The Walking Dead‘s season of redemption continued tonight in ‘When the Dead Come Knocking’, an episode slightly less action-heavy than most we’ve seen so far this season. It was an episode of two halves; the first exploring the similarities and differences between the two groups of survivors, with the second beginning to draw together the two isolated story lines of the season’s first half. It may have come at the expense of a few emotional beats, but the tension and driving narrative of tonight’s episode really gets the ball moving for next week’s mid season finale.
Like I said, the first 20 minutes or so of ‘When The Dead Come Knocking’ explore a few different parallels between the prison and Woodbury, using the recently separated Michonne and Andrea as anchors for each story. Michonne’s arrival to the prison camp is met with about the same treatment she felt at Woodbury: her sword is immediately taken from her, and she finds herself on the defensive side when Rick comes in, demanding answers on who she is and where she’s from. Andrea on the other hand, has integrated herself nicely into this new community, getting some buns from The Governor and taking in one of Milton’s weird experiments (more on that later). While Michonne’s still dealing with being trapped in by fence after fence, only being trusted by proving her worth (kicking zombie ass while injured, leading Rick and the muscle crew to the Woodbury camp), Andrea is coasting along on a nice diet of sex and late night whiskey, as accepted as she could possibly be, considering she’s still an ‘outsider’.
Going back and forth between the two also gives the opportunity to look at some of the differences between Rick and The Governor. He’s still struggling with the death of his wife – but he certainly isn’t taking up The Governor’s hobby of combing her undead hair and holding her like she’s still human (in part because Carl made sure there wasn’t anything to remember her by, but that’s besides the point). Both of them are putting up a calm, composed front, but the worry in their eyes and voices deceives them. The arrival of Glenn and Maggie noticeably shakes The Governor, and its not long before he’s taking the interrogation reins from Merle, shaming Maggie and then using that shame (and a gun to Glenn’s head) to get all the information he needed about the prison survivors. Rick is no different: he shoves his hand right into Michonne’s gun wound in an attempt to glean information from her (which of course, only brings about the now-patented Michonne Angry Face, complete with pointing finger), and when a crazy little hermit threatens their safety, shows no remorse when Michonne shoves her katana through his ribcage.
One interesting theme this season that has only been explored on the surface is the crumbling humanity of The Governor and Rick, two leaders who find themselves hunting out each other. They’ve both displayed some insane, highly homicidal tendencies, both of which probably stem from the same place: the loss of their wives. The Governor clearly is still attached emotionally to his wife and daughter (does anyone else think Milton’s experiment had to do with the Governor’s zombie child?), and while we see a fairly composed Rick through the episode, the one time he’s faced with the reality of Lori’s death (when talking to Carol), he breaks down without even the mention of her name. These are two unstable men without the woman they once counted on, and that anger (be it towards other zombies or perceived human threats) make them both very dangerous, not only to themselves, but to everyone around them they’re supposed to protect.
‘When The Dead Come Knocking’ also sets up an interesting situation for both the Governor and Rick: the Horvath brothers, and their pursuit to find each other. The Governor already has his suspicions about Merle, questioning his loyalty near the end of the episode, in a conversation that appears to plant the seed for future episodes. It doesn’t amount to much more than a few words tonight, but the camera shots bouncing back and forth between Merle and Daryl are obvious setups for something – suggesting that these two might be important wild cards later in the season.
There were a few moments in the episode where things lagged, particularly Andrea and Milton waiting for the reanimation of Mr. Coleman. In many ways, that scene felt like it belonged in season two, all drawn-out and predictably anti-climatic, not really serving a whole lot of purpose except “Milton/The Governor might not fully understand the whole zombie thing” and teasing us with the (probably) inevitable: Milton’s death. But outside of that scene, ‘When The Dead Come Knocking’ is a well-paced episode, bringing the two plots of the season together smoothly as we head into next week’s mid-season finale.
– one big logic hole (and why I didn’t give it an A- tonight): why would Rick trust Michonne so quickly, and vice versa? Seemed a bit rushed, like “Oh, you didn’t kill Herschel when he sewed you up, so we cool.”
– when Rick pep talks Carl about keeping everyone safe, it is a big flashing neon sign that “SHIT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AT THE PRISON”, confirmed when The Governor sends out a scout team of his own to check out the prison.
– Anyone think Merle lives through the season? I always felt it gimmicky to bring him back, and it seems clear to me his idiocy combined with his temper are going to lead to his death by the time season 3 wraps up next spring.
– who took the time to wax the new Hyundai before they hit the road? If you’re going to commercialize a show, at least make it believable (see: Sons of Anarchy drinking Miller Lites).
– of course Maggie would be the one to break down: The Walking Dead – even with all its Michonne badassery – gets caught in dated, stereotypical portrayals of women and their emotions.
– Daryl describes the smell in the hermit’s house as “loud”.
– when did Glenn get so badass? One thing I really liked was the makeup on Glenn when Maggie is led into his room – it made him look a zombie himself, a perfect embodiment of the show’s title.
– small spoiler for the future: Chad Coleman (Cutty from The Wire) will be playing Tyreese (a fan favorite from the comics) on the show. Looking forward to that.
What did you think of ‘When The Dead Come Knocking’? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below!