by Kat Rosenfield
The show might be called "The Walking Dead," but those titular ambulatory corpses have officially become more a nuisance than a threat; these days, the true danger is lurking in fortified camps behind well-guarded walls, as Sheriff Rick and Governor Philip prepare to play some war games. And with a showdown imminent between the two groups of survivors, this week's episode was all about subtle shifts and sadistic strategy, as each leader pushed his pawns into place. Where do we stand after "I Ain't a Judas"? Read on.
He may have saved Rick's ass in the final moments of "Home," but Merle hasn't quite made it back into the inner circle. As the episode opens, he sits disconsolately in time out while the group argues over next steps. Rick won't run, but Merle, heckling him from his naughty-boy cage, points out that the Governor won't wait long to strike again. And finally, Hershel says it: "You're slipping, Rick. We've all seen it." (Meanwhile Carl, showing marvelous tact for a 10 year-old, suggests that Rick stop being the leader because he "deserves a rest".)
But if Rick steps down, someone else will have to step up: the Governor is, indeed, raising an army — and single-handedly repealing a century's worth of child labor laws to bolster his numbers, a move that's barbaric enough to freak out even the love-addled, perpetually-waffling Andrea. She can't take it anymore; she's going to the prison in an attempt to make peace. But since her darling Philip has expressly forbidden it, she enlists Milton to cover for her... who, because he's a shiftless little crony-boy, turns tattletale immediately. His
Furher's Governor's response: "Help her."
And if Milton looks a little ill at this suggestion, it might because helping, in this case, means capturing a wild walker and hacking off his biting and grabbing parts (including a jaw-breaking technique that's a straight-up hijacking from "American History X".) And who stumbles in just as the job is done? Tyreese! There's a brief moment of confrontation ("Who are you, and why are you curbing that zombie?"), but it doesn't last long: Andrea forges on, now in possession of an armless, jawless, mobile zombie defense system. And Milton escorts the newbies back to Woodbury, where they'll get a warm welcome to the community — and unwittingly give valuable information to its commander-in-chief about what's up down at the prison.
Meanwhile, the prison survivors have reached a point of tenuous okay-ness. Carol and Daryl have a moment, sort of; Merle apologizes to Michonne, kind of; and Hershel enjoys some Real Talk and Bible Study with his comrade in limblessness. And when Andrea shows her face at the gate, she's met with the most united front we've seen yet: a cold, mistrustful reception (minus a good reunion hug with Carol.) Awkward questions abound — "Where's Shane?" she asks, as everyone looks uncomfortable — and it doesn't get better. She insists that peace is possible; the group's response is a resounding "Hell, no." And while this seems like an opportune time for Maggie to share her, um, personal insights into the Woodburian leader's total unsuitability as a boyfriend and/or member of the human race, it's Michonne who calls Andrea out on her cow-eyed devotion to an obvious villain. Basically, nobody's buying her peace-and-harmony pitch. Even Carol, the most sympathetic by far, counsels her old friend to deal with the Governor by doing him, and then, doing him in.
But she doesn't, of course. Instead, she returns to Woodbury with a gun in her hand and her tail between her legs, and she tells the Gov everything, and then they make out, and it is disgusting.
Back at the cellblock, night falls. Candles are lit. Beth sings a little — and the prison might be dreary, but it's got excellent acoustics. And while her voice echoes off the walls, Rick outlines a plan that's eerily similar to his enemy's: to gather supplies, to strengthen his army, and to fudge a few lines of human decency (or at least good parenting) by calling Carl into action.
Oh, and back in Woodbury, Andrea briefly considers stabbing the Governor to death, but then looks out the window instead, because she's actually the worst.