While most episodes of The Walking Dead start with a moment that has the us scratching our heads, this mid-season finale truly had us questioning if we were watching the same show. One man trudges through the woods slicing at walkers with a hammer, following the screams we hear until he finally he runs into a member of his group. This new group of survivors have clearly learned all of the survival skills that our nuclear prison-living clan has, along with the fact that once bitten, a member of the group is deadly. As they traipse through the woods being chased by a horde of walkers, they happen across a brick structure that looks suspiciously like part of the prison that our intrepid group has long-since taken over. What new conflicts will this bring when Rick returns?
Finally making us feel like we were back in the right universe, we find Andrea primping herself in a mirror before she lifts a picture of The Governor and his deceased family to study it. We find out that she promised Milton that she would help him cremate Mr. Coleman, and the two share a moment in what is quite possible the strangest relationship to ever exist on this show (Andrea is definitely drinking the koolaid.) In the next shot, we see The Governor spending quality time with his walker daughter, complete with music. While the music does seem to calm her a bit, it is soon revealed that her object of obsession is a bowel of guts. Yummy. (At least he feeds her.) When she refuses to look away from the guts and at him as he so wishes she would, he loses his cool, throws a tantrum and locks her back in her cage. Such fatherly devotion.
In another part of town, Glenn has given the previously violated Maggie his shirt and asks her if The Governor hurt her. She has to reassure him several times that he barely touched her, but we can see how deeply Glenn really cares for her. In what can be called either a stroke of genius or a bought of insanity, Glenn stands and stalks the walker like a man on a mission. With great force he rips the walker’s arm off, breaks it into several pieces and fishes out bone to use as weapons. Smart, smart man.
At the walls of Woodbury, our band of heroes stake out the guards at the walls looking for an opening. The Governor, none the wiser, talks strategy with Merle and if we all think about it, Woodbury externally seems like the picture of what the world was before the epidemic that caused the walkers happened. Who wouldn’t want to be “home” again and feel safe in their own town? Still, The Governor’s motives are far from pure. He and Merle discuss taking the prison to prevent their coming to power. Merle mentions Daryl, and the governor suggests that they convince him to be their “inside man.” When asked about Glenn and Maggie he says, “take them to the screaming pits.” What, exactly, are the screamer pits? Do we even want to know?
Outside, Michonne is the one to lead the group inside via the room where she was questioned in an earlier episode. Oscar gets testy when she says she has no idea where anyone might be while Daryl, Rick and Oscar have a little chat and reveal how very little they trust Michonne (it might help if she put the swords down or opened up about herself just a little bit.) They talk about cutting her loose once they are clear of Woodbury and letting her fend for herself…if only they knew how well she can handle herself amongst a horde of walkers.
Back at the prison sanctuary, Amy is rocking Judith in her arms while Carl and Axel sit nearby. Axel stares rather lewdly at Amy, like any man who had been locked up in prison for years upon years with no female contact would (although this bordered on pedophile.) As Carol asks to speak with him outside, Carl clearly is ready to defend Amy and doesn’t like how Axel is leering at her. We come to find out that in Axel’s mind, every woman with short hair is a lesbian (boy was that awkward) and that Carol has absolutely no interest in him. Bravo to this show for giving us a bit of a laugh in the middle of all of the tension.
Glenn and Maggie in a valiant effort attempt to take on their captors in hand to hand combat, while Maggie gets one over on our random guard who gets walker bones to the throat while Glenn tries to strong-arm Merle. Who is he kidding? His saving grace is that Maggie gets hold of a semi-automatic. Outside the room, our small band of heroes hear the scuffle and prepare to strike as Glenn and Maggie are retaken and hooded before being led from the room. Throwing smoke bombs, Rick and Daryl snatch Maggie and Glenn away from the clutches of an angry Merle…but we cannot heave a sigh of relief yet.
While The Governor sends everyone home to “lock their doors and keep their lights off” (as if that will make a difference), he sends a group of men to shoot and kill. Across town, we find Rick and the gang taking refuge in a building while Michonne closes the door behind them. Clearly, they don’t care what happens to her and leave her for dead. Glenn and Maggie tell them about The Governor, Merle and that they gave away the location of the prison. Rick reassures them that it’s okay, but Daryl is intent on one thing: seeing Merle. He and Rick have a big difference of opinion, but Daryl ultimately agrees to go with him and help Glenn and Maggie back to the prison.
