The Walking Dead always has more focus with less characters, a trait that shows up again in ‘Prey’, an episode that may not do a lot to redeem the season as a whole, but stands as a fun little side adventure as we inch towards the season endgame. For an episode that spends the majority of its running time with the show’s most frustrating character, ‘Prey’ is best spent away from the other characters in one of the season’s best sequences, a cat and mouse game between Andrea and the Governor playing out in a walker-filled warehouse.
There are some jarring changes at the beginning: the writers have finally thrown out attempts to humanize the Governor, and have fully embraced the campy psychotic tone I wish we would’ve seen earlier on. He’s camped out to the max here: setting up a torture chair, recording himself whistling, and sneering in the face of anyone who questions him. But this change isn’t completely welcome: his humanizing qualities were always tied to his motivations to keep a peaceful town, motivations that seem to have been thrown out in favor of genocide and tyrannical life. At this point, however, a Governor with direction and purpose is better than the inconsistent character we’ve seen so far.
It’s also nice to see Andrea show some intelligence, finally getting the hell out of Woodbury and outsmarting the Governor as he cornered her in a corner of the warehouse. But then it takes a bad turn – I couldn’t get over the fact she went nowhere near the Governor’s truck when she escaped. Even if the keys weren’t there, she could’ve slashed the tires, taken his weapons… done something to improve her situation. And I’m a little worried about where they’re going with her now – it appears that the Governor is going to take all his frustrations out on her with his tools, which includes a speculum that he taps enthusiastically, as if looking forward to giving her a thorough gynecological exam.
The time not spent with Andrea is spent with Tyreese – and unfortunately, most of this falls flat. Who gives a shit what Allen thinks – have we heard him talk to this point? And there isn’t enough weight given to his decision to stay with the group – is he doing it because he believes in the Governor, because he doesn’t think they have any other options, or he wants revenge on Rick for shunning them? It’s not really clear, especially without showing Tyreese’s though process in accepting the oddities surrounding the Governor and his explicitly stated motives.
To its benefit, ‘Prey’ doesn’t stick around too long there, dedicating most of its attention to the warehouse sequence, some of the finest work we’ve seen, embracing a campy, old-school horror film vibe, underlined by the dramatic, understated score. That sequence alone makes ‘Prey’ one of the better episodes of the season’s second half, despite some abrupt character changes – and questionable choices by said characters.
– it appears Milton lit the walkers on fire, a thoroughly lame attempt at rebellion on his part.
– Tyreese has survived for a year, and hasn’t learned any weapon skills yet? C’mon!
– the opening scene would’ve been so much better had it happened ten episodes ago. Here, it feels tacked on, pointless except to show that Michonne doesn’t like to talk about her feelings (what a surprising turn of events, right?)
– every time Andrea relaxed for a second, she was screwed.
– *SMALL COMIC BOOK SPOILER* I’m a little worried the Governor’s treatment of Michonne is going to be transferred to Andrea for the television show. It certainly doesn’t look good.
– if any episode could’ve spent more time with Milton, it was this one. Wish we saw more of his frustrations, instead of him being the wary nerd in the background.