The Walking Dead, S4, Ep. 7: Dead Weight, Indeed

SPOILERS!

Well, that didn’t take long.

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead saw the return of The Governor, though he was a changed man.  A broken man.  Alone, and it seems the world is a better place when he’s on his own.  But of course, he’s not on his own.  What fun would that be?

Nor is he sane.  At least, not in the technical sense of the term, though I’m sure he adheres fairly well with his own internal logic.

Most of the time.

Look…I’m not saying The Governor has a split personality (OK, fine, a “dissociative identity disorder“), I’m just saying that Gollum had his shit more together than The Gov, and Gollum was driven mad by a magically prolonged life–extraordinarily prolonged–in the company of an object cursed by the greatest evil his world had ever known.

Anyway.

This week, The Governor returns in fine style, though with a little bit of a twist.  He’s got an internal war going on.  He kills Martinez, the head of the camp they come to who agrees–begrudgingly–to take The Gov and his ersatz family in, after Martinez drunkenly admits that he can’t guarantee to the thousandth percent that he can keep his camp safe (because–logic talking here!–nobody can admit that.  Even The Governor lost Woodbury).  While he’s hitting Martinez in the head with a golf club, or dragging him across the ground, or lowering him head-first into the zombie pit, The Governor keeps saying, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to.”

That'll learn Martinez to speak the truth.

That’ll learn Martinez to speak the truth.

Though it sure seems like he wants to.  At least he has the decency to have a psychotic crying jag about the murder, afterwards.  Do note that Martinez almost looks like he’s being crucified.  That’s because this week’s episode was pretty heavily dosed with metaphor and foreshadowing.  In the very first scene, The Governor is doing some laundry while playing chess with (and perhaps inadvertently teaching strategy to) his newly-acquired “daughter” Meghan (whose last name, now, is apparently “Chambler”, though I would swear last week the same source said “Chalmers”, but whatever).  Then the camera pans back and just before the scene cuts out to the opening credits, we see this:

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like the sight of a madman and his tank.

Nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite like the sight of a madman and his tank.

I’ve already talked about the concept of “Chekhov’s gun” once before, theorizing that you don’t introduce the idea that little kids are weirdly identifying with zombies without having that plot device matter.  If I’ve applied it to the introduction of some kids’ behavior, I will certainly apply it to the introduction of a tank to a survivor’s camp.  So, foreshadowing: the tank?  Will be used.  In all likelihood against Rick’s group at the prison.

While out on a supply run, The Governor and Martinez and Martinez’s two main henchmen, Pete and Mitch, come across a house with zombies and disturbing, chompy, unattached heads (and make no mistake, the insistently bitey detached heads are pure nightmare fuel).  They clear the house and then do a little bit of a raid, and sit on the couch with some scavenged beers for a few moments of manly relaxation.  Pete–who declares himself the de facto leader of the group after Martinez is murdered–happens to have a book in his hands at this time.

Nothing like a little light reading after a zombie raid, eh, Pete?

Well, helloooo, Duke of Clarence.

Pete’s reading Richard III.  And The Governor is the only physically deformed power junkie in the room.  The set designers could have had Pete read any other book in all the world but they chose a play about a murderous, power-hungry tyrant.  Don’t think they didn’t know what sort of subtle message they were sending.  This?  Is NOT going to end well for The Governor.  And certainly not for Pete, since the Duke of Clarence is Richard III’s one obstacle between himself and the throne.  And, as Clarence is dispatched to make way for Richard’s ascension to power, so is Pete.

Now, Pete, is the winter of your discontent.

Now, Pete, is the winter of your discontent.

Though, it’s a safe bet that the Duke of Clarence’s zombie body was never chained by the ankle and thrown into a lake for post-mortem observation.

Thanks to a gristly zombie kill at the end of the show, we see how easy it can be to shred through zombie flesh.  And Pete is only attached by his ankle, which can be a weak link as soft, water-swollen flesh chafes off.  Will we see a return of zombie Pete?

Back to The Governor’s schizoid internal war…once he kills Martinez (repeating all the while, “I don’t want to”), he realizes he’s sliding back down into darkness, and there’s still that tiny part of him that doesn’t want to be evil, that wants to be Brian Heriot, the man whose name he stole and to whom people unreservedly declared their love.  He tells Lily that there’s trouble coming, headed straight for the camp, and he and Lily have to pack up the entire Chambler clan and go.

