‘Hounded’ feels like a checkpoint for The Walking Dead‘s third season, neatly concluding a number of small plot arcs for various characters and tying off the fall out from the events of the last two episodes. It also makes the first connections between the two overarching narratives, which until tonight had only alluded to what might be to come in the future. As a closing number to the first act, ‘Hounded’ does a terrific job moving things along, another strong installment in a season that’s already leaps and bounds beyond its previous offerings.
Part of the reason The Walking Dead is getting better is how it is effortlessly killing off the worst characters on the show: it began with the death of Shane last season, and has continued on with the deaths of T-Dog and Lori in ‘Killer Within’. Of course, killing Lori off is more than just trimming fat from the cast: it’s an important event in the ongoing battle for Rick’s morality (and now, his sanity), instability we see boiling over in his hallucinatory phone calls in the dark prison room. At this point, the continuing deconstruction of Rick as a leader has become the single most interesting aspect of the show: whether its deciding to kill Axel and Oscar or coming to terms with the choices he made that led to Lori’s death, the plight of Rick’s mental state is the emotional crux of the season, and its really given the show a layer it was missing in earlier seasons.
But things don’t stop with just killing characters: many of the survivors are going through massive changes of character, and not always as reactions to events and the world. For example, Andrea has been written noticeably softer this season (along with Daryl, to a degree), with Andrea displaying a playful side we’ve not seen from her to this point. Some of this may be due to the whiskey drinking, sex, and ability to take hot showers without fear of being bitten, but I don’t think we’ve seen her smile twice in an episode since Amy died (nor heard her ever talk about it, really). Of course, this new found happiness is going to be shattered the minute she finds the fish tanks full of heads and zombie daughter, but seeing a different side of Andrea has given a lot of depth to a cardboard character, humanizing a woman who’s been too thick-headed and combative to really be likable over the last two seasons.
Unfortunately, Andrea’s story line thus far has been the weakest point. The writers are obviously taking their time unraveling the mystique of The Governor (like Rick, The Governor is a person who is not as good or whole-hearted as he might initially seem), and Andrea’s attraction to The Governor doesn’t feel much more than filler material – and a necessity to have one character related to the main group close to the season’s big antagonist, if for no other reason than to give us an excuse to hang around the camp.
I haven’t particularly cared much for the Merle material either (although it’s nice to see him much more tolerable of a character than in the first batch of episodes), for the same reason as Andrea’s: it just doesn’t make a ton of sense. It seems the show might be setting up a mini-arc pitting The Governor against Merle (Merle’s flirting in the last episode suggests this might be the direction they’re heading), so him lying about Michonne is a bit convenient: all of a sudden, after being in a blind rage chasing her for a third of the episode, he all of a sudden wants to quit? I could talk about how awful the tiny character arc for poor Neil was, but the dissonance of Merle’s comments during the ‘hunt’ take away from the effectiveness of the scene (showing Merle’s lack of respect for authority, with a dash of super psychotic behavior).
Some might say “well, what about the luck of Michonne, Merle, Maggie and Glenn landing at the same store at the same time?” And while it might seem convenient, it actually provides some important geographic information. Merle and Michonne were operating on foot from the camp, which means the grocery store is a distance real close to the Woodbury camp – which means its not all that far from where the prison is, a place Glenn and Maggie aren’t going to see for awhile. They were quite lovey dovey in this episode, which made me a bit suspicious of what might happen to them in the episode (feelings confirmed by the always over-ominus comment “It’s a beautiful day”, which means things are going to suck real bad, real quick).
With only two episodes left in the calender year until we reach the halfway point, The Walking Dead continues to improve, spending more time pushing narratives forward with tense moments and some better character writing (even though its concentrated to a small, specific set of characters). It’s about time this show grew up a bit, and at least through six episodes, we’re starting to see it hit a groove.
– comic readers knew the phone call from last week was fake; I was worried that the phone in the backpack thing was going to drag on for a bit as it did in the comics. It appears to have been dealt with in one episode, thankfully.
– Carol is alive… is Daryl going to take her up on that sex offer now? After all the gross scenes we’ve had already, a steamy Daryl/Carol moment might just take the cake.
– Michonne’s character continues to drag. She’s paranoid, silent, and has spent most of this season catching up on what everyone else already knows. This week: zombie guts make a good costume!
– Andrea hates the fighting. Andrea likes the fighting… no, Andrea REALLY likes the fighting, and feels like a naughty girl because of it. So much for subtlety.
– Oscar likes his slippers for the end of the day… who doesn’t?
– Rick’s conversation with ghost Lori is one of the best scenes of the series to date.
What did you think of ‘Hounded’? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!