THE WALKING DEAD 3.8: “Made to Suffer”

TWD30806What more could one ask from a midseason finale? This episode boasted a daring rescue, deaths, disfigurement, walker slaughter, startling revelations, violence, gore, a shocking return and a reunion of long-lost brothers. About the only thing missing was a really, really BIG explosion, but I’m glad the budget was spent on more amazing zombie prosthetic effects.

One of the problems TWD has (happily) created for itself was how to come up with something to top previous episodes, many of which have felt like final episodes themselves. But this installment had action and emotion, and when it was all over, Andrea had the entire mad tableau of Woodbury lying at her feet: In a room covered with snapping walker heads, the Governor, with a shard of glass in right eye, sat weeping over the corpse of a little girl biter.

In the woods, an unknown group of humans – Tyreese (Chad Coleman), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Donna (Cherie Dvorak), her husband, Allen (Daniel Thomas May) and their son, Ben (Tyler Chase) – battles a gang of walkers. Donna is bitten, but Allen won’t leave her behind. Chased by walkers, they are forced to enter the blown-out rear of the prison. In Woodbury, Andrea (Laurie Holden) is primping for the Governor (David Morrissey) when she spots a photo of the Guv and his family. They kiss. Later, Gov calls Penny (Kylie Szymanski) from her cage, but screams in frustration at her unresponsiveness. In the cell, Glenn (Steven Yeun) makes weapons out of the zombie body for himself and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

TWD30801Michonne leads Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Oscar (Vincent Ward) around Woodbury’s fortifications. Inside, the Governor and Merle strategize taking out the group that lives in the prison and let the biters reclaim it. The Governor orders Glenn and Maggie taken to the screamer pits. But the captives fight back; Maggie kills Warren (Philip Dido), but Merle (Michael Rooker) gets upper hand on Glenn, and they are recaptured. Meanwhile, Michonne’s team enters the interrogation room, and they hear Warren’s gunfire as Maggie kills him. They head for the gunfire, and use smoke grenades to grab their people from the guards. Running and gunning, the group takes refuge in a Main Street building. Glenn tells Daryl that Merle is alive and he did this to them. He also told Rick that they gave up the prison. Daryl wants to see Merle, but Rick talks him out of it, persuading him he needs Daryl, and asks if “you’re with me.” “Yeah,” Daryl replies, not entirely convincingly.

The Guv calls Rick’s team terrorists and orders them taken out. Andrea is gung-ho but he wants her as far away from her old friends as possible and assigns her babysitting duty. Rick’s team uses more smoke grenades to make a break for the wall. In a street filled with smoke and gunfire, Andrea starts shooting at her friends. Suddenly Rick sees Shane (Jon Bernthal) advancing on him with a shotgun. Stunned, Rick allows “Shane” to shoot Oscar dead – but then Rick guns Shane down and realizes he’s just a Woodbury fighter. Maggie caps Oscar, and Rick, Maggie and Glenn make it over wall. Daryl, who is covering their six, doesn’t know he’s shooting at Merle in all the confusion.

Michonne has slipped away, and lies in wait for the Governor in his office. She hears noises beyond a door and finds the aquariums. Then she hears Penny, but thinks she’s just a girl with a bag over her head. When Michonne uncovers the truth, she moves to behead the little monster, but the Gov screams, “NO!” He drops weapon and begs, “Don’t hurt my little girl.” Michonne executes Penny, and the Gov loses it. They tangle hand-to-hand in a dirty bar fight. The Gov puts her head through a fish tank, and she pulls over a few more, so the floor is covered with snapping biter heads. Finally, Michonne puts shard of glass in his eye, but she stopped from killing him by the arrival of Andrea. They stare each other down, and Michonne leaves. Andrea finally sees the aquariums of floating heads and the weeping Governor with glass stabbed through his eye cradling the destroyed Penny.

TWD30802At the prison, Axel (Lew Temple) watches Beth (Emily Kinney) care for Judith. Carol (Melissa McBride) notices his attention and warns him away from the teen. Axel assumed Carol was a lesbian, but she’s not. Later, Carl, Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Beth hear female screaming from deep inside the prison. Carl goes to investigate the tombs. In the laundry room he finds the newcomers battling walkers and leads them to safety. With Donna near death, Carl offers to destroy her, Tyreese will do it. Allen covers her face with a red bandanna. Carl locks them in the room (with food and water) for safekeeping.

Back in Woodbury, Doc says Gov’s eye doesn’t look good. He says he looked at the tanks to prepare for the horrors outside. Then Milton and Merle arrive. With news that the invaders made it over the wall – though clearly he doesn’t know Michonne was part of the group. The Governor is furious at Merle, who lied about killing Michonne, but keeps it inside. Outside the city walls, Daryl is missing. Michonne brings up the rear, and convinces Rick he still needs her help. Inside Woodbury, the citizenry gathers and the Governor addresses them, blaming “terrorists” who want what they have for the night’s attack.  And he names one of the terrorists as one of their own: Merle! He blames Merle letting the terrorists inside the gates. As proof, he has Daryl dragged out and revealed as Merle’s own brother. Andrea is shocked and locks eyes with Daryl. The Governor asks what should happen to the Dixons, and the crowd shouts for their blood.

Wow. And was just a midseason break!

This hyperactive episode was written by comic series creator Robert Kirkman himself, and he sure seemed to be having fun penning this live-action stuff since he kept the story moving at light speed.

TWD30804Lest we  think that Rick has his head back in the game following last week’s game of bonkers phone tag, now Rick is having visual hallucinations. Shane’s appearance caught me completely by surprise and had me shouting, “Shane?!” So Rick has a looooong way to go before he’s okay. (And I’m sure the producers took the opportunity to shoot some more Shane cameos; Bernthal was reportedly hanging around the production for a few days.)

Just in time to replenish Rick’s group, the-powers-that-be decide to finally bring in a popular character from the comic books, Tyreese, who had joined the group before the prison storyline in print. It will be fun to see if Sasha, Allen and Ben stick around. I can see Ben clashing with Carl. While the newcomers offer more muscle, they didn’t exactly come armed to the teeth: Tyreese was armed with a claw hammer; Sasha had a shovel; Allen carried a baseball bat; Ben held a hatchet; and I couldn’t see what Donna was using, but what the heck, let’s call it an oar. BTW, did you notice the “revealing” mistake: Outside the prison, Donna’s left shoulder and bra strap were exposed by her pink top; inside the prison, when Tyreese put her down outside the laundry room, Donna’s right shoulder was exposed.

I was surprised to learn that the Governor can, literally still look at himself in the mirror. But he cannot bring himself to admit that Penny isn’t human. Even when he has to feed her a bowl of fresh Mr. Coleman! The hand-to-hand fight between Michonne and the Governor was a brutal as one can imagine. And all those snapping heads on the wet floor really upped the ante on danger. But this fight was also so personal, since each character wanted revenge on the other and wanted the other to suffer. Speaking of suffering, when Merle says the invaders escaped, Gov looked angry enough, enough pressure inside his head to shoot that glass shard out of his eye! The Gov was pissed that Merle had lied to him about killing Michonne. In the Governor’s eyes eye, that left Woodbury (and himself in particular) open to attack. And it’s not such a long leap of logic from “aiding” Michonne to helping a team “led” by Daryl infiltrate the town. The Governor had been suspicious of Merle for weeks now, ever since he learned his brother is alive.

TWD30803Maggie raised an important philosophical point: As much as they worried about walkers, they forgot how evil regular people can be. How evil they always have been. This has been a dominant theme this season as we viewers have been privy to the secret evil beneath the Governor’s veneer of civility.

Carl is growing up fast, and taking after his father’s fatalistic view; he is resigned to the idea that they don’t know his dad will be back from Woodbury. But Carl has also learned his father’s bravery, and ventures into the creepy tombs, filled with corpses, to investigate the haunting wailing voice. He also inherited Rick’s sense of caution, locking the newcomers in a secure cell – where Tyreese and crew are safe from walkers and Carl’s people are safe from the newcomers.

And  how about a round of applause for Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica) and his throbbing, heartbeat-like music, which is so very unsettling. John Carpenter would be proud of this score.

Brief Observations

Hershel said they have enough baby formula for a month.

Is it just me, or did it seem like Glenn didn’t quite buy Maggie’s assurance that the Governor barely touched her. It could be the way she reacted so quickly to cut off the question, but he might still believe that the Gov raped her and she’s hiding it.

In the comic book, Allen was the character who was bitten on the ankle inside the prison, prompting Rick to chop off his leg – which, of course, happened to Hershel on TV.

TWD30805Chad Coleman, who plays Tyreese, has already made his mark on a buzzy cable series, playing Cutty, the fight trainer, on Showtime’s The Wire.

When will we find out what the Screaming Pits are? The show can’t introduce something like that without following through. Chekov would be disappointed.

What happened to the prison that destroyed the back building? Looks like it could have been a gas explosion. It’s no wonder that the fence is down and that part of the prison cannot be secured.

The show is tacking back toward the comic continuity: The Gov has lost an eye (in the comic, Michonne put out his left eye), and Tyreese has joined the team. But there are still plenty of differences. In the comic book, Allen was bitten on the ankle inside the prison, prompting Rick to chop off his leg. That fate, of course, befell Hershel on TV.

Andrea is so into the Governor that she would draw down on Michonne, who has saved her life a number of times. That’s pretty significant. If only Michonne had decided in that moment to use her words and communicate what was going on…

QUOTES

“All this time running from walkers, you forget what people do… look at what they did to you.” – Maggie

“We don’t know [Rick will return]. Right now, Judith is the only family I got.” – Carl

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