Of course, he neglects to mention that the danger comes from him.

So they get in a car, they go.  I’m not surprised; why shouldn’t they trust him?  And they drive, and drive, into the night.  Until…

Ooh, don't you just hate when that happens?

Ooh, don’t you just hate when that happens?

They encounter a horde of zombies who are literally stuck.  Mired, if you will, in some random mudpit in the side of the road.  Metaphor!  The zombies are mired in their own dismal, hopeless drama, as The Governor is mired in his.  No fresh starts.  No exit.  Forever.

(Ha! Pete should have been reading No Exit instead!  Though that would have given away too much, I fear.)

I don’t really have predictions about what’s going to happen next week, other than the shit shall hit the fan.  I mean, of course he’s going after the prison; we knew that would happen as soon as he stepped back into the scene.  I still don’t entirely trust the Chambler family.  Clearly they weren’t bait set by Martinez, but I don’t believe them and their naivete.  We’ll see.  And if Richard III–I mean, The Governor–starts yelling about how he’d trade his kingdom for a horse, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not give him one.

The Walking Dead: Geez, Andrea, WTF?

Meet Andrea.

Hi, Andrea!

Hi, Andrea!

Andrea is a survivor of a global zombie apocalypse.  The apocalypse has annihilated the very fabric of civilization.  Survivors cling tightly to one another as they fight off the mindless, voracious hordes of flesh-eating ghouls, forming fiercely protective clan groups.  Most clans develop a social hierarchy with an easily-identifiable leader and clearly-defined roles for the other members of the group.  Trust is paramount in maintaining the integrity of the clan and ensuring its best chance for survival.  This allows not only for the group to perform efficiently but also establishes a civilizing influence in a world gone mad.

Currently, Andrea is at a crossroads.  She just reunited with the original group–we’ll call it the Grimes clan, after Rick Grimes, the de facto leader–she belonged to at the start of the zombie apocalypse, from whom she was separated when an enormous herd of the undead overran the group’s former sanctuary/farmhouse.  Recently she’s been living in Woodbury, a fortified enclave of human survivors run by the self-appointed “Governor”.  Andrea constantly clashes with the Governor because of the sociopathic ruthlessness he displays by his appalling lack of humanity.  She has said she feels the people of Woodbury “need” her, partly to shield them against the Governor.  Yet she sleeps with on a regular basis.

Andrea is making her way back to Woodbury after meeting with Grimes, from whom she learned a number of disturbing facts regarding the Governor and his recent attacks on her old friends.  Instead of driving straight back to the Governor, let’s all take a moment to consider Andrea’s options.

Back to the prison compound!

Back to the prison compound!

1) She could turn the car around and head back to the Grimes clan, currently holed up within a prison.  While a prison might not be the ideal place to call home, it does house the people she’s always been able to trust and who only lost track of her because of an extraordinarily set of terrifying circumstances.  Though Rick may have snapped a bit of his tether to the real world, his main concern right now–as it has always been–is keeping his people safe.  In the process of re-integrating into Grimes, she could work to re-forge the bonds of friendship she’d established during the early, frightful days and weeks of the zombie apocalypse, before fields of swarming undead became the new normal.  And she could start to repair her relationship with Michonne, the woman who saved her life from zombies, took care of her when she was sick, saved the lives of Maggie and Glenn when they were being held prisoner by the Governor, and whose friendship Andrea tossed by the wayside in favor of the Governor.  Downsides: Merle is at the prison, and he is a dick.  Andrea would have to start over, as the low man on the hierarchical totem pole.  The Governor has more guns and people.  And Rick is a little…you know.  Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Perhaps the great unknown.  Does adventure await?

Perhaps the great unknown. Does adventure await?

2)  She could turn the car around and head past the prison and on to points as yet unknown.  She has a car, her gun, and some semblance of wits.  At one point, she was  enough of a bad-ass to shoot her own sister after that sister was infected by a zombie bite and turned into a monster.  Admittedly the road is full of dangerous unknowns, but so is the world she’s used to.  Rick doesn’t always live up to the concept of “stable” and the Governor is a power-hungry, murderous narcissist.  Neither of these factors contributes to a desire to prolong one’s loyalty, and she could theoretically have days of travel under her belt before anyone actually gave a shit that she was missing.  Downsides: traveling on one’s own can be nerve-wracking in the best of times.  She lacks the knowledge about road conditions (clear? Or full of abandoned vehicles?) and supplies.  She only has one clip in her gun.  And there is no guarantee that any other group she encounters will offer more safety than the ones she is currently dealing with.

