We settled into our seats with some satisfaction last night once it became clear that this episode wasn’t going to spend any time with Rick and Co. at the prison. That’s exactly what this story needed at exactly this moment: world-building. It’s actually what the story’s needed since Day One, but it also needed character-building and in a post-apoc, highly speculative story setting, it can be difficult to balance the two out. The audience needs to know what world these characters inhabit, since it’s so different from their own, but it also needs to meet and get to know the people traveling through this story in order to identify with them and understand them. The writers dropped the ball on the latter, mainly because they made almost all of the main characters wholly unlikeable and because they thought marriage drama was a good hook upon which to hang a zombie story. But there are signs this season that some of these people are complex and that once you take baby-daddy drama out of the equation and have them turn and face – and more importantly, DEAL WITH – the world they live in, the story rights itself somehow, and formerly irritating people become people you want to root for. This is why, to us, the main group of characters has become so much more interesting and likable in the confines of that prison; it’s because they’re working hard and working relatively smartly to carve out a corner of the world where they can survive. This is in direct opposition to the feel of last season, when children routinely wandered off into the woods with the adults blundering after them, making lots of noise and having stupid arguments.
But with that part of the story course-corrected (for now), it was high time we got a better look at the world outside the confines of Rick’s small group. It was also high time we got introduced to The Governor, one of the most memorable characters from the books, and it was WAY past time we got a better introduction to Michonne. Unfortunately, we still haven’t gotten enough Michonne to satisfy us. We realize her silent treatment is a big part of her schtick, but even in the static world of graphic novel storytelling, the reader was able to perceive the depths behind her stoic face and the fact that she was carrying deep pain. Last night, we got one too many “What you talkin’ about, Willis” scowls without enough of the sense of danger the character carries. Still; what little Michonne we’re getting seems right on target to us. They haven’t yet done anything that hasn’t served the character well – and Michonne’s treatment at the hands of the writers was going to be a dealbreaker for this season. They don’t get her right; there’s no hope for the rest of the story, in our opinion.
Still, we suppose we got enough, for now. It was good to see Andrea again. For some reason, even though she once again got heavy-lidded at the sight of an alpha male with a streak of fascism in him, she didn’t get on our nerves this time. Maybe because we got the sense of the character’s deep exhaustion, both physical and emotional. Having her rattle off the names of all the people she lost since she last saw Merle was sobering. Remembering that she wasn’t privy to the knowledge that all living people are infected with the walker virus (or whatever) was smart. You had a real sense of her isolation in the past 7 months – and it made you wonder how isolated and ill-informed the rest of the population is.
But the big introduction this episode was The Governor, another highly memorable character from the books; although one that, without getting into the specifics, offers up some challenges for the writers about just how far they’re willing to take this basic cable drama. We feel like we’re getting a far more nuanced take on the character, which is a good and smart writing decision. Unlike in the books, we get here that The Governor is a highly charismatic man; a preternaturally gifted politician, in fact. And you can see not only why he can build a community like Woodbury, but why Andrea (who, as we noted, doesn’t have the best instincts for men) would be so drawn to him and to the work he’s done. We’re still hungrily waiting for more Michonne to be doled out, but we have to say, they’ve done a fantastic job of re-fashioning The Governor for television. We’re dying to see where this story’s going now.
And this must’ve been an A+ episode because we’re at 800 words now and we still haven’t mentioned the return of Merle, the Killer Redneck to the story. At any other time, his re-appearance would have been a bombshell, but now, it’s more like, “Oh, hey Merle. How’s it going?” Sure, he’s still a crazy redneck, but he’s so much more interesting now that he’s in the thrall of someone like The Governor.
This season’s doing it right, so far.
[Photo Credit: AMC]
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