There was a time when I thought Season 3 of The Walking Dead would be the season that defined it as an unflinching story machine that cranked out character rich story without fail. Continuously. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead is not perfect, but the good news is no show is. After hitting somewhat of a mid-season slump with the questionable “The Suicide King” and last week’s lesson in horrible marksmanship “Home”, the series returned to its season three grandeur this weekend, and hopefully will remain there.
I think mostly what made “I Aint a Judas” such a great episode was the character work. After being with these characters for nearly three years it might feel like there is nothing to learn from the show anymore, but that is where new characters come in handy. Merle, for instance. He’s been a part of the show from the beginning, and we’ve all lamented his influence over Daryl, but the fact is they’ve actually shared very little screen time together, and Merle himself has had very little screen-time period. During his short stint with Daryl, which I wish had been longer, his bullheadedness has already been broken and he seems to be making an honest attempt to fit in at the prison, all on his own.
The key moment for me was when Merle approached Michonne to clear the air. His statement was pretty much “can’t we all just get along” fair, but the tone was very much within the realm of ‘I’m a product of this world’. Don’t get me wrong, Merle is not a nice guy, but if Merle had done some questionable things in the name of survival then he is in good company at the prison. Does Michonne buy it? We don’t really have a sense of her moral code so it is difficult to say if Merle’s nugget of truth will wear her down, or if Merle Dixon is a fixed point on her enemy meter and she’s just waiting for the right moment to sharpen her katana on his spinal cord.
On The Governor’s side of the action, we discovered that despite his surplus of pure insanity, he’s really not that practical of a planner. He’s assembling an army to do battle with the prison but not having the numbers he needs he lowers his standards to allow children into his ranks. At one point we see his army hopefuls lined up and see an arthritic old lady and an asthmatic kid amongst their ranks. Without question The Governor is padding his army with human fodder that will die miserably, or retreat, in real combat, but is he doing it intentionally?
The centerpiece of the episode was Andrea’s return to The Prison. The reunion was nothing like what she was expecting, kicking off with a TSA style pat-down from Rick. Andrea does share a few sentimental moments with her old friends, but she is shocked to see the conditions they are living under. She appeals to Rick to negotiate, but he tells her unless she is willing to sneak them inside Woodbury she’s of no help to them. Andrea ultimately returns to Woodbury.
The interesting thing to come out of her visit is the fact that Rick is indeed considering a pre-emptive strike against Woodbury. Most of the talk since Rick has returned from the other side of the fence has been about making a stand and protecting their ground, but with such a numerical disadvantage, even if the enemy consists of asthmatic kids and arthritic old ladies, simply waiting until The Governor is ready to attach may not be such a good idea.
Now is The Walking Dead on track to stay at peak operating capacity for the rest of the season? Well next week Rick is going on a supply run, so maybe. In reality a break from the season arc might be a good thing since we are still so early in the season these episodes just feel like they are delaying the inevitable final clash that will take place in the finale. We’ll find out next week.