Maybe it's time for Andrea to have some "me" time.

Maybe it’s time for Andrea to have some “me” time.

3) There is an abandoned town somewhere between the prison where the Grimes clan is holed up and Woodbury.  Glenn and Maggie had gone there for supplies and subsequently were captured by Merle, who at that point was one of the Governor’s soldiers.  Andrea could make her way to that abandoned town, break into the library, loot a copy of Codependent No More and not. Move. A. Muscle. until she determines why she has a thing for power-hungry, murderous narcissists.  Remember, she also had a fling with Shane, who was on the express bus to Crazyville.  Shane killed Otis and tried to kill Rick, but only after he tried to steal both Rick’s authority and his family out from under him.  Because seriously, it’s like the writers cracked open a textbook, found a definition for codependency, and wrote her character around that.  This may be a golden opportunity for Andrea to get to know herself a little better, work on her inner selfness, and break the pattern of destructiveness that has plagued her since we first met her in the series premiere.  The town is fairly clear and she is familiar with the surrounding area.  Downsides: she will be on her own, and may have to come to grips with some painful aspects of her personality.

Or: back to Woodbury?

Or: back to Woodbury?

4) She could get in the car Rick has given her and drive back to Woodbury and the Governor.  It is walled and relatively safe, with food and water.  We can all understand that Andrea’s romantic involvement with the Governor may skew her initial perceptions, and that mayhem has been raining down fast and hard in Woodbury and gets in the way of level-headed thinking.  However.  Girlfriend needs to take some time to assimilate all of her information about the Governor.  Downsides?  You got ’em:

  • He kept zombie and human heads in jars as trophies of his kills.
  • He kept his zombie daughter locked in a cubby hole and would take her out to cuddle her when he had a sad.
  • He concealed the presence of Glenn and Maggie from Andrea, and would have had them executed if Rick didn’t show up in time.  He then lied to Andrea about his motives for concealing them.
  • He sent Merle to kill Michonne.  Michonne lived.
  • He captures zombies for fun and experimentation.
  • He forced Merle and his brother Daryl to fight in the human equivalent of a bear pit, to appease a crowd he whipped into a bloodthirsty frenzy.
  • He initiated an assault on the prison the Grimes clan lives in and destroyed their outer defenses by having one of his minions drive a bread van through the exterior fencing and open the back of the truck, which was loaded with zombies.  So, not only are zombies now able to make their way in past the exterior fence, they seeded the yard with zombies of their own.  Furthermore, he lied to Andrea about who started what, and said Rick attacked them.
  • He expects all of his people–including the untrained, the young, the physically infirm–to behave as soldiers.  And his word is law.
  • Andrea has caught him lying and found out about nearly everything he’s done, including seeing his wall of jarred creepy zombie head trophies.

“I just want to make sure no one else gets killed,” Andrea said to Carol, a member of the Grimes clan.  Carol said, “You can end this,” and told her she could go back to Woodbury like Mata Hari, give the Governor the night of his life and dispatch him in his sleep.

In the end, out of all her possible options, Andrea did decide to return to Woodbury.  She did bump uglies with the Governor.  And then, in the middle of the night, she got up, got her knife, looked at him sleeping so peacefully (like an angel!) and got all soft and doughy.  Then she put the knife away and went back to bed.

Seriously, Andrea, WTF?  What else does the Governor have to do to finally prove he’s a goddamned nightmare?  Zombie rape?  Puppy kicking?  Wearing white shoes after Labor Day?

Photo from forbes.com

Photo from forbes.com

Since Andrea has become the poster child for impaired decision-making, I’m proposing a line of Andrea-based paraphernalia, starting with the What Would Andrea Do? bracelet.

What Would Andrea Do?

What Would Andrea Do?

So when you’re trying to figure out if that new boyfriend or girlfriend is right for you…or you come across some information about your current relationship that gives you pause…or you’ve got friends who are fighting and you keep finding yourself in the middle of it…take a long, hard look at your What Would Andrea Do? bracelet.  Consider her actions, based on codependency and misguided arrogance.  And then?  Do exactly the opposite.

