THE WALKING DEAD 3.6: “Hounded”

This week Rick was hounded by phone calls from beyond the grave, and Michonne was hounded by Merle; in other words, both of them were trying to escape from their pasts. But ultimately they both had to turn and fight, Rick with words and Michonne with her katana.

Although the episode was divided, this was Andrew Lincoln’s Emmy reel. This is doubtless the episode he will submit in the academy. Rick went bye-bye, and Lincoln said hello to a meaty script that gave him a chance to demonstrate that he can play more than the stoic leader burdened by command.

In the comics, the phone conversations were how Rick worked through his grief over the death of Lori and their baby, and while the circumstances are quite different on the TV show, the calls served the same purpose here: Rick has a conversation with his conscience, and tries to figure out how to carry on in the face of his failure to protect everyone all the time.

Merle (Michael Rooker), Crowley (Arthur Bridgers), Tim (Lawrence Kao) and new guy Garguilo (Dave Davies) are hunting Michonne when they discover that she used walker body parts to spell out the message “Go back” (using a zombie’s actual back as the last word). While the guys are distracted, Michonne (Danai Gurira) drops out of a tree and kills Crowley and Tim before Merle can draw on her. As she flees, he wings her in the leg. Left with the corpses, rookie Garguilo nearly loses it until Merle smacks some sense into him, and they set off after the wounded Michonne. She gets the drop on them, but walkers attack, and the combatants fight for their lives. In the process, Michonne is covered by zombie guts, but still manages to flee. The now gung-ho Garguilo wants to continue tracking her, but Merle has had enough, shoots Garguilo in the face and goes home. Later, as some walkers approach, Michonne learns the upside of bathing in putrid zombie guts: The walkers ignored her because she smelled like them.

Back in the prison, a young woman is talking to Rick (Andrew Lincoln) on the phone. She said she had been dialing numbers at random. She is in a safe place, and Rick asks her to take in his group, but she is non-committal and hangs up. When the phone rings again two hours later, it’s a male voice, who asks Rick if he’s dangerous. Rick explains how he’s killed four people who threatened him or the group (mentioning Tomas and Shane in particular). But Rick refuses to talk about losing Lori, so the caller hangs up.  The next caller is a woman who knows his name is Rick, which freaks him out and terminates the call. When she calls back, she identifies herself as Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and says earlier he had been talking to Amy, Jim and Jaqui – all members of the group who died on Rick’s watch. Rick can barely keep it together when Lori asks, “What happened, baby?” He cries and blubbers his pain and sorrow and regret that he couldn’t tell her that he loves her, let alone protect her after swearing to do so. Lori tries to calm him and get him to focus on the kids. As the line broke up, she said, “Rick, you have a baby; our baby. And Carl. I love you.” After the line went dead, Rick went back to the group and met his daughter for the first time.

Michonne limps into a town, where she spies Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) on a scavenger run. They find tons of baby formula – but Merle finds them! Glenn and Merle are surprised to see each other again. But not too surprised for Merle to pull a gun and hijack them. Back at the prison, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carl (Vincent Ward) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) were clearing out the lower levels when Daryl recounted to the mourning Carl how his drunken mother burned down their house (and herself) when he was a kid. Later, after discovering Carol’s knife stuck in a walker, Daryl is filled anguish and decides to take out his anger on a zombie. He opens the door which he believes imprisons a trapped walker – only to find Carol (Melissa McBride), half-dead but mostly alive.

In Woodbury, Andrea decided to go all-in and contribute to the community by standing watch on the wall. She was paired with hot-shot teen archer Haley (Alexa Nikolas), but when Haley had trouble scoring a hit on a biter, Andrea broke protocol to go over the wall and personally stab the walker in the forehead with a knife. That stunt earned her an audience with the Governor (David Morrissey) who took her off wall duty. But the two kept up the flirting, and when they met again later, he plied her with alcohol again, and they ended up in bed together. Merle interrupted them to report that Michonne was dead, but Crowley, Tim and Garguilo were lost, along with Michonne’s head and katana. But he was intrigued when Merle mentioned capturing an old friend from Atlanta who knows Andrea.

This was Rick’s episode, and Andrew Lincoln pulled out all the stops. I think what made this particular performance stand out from Lincoln’s usual dramatic scenes is that it was dedicated to making Rick look vulnerable. Instead of the stoic leader, Rick was a supplicant, seeking permission for access to sanctuary. “We’re dying,” he whispered. “We’re dying here.” That, for Rick, is tantamount to admitting failure, because he’s all about keeping everyone safe.

The tip-off that Rick was talking to himself was that the “callers” kept bringing up subjects with which Rick is obsessed, such as sanctuary and the death of Shane, but also something he didn’t want to talk about: Lori’s death. But when “Lori” gets on the line, Rick gets permission to completely break down, tearfully admitting that he loved her and was anguished that he couldn’t protect her. “I loved you. I loved you.” “I should have said it.” Lincoln really cut loose with the bathos and the anger – but he also did that real actor-y thing where he alternated speaking loudly with whispering, which is an acting class thing. But even that didn’t ruin the moment.

Michonne took a real chance not speaking at the gate; luckily Rick could see her living human eyes, even though she acted just as the walkers did (including grabbing the wire fence). But then again, if she did talk, her “companions” probably would have turned on her. Still, she could have waved, or mouthed the words “Hello, I’m human,” or something…

BRIEF OBSERVATIONS

How far behind the times was that prison – it had old rotary phones! Probably just a story-telling conceit to keep Rick from using caller ID or *69 the call.

Daryl and Carl are bonding more and more – but it’s not a surrogate father thing, so Rick needn’t be upset; it’s more like brothers.

Maggie obviously put a hex on herself and Glenn when she declared it a beautiful day.

Sarah Wayne Callies phoned in Lori’s… er, phoned-in lines from her home in Canada.

I’ll bet the Governor wanted Michonne’s head to add another channel to his aquarium TV.

QUOTES

“She sent us a bitergram, y’all.” – Merle

“They don’t bite; that’s kind of the whole idea of the place.” – the Governor

“I shot my Mom. She was out; hadn’t turned yet. I ended it. It was real.” – Carl

“A kid growing up in a prison could use some toys.” – Maggie

“Garguilo.” – Merle

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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