that the two guys in the group were all but ready to take Rick and company out to get hold of the prison.

The episode was filled with quiet moments handled well by director Greg Nicotero. Including the aforementioned song break in the prison, there was the moment of The Governor reflecting on his battle wound. There was some particularly nasty gore scenes including the great curb stomping scene with the zombie and Andrea. This was scene of chess pieces being shuffled around and setting up the coming apocolpyse between The Governor and Rick’s gang. It was a moderate episode, but still maximized the dissolution between the two groups and showed that even with them all together, they’ll still fall apart.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×12 – CLEAR

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Written by Scott M. Gimple | Directed by Tricia Brock

It’s all about the silence.

The great thing about ‘Clear,’ is that they just let the silences unfold. You can hear the crickets chirping, you can practically hear the sweat beading on our three travelers. The town is eerily silent, it’s just dead. It was the definition of ‘country pacing, even though it’s really all just set in primarily one location, and is more thrilling than any shootout that can ever amount to (even though there is a minor one) and tells a story that could’ve been seen as your classic two-hander episode, a standalone that truly stands alone as possibly one of the best episodes in the series run.

It’s a visual tale, despite the singular location of it. Take a look at all the words spray painted around the town. They tell stories about what’s going on, and they tell stories about who painted them. And the words all written around Morgan’s room later in the episode tells us everything we need to know. It weaves a tapestry of madness and loneliness. And it’ so beautifully done. And it’s smartly bookended by that doomed hitchhiker, and that last bug of the three travelers picking up his pack and moving on down the road. It’s an episode about losing ourselves, our humanity in this world gone sour. It’s largely insular, ’Clear’ doesn’t even cut back to any of the other characters, similarly to the earlier Woodbury set episode, ‘Walk With Me’ but here they focus on building the three characters together as a cohesive unit

Michonne was built up so strongly here, that’s it’s almost astounding to think of all of the other episodes she’d appeared in. Here, it’s a fully fleshed out character compared to the paper-thin character she once was. She’s funny and well-rounded, and it’s a damn shame she wasn’t allowed to flourish until now, it would’ve been easier to feel more sympathy for the character and understand her motivations, but sadly we didn’t. There’s hope that the writers will keep embellishing on her to endear us to her. We didn’t need to know more about Rick, we understand his deep passion to lead the group and Carl’s becoming more and more fleshed out, his mission to get the picture of Lori from the bar to show Judith what her mother looks like is suicidal sure, but it tells you who the character is and that’s what the point of the episode is. It’s a quest to find himself, and themselves overall.

It’s a return to Rick’s hometown, and subsequently we find Morgan from the pilot episode in the wreckage of the town. He’s gone mad from isolation as most people would’ve by now, and Lennie James sells everything he says about his loneliness. His speech about how his son was killed by the zombified wife that he couldn’t bring himself to kill was heartbreaking and the best part of it all is that he sells it by his performance alone. You see it in his face, in his eyes just how devastated he is and that makes it all the more powerful. It’s a return to a character that is strongly written and it’s also worth noting that despite how much the plot has changed since Morgan last appeared, he didn’t feel bogged down in season one, like a leftover. He’s written just as strongly as he was when we met him those years ago.

The show is best when it hones it’s focus, which isn’t to say its always bad when we have a lion’s den of people to talk about what’s going on with The Governor and so forth, but by cutting by and limiting the dialogue, it gives anything that is said a laser precision in terms of plotting, and strengthens the world around Woodbury and the prison.

THE WALKING DEAD: 3×13 – ARROW ON THE DOORPOST

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus | Created by Robert Kirkman

You know, there’s one thing that even the casual viewer of The Walking Dead, may not quite realize, or perhaps they just hadn’t noticed it until this episode. It’s the fact that both Rick Grimes and The Governor are pretty much the same man. It’s simple really, both men are fearful of outsiders and extremely unhinged in that regard and they are most definitely capable of violent behavior. But, there’s a difference between the two men and is by and large the greatest gap between them, it’s their sense of loyalty. And in a world gone bad, loyalty is the strongest trait anyone can have and The Governor just ain’t got it.

The whole plot of ‘Arrow on the Doorpost’ revolves around The Governor and Rick attempting their treaty between the two factions. And the scenes between Rick and The Guv’nor are pretty amazing, simply because they just stop all of the action and all of the filler and just strip it down something akin to last week’s stellar episode. Hearing Philip’s story about his wife getting in an accident while we he was work was a great example of how people can spin things by just telling them and not showing them. But, it’s hard to believe any single thing he says because he’s all about facade where Rick is just about laying it all out in it’s brutal, blunt way. And he promises to leave them all alone if Rick gives over Michonne, but not for a minute can you even swallow his promise to let them alone, and he reveals that he will kill them after he gets what he wants.

And that’s where the divide settles in nice and snuggly. Rick is all about keeping his word because he wants to protect his own, and declares to all of the fellow prison folk that they’re going to war. He confides in Hershel, actually begs him to talk him out of giving over Michonne to her inevitable death. Mostly because she’s stuck her neck out for thim and the others and most definitely because they went on their trip last week and bonded along the way. It’s an interesting situation and very odd place to put Rick in because he is noble by all means but he’s shown he’s willing to protect at any cost. It’s certainly a gray area. Things at the prison take a different tack, it isn’t all about the meeting of the minds but rather how they’re growing stronger in the wake of everything they have thrown at them. Michonne is speaking more and more but we need to see how she fits in overall in the long run, or Merle just existing because he needs solace from The Governor. They’re characters that still need fleshing out in every episode, not just a once a week kind of thing, but at least the writers allow for Merle to transcend this plane a lot more than Michonne is allotted.

While both men are at odds with each other, everything else takes a breather, and overall the pace has slowed down innumerably compared to earlier in the season by and large. It allows for us to begin to see how everyone fits in the picture and how they interlock with each other. Take for instance, Daryl and Caesar. They begin the episode scrabbling with each other but by the time events draw to a close, they’ve shot the breeze bonded by the activity of zombie killing. Or Hershel and Milton. Both men of science, discussing the logistics of how Hershel survived possible death by amputating his infected limb. The men bonding shows there’s really no great divide between factions, but drivine by the leader, the groups within tend to become a hive mind.

But the one big problem that no one seems to care to fix is Andrea. She seems awash in the middle of both men. Her indecisiveness is getting rather stale and it’s getting to the point of meandering. In the end, you have to choose your side and her inability to do so is the most frustrating thing of all. It’s frustrating simply because her answer is always clear cut. It’s to side with Rick. The Governor’s offered her nothing but mistrust and violence. And it makes sense that she thinks she wouldn’t fit into this world she left behind with Rick and company (she hasn’t been there since the season two finale, and that was thirteen episodes ago). Okay, that hold water, but to ignore the people that have helped you through thick and thin? Nope, can’t see it. But, the whole adage is there even ignoring the Andrea factor. Plain and simple, it’s the people on the sidelines watching Godzilla vs Mothra that can be exciting too. Because they drive the heart of it all in the long run.

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