The Walking Dead: What’s the Matter with Glenn and Maggie?

I was out of town this weekend and just watched Sunday’s episode (S3-E10) of The Walking Dead.  First things first…

It’s Daryl Dixon for the win with the most creative use of a car’s hatchback in a zombie kill!

There’s a zombie under that hatchback. You fill in the rest. Follow the link to see it in full, gory detail. From http://www.uproxx.com

I don’t read the comic book on which the show was based.  I don’t know unless I search out the fan chat in forums about who was originally one of the main group of survivors or who was really in Woodbury or which characters are hopelessly changed between their comic incarnations and their TV ones.  But I do like to watch movies based on comic books and/or video games and one thing is a pretty fair constant: character development is usually clumsy at best (I’ve seen all–ALL–the Resident Evil movies except for the most recent one, and Alice has yet to have actually grown in any way) (that’s not to say they can’t get smarter; I’m talking about witnessing the characters grapple with tough emotional questions).  When monster-action writers start writing about things like internal development or self-reflectivity their work tends to fall apart and seem contrived and hackneyed and really, most of the time, who’s to say that’s so wrong?  You don’t go to a zombie movie so it will force you to contemplate your inner reality (though if you can get that out of a zombie flick, good on you).  When you go to see a zombie movie, you want want shoot-em-up thrills, gore, impressive kills (though I’ve yet to see one that can top the hatchback) and perhaps a glimmer of hope that the zombie apocalypse the characters have just endured will come to an end and they can get back to their regularly scheduled lives.  Do you think about the social implications of the final scene of Night of the Living Dead (not spoiling, if you have lived under a rock for the last 45 years and haven’t seen it)?  No, you talk about the little girl with the trowel.  When you talk about 28 Days Later you don’t contemplate the horror of having to make a kill-or-be-killed decision if your loved one were infected with a rage virus.  You think, wow!  Those zombies were fast!  (To those out there who would argue that the monsters in 28 Days Later are “the infected” and not zombies I say, for the purposes of this blog, let it go.)

But The Walking Dead is TV.  Season 3 is 16 episodes long and so, they have to write for, basically, eight feature-length zombie movies with narratives that tie together.  Of course sometimes the writing–as I mentioned before, NOT a zombie movie’s strongest suit–fails.  I would imagine it’s quite a burden to write for hours and hours of audiovisual mayhem and carnage, while building characters with personalities and relationships that seem real, without sounding trite.  This is where comics have an edge; they can express the mayhem over pages of panels, physically depict how characters build trust, and can do so with limited dialogue.  We’re remarkably good at filling in blank spaces and understanding implied meaning.  But with a TV show, the audience wants to hear the characters speak and relationships have to grow and develop, otherwise you’re basically watching the nightly news.  With zombies.

With this said, I was struck by the rapidly unraveling relationship between Glenn and Maggie.  Glenn, a surprisingly resourceful college student turned survivalist, met Maggie, a member of the Farm Family, when one of the Farm Family shot one of Glenn’s party members, who they then rush back to the farm compound to save.  First came sex, then love, and Glenn and Maggie have been a relatively happy couple in the middle of the chaos and a formidable fighting duo who could hold their own against the zombie masses.  Until they were captured by The Governor, leader of Woodbury, a town/compound not far from where Glenn and Maggie and Co. have taken refuge.

In disgustingly classic war strategy, The Governor exploited Maggie’s gender, forcing her to participate in her own violation by making her take off her top and threatening (but not going so far as to engage in) rape.  She has just heard Glenn get beaten in the next room, and The Governor says that if she doesn’t take off her shirt, he’ll take off Glenn’s hand.  It’s an appalling plot point that was hard to watch and is still hard to see.  After they’re rescued from Woodbury, Glenn and Maggie struggle as a couple and in S3-E10, they have a fight that has since prompted considerable discussion among the fan forums.  “OMG!  Maggie’s such a bitch!” some of the fans said.  Or, “Wow, Glenn’s such an ass!  Why is he mad at Maggie?  She was sexually assaulted.  It’s like he’s blaming the victim!”

OK, OK.  I hear you, people.  And I’m glad to hear these criticisms, because it means people aren’t just watching the show, but thinking about it in more ways than just looking at it as a primer on zombie kill skills.  However, there are a few things to consider in Walking Dead-land.  First: the three seasons on the air have put the cast on the run from zombies for well over a year now, though it’s probably not anywhere near two when you consider another plot twist (for the regular viewers, the Lori/Rick/Shane/uncertainty about who’s the baby daddy storyline, unless of course they don’t care about normal human gestation periods).  That’s a long time to live in a constant cloud of fear and can wreak havoc on even the strongest survivors.  And there’s no end in sight; there’s no cure, there’s just a relentless wave of flesh-eating monsters who don’t sleep or stop moving (anyone else have a little “Landshark” chuckle here?).

Second: Despite their bleak situation, they have worked to establish fairly normal social interactions.  There is a clear leader to their group, family hierarchies remain intact, and there is an element of caring and trust that doesn’t necessarily get conferred onto other people they encounter outside their group.

Third: The Governor went for the jugular.  He violated Maggie.  He had Glenn beaten.  He held guns to both their heads.  He would have executed them if their friends hadn’t shown up in time.

Fourth: When The Governor held a gun to Glenn’s head, he didn’t disclose any information about his group–not their numbers, not their abilities.  But Maggie broke.

She told them how large their group was, holed up in the relative safety of the prison.  Which is a betrayal of literally everyone Glenn and Maggie care about.

Fifth: Rick, the leader of Glenn and Maggie’s group has gone crazy.  Maggie’s father, Hershel, is missing the bottom half of his leg.  And they have a baby to take care of in the middle of all mess.  Daryl, the badass, has left with his brother.  As far as Glenn knows, he really only has Michonne as a tested fighter and Carl, the 12-year-old-boy-turned-child-soldier, as backup.

So in this week’s The Walking Dead, when Glenn’s seemingly freaking out about the safety of the prison, and advocating that they leave, and admitting that they kind of can’t, and seemingly blaming Maggie, he isn’t blaming her for her sexual assault.  That’s secondary in their “do you want to talk about it” discussion; it’s almost like he puts that part in as an afterthought, though she doesn’t want to talk about any of it.  He freaks out and blames her because she put the entirety of the group at risk.  It’s fraught with all the shadowy problems that accompany personal relationships; Maggie doesn’t want to see the man she loves get hurt.  Glenn can’t protect Maggie anywhere near as much as he would like.  This makes them both vulnerable to one another beyond the need to protect themselves from the zombie herds.  But betraying their numbers to The Governor imperils them all.  Glenn didn’t know Michonne had made her way to his camp and had helped his friends put together a rescue plan, and he was willing to die to protect his friends/zombie survivor family.  Maggie, it seems, was not.

That’s where the anger comes from.  The episode where the capture/beating/near rape occurred aired at the end of November; three months later it’s hard for the audience to remember everything beyond the shock of the potential rape.  But I’ll bet money that Glenn is mad at Maggie because of how she exposed their group, not that she exposed her breasts.  If the writers are going to have their characters endure wartime rape and experience the nuanced and conflicting emotions that accompany selfless bravery and fear of agonizing loss, then they need to let their characters grow.  Please, Walking Dead writers, stop referring to the comic book.  The AMC show isn’t a comic book anymore, and stopped being that once the show was renewed for a second season.  It’s high time you switched genres.  Look at Daryl; he was not in the original comic and is easily one of the most interesting, and most complicated, characters on there.  And he’s a fan favorite, which is a good thing.

Oh, yeah, and here are my guesses for spoilers, for the fans reading along:

Hershel won’t make it to the end of the season.  Not because he’s missing a leg, but because he’s starting to sound suspiciously like “I only ever say one thing anymore” Dale.  If they’ve got nothing left for that character to do, then it’s time to go.

Michonne will kill Andrea by throwing her kitana through Andrea’s body in order to kill The Governor, who is using Andrea as a human shield against her old friends.

(Will someone please do in Andrea?  She is a barometer for bad decision-making.  It hurts my heart whenever I see her on the screen.  Or else, writers, stop it and write for her like she has a brain.)

The mysterious, truck-driving, black-bodysuited babe from this episode will disappear for a season in order to build her own army and then reappear in season 5, tracking the main group for revenge.

Tyreese’s group will rejoin the main characters at the end, allowing for the end of The Governor.  They’ll join the main characters, and Tyreese and Rick will battle for who will be king.  Carl will break Rick’s heart when he sides with Tyreese.

And that’s all I’ve got for now!

I swear, I have a schizophrenic taste in movies and TV.

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