After what has been one of the most grueling hiatuses in TV history, for me at least, The Walking Dead is back. Will Rick come back for Daryl? Will Andrea put two and two together? Now that Rick and his team have executed the first organized assault in the looming Woodbury / Prison war, what will The Governor’s response be. Let’s talk about the answers to these questions and more.
Loose Ends: Brother vs. Brother
The episode picks up in media res at the Woodbury gathering where Merle has been revealed to be a traitor, and Daryl has been introduced as one of the “Terrorists”. The trailers for the Mid-Season premiere pretty much blew this scene wide open for us, The Governor says there will be a ‘fight to the death’ and the Dixon brothers do tussle a bit,then Rick and Maggie pop in to rescue them. Is The Governor implanting Merle? If so, the plan doesn’t work out very well as Rick forbids Merle from joining the group and Daryl chooses to stick with Merle. And with that we have a new overarching plot thread.
The Brother’s Dixon
With Merle and Daryl on their own, a new long running—or what I assume will be long running—B story arc is introduced. It’s an interesting decision on the part of The Walking Dead‘s brain trust. If the previews for next week are any indication it seems like we will be keeping up with the Dixon brothers as they go it alone. In order to get Rick’s group to accept Merle something pretty apocalyptic would have to take place, and with The Governor’s proclamation of ‘war’, it’s not too hard to guess what that might be.
Woodbury VS. The Prison
The Governor is still going through his meltdown and finds himself with a unsettled populace. He pretty much refuses to face the public and tells Andrea that they are now at war and the people of Woodbury will just have to get used to it. Andrea, on the other hand, manages to calm down the folks of Woodbury and even re-establish some of the community spirit that drives the commune. The Governor watches all of this from his apartment with great interest, but after revealing to Andrea earlier that he’d been holding Glenn and Maggie prisoner the doubt must be hanging heavy. He’s a difficult man to read, that’s for sure.
Tyreese and the Trouble Makers
Hershel really came out as the voice of reason in this episode. He confronted Tyreese about the chances of Rick allowing their group to stay, as in: “none.” Later, when Rick told them so himself, Hershel confronted him in a very Dale reminiscent way and told him he was wrong. However, if Hershel knew that the Allen and Bobby portion of Tyreese’s group were all for overpowering Carol and and Carl and talking The Prison for themselves, maybe he would have seen differently.
Rick’s Paranormal Paranoia
Lori made an unexpected appearance tonight, as a ghost. Of course Rick was the only one who could see her, and his reaction was even more extreme than when he had the ghostly game of telephone with her a few weeks back. Yeah, he pretty much lost it. What we saw was nothing short of Rick completely losing his ability to behave irrationally. Rick going crazy with The Governor no doubt planning an assault on The Prison equals the worst timing ever.
The Bottom Line
“The Suicide King” definitely paid off the agonizing wait set up by “Made to Suffer”. Daryl’s transition from captivity, to fight thine brother to death, to lock-up-your-women The Dixon’s are on the loose was hectic and I’m left feeling a bit uncomfortable about his status. Seeing Merle back among the ‘normal’ people for a brief period of time was enough to make me not want to see him among them for any extended period of time, but I think a Daryl/Merle spin-off will be enjoyable. I will say this though: if the story device that brings Daryl back to the group is Merle turning against them to aid The Governor, I will feel very cheated. That seems the most convenient and obvious way to deal with the situation, and convenient and obvious writing is not what we expect from The Walking Dead.
On the other hand, since The Walking Dead has never skimped on story innovation, I think investing in this long outside arch with Daryl and Merle is a pretty safe bet. Besides the obvious scenario, I really haven’t the foggiest idea where they might be going with this, but one thing is for sure: if Daryl is to finally break free of the influence of Merle, it is something that needs to happen in isolation from Rick and the rest. Daryl has already gone on a huge personal journey and this could well be his final journey into the underworld. Having Rick and the gang to egg him on would only lesson the spiritual significance. Besides, Daryl—as he stated himself—is the only truly Zen character; time for him to go on his Carlos Castaneda journey.
With The Governor, I think we got a bit of a time out for him in this episode. One thing that was established extraordinarily well is the human element within Woodbury and how thin the line separating The Governor’s militaristic point of view and that splash of humanity really was. Particularly chilling was the frightened citizens of Woodbury amassing at the gate and being bullied and threatened by The Governor’s henchmen. I recalled earlier scenes of The Governor attending to his cardboard model of Woodbury, and how to him the real world and that little model were a lot alike. Now that he is damaged and his focus is revenge, his narcissism is bound to take everyone to a very dark place.