“What you all did – leaving me up there – people wouldn’t do that to an animal…”
Merle to Glenn
In the pre-credits scene of episode seven of The Walking Dead, “When The Dead Come Knocking”, Merle (Michael Rooker) is brutally interrogating Glenn (Steven Yeun). Still bitter about being abandoned in Atlanta (in season one), Merle demands to know the survivors’ whereabouts. When Glenn refuses, Merle reacts savagely.
Post-credits, Michonne (Danai Gurira) is standing at the prison gate, her walker-blood-drenched shirt serving as camouflage to the surrounding creatures. Before Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) can act, her open gunshot wound reveals her presence and the walkers attack. Michonne’s limp and fatigue hamper her ability to fight back, but Rick saves her just as she passes out. Inside the prison, Rick’s group tend to Michonne’s wound but they and she are mutually suspicious of each other. After she witnesses Rick’s touching reunion with Carol (Melissa McBride) – previously thought to be dead, Michonne opens up and tells about Glenn, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) held prisoner by the Governor (David Morrissey) in the town of Woodbury. Rick formulates a rescue plan, and heavily armed and equipped, sets out to Woodbury taking Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne, and Oscar (Vincent Ward).
In Woodbury, Milton (Dallas Roberts) conducts a bizarre experiment, with Andrea’s (Laurie Holden) assistance, on a dying old man (Peter Kulas). Seeking to determine if he retains his human memory after re-animating as a walker, the experiment fails. Before the re-animated walker could bite him an already cynical Andrea kills the creature.
Meanwhile, Glenn, duct-taped to a chair, still refuses to divulge any information to Merle, who then releases a walker on him. In an exciting scene, Glenn fights for his life as he cleverly alternates between evading the creature, striking it and smashing apart his chair to break free; eventually he gains the upper hand and kills it with pieces of the smashed chair. The Governor decides next to interrogate Maggie himself. With the sinister air of a viper, he calmly orders her to remove her shirt and bra, hinting at rape. Unable to break the sobbing young woman, he leaves her but later reunites Maggie and the bloodied Glenn. After threatening Glenn in her presence, Maggie in her loved one’s presence. Maggie breaks down and reveals the survivors’ numbers and whereabouts.
Outside of Woodbury, Rick and the three others leave their car a few miles from the town and stealthily approach; but are spotted by walkers. Initially fighting them off, more walkers arrive in impossible numbers, so they seek shelter in a nearby cabin. Locking the door, they discover the cabin’s sole inhabitant, a hermit (Alex Van) who initially holds a gun to Rick. Although they disarm him, he panics and runs to escape; Michonne kills him to prevent him from opening the door. To distract the walkers, his body is thrown to them, which they devour in a grotesque feeding frenzy. Rick and the rescue party escape the cabin and later approach Woodbury after dark, hiding just outside its heavy fortifications.
The Governor meanwhile is stunned from Maggie’s revelation that such a small group – ten – was able to clear out a prison by themselves, a task thought to be impossible. Together with Glenn’s performance with the walker, he is impressed by them as a tough group. The Governor orders Merle and another of his thugs, Caesar (Jose Pablo Cantillo), to scout out the prison.
Except for a few token touchy-feely moments involving the newborn baby and Carol’s return, “When The Dead Come Knocking” is exciting and fast-paced. We are opening our eyes to Glenn, no longer the baseball-capped, delivery-boy-next-door type. He is emerging as a serious hombre with testicular fortitude, surviving a savage beating without ratting out his friends and later killing a walker while initially strapped to a chair. The episode suffered a few reality black holes, though. Jumping into a rescue mission without a complete and thorough re-con is a serious (and possibly fatal) mistake, especially up against a hard-nosed cat such as the Governor. Additionally, Michonne’s reluctance to reveal even her name also struck me as odd, considering she went through hell and high water to get to the prison, meet them, and deliver the baby supplies. And how exactly did that hermit survive in the middle of walker territory?
But ultimately that’s nitpicking, as The Walking Dead is leading to a deadly confrontation. Perhaps Michonne can clue the rescue team in to something we have already witnessed, because despite the grisly acts regularly committed by walkers in The Walking Dead, “When The Dead Come Knocking” ultimately focuses on the dark side of human behavior, something Rick and the survivors will soon experience for themselves.
“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth…”
“In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is.”
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Beyond Good and Evil
In the pre-credits scene of episode eight of The Walking Dead, “Made to Suffer”, a nervous band of unfamiliar survivors, led by Tyreese (Chad Comean), a brawny black guy, is fighting a mounting wave of walkers as they flee through a forest. One woman, Donna (Cherie Dvorak), gets bitten; Tyreese mercifully allows her to stay with the group, aided by her husband. On the edge of the woods, the group seeks shelter in the ruined, crumbling wing of a building. It’s the back of the prison.
Post-credits, Andrea is primping herself in the Governor’s mirror, distracted by an old photo of his family; oddly, she resembles his late wife. The Governor leaves her and goes to his secret room, where walker heads fill several aquarium tanks stacked along a wall. Unlocking a closet, he calls to his walker daughter Penny (Kylie Szymanski), who slowly emerges from the darkness chained, her head covered by a hood. Playing soft children’s music, he talks to her lovingly while removing her hood and wrist restraints. More interested in the bowl of raw meat that he brought, she grows too volatile to handle and he frustratingly returns her to the locked closet.
As Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and Oscar hide beyond the town’s fortifications and prepare for their raid, Glenn and Maggie discuss her interrogation as Glenn has a plan to escape. He approaches the dead walker he killed earlier in “When The Dead Come Knocking”, fractures its arm and removes a bone to serve as a weapon.
Later, Merle and the Governor discuss plans to raid the prison. The Governor suggests turning Daryl into their “inside man”, using the white flag ruse used on the National Guardsmen, and then killing the survivors while letting the walkers re-populate the prison.
Finally, Rick and his team sneak into Woodbury and into the infirmary. As they plan their next move, Glenn and Maggie try to break out when Merle and his thugs come for them; Maggie kills one thug but they are both re-captured swiftly. Merle threatens them with the “screamer pit”, but Rick and his team move in, firing away. Throwing smoke bombs as a cover, they escape with the two prisoners. As the Governor alerts his guards with orders to shoot to kill, Michonne separates from the team and enters the Governor’s office. Sitting opposite the door like a silent panther, she unsheathes her katana, waiting.
In the meantime, Andrea, openly miffed at being relegated to a non-combat role, decides anyway to fire at the unidentifiable intruders. In the ensuing chaos, Oscar is killed and Daryl separates from the group to look for his brother Merle, although the rest of the team manages to escape Woodbury. They then hide just outside the town’s fortifications to wait for Daryl.
Back in the prison, Carol detects Axel (Lew Temple) flirting with young Beth (Emily Kinney) and orders he stay away from Beth. Initially questioning Carol’s sexuality, Axel comes on to her to no avail. Later, Carl and Hershel (Scott Wilson) hear screaming from the tombs. When an armed Carl, goes to investigate, he discovers the survivors from the forest (seen in the pre-credits), fighting walkers. Leading them to safety, he offers to shoot the bitten and dying Donna so she won’t re-animate; they refuse, saying they take care of their own (covering her head with a pillow and bludgeoning her with a hammer). Carl locks them in their cell block with food and water; although they protest, Tyreese understands Carl’s reasoning and calmly thanks him.
In Woodbury, Michonne hears Penny in her locked closet. Investigating, she is shocked, but is interrupted by the Governor. He puts aside his pistol and ammo belt and approaches slowly, hands up, begging her not to hurt Penny. Michonne snaps, and with fury in her eyes, thrusts the katana through Penny’s skull. The Governor rushes Michonne, and they fight to the death in the close quarters. Bringing down the aquarium tanks, they crash to the floor, releasing chomping walker heads. As Michonne stabs the Governor in the eye with a shard of aquarium glass, Andrea walks in. Stunned, she holds Michonne at gunpoint, leaving the injured Governor sobbing over his dead daughter. After some brief, tense words, Michonne lowers her katana, and flees to re-join the team outside Woodbury. Rick is suspicious of Michonne due to her absence, and removes her katana, although she insists she can be of use to the team. The Governor meanwhile has his eye cleaned, but in a private conversation with Andrea, finds himself questioned about Penny, the aquariums), and Michonne. Typical of the Governor, his answers are convincing and she somewhat accepts it. On the other hand, Merle informs the Governor that the intruders escaped, offering to hunt them down in the morning. Since Merle previously lied about killing Michonne, the Governor is suspicious.
At a town meeting in the walker fighting arena, the bandaged Governor riles up the crowd. Telling the townspeople that they were attacked by terrorists, he says they were betrayed by Merle, and brings out his captured brother Daryl. As the townspeople call out for revenge, the Governor leaves Merle and Daryl to duke it out, as Andrea watches in shock.
Will Daryl and Merle kill one other? Will Rick and the survivors return to save Daryl? How will Tyresse and his group integrate with Rick’s group? How will the horny Axel deal with the sudden presence of women? Will Andrea realize who she has fallen in love with? Since “Made to Suffer” is the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, viewers will need to wait a whopping two months to learn the answers. Overall, “Made to Suffer” was entertaining and sticks to this season’s formula: some walkers; a smidgen of character development, a chase; a few surprises (usually related to the prison); some love postures between Glenn and Maggie; a survivor joins the group and another leaves; tormented looks on Rick’s face; wise words from Hershel, and multiple storylines. “Made to Suffer” is no different, but it was exciting, particularly the nail-biting rescue into Woodbury. Even the best battle plans can go south, and in the post-apocalyptic world they often do; an interesting note is that the show takes good care to demonstrate what Von Klausewitz expressed best as the “fog of war”, basically Murphy’s law due to uncertainty.
Carl continues to surprise. He’s a lucid, quick-thinking and strategic vunderkind, at this rate maturing into a pre-teen version of Ender Wiggins from Ender’s Game. It was sad to see Oscar go; along with T-Dog’s untimely demise, they’re down a couple of good fighters, especially with Daryl captured and Andrea in Woodbury. In the meantime they have Tyresse, who looks like he can whup some ass. Beth was lost in the shuffle for a while but now seems to be getting more lines. Hershel has been low-key the entire season, even more so now due to his amputation. He can do little more than hang around the cell block and provide hard-earned words of elderly advice, but he’s a calm, soothing figure.
The ultimate theme of the episode, revenge, played out in several ways: Merle’s revenge against Glenn, the Governor’s revenge against Merle (either way Merle loses – he either gets killed or kills his brother), and Michonne’s revenge against the Governor (although the Governor never actually harmed her physically or imprisoned her). The mano a mano between the two was so raw and savage it reminded me of the classic fight between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in James Bond’s From Russia with Love, although it will pale in comparison to the inevitable showdown between Rick and the Governor.
Evan Rothfeld, photos courtesy of AMC
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