This wasn’t necessarily a bad episode of The Walking Dead. A boring one, sure; but it seemed to us that, despite the show’s tendency to have the characters stand around and talk and talk and talk all the time, the central conversation of this episode needed to be had. Andrea needed to reunite with her old group and they all needed to hash out where they’ve been and where they’re going. We suspect the writers thought this confrontation was going to be electrifying and that it would solidify Andrea’s position and identity, while blurring the line on who’s right and who’s wrong in the Prison vs. Woodbury war. That would have been nice. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
We admit that there were moments that really jumped out at us and appealed to us. It was great seeing Andrea get caught up on all the horrors her old group had to endure since she last saw them. It was also great to see Michonne and Andrea have that confrontation they so needed to have. But a lot of this was not nearly as good as it could have been. Michonne gave her reasons for her behavior, but they were mumbled and half-offered and didn’t really clarify much that we didn’t already suspect. The confrontation fell flat. And while both Rick and Andrea got some digs in at the other one, neither of them really landed a punch.
We question what it is we wanted out of these scenes, though. The Walking Dead doesn’t trade in moral certainty, so it’s no surprise that, just prior to what looks to be a major confrontation, both sides look no better or worse than the other. Yes, the Governor is nuts and he’s arming children, but look! Rick is nuts! And Carl has a gun! It’s exactly the same! Except it’s not, obviously. Rick and his group have been living a desperate, subsistence-level life and suffered major losses along the way. The Governor lives in relative comfort and does so by lying to the people under his care, killing people for supplies, and arming children against their wishes. Oh, and he kept severed heads in aquariums, sent a henchman to kill Michonne, and also sexually assaulted Maggie. Sorry, writers. The moral fog you’re trying to cultivate just isn’t there for us. We don’t much like Rick, and at this point, we think he’s a pretty terrible leader, but Andrea’s attempts to find common ground only make her look stupid.
Which brings us to our next point: we suspect the writers thought these scenes were somehow going to rehabilitate Andrea after making her look shallow and stupid all season. We admit, she came off better here than she has in quite some time. We especially liked when she pointed out how selective Rick’s outrage is, considering he’s allowing Merle to walk around the prison freely – and armed. But that doesn’t so much make Andrea look better as it makes Rick look dumber. In fact, this may be the main problem here. The writing can’t seem to elevate one character without making another character look ridiculous. So Andrea gets a couple shots in against Rick’s methods and decisions. Great. Andrea good; Rick bad. Then Andrea goes home and sleeps with the Governor. Andrea MEGA-STUPID. Look, we get that her choices were limited. She could either stay in a filthy prison with little food and a leader who’s crazy and has a lousy track record for keeping people alive, or she can stay in a secure town with running water, plenty of food, and a populace who trusts her and looks up to her. We get why she went back to Woodbury. She has a better chance of suriving the confrontation to come. But having her sleep with the Governor again – even if it was only to attempt Carole’s chilling plan of killing him while he basked in a post-sex nap – only made her look silly, shallow, and dumb. MAYBE if she’d killed him we’d think better of her, but it was fairly obvious she was never going to do that, so that scene pretty much unraveled any attempts by the writers to build up the character again.
Still, we’re looking forward to the confrontation, if only to have the damn thing over with. The prison, like Herschel’s farm, didn’t work out, either in-story or out of it. It seems like every time the writers give Rick’s group a respite, they never quite know what to do with it and then blow it up at the end of the season. We’ll see if they can break the pattern going forward. We hope so.