Andrea takes offense to The Governor keeping her from the front lines of the fight, and one wonders if this is because of how much he has lost and if he truly loves her enough to make sure he doesn’t lose her too. After a bit of whining, she concedes his request and sods off to do her duty. Secretly, while all of this is going on around her, Michonne sneaks into The Governor’s apartment and waits, swords drawn. Under a cloud of smoke, Rick and the gang make a break for it for the walls of Woodbury but they’re spotted and gunfire ensues. Andrea, disobeying her lover, runs toward the gunshots and gets a good look at Oscar. When The Governor joins her we see a moment of panic cross his face as she tells him she “saw them.” What is he so afraid of? That she’ll leave? That she’ll find the old pieces of herself? Or that she’ll ask more questions? Across the street, Daryl says that he will lay down cover fire while the group makes a break for it. Rick helps him with this, but is taken over by a vision of Shane walking toward him with a gun blazing. He hesitates, and Oscar gets shot. Maggie screams for him as Oscar lays on the ground bleeding to death and Rick goes, calling for Daryl behind him.
Over in prisonland, things seem quiet – too quiet for this show and for this universe. Carl asks about the formula supply for Judith which is now down to a month’s supply and says he will go out to get some at the end of the week. Amy tries to reassure him that Rick and the others will be back by that time, but he is now a realist. The tender moment is interrupted by female screams echoing off the walls of the prison. Hershel doesn’t want to let Carl go, but concedes as the little man demands, “my father would go.” He follows the cries through the bowels of the prison that lead him to the boiler room (his mother’s final resting place) and pauses long enough to be surprised by a walker. He follows the screams and soon find the group from the woods being overrun by walkers. They notice him and he tells them to hurry up and follow him. Leading them back to his cell block might have been one of the stupidest things he has ever done. Rick will not be pleased.
Back in Woodbury, as Michonne sits guard, she gets restless and kicks open the door. Her stunned face is much like the ones we made back when we first saw the fish tanks full of zombie heads – disturbing. The Governor’s daughter rattles her chains Michonne seems appalled thinking she has found a human child chained up in this closet room. As she removes the cloth from the girl’s head and realizes she is a walker, she raises her sword to end her blood-lusting assistance. The Governor has other plans. Like only a father could he pleads for “his little girl.” Michonne, in almost a fit of revenge, knifes the walker daughter in the back of the head. What she didn’t plan on was The Governor losing his cool exterior and coming for her and in what is quite possibly the grossest thing ever, The Governor gets a shard of glass to the eye. Just as Michonne is about to end his life on this earth, Andrea interrupts her. A friendship ended with minced words comes face to face in a huge difference of opinion, and it is as if Michonne finally understands that the person she took care of for seven months is no longer there. As she leaves, Andrea attempts to help The Governor who only has arms for his dead walker daughter. He may be a creep and a cult leader, but the man has just lost the last piece of his old life. Everyone should pause for a second of compassion – Andrea certainly did.
Over in the prison, Carl leads the group of new comers into the cell block we discover that their injured girl (Donna) is now dead. Carl demands that they take care of it and Tyreese takes it upon himself saying, “we take care of our own.” Carl locks them into a room by themselves telling them they are safe, but the one girl (Sasha) loses her cool. One can’t blame her for feeling like a caged animal when they have been on the run from walkers much like the rest of the world. Amy looks to Carl and asks if they should help them to which Carl simply replies, “I did.” Yes. Yes, he did.
In triage, The Governor refuses treatment and Andrea asks for a moment alone to ask some questions. He tells her Michonne came back to kill him and she finally asks him about the fish tanks and Penny. Like a good cult leader, he avoids the subject as Merle and Milton burst in to see his condition, turning accusing eyes to Merle as he tells them he was attacked. Like a good dog, Merle wants to defend his master and says he will go after the group in the morning. That does little to change The Governor’s look of angry betrayal. Outside the walls, Rick, Maggie and Glenn make their way out of Woodbury. Michonne surprises them and Rick demands to know where she was, but she side-steps the questions. She makes him realize that he needs her whether he likes it or not and boy, does he not
As a parting between us and our beloved show, the final scene that we are treated to is one of great surprise. The Governor holds court in the same arena where we saw Merle and another man fight in a circle of walkers. (The Governor may be beaten, but he is far from defeated.) He gives on of his motivational speeches, making himself look like the bad guy by saying, “I failed you. I promised to keep you safe. I should tell you that we’ll be okay, that we’re safe [but I wont]. I can’t ‘Cause I’m afraid.” He makes a big show of the group that invaded being terrorists and tells them one of those terrorists is one of their own. Much to the surprise of the town and the viewers, he names Merle, calling him a betrayer and a liar. Two men drag in another terrorist, and the hood is taken off to reveal none other than Daryl. What a way for two brothers to be reunited. As the crowd calls for death, Merle and Daryl look at each other silently asking questions. Was it you? Do you believe him? Is it really you? The Governor snarls at Merle “‘you wanted your brother. Now you got him.” What a twisted way to leave the good, the bad and the ugly.
Please join me in February for the action-packed mid-season premiere when, one can only hope, some questions will be answered but many more will likely